Category: New Life

Study Bibles for Beginners

Study Bibles for Beginners

For new believers, understanding and interpreting the Bible on their own could be a real challenge. I know many Christians who are very zealous in sharing the Word and also in encouraging others, and I do admire them for that.

The only issue I have is that they often take verses out of their contexts in support of a topic that is not in any way related to it. This is called “proof-texting,” one of the common errors of biblical interpretation.

How do we avoid committing this error? Having a good study Bible will help. If you are serious about the Word of God, it’s time you invest in a good study Bible that will help you to understand and properly interpret God’s Word.

Regular Bible vs. Study Bible

What is the difference between a study Bible and a regular Bible? They are the same in that they both contain the Word of God: 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament.

The difference is that a study Bible has additional features such as book introduction, historical context, cross-references to other Bible passages, outlines or maps, extensive study notes and explanations of key doctrines, devotionals, and so much more.

But which study Bibles are recommended for beginners? In this post, I will be sharing with you a list of my recommended study Bibles.

Selecting a Study Bible

Choosing the best study Bible can be overwhelming because there are hundreds of great choices. So how can one possibly determine which one suits them best? Can we even say that one study Bible is better than the rest? I don’t believe so. But I would say that there are a few that are better than the rest.

Let me also mention that in selecting a study Bible, there are certain things you need to consider. First is the translation. We have the NIV, ESV, NASB, KJV, CSV, NLT, and numerous other options. How do you select which one is best for you from among them?

The Best Study Bibles 

If you are a beginner or new believer, I highly recommend that your first study Bible is one that focuses on interpretation rather than on application. You can always purchase an application study Bible later on.

So here we go.

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

Top Rated Study BiblesPublisher: Zondervan

Publishing Date: August 23, 2016

Editors: Craig S. Keener & John H. Walton

Description: The Bible was originally written to ancient people removed from us by thousands of years and thousands of miles. It includes subtle culturally based nuances, undertones, and references to ancient events, literature, and customs that were intuitively understood by those who first heard the texts read.

So, for us to truly understand the Scriptures as they did, we need a window into their world and language. This is what the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides. Every page is packed with expert insight into the customs, culture, and literature of biblical times.

These fascinating explanations will serve to clarify your study of the Scriptures, reinforcing your confidence and bringing difficult passages of Scripture into sharp focus.

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NKJV Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible (Third Edition)

What are the Best Study BiblesPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: September 4, 2018

Editor: Jack W. Hayford

Description: Take a deep and powerful look at Scripture — and experience the presence of the Holy Spirit as you encounter God in His Word.

This best-selling NKJV Bible draws on the expertise of an expanded team of respected, spirit-led scholars, led by Pastor Jack Hayford, founding pastor of The Church on the Way and chancellor of The King’s University.

With over 2 million copies sold, the NKJV Spirit-Filled Life Bible continues to equip God’s people to live in His kingdom, exercise the gifts of the Spirit, and lay hold of God’s promises.

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Quest Study Bible

Best Study Bibles for BeginnersPublisher: Zondervan

Publishing Date: November 19, 2011

Editor: Christianity Today Int.

Description: Get answers to the Bible questions you have … and questions you haven’t yet pondered!

The NIV Quest Study Bible features over 7,000 notes written in an engaging question and answer format that gives insight into the common, uncommon and sometimes perplexing passages from the Bible.

You will have the opportunity to consider questions like, “Why did God send angels to Jacob?” “What prevents God from hearing our prayers?” and “Why does God test us?” as you explore God’s Word using the many study helps.

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The Jeremiah Study Bible

What are the Best Study BiblesAuthor: Dr. David Jeremiah

Publisher: Worthy Books

Publishing Date: November 26, 2013

Description: Drawn from more than 40 years of study, Dr. David Jeremiah, one of America’s leading Bible teachers, has produced a deeply personal and comprehensive study Bible packed with features specifically focused to help you discover what Scripture says, what Scripture means and, most importantly, what Scripture means to you.

The Jeremiah Study Bible presents the best of biblical insight and study tools along with clear, practical application to bring about authentic transformation in your life.

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The MacArthur Study Bible

Top Rated Study BiblesPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: November 5, 2013

Editor: John F. MacArthur

Description: The NASB MacArthur Study Bible is a classic resource that is perfect for serious study.

Dr. John MacArthur has collected his pastoral and scholarly work of more than 35 years to create the most comprehensive study Bible available. No other study Bible does such a thorough job of explaining the historical context, unfolding the meaning of the text, and making it practical for your life.

Features: A 25-page concordance, including people and places, more than 20,000 study notes, charts, maps, outlines, and articles from Dr. John MacArthur, Overview of Theology, Index to Key Bible Doctrines.

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Best Study Bibles for BeginnersNIV Biblical Theology Study Bible

Publisher: Zondervan

Publishing Date: September 4, 2018

General Editor: D.A. Carson

Description: Biblical Theology allows you to ponder the individual stories and themes of Scripture while observing how they all fit together in God’s grand biblical narrative.

It answers the question, “How has God revealed his word historically and organically?”

With three articles introducing Biblical theology and 25 articles unpacking key themes of Scripture, the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible equips you to follow the progressive unfolding of God’s story.

Features: Complete text of the accurate, readable, and clear New International Version (NIV), previously published as NIV Zondervan Study Bible, 28 theologically rich articles by authors such as Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung, 20,000 verse-by-verse study notes, Hundreds of full-color photos, more than 90 maps, and over 60 charts, Comprehensive book introductions, Over 60 trusted contributors, Cross-references and the NIV Comprehensive Concordance, Single-column, black letter edition, Two ribbon markers, and more.

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The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible

What are the Best Study BiblesPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: November 10, 2015

General Editor: John Hagee

Description: The prophecies of the Bible assure us that God will prevail.

The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible, 2015 Edition has hundreds of pages of special features that offer a broad understanding of prophetic themes, salvation, covenants, and other important doctrines of the Christian faith.

Features: Introduction to Bible Prophecy, Index to Prophetic Passages, Top 20 Questions about Bible Prophecy, Diamonds for Daily Living, God’s Great Promises, God’s Great Salvation, Evidences, Spokesmen for God, Bible Insights, Bible Prophecy Charts, and Full concordance.

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NLT Life Application Study Bible (Third Edition)

Best Rated Study BiblesPublisher: Tyndale

Publishing Date: October 1, 2019

Description: Today’s number 1 selling study Bible, the NLT Life Application Study Bible, has been thoroughly updated and expanded, offering even more relevant insights and spiritual guidance for applying God’s Word to everyday life in today’s world.

This study Bible for women and men answers real-life questions and provides practical yet powerful ways to apply the Bible to your life every day.

Explore the stories and teachings of this NLT study Bible with verse-by-verse commentary. Gain wisdom from people in the Bible by exploring their accomplishments and learning from their mistakes.

Survey the big picture of each book through overviews, vital statistics, outlines, and timelines, and grasp difficult concepts using in-text maps, charts, and diagrams.

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Compass Study Bible

Best Study Bibles for BeginnersPublisher: Thomas Nelson

Publishing Date: February 11, 2014

Editor: Ecclesia Bible Society

Description: Do you want to start reading and applying the Bible to your life, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Let Compass point you in the right direction.

Packed with Bible-reading helps and using an energizing, new Bible translation, Compass is a Bible designed with you in mind.

Features: In-text notes that include cultural, historical, theological, and devotional thoughts, God’s Promises—Thomas Nelson’s bestselling guide to Scripture for your every need, Book introductions, Reading plans for every day of the year, Topical Guides to Scripture and notes, and In-text maps.

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Closing Thoughts

Why do you need a study Bible?

A study Bible is a great supplementary resource that will help you understand Scripture more clearly as you read it. It can also help you interact with God’s Word in a deeper and more meaningful way and to properly apply it in your life.

How to Effectively Witness for Christ

How to Effectively Witness for Christ

Do you still remember how you came to faith in Christ? God must have used somebody to share the good news of salvation to you. Was it a friend, a colleague, or a family member? Regardless of who that might be, now that you have received God’s gift of salvation, it’s your turn to share it with others.

But why should you do that? Why share the good news? It’s because all followers of Christ are to be His witnesses. Every Christian is commanded to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

However, fulfilling this mandate known as the Great Commission can be a real challenge to every follower of Jesus.

So in this article, I am going to share some guidelines or techniques on how to effectively witness for Christ.

Preach the Gospel

Does Mark 16:15 (quoted above) mean that every Christian must become a pastor or a preacher and speak from a pulpit or platform in order to proclaim the good news of salvation? Of course not!

To “preach” does not necessarily mean to deliver a sermon to an assembled group of people. We simply have to reach out to the lost and introduce the gospel to them. And like I said, this was a command (from Jesus), not a suggestion.

Did you know that this command was not obeyed immediately? Jesus’ disciples stayed in Jerusalem for many years after the church was born at Pentecost. It was only when the persecution started that Christianity began to spread to the world. And when it did, it spread robustly and continues to.

The more the church was persecuted, the faster the gospel propagated.

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. - Mark 16:15

Important Note:

In many Bibles, Mark 16:9-20 is footnoted in some way because apparently, it did not exist in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the gospel of Mark.

Although the vast majority of later manuscripts include this passage, the two oldest and most respected manuscripts the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus (dated from 325 and 340 A.D.) do not contain this section. A few ancient manuscripts put asterisks next to Mark 16:9-20 to indicate that it is an addition to the original text.

Nevertheless, many very early Christians referred to this passage in their writings, which shows that they accepted it as genuine. But whether this portion of Mark’s gospel was written by Mark or was added later on by scribes, it is important to note that it offers no new information, nor does it contradict previously revealed events and/or doctrines.

Why Should Christians Share Their Faith?

Aside from the fact that God has commanded us to do so, we share our faith as a demonstration of our love for God. Jesus said that if we truly loved Him we should keep His commandments (John 14:15).

Christians must also share their faith because all are lost (Romans 3:10, 23) but God desires to save all people (Acts 4:12, 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4). Sharing our faith is God’s chosen method to tell all people what Christ has done at Mount Calvary for the forgiveness and salvation of man.

God could have used angels but He didn’t. It’s because only redeemed sinners can tell lost sinners about Christ (Romans 10:14-17; Acts 8:13).

We must share our faith because someone once shared their faith with us. It may have been a faithful Bible teacher, or a godly pastor, or a praying parent. In other words, they have the right to expect that we will do for others what they have done for us.

Effective Witnessing Techniques

1. Be a clean vessel for God.

First, to be an effective witness for Christ, we must be clean vessels. God reminds Isaiah the prophet of this, “Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isaiah 52:11). We cannot expect to share our faith successfully if we are deliberately living in sin and disobedience to God.

We must confess our sins to God and forsake them, then yield our lives completely to God. Although God does not demand golden or silver vessels, He does require clean ones. (Notice that God used and continues to use imperfect people.)

2. Pray, pray, pray.

Prayer is very important if we are to be effective soul-winners for Christ. Before we even attempt to evangelize, we pray not only for the blood covering of Jesus upon us because we will be engaging in a spiritual battle but also for God to open doors so we can proclaim the gospel.

We must pray that God will lead us to the people He wants us to share the gospel with; we pray that God will open their hearts to receive the gospel.

When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch in Syria from speaking to great multitudes at Iconium and Lystra, passing through Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga and Attalia, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27).

We also read in Colossians 4:3-4 that Paul asked the brethren to pray for him and his companions so that God will open a door for the message of the gospel, and for him to proclaim it clearly as he should.


3. Be totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit.

Before His ascension, Jesus gave a specific instruction to His disciples to not leave Jerusalem but to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them and empower them to become His witnesses not only in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, but also to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:4, 8).

We must acknowledge that we cannot be effective witnesses for Christ without the Holy Spirit to work on our behalf. We can do nothing without God and this includes soul-winning. We do not know the right words to say; many of us may be timid and are not eloquent speakers.

But God did not only promise that He’d give us the courage to speak, but He’d also give us the words to proclaim.

The apostle Paul, who used to be a zealous Jew taught by Gamaliel, said to the church in Corinth in his first letter that he knew nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He then went on to say that he was proclaiming his testimony about God to them not with wise and persuasive words, but with the demonstration of the Spirit’s power (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the most powerful sermon ever that led to the conversion of 3,000 souls in one day. How did he do that? The Holy Spirit enabled him.

These two instances in the ministry of Paul and Peter clearly illustrate that without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we cannot possibly share the gospel effectively.

One side note: It’s not your job to convert people to Christ. Your job is to share the Gospel. So do your job of sharing the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to do His job of convicting.

4. God is patient with lost sinners.

One other thing we need to keep in mind is that God does not want anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The leaders of Israel had rejected the ministry of John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus, yet God gave them another opportunity to repent and be saved. They had denied and slain their own Messiah, yet God patiently held back His judgment and sent His Spirit to deal with them.

God’s people today need patience as they witness to a lost world.

Had there been times when you lost patience with someone you’re witnessing to because it looked like it wasn’t working? Let me just say that whenever you’re tempted to lose patience with the lost and want to give up, remember how God has been patient with you up until today.

Now, the question you may want to ask is: At what point should we stop trying to convince someone their need of a Savior? If after repeatedly sharing with them the bad news (we are all sinners) and the good news (Christ paid for our sins by His suffering and death) but they’re not interested, I believe it’s time to move on to the next person on your list.

Matthew 7:6 says, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” In other words, we should not shove the gospel down the throats of people who do not want it; they will just continue to mock God and His Word.

5. Learn to do basic Apologetics.

One of the most effective tools in witnessing is apologetics, from the Greek word apologia, meaning to give a defense.

We first read this word from Peter when he said in his epistle, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

In short, apologetics is the science and art of defending the Christian faith by using reasons and evidence.

When Peter and John were brought before the rulers, elders, scribes and priests, (including Annas the high priest), and was asked in what power or by what name has he been performing miracle healings, Peter implored apologetics. He gave a clear defense of the gospel by declaring to them the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection (Acts 4:5-14).

Apologetics - an Effective Tool in Witnessing

Can you give an answer as to why you’re a Christian? Why do you believe Christianity is true? What’s your basis in claiming that the Bible is God’s Word? You do not have to attend seminary school, but as a Christian, you must be able to explain why you believe what you believe.

I often hear many Christians (including pastors) say this to non-Christians: “Just believe.” And I’m like, “What? Seriously?” Haven’t these Christians read how Jesus gave evidence for His claim of divinity by performing miracles? He did not just claim to be God by attributing to Himself God’s name (I Am); He did many miracles to prove it. The climax being His resurrection!

Christianity hinges on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and the historical evidence for the resurrection is very strong and compelling. This alone should be enough to give Christians confidence that they did not believe in vain.

6. Learn Polemics

Polemics is a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something.

Polemics is the other side of apologetics. If apologetics is defense, polemics is offense. As Jay Smith always says, “The best defense is a good offense.” In basketball, you don’t win the game just by defending the goal; you win by attacking the basket and scoring against your opponent.

This is not only true in the game of basketball or soccer, but also in witnessing.

While in Thessalonica, it was Paul’s custom to go into the synagogues of the Jews for days, months and even years, to argue and reason with them persuasively from the Scriptures about the kingdom of God. He would explain and prove that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead (Acts 17:1-3; 19:8-10).

Do you see what Paul had been doing? He’s on the attack! He did not just wait for the Jewish religious leaders to question him; he went to them and proclaimed the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

So how and where do you begin? You can start the conversation by asking what they believe about life and death, or heaven and hell. Ask them where they think they will go should they die today and why.

7. A changed life is the best defense of the truth of Christianity.

In his evangelistic ministries, Methodist preacher Samuel Chadwick used to pray for “a Lazarus” in every campaign, “some great sinner” whose conversion would shock the community. He got the idea from John 12:9-11.

God answered his prayers in meeting after meeting as infamous wicked individuals trusted Christ and became witnesses through their changed lives.

How to be an Effective Witness for Christ

This is Paul’s exhortation for all Christians in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

You may have heard this exhortation from most pastors about living the faith as followers of Jesus. “Be careful how you live your life because you may be the only Bible unbelievers will ever read.”

Concluding Words

When the disciples asked Jesus what are the signs of His coming and the end of the age, He said to them:

“Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

9 You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:5-10).

The end is near, the days are evil. Jesus is coming soon. Christians need to work double-time to witness to the lost.

The Great Commission still stands. Are you fulfilling it?


Recommended Resource:  The Case for Christ, Revised & Updated: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus By Lee Strobel

The Case for Christ by Lee StrobelIs there credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the son of God?

Retracing his own spiritual journey from atheism to faith, Lee Strobel, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, cross-examines a dozen experts with doctorates from schools like Cambridge, Princeton, and Brandeis who are recognized authorities in their own fields.

Strobel challenges them with questions like: How reliable is the New Testament? Does evidence for Jesus exist outside the Bible? Is there any reason to believe the resurrection was an actual event?

In this winner of the Gold Medallion Book Award and two-time nominee for the Christian Book of the Year Award, Strobel’s tough, point-blank questions play like a captivating, fast-paced novel. But it’s not fiction. It’s a riveting quest for the truth about history’s most compelling figure.

The new edition includes scores of revisions and additions, including updated material on archaeological and manuscript discoveries, fresh recommendations for further study, and an interview with the author that tells dramatic stories about the book’s impact, provides behind-the-scenes information, and responds to critiques of the book by skeptics.

This updated edition will prove even more valuable to contemporary listeners.

Right Motives vs. Wrong Motives

Right Motives vs. Wrong Motives

Everyone, whether they know it or not, has motives. Everyone has their own reasons why they act a certain way and why they do the things they do. Well, motives can be right or wrong. But how do we determine between the two?

Bible Verse: Ephesians 6:5-7

“Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; 6 not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.”

Reflection

Many people today base their decisions on how they feel. That is a very dangerous place to be since our feelings change on a whim.

Societal logic can change over time. Each society is unique in its own ways as well. Some societies think murdering their children in abortion is good when other societies love their children. What is the one foundation that does not change?

Malachi 3:6 says God does not change. Psalm 119:89 says God’s word does not change. In so many words, they do not change. We can trust them to be true. Do you trust them enough base your decisions on them?

Working as Servants of Jesus

The word “bondservants” (or slaves) in Ephesians 6:5, undoubtedly refers to Christian servants, and servants are obedient “as they would serve Christ.” However, we may certainly apply these words to the Christian employee today.

Ephesians 6:7 says we are to render good service to our employer (master), as to the Lord. This means that all our work, or everything we do, is really done unto the Lord, not unto man. Doing a good job is the will of God. Christianity knows nothing out of sacred and secular.

Working as Servants of Jesus

A Christian can perform any good work as a ministry to Christ, to the glory of God. For this reason, the worker must do his job “with enthusiasm,” since he is serving Christ and doing the will of God.

But in order for us to render good service, first, we need to know how to serve God properly. Do you know what God desires of us? Since the Bible is God’s Life Manual, wouldn’t it be possible we would find God’s desires in it? Are we spending enough time to read God’s Word in order to cultivate biblical motives in our lives?

The Motives of the Heart: Right vs. Wrong

I’ve written about the deceitfulness of the heart and why we must not completely rely on it. The heart has the ability to lead us astray if we follow it blindly without first consulting God, either through His written word or prayer. Why? It’s because the heart has its motives: right or wrong.

Some of the wrong motives include pleasing men to earn their salvation. Based on God’s Word in Ephesians 2:8-9 and Ephesians 6:6, those are wrong motives. Do you only care about pleasing people?

Are you one of those who work hard only while the boss is watching? And when the boss steps out of the room you go back to doing some personal things? This is happening today. How many times have I read complaints against (government) employees who’d rather be on social media instead of attending to their customers’ needs?

Colossians 3:17

You may ask, “What then are some right motives?”

To have the right motives as workers mean doing our job in a way that does not only make our boss happy with our service, but it also pleases God. It means working with a good attitude and without complaining. Every Christian must work hard and gives his employer a full day’s work for his pay. To do anything less is to steal from your employer.

Before salvation, it is impossible to please God, because we are not able to have the right motives. Only after salvation is anyone able to have godly motives. Matthew 22:37-39, John 14:15, and 1 Corinthians 10:31 are three passages that should teach us how to live for God in general.

Challenge for the Christian Employee

If we are genuinely born again believers, shouldn’t we want to glorify God? If we are genuinely saved, shouldn’t we want to follow His Word? If we are genuinely saved, shouldn’t we want to love God and love others? It does not matter what unbelievers or carnal Christians say. You are not accountable to them.

Since we still have a sinful nature, we need to choose to have godly motives. What are your motivations? Do they glorify God or do they fulfill your selfish desires?

Out of the Darkness into Light

Out of the Darkness into Light

Upon hearing of the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus withdrew to Galilee where He started His ministry. Jesus left Nazareth and went on to live in Capernaum in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali.

This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah that the good news of salvation would reach Jews and Gentiles as Jesus will draw people out of darkness into His marvelous light (Isaiah 9:1-2).

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.” – Matthew 4:15-16

Jesus Brings Light to a Dark World

Why did Jesus leave Nazareth to dwell in Capernaum? This was because the people rejected Him – in His own hometown. So He made His home in Capernaum and not in Nazareth.

As a fulfillment of prophecy, Light has come into the region of Galilee, which was largely populated by Gentiles. D. A. Carson describes Galilee to be a place where people live in darkness, that is, without the religious and cultic advantages of Jerusalem and Judea.

John 8:12

The Old Testament prophets spoke of God’s promise to send a Redeemer who would establish God’s rule. That time is now fulfilled in Jesus who brings the light and truth of the Gospel to the world. As Jesus began to preach repentance, light has finally dawned upon “despised” Galilee.

Before coming to faith in Christ, we were all under the power of darkness. But thanks be to God, He sent His Son to deliver us. Although we are still tempted by Satan, we are no longer under his power; we are not his slaves, and he has no rights over us. We must resist him so that the effects of the power of darkness become less and less evident in our lives.

Living in the Light in a Dark World

How do Christians live in the light while residing in a dark world? In Ephesians 5:1-7, Paul exhorts all believers to imitate God by walking in love and getting rid of all forms of sexual immorality, perversion, covetousness and foolish talking.

Paul continues in Ephesians 5:8 by saying, “You were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord, so walk as children of light.”

Take note that Paul does not say believers were “in” darkness, but they “were” darkness. He is saying that darkness is the character of every believer before coming to Christ. And then he says we are to live and walk as children of light. What does it mean to live in light?

Paul McArthur says, “In Scripture, the figurative use of light has two aspects: intellectual and moral. Intellectually it represents truth, whereas morally it represents holiness. Therefore, to live in light means to live in truth and in holiness. The figure of darkness has the same two aspects. Intellectually it represents ignorance and falsehood, whereas morally it connotes evil.”

As children of God, we walk in the light by always remembering that light, not darkness is our nature. Paul uses the term “children of light” to remind us that we have our Father’s nature (2 Peter 1:4). In Psalm 27:1, David calls God “my light and my salvation” and Jesus said He is the light of the world (John 8:12).

That is the nature of God our Father and we have His nature.

Becoming a Light in a World of Darkness

How do Christians become a light in this dark world?

1. Shine your light for all to see.

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

In the same way that we always place a lamp in the most advantageous position, we must place our light where it could shine the brightest. We must put our light on a stand for all to see.

*Read here: How to Let Your Light Shine

2. Live to please God.

In order to please God, we must discern what pleases Him by discerning His will. I’ve enumerated several ways by which we can discern God’s will in your life in this article.

3. Have nothing to do with darkness; rather, expose it.

Believers in Jesus are strongly advised to not only stay away from the works of darkness but also to expose them (Ephesians 5:11-12). And one of the ways we do this is by living a holy life.

To be holy means to be separated from the world. We may be “in this world” but we are not “of this world.” As believers, we do not curse, get drunk, cheat, and engage in any form of sexual immorality. We are to live a life that exposes the sin of those around us.

But we must be ready to get mocked and ridiculed by unbelievers who love darkness and hate the light. Living a holy life is indeed both rare and strange in this world. Consider Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s den for praying to the One true God three times a day.

Then there’s Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were thrown into the blazing furnace for refusing to bow down to the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Are you willing to welcome the cross of our Savior who was hated by the world? Then be different even if it would result in being treated weird and strange.

Out of the Darkness into Light

4. Produce the fruits of light.

As believers in Jesus who is the light, we must produce the fruits of light: goodness, truth, and righteousness.

Goodness refers to anything that is morally excellent. Galatians 6:10 says, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Looking at this verse more closely, we can say that goodness is “love in action.” It’s pretty easy to say, “I love you” but these words do not really mean much if it’s not coupled with action. Like our Lord, we must go out of our way to extend a loving hand to those in need, especially to fellow believers.

Truth has to do with honesty, reliability, and integrity which are the opposite of falsehood and deception. Is the fruit of truth manifested in the way you live your life?

Righteousness has two aspects: as we relate to God and how we live our lives.

As it relates to our relationship with God, we are filthy as rags but the moment we trusted Christ for our salvation, God has imputed on us the righteousness of Christ, making us acceptable in His eyes.

As it relates to how we live, we know that we are justified by faith and are declared righteous before God but as true believers, we must practice a lifestyle of righteousness.

Are you producing the fruits of light in your Christian life?

Closing Words

Light reveals God, light produces fruit, and light also exposes what is wrong. The light reveals the truth and exposes the true character of things.

The idea that we are light is the main thrust of Ephesians 5:7-14, for Paul, was admonishing his readers to “live as children of light.” Now that we are out of the darkness we should “take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness.”

Why is the Heart Deceitful?

Why is the Heart Deceitful?

We are exhorted by the Word of God to not lean on our own understanding, but to trust in the Lord with all our heart (Proverbs 3:5). Yet, oftentimes, we choose to trust our own heart; we choose to trust ourselves. Do you know that trusting the heart is just another way of trusting in man?

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Now, why did the prophet Jeremiah say this? Why did he warn the people to be cautious about the directions and inclinations of the heart?

It has everything to do with what happened to the people of Judah. Instead of giving their devotion and obedience to the true and living God, who had blessed them, the Jews followed the dictates of their evil hearts which eventually led them astray.

The Folly of Trusting You Own Heart

It’s interesting that the Bible calls it foolishness to trust and follow your own heart.

The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart. Indeed, our heart often deceives us. It convinces us that heart-fulfillment is the key to happiness. Our heart tells us that if we would just be true to it and fulfill all its desires then we will be happy. However, what we desire is often not what we need.

But the human heart is not only deceitful but also desperately wicked. By following their heart without judging it by the measure of God’s truth, many people have been led to disobedience, rebellion, and eventually great sorrow. I’d say the advice to “always follow your heart” is not good advice at all.

God Has Given Us a New Heart

As believers under the New Covenant, we have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), we have been made a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), and have become a new man according to the image of our Creator (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24).

Ezekiel 36:26

Although there are still some elements of sin and flesh remaining in us and we still have to deal with inward deceit and wickedness, we can be confident that the Lord will give us the strength and grace to overcome. We just need to trust in the Lord to guide and lead us and allow Him to carry out His plans and purpose in our lives.

God searches the heart and mind and knows exactly how to reward each one of us. If we want to know how our hearts are like, we must read the Word and let the Spirit teach us.

God is Continually Transforming Our Hearts

In Philippians 2:12-13, the apostle Paul exhorts us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is working in us.”

A very important note in regard to this verse. Paul is definitely not saying that we must work to earn our salvation. Rather, Paul calls the Philippians (and every believer today) to put forth real effort into their Christian lives. The Christian is to make evident in every area of their lives the salvation that God has given them freely.

God does not automatically make you a sanctified Christian. You have to put the work into it to foster that relationship with God.

It’s kind’ a like a plant. After a seed is planted in fertile soil, it sprouts. That is when salvation occurs, but it is only a baby plant. Now, it needs to grow, but if it does not have the right conditions, it can’t grow.

We need the water of the Word and sunlight. God is described in many places in the Bible as being the Light (Psalm 27:1; Isaiah 60:19; John 8:12; 1 John 1:5). We need an unobstructed view of the Light. We need to make sure we do not have any obstructions in our view.

God is our main priority, our main focus. And our main motive is our love for God. You may want to read Deuteronomy 5:29 again.

Has God Changed Your Heart?

As people, we are predisposed to sin. Why? It’s because our hearts desire to sin. We are not able to change that. Romans 7:18 says “nothing good dwells in men.” So when God saves us, He saves us by first allowing our hearts to change.

As I said earlier, sanctification is not automatic after salvation. We did not automatically get a heart for God the moment we got born again. Rather, we need to allow God to work in us and through us. And it starts by submitting to the will of God as shown by our obedience to Him and His commandments.

In his appeal to Israel, Moses urged the people to remember the majesty of God and respect the Word of God. He quoted Yahweh’s own words, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever” (Deuteronomy 5:29)!

Obedience is always a matter of the heart, and if we love the Lord, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15, 21-24). There is no conflict between the greatness of God and the grace of God, His transcendence and His immanence, for we can love the Lord and fear the Lord with the same heart (Psalm 2:10-12; 34:8-9).

Why is the Heart Deceitful?

As God changes our hearts, we will fear Him more and more. When we love Him, we will keep His commandments. God does not want us to be petrified of Him. He is our Father.

Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

We are children of God and He wants to bless us for our obedience. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30 that we can “swap our burden of sin, for His burden is light.” Why? It’s because we want to live for Him.

Are you serious about putting your heart, soul, mind, and strength into loving God? If not, why not start now? God has done so much for you, how are you going to say thank you to Him?

Closing Words

Why is the human heart deceitful and wicked? Because it often desires things that are contrary to what God wants for us. And if we let our own hearts make decisions without taking into consideration what the Word of God says, we will be led astray.

Let us learn from the Jewish people who allowed their hearts to turn away from the Lord and His truth. Consequently, they made unwise decisions and plunged the nation into ruin.

What is the Good News of the Kingdom of God?

What is the Good News of the Kingdom of God?

In Mark 1:14-15, we read that after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee preaching the gospel of God, saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Gospel of God

John 3:16As soon as John the Baptist had finished his testimony, Jesus began His in Galilee, His home district. John’s enemies had sought to silence Him, but the gospel cannot be silenced.

What is the Gospel of God which Jesus came to preach? The word “gospel” literally means “good news.”

When a king had good news to deliver to his subjects he sent messengers or heralds throughout the land to make a public announcement – such as the birth of a newborn king or the victory over an invading army or occupied force.

God sent His prophets to announce the coming of God’s anointed King and Messiah.

After Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan and anointed by the Spirit He begins His ministry of preaching the Gospel – the good news that the kingdom of God was now at hand for all who were ready to receive it.

The Kingdom of God

Jesus proclaimed that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus takes up John’s message of repentance and calls His disciples to believe in the gospel – the good news He has come to deliver.

What is the good news?

It is the good news of peace (restoration of relationship with God as Ephesians 6:15 says), of hope (the hope of heaven and everlasting life – Colossians 1:23), of truth (God’s word is true and reliable – Colossians 1:5), of promise (He rewards those who seek Him – Ephesians 3:6), of immortality (God gives everlasting life – 2 Timothy 1:10), and the good news of salvation (liberty from sin and freedom to live as sons and daughters of God – Ephesians 1:13).

God sent us His Son not to establish an earthly kingdom but to bring us into His heavenly kingdom – a kingdom ruled by truth, justice, peace, and holiness. The kingdom of God is the central theme of Jesus’ mission. It’s the core of His gospel message.

God Rules over All

What is the kingdom of God? The word “kingdom” means something more than a territory or an area of land. It literally means “sovereignty” or “reign” and the power to “rule” and exercise authority.

The prophets announced that God would establish a kingdom not just for one nation or people but for the whole world. The Scriptures tell us that God’s throne is in heaven and His rule is over all (Psalm 103:19).

God’s kingdom is bigger and more powerful than anything we can imagine because it is universal and everlasting (Daniel 4:3). His kingdom is full of glory, power, and splendor or glory (Psalm 145:11-13).

In the Book of Daniel, we read that this kingdom is given to the Son of Man (Daniel 7:14, 18, 22, 27). The Son of Man is a Messianic title for God’s anointed King. The New Testament word for “Messiah” is “Christ” which literally means the “Anointed One” or the “Anointed King.”

Conditions for Entering the Kingdom of God

How does one enter the kingdom of God? In announcing the good news, Jesus gave two explicit things each of us must do in order to enter the kingdom of God: repent and believe.

A. Repent

Repentance is the first step. Repentance means to change – to change our way of thinking and our attitude, disposition, and life choices so that Christ can be the Lord and Master of our hearts rather than sin, selfishness, and greed.

If we are only sorry for the consequences of our sins, we will very likely keep repeating the sin that is mastering us.

True repentance requires a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) and sorrow for sin and a firm resolution to avoid it in the future. The Lord Jesus gives us the grace to see sin for what it really is – a rejection of His love and wisdom for our lives and a refusal to do what is good and in accord with His will.

God’s grace brings pardon and help for turning away from everything that would keep us from His love and truth.

B. Believe

To believe is to take Jesus at His word and to recognize that God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to free us from the bondage of sin and harmful desires. God made the supreme sacrifice of His Son on the cross to bring us back to a relationship of peace and friendship with Himself. He is our Father and He wants us to live as His sons and daughters. God loved us first (1 John 4:19) and He invites us in love to surrender our lives to Him.

When we submit to Christ’s rule in our lives and believe the gospel message, the Lord Jesus gives us the grace and power to live a new way of life as citizens of His kingdom. He gives us the grace to renounce the kingdom of darkness ruled by sin and Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44) and the ruler of this present world (John 12:31).

Do you believe that the gospel – the good news of Jesus – has the power to free you from the bondage of sin and fear?

What is the Good News of the Kingdom of God

Becoming Fishers of Men

Like fishermen, we are called to gather in people for the kingdom of God. When Jesus preached the gospel message, He called others to follow as His disciples and He gave them a mission “to catch people for the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:16-20).

What kinds of disciples did Jesus choose? Smelly fishermen! In the choice of the first apostles, we see a characteristic feature of Jesus’ work: He chose very ordinary people. They were non-professionals, had no wealth or position. They were chosen from the common people who did ordinary things, had no special education, and no social advantages.

Jesus wanted ordinary people who could take an assignment and do it extraordinarily well. He chose these individuals, not for what they were, but for what they would be capable of becoming under His direction and power.

God Chooses Ordinary People to Catch People

When the Lord calls us to serve, we must not think that we have nothing to offer. The Lord takes what ordinary people, like you and me, can offer and uses it for greatness in His kingdom.

Do you believe that God wants to work in and through you for His glory?

Jesus speaks the same message to us today: we will “catch people” for the kingdom of God if we allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine through us. God wants others to see the light of Christ in us in the way we live, speak, and witness the joy of the gospel.

Do you witness to those around you the joy of the Gospel? Do you pray for your neighbor, co-workers, and relatives that they may come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and grow in the knowledge of His love?

Biblical Truths for Christians Today

Biblical Truths for Christians Today

As Christians, we want to make sure we are living in accordance to the will of God, which is why we go the Word of God, study it and draw from it the principles we should apply for holy, Christian living.

One thing we need to understand is that all of God’s principles are based on His character and His laws. So, in this short devotional post, I would like to share certain biblical truths that God has impressed upon my heart.

The Truth for Today

“Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth.” – Psalm 119:142

God’s Law, Righteousness and Truth are all eternal because God is eternal unlike us. We have broken His Law, which makes us unrighteous and liars. This world is broken because all people have broken God’s Law.

As Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

We are not able to save ourselves as so many religions want to tell you. That is why these principles are impossible in our own human abilities.

Isaiah 64:6 says, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

No person on earth is able to be good enough to be like God. There would be no point to be living even a moral life if we can’t be good. Jesus said in Matthew 19:17, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

God is the Standard of Good

Honest people know that there is an objective standard of good. That conscience is evidence of an eternal God that is the objective standard of good. That conscience also tells us we cannot maintain that standard in real life.

That is why Jesus, the God-Man, came to earth to save us from the punishment of our sin as 1 Timothy 1:15 says.

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”

God is the Absolute Standard of Good

Because He was God, He did not have sin that required His death and yet He laid down His life for you and me because He loves us.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Some might ask how can Jesus give life if He is dead? Good question.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 answers that question.

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Yes, Jesus died and rose again bodily to save you and me. His righteousness is given to us when we get saved as promised in Romans 4:24-25.

“But also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”

Living According to the Truth

Because of that glorious salvation and imputed righteousness, Jesus enables us to live Life According to the Truth. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

With God’s enabling power found in the Holy Spirit, you and I can live out these principles in our everyday lives. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He specifically instructed His disciples to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon them before they go about witnessing for Him in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:4, 8).

Salvation by Faith and Confession

Are you sure you are saved? Have you received God’s gift of eternal life? Can you claim to be living a victorious Christian life? If you know in your heart that you are not right with God, why not get right with God now by confessing with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (See Romans 10:9-11.)

Closing Words

God wants your heart so that He can change you from the inside out. These principles are not just a list of rules that He pushes on us. He changes who we are as 2 Corinthians 5:17 says.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

Has that change occurred in you? If not, why not ask Him to save you today?


Here’s a beautiful song entitled, “Change my Heart Oh God.” You can sing along and make it your personal prayer to the Lord.

 

How to Know the Will of God in Our Lives

How to Know the Will of God in Our Lives

As Christians, knowing the will of God in our lives is very important as it will determine the way we think, act and plan our future. No wonder then that I often get the question: “How do I know the will of God in my life?”

I was told that the best way to study a certain subject is by making a clear definition of that subject. So, what do we mean by the will of God? The will of God is that holy and stated purpose of the Father to make His dear children as much like Christ as possible.

Knowing the Will of God through the Scriptures

Without a doubt, the most important factor in finding God’s will is the Bible itself. God speaks to us not in some loud voice, but through the Scriptures.

God’s will is certain and precise.

First, the Scriptures declare God does have a definite will for my life and yours. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” God also says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye,” in Psalm 32:8.

For other Scripture references, you can read Ephesians 2:10 and Hebrews 12:1.

It is God’s desire for us to discover His will.

Second, God desires for us to know and understand what His will in our lives really is and instructs us to not be unwise (Ephesians 5:17). This is what real wisdom is. Understanding the will of the Lord is the opposite of being unwise.

But in order for us to have a good understanding of the will of God, we need to have a good knowledge of His word. As one theologian always say, “The will of God is the Word of God.” Do you want to know the will of God in your life? Know His Word!

God’s will is continuous.

Third, the will of God as revealed in the Scriptures is continuous. It does not begin only when one reaches a certain age. Simply put, the will of God in my life does not begin when I turn thirty years old.

How do I know the Will of God in my Life?

God has a will for children, young people, adults, and even senior citizens. Isaiah 58:11 says, “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”

God’s will is specific.

Fourth, God’s will is clearly defined or identified. God always makes sure He speaks to us without ambiguity. He does not make us second-guess His will. Rather, it is given in such a way that we will not doubt whether God is the one speaking or not.

Let’s take a look at Isaiah 30:21, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” When God instructs, He does so with all clarity.

God’s will is profitable.

Fifth, God’s will is always beneficial and useful. When we choose to align our decisions, plans, and priorities with God’s, we can be sure that we will end up successful and blessed (see Psalm 1:1-3).

When the Lord spoke to Joshua after the death of Moses, He did not just instruct him to lead the children of Israel in conquering Canaan; God specifically told Joshua to “not let the Book of the Law depart from your mouth but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

Living according to God’s word, which is His will, is a guarantee of Christian success. However, this does not mean that we will have a life without problems when we choose to heed God’s will. But God assures us that we will be able to deal with anything.

Four Aspects of the Will of God

One thing we need to understand is that the will of God differs from believer to believer. But here are four aspects in the will of God which apply to every Christian:

1. It is God’s will that we learn more about Him.

In Colossians 1:9, Paul prayed that the believers in Colossae would have a knowledge of God’s will through the wisdom and understanding that the Holy Spirit gives. But to know God and what He requires of us is our responsibility. We cannot just sit around and expect God to speak to us. We need to do our part by reading and meditating the Word of God.

2. It is God’s will that we grow in grace.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 says that the sanctification of believers is the will of God. In this text, the apostle Paul made it clear what the will of God was for the Christian – sanctification.

The basic meaning of sanctification is “separation” or “to be set apart.” In Soteriology (Doctrine of Salvation), sanctification is the second phase of salvation which is the process whereby the believer moves from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity over time as he learns God’s Word (2 Peter 2:2) and chooses to live under God’s will.

In short, sanctification means spiritual growth (2 Peter 3:18); it means to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.

3. It is God’s will that we study His Word.

We find in 2 Timothy 3:14-15 an important exhortation to continue studying God’s word not only because evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13), but also because as believer in Jesus, we all need to be completed and thoroughly equipped to do God’s work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

How to Know the Will of God in Our Lives

To be complete means we are not only hearers but also doers of God’s word and to be equipped to do God’s work does not only mean preparing and delivering sermons that seek to quench people’s thirst. We are in the business of equipping the saints for the work of ministry.

4. It is God’s will that we share our faith.

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He specifically told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to empower them so that they would be His witnesses not only in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria but also to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus did not recommend His followers to share the Gospel, He plainly stated that evangelism would be the immediate result of the Holy Spirit empowering them.

It is God’s will for His disciples to share their faith with everyone who is still in darkness and God’s will for the Christians today to do the same. Because “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (Timothy 2:4).

Knowing the Will of God through Prayer and Fasting

When we read how the Israelites were tricked into signing an unscriptural peace treaty with a group of deceitful pagans after invading Canaan in the days of Joshua, because they did not seek the Lord’s counsel (Joshua 9:1-15), it becomes immediately obvious that one of the most important factors in knowing God’s will for our lives is to pray.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). See also Psalm 143:8, 10 and James 4:2. In light of these passages, it is evident that a Christian must spend time in prayer in order to know God’s will.

In other Bible verses, fasting is linked with prayer (2 Samuel 12:16; Ezra 8:21; 2 Samuel 1:12; Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:24-29; Acts 13:2-3; 14:23).

Knowing the Will of God through Submission to the Holy Spirit

The moment a repenting sinner receives Christ by faith into his heart the Holy Spirit immediately does five things for him:

  • He regenerates the believer, that is, He gives him a new nature (John 3:5; Titus 3:5).
  • He baptizes the believer into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).
  • He indwells the believer (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19).
  • He seals the believer (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).
  • He fills the believer (Acts 2:4; 4:8; 7:55; 13:52).

All five of these ministries often occur at conversion. The fifth ministry, however, should be asked for as needed (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16). Actually, the word control is a better term than fill in describing the fifth ministry. It does not mean that we get more of the Spirit, but rather that He gets more of us.

How can a Christian be certain that he is indeed submitted to or controlled by the Holy Spirit on a daily basis?

First, he must consecrate his body as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2). The believer’s body does not belong to him but to God; it is the temple of the Holy Spirit and so he must glorify God with it (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Second, the believer must depend upon the Holy Spirit to convict him of sin. In Psalm 139:23-24, King David came to the God of perfect knowledge and not only asked Him to search and know him at the deepest levels; he also pleaded with Him to lay bare any wickedness in his heart.

How to Know the Will of God in Our Lives

To ask God to reveal to us any unknown or unperceived sin is a dangerous prayer, says Boice, because it invites painful exposures and surgery. However, Boice added that it is what every wise believer should desire. See also Psalm 19:12-14.

Finally, the believer must look to the Holy Spirit for divine power in serving Christ. We cannot say that we no longer commit sin after placing our faith in the Lord Jesus. Yes, the fruit of the Holy Spirit will start to manifest in our life as a result of submitting to Him. But because we are still in the flesh, we are still prone to be tempted and to give in to sin.

What we can do so as not to gratify the lust of the flesh is to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17). To walk in the Spirit means to be open and sensitive to the influence of the Holy Spirit and to pattern your life after the influence of the Holy Spirit.

You may ask, “How do we know if someone is walking in the Spirit?” When they look a lot like Jesus. Jesus said that the mission of the Holy Spirit would be to promote and speak of Him (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:13-15). Someone who is walking in the Spirit listens to what the Spirit says and is guided in the path of Jesus.

A believer who is in tune with the Holy Spirit will know and discern the will of God for him

Knowing the Will of God through Circumstances and Counsel

While the Christian is to live above his circumstances, he is not to be unaware of them. God often works through circumstances in revealing His perfect will for us. Certainly, Paul’s wonderful statement, “all things work together for good to those who love God,” (Romans 8:28) takes into account our circumstances.

Below are a number of biblical accounts to illustrate this:

1. God directed Abraham to substitute a ram, whose horns had somehow become entangled in a thicket, for the life of Isaac (Genesis 22:13).

2. God arranged for Pharaoh’s daughter to be bathing in the Nile river at the exact time the baby Moses floated by in a little ark of bulrushes (Exodus 2:1-10).

3. Paul’s young nephew happened to overhear a plot to kill his famous uncle. He then reported it to the authorities, thus saving the apostle’s life (Acts 23:12-22)

Surely the above circumstances were providentially arranged. So the Christian should ask when attempting to discover God’s will, “Is the Lord showing me something through my circumstances?”

Counselors also play an important role in finding God’s will. Proverbs 24:6 says, “For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” However, three things must be kept in mind at this point:

  • Counsel must come from a godly source. The word of God warns us that “confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint (Proverbs 25:19). See also Psalm 1:1-6.
  • Sometimes even the godliest person can unknowingly give us wrong advice. Nathan the prophet did this when he encouraged David to build the temple (2 Samuel 7:1-13).
  • In the final analysis, each person is responsible for knowing God’s revealed purpose for his own life.
Knowing the Will of God through Circumstances and Counsel
Photo Credits: Bible Blender

Conclusion

In finding the will of God in our lives, we need to know that the best way to do this first and foremost is by having an intimate personal relationship with God. In some relationships, one party simply wants to be told what to do while others want to get approval from the other party before finalizing their plan.

Let’s take this analogy from a married couple. A married couple who enjoy an intimate relationship of mutual concern, trust and respect always come to a decision together that it is sometimes impossible to distinguish the parts each played in the process.

It’s the same thing with the will of God. It is not solely divine or human. When we consciously acknowledge God’s presence in our lives and rely on Him in the course of our decision-making, the choices we make are both ours and His.

Let us never forget that because God is love, He honors our choices and never attempts to overpower or force us into doing something we do not like. God guides and directs us in making important decisions when we read and meditate His Word, fast and pray, submit to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and consider our circumstances and listen to godly counselors.

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?

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 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 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 to 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 evidence of faith. If we become bitter or critical of God, if we rebel instead of submitting, 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 the 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 a 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.