HOW TO KNOW THE WILL OF GOD
Two young ladies came to me. I was raking leaves in my large yard. They wanted a job and promised to help me get the job done. I put them to work. But I quickly found out they had a different concept of work than I did. They believed they should have fun while working. Not a bad idea! So they stopped raking occasionally to dive into a pile of leaves they had raked - - just for fun. One of them had a cell phone she insisted on using while working. She also wanted to smoke near the house and the pile of leaves. Later she lost her cell phone in the leaves, and we had to find it. After a couple of hours of trying to correct their concept of work, I told them we were quitting for the day. I paid them much more than they had earned and told them I would not need them the next day. They missed some essential concepts. I had hired them to do some actual work. And since I was the boss, it was my prerogative to decide how the work was to be done. And I expected genuine work to be accomplished. Christians sometimes approach knowing the will of God and Christian service with the same attitude as these young girls: “Lord, I want to serve you. Here’s what I will do, and this is how I want to do it. And it had better be fun!” But that is not how God works. Knowing and doing the will of God is exciting, satisfying, and sometimes fun. God’s peace and joy will accompany it. But it will also be hard work, self-discipline, hardship, and sometimes persecution. But it will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Let’s look at a Biblical approach to knowing the will of God. To genuinely know the will of God for yourself requires committing your life to Him for now and for the future. You are signing up in the Lord’s Army. Just as a new soldier commits to serve his country, you are committing to the Lord. He directs your training (boot camp) and all the training and activities afterward. After basic training and the spiritual practice of walking with the Lord, decisions come easier. You are building and experiencing the daily habit of walking in the will of God. Here’s a word of warning: This article is for someone who wants to go beyond a flippant, casual relationship with God. It is for those who desire a close, obedient walk with God and sincerely want to please Him. If that describes you, buckle up your seat belt and settle down for a slightly bumpy ride. The first step in determining the will of God is to recognize who He is. He is the Creator Most Twenty-first Century Christians, in daily living, seem to have forgotten who God is. Since He designed and engineered the creation and building of the world, animals, fish, birds, and plant life, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the entire universe, it is evident that He knows a lot more than I do. He is more powerful than I. God is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. He is sovereign over everything that exists. He is eternal. He always was and is, and always will be. He has no beginning or end. ” Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” Psalm 90:2,4 (KJV). He is omnipotent – all-powerful. “With God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26. He is omniscient – all-knowing. “His understanding is infinite” Psalm 147:5. He is omnipresent – everywhere present. “Do not I fill heaven and earth? Saith the Lord” Jeremiah 23:23-24. He was able to be the creator because He is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He is God. He is superior to our parents, teachers, policemen, and government officials. He is superior to every human being that ever lived. He is God. And since He is God, He has the right and authority to set the rules and to direct us in everything we do. He is loving, but not Santa Claus or some doting grandfather. He is the Holy God who judges sin. “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” I Peter 1:16. We see God as the holy judge who punishes evil in the universal flood story in Genesis 6-9. He brings devastating destruction to Sodom and Gomorrah for their immorality and wickedness in Genesis 18. God opens up the earth to swallow the rebellious families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Numbers 16. Achan and his family were stoned to death for their covetousness in looting forbidden treasure in the conquest of Jericho in Joshua 7. The nations of Israel and Judah were conquered and brought into bondage many times throughout the Old Testament for their wicked departure from the Lord. Ananias and Sapphira died instantly for their hypocrisy and lying concerning giving in Acts 5. Be sure to know that God does and will judge sin. He is the God of love. We see the loving God desiring fellowship with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the stories of Noah, Enoch, and Abraham. God demonstrates His love and nourishment of Joseph in his imprisonment and then his rise to power in Genesis. God, in love, provided food, water, and safety for the Israelites in the wilderness. He forgave and restored David after his repentance for his sin with Bathsheba. Many times in the history of Israel through the Old Testament, the Israelites forsook the Lord, and God judged them. But when they cried out to the Lord in repentance, He loved, forgave, and restored them. But the most incredible demonstration of God’s love is Jesus dying for our sins on the cross. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” (John 3:16). No wonder the songwriter, Charles Wesley, penned these words in the first verse of the song, “And Can It Be." “Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me.” Did you catch the meaning of those words? The Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Holy God died to pay for our sins so we could be forgiven and live eternally with Him. So, the first step in finding the will of God is for us to recognize who God is. The second step answers this question: Do you genuinely want to know the will of God? Jesus in John 7:17 said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Jesus was combatting the unbelief of Jews in Jerusalem. If you truly want to know who I am and if I am telling the truth, do the will of God as written in the Scriptures. Then you will know whether my doctrine (teaching) is of God or whether I speak of myself. Imagine that you want to be a restaurant manager. You apply at a restaurant and tell your prospective boss you want to be a manager. He hires you. You expect to start in the office learning how to direct the cooks and the servers. But the first job your boss gives you is sweeping the floor and cleaning the restrooms. You protest. “I hired on to learn to be a manager.” He explains that cleanliness is one of the essential characteristics of a good restaurant. If the floors and the restrooms are not clean, your customers will probably not be back. You finally agree to the cleaning jobs. Then he assigns you the busboy job – clearing and cleaning the tables. You go through the protest process all over again. After that, you learn to clean and maintain the kitchen equipment. And then, there is the process of learning how to wait tables, run the cash register, cook and fill the customer orders, keep records, do the payroll, track inventory, order food and supplies, and a dozen other tasks. By this time, you have learned to follow orders and instructions step by step as your boss shows you. I am not sure this is how restaurant manager training goes, but perhaps you understand the idea. To learn and know the will of your boss, you must listen, follow instructions, and master the basics. The principle is this: if you want to know God’s personal will for you, do what you already know to be God’s will. Why should God show you something new about His will if you have already refused to do His revealed will? If you are not willing to do the things clearly commanded for all Christians in the New Testament, why should God show you anything specific for you? I will illustrate this with three basic commands in the Scriptures for Christians. 1.Baptism: Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:41; 8:36-37; Romans 6:3,4. Baptism (by immersion) after conversion is clearly commanded in Scripture for all who have trusted Christ as Savior. Baptism identifies you with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. If you are not willing to do this first step of obedience, why should God trust you with any further revealing of his will? 2.Daily Bible Study and Prayer: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” I Peter 2:2. “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (teaching) - - - - and in prayers.” Acts 2:42. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” II Tim. 2:15. Daily Bible study and prayer are imperative for spiritual growth. 3.Church membership and service. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” Acts 2:41-42. Please note that these newly saved Christians were immediately baptized and added to them – the church, whose membership was already 120 persons in Acts chapter 1. The first public step of obedience after baptism is church membership. In the New Testament, the local church is a basic necessity in the Christian’s life and is extremely important. The word church, from the Greek word ekklesia, “called out of.” refers to a called-out assembly. In that sense, on a few occasions, the context indicates it is a gathering of a body of citizens discussing the affairs of the state Acts 19:39. In Acts 19:32, 41, the writer uses it to describe a riotous mob. In these three verses, the word “ekklesia” is translated “assembly,” not “church”. However, in most New Testament usages, “ekklesia” applies to local churches. In several Scriptures, the word church applies to all born-again believers since the church’s founding by Christ. The author uses the term “body of Christ” (I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, Colossians 1). But the application of these scriptures is entirely within the local body of Christ, the local church. In Revelation 21 and 22, John uses the word bride to describe the church. Although Paul does not use the word bride, that term fits the church portrayed in Ephesians 5. In Hebrews 12:23, the terms “general assembly” (not the word, ekklesia) and “church of the firstborn” unite as the entire church assembles visibly in heaven along with the Old Testament saints. The divinely inspired authors wrote eight books to specific local churches; Paul wrote three books telling preachers how to conduct church work. “Church” is written about or referred to in 17 of the 27 books of the New Testament. The word “church” in the New Testament appears 77 times in 76 verses. The word “churches” is used 37 times in 36 verses. The seven churches of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are local churches. Hebrews 10:25 commands, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” Christ founded the church in Matthew 16:17 and He died for the church: “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” Ephesians 5:25. The book of Acts relates the early history of the church. The New Testament focuses on the local church. It is crucial. The Scriptures command us to assemble together. That’s where we get our training, fellowship, mutual support, and opportunity to serve. The apostle Paul spent his entire missionary ministry planting churches and writing instructions to local churches. Why would he expend the time, effort, sacrifice, and suffering, if the local church was not essential for the Christian life? With the great emphasis on the local church in the New Testament, how can anyone assume that church membership and attendance are unimportant? Some promote the ‘universal’ or ‘invisible’ (not scriptural terms) church. Yes, believers are part of that one body in Christ. But the only time that one “universal” body can assemble is in heaven after the rapture (Hebrews 12:22-24). And, at that time, they are visible. Until then, we are commanded to meet regularly in the visible, physical, local church. Why do I spend so much time discussing the church? Because in this 21st century in America, many Christians are diminishing the importance of the local church through their teaching and their irregular attendance at church. This is nothing less than an excuse for having other priorities ahead of the Lord. There is no substitute for the local church in the life of a Christian who wants to grow in the Lord. So, to review: If you want to know the will of God for your life, have you obeyed these three basic commands: Believers’ baptism, daily Bible reading and study, and church membership and attendance? After that, as you study the Bible, be quick to obey the other clear commands given to Christians. There are several clear statements in the Word of God saying specifically, “this is the will of God.” 1.Moral purity: I Thessalonians 4:3 “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (sexual immorality – sexual relations outside of marriage): “that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.” Sexual relationships outside of marriage prevent you from knowing and being in the will of God. The only remedy is repentance and forsaking that sin. 2.Thankful heart and attitude: I Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”. This same passage continues in verses 19-22. “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings (preaching). Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” If you are a griper and ungrateful complainer, you cannot expect God to show you His specific will for you. 3.Well doing: “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men”. I Peter 2:15. Combat ignorance and foolishness with well-doing. Live the life and demonstrate love as far as you know to do so God can show you your next steps. So, after all this discussion, do you sincerely want to know the will of God? Are you already doing the things the Bible has spelled out precisely as the will of God? It is undoubtedly true that no one is perfect. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8). But if you are sincere in your desire to give your life to the Lord and to know His will, confess and forsake all known sin BEFORE you seek God’s specific will for your life. The Key Passage Turn in your Bibles to Romans 12:1,2. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Our Motivation: the mercies of God 1.Because of God’s mercy He didn’t give us the judgment we deserve. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Ps. 103:10 “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:20 “He that believeth not is condemned already” John 3:18 “And in hell, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.” Luke 16:23 2.Instead, He gave us grace – something we didn’t deserve. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich - - - II Corinthians. 8:9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8,9 “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise, grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Romans 11:6 Grace for salvation does not come because of our good works. Good works follow a genuine conversion as a fruit or result of being saved. We work, or serve, to demonstrate our love and thankfulness to the Lord who has already saved us. The command: Present your Bodies 1.Your Body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. God, the Holy Spirit, comes to live in you. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” I Corinthians 3:16,17 “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I Corinthians 6:19,20 “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” II Corinthians 6:16 What you do with your body is critical to your spiritual condition and growth. God is concerned with what you do with your body, how you dress, and the things you do. In I Thessalonians 4:3,4, Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.” Fornication includes every type of sexual sin. If you are not willing to bring your body, your physical lusts, into submission to the Lord, you cannot determine the will of God. Nor can you have an excellent testimony to serve the Lord. But we are not only talking about sexual sin. Your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, requires that you bring every activity of your body under the control of the Holy Spirit. 2.Your body contains your soul (mental, self-consciousness, personality) and spirit – the part that relates to God. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Thessalonians 5:23. Your mind and spirit need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. So, what you think, what you see and watch, what, and whom you love must come under His control. When Paul writes, “present your bodies,” he is talking about everything that is you, everything that is about you. This is total submission. The Character of your presentation: How to present your Body 1.A living sacrifice: When you give it, it is no longer yours to take back. You give it all to Him. It is a living sacrifice. As in the Old Testament Sacrifices, the offering to Him must be perfect and unblemished. It is not to be a leftover, a cull, not something you wouldn’t want for yourself. It is to be the very best that you have and are. The way you live your life is your sacrifice. 2.Holy: Sanctify, or separate yourself from all that is sinful, impure, or morally imperfect. You will constantly pursue holiness and righteousness because you want to be pleasing to Him. This behavior must not be self-righteous. We are in the world but not of the world. We do not present ourselves as better than others. We are friendly. We love others and reach out to help them. But we do not join them in their sinful activities. (II Corinthians 6:17 thru 7:1; Galatians 5:24,25; Colossians 3:5; I Thessalonians 4;3,4,7; II Timothy 2:19; Hebrews 12:14: I Peter 1:14-16; I John 3:3) 3.Acceptable unto God: It must be pleasing to God, not us. We are not in this to please ourselves. Our life is to be for Him, not for the pursuit of our pleasure. Jeremiah rebuked the people of Judah and Jerusalem, saying, “To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me” Jeremiah 6:20. The people of that day had given themselves over to idolatry, immorality, and covetousness. They worshiped idols while pretending to worship God. They ignored all messages from the Lord. Yet they brought sweet-smelling incense and sweet cane to offer with their burnt offerings. God rejected their offerings. Their behavior and actions contradicted and made worthless any offering they gave. God was expecting their lives to match their offering, as described in I Peter 2:5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” 4.The Logic of your presentation: Reasonable: He is our Creator and our Redeemer. He bought us with a price and rescued us from hell. We belong to Him. Everything that we have and are, belongs to Him. Without Him, we are nothing. The Activity of Your Presentation 1.Be not conformed to this world: To conform is to fashion or shape one thing like another. If we look like, act like, and live like the world, there is no difference between us and the unsaved world. “In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation”, we are to “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” Philippians 2;15-16a. There should be a stark contrast between us and the world around us. Paul was adamant in declaring the necessity of being different from the world. In Colossians 3:5-7 he writes, “Mortify (put to death) therefore your members which are upon the earth” – and then he lists several sins of the flesh. In 3:8-9 he goes further to say, “But now ye also put off all these,” and then lists several sins of the attitude and the tongue. Our lives, attitudes, and speech are to be clearly different from those of the unsaved people around us. 2.Be Transformed by the renewing of your mind. As we renew our minds (filling our minds with the things of God), reading, meditating, memorizing, and applying His Word in our lives, He progressively changes us into the image of Christ. It is a change on the outside that comes from the inside. This transformation (a metamorphosis – a transliteration of the word for “transformed” in the Greek New Testament) is the goal of Paul’s ministry to new Christians. “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” Galatians 4:19. This change is like putting on clothes. In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul admonishes believers to “Put on therefore,” and lists a godly Christian’s attitude and behavior characteristics. He encourages us to walk with God in the following Scriptures: (I John 2:6; Col. 2:6; Gal. 5:16; Eph. 5:15-16). When we walk with God, we agree with Him. We are interested in the same things, have the same goals, and work together for the same purpose. Amos 3:3 declares, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” In II Corinthians 3:18, Paul states, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” We look into the glass, the mirror of the Word of God. We see Him and His glory, and He changes us into His image. The more we are with Him, the more we become like Him. This gradual change all takes place because of your one-on-one relationship with God. Do you love Him? Do you love His Word? Do you want sweet companionship and fellowship with the Lord? As you probably now realize, this is not just an act of walking the aisle in a church service and dedicating your life, although that can be part of it. This is a life-changing decision that will change the entire direction of your life. You are giving your life as a sacrifice: body, soul, and spirit. Ownership rights are His. You no longer have any rights. From now on, God directs your life path. You don’t decide. He decides. Your Vocation You don’t choose your vocation. God does. The endless list of choices could include a Sunday School teacher or helper, preacher, missionary, construction worker, engineer; working at a desk or outside in physical labor; as captain of the team or just one of the players; a housewife and mother; or a career woman in business or medicine. It could be as a janitor or the CEO of a corporation. Whatever it is, you are willing and happy to be exactly where God wants you to be. Your Location This applies to location also. If God wants you in a hot or cold climate, in America or some foreign country, living close to your family or far away, you are willing and happy to be exactly where God wants you. The Proof of your Presentation (Experience it) 1.Good Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” 2.Acceptable - Pleasing to God: Ps. 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” 3.Perfect (complete, finished) will of God for you. The plan comes together. a.God gives peace in your decision. “Let the peace of God rule (umpire, decide) in your hearts” Colossians 3:15. This does not always mean everything will go smoothly. In the will of God, Paul preached in Antioch of Pisidia. Crowds gathered, and many believed, but opposition arose. Paul and Barnabas were expelled from that region. (Acts 13:14-52). They preached in Lystra, and the citizens stoned him. When Paul had determined the will of God to go to Macedonia and preach, they took up residence in the jail in Philippi, the very first city where they ministered. (Acts 16) But there will be peace, quietness, and contentment from the Lord because you are walking in His way. b. Ability to do the will of God from the heart. “Not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men” Ephesians. 6:6-7. As we conclude this study, here are some personal questions. 1.Do you recognize that this is a transaction with the Eternal God, who is the Creator, Sustainer, and Sovereign over everything? 2.Do you recognize and acknowledge that He is both Holy and Loving? 3.Are you willing to obey His general commands for all Christians, as revealed in the Word of God? 4.Do you humbly acknowledge His mercy and grace in saving you? 5.Will you present your body to the Lord as a living Sacrifice? (body, soul, and spirit) 6.Are you willing to be different from the world (not conformed to the world)? 7.Will you let God transform you into His image as you study His Word and apply it diligently in a close daily walk with Him? 8.Are you willing to go anywhere He tells you and do anything He asks you to do? Then tell the Lord your answers to these questions and commit to doing whatever He asks. Remember: God loves you, wants you in His service, and wants the very best for you. He wants to give you love, joy, and peace. There is “joy in serving Jesus,” but for you to experience it, you must yield to do it His way.
Rejoice in the Lord
“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4 How can I rejoice – or be joyful – when everything is going so bad? You might say, I lost my job or, I have chronic bad health, or, any of a wide variety of other bad events happening in your life. Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? What does it mean to rejoice in the Lord? Paul Was Rejoicing! But He Was in Prison! Keep in mind that the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome in the 1st century when he wrote this. There was the possibility of execution for his crime of preaching the gospel. I don’t know about you, but humanly speaking, that would not be a time for rejoicing. Yet Paul did rejoice. What Does It Mean to Rejoice in the Lord? Rejoicing is NOT happiness. Happiness is based on circumstances. Rejoicing is in the heart regardless of circumstances. It comes from within. As a prisoner, Paul was not in a good circumstance, but he was joyful. Notice that the command is Rejoice IN THE LORD. The rejoicing is possible because the focus of our joy is the Lord, -- not circumstances, not health, not money, not job – but the Lord. It is gladness and exultation in His presence and in what He has given to us. Why Should We Rejoice in the Lord? Paul had some specific reasons to rejoice – and every Christian can have the same reasons. He knew his sins were forgiven. (Col. 1:14) He knew that he had peace with God and thus cause for joy. (Rom. 5:1,2) He knew that he was on his way to heaven. (Rom. 8:38-39) He knew that “Christ is preached and I therein do rejoice” (Phil. 1:18) He knew that “a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Lk. 12:15) He knew that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) He knew that if he died, he would be “absent from the body”, but “present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8) Many more reasons could be given. In fact, in the short book of Philippians, the words joy, or rejoice, or rejoicing are used 18 times. Our health and all of our possessions can be taken away from us in a moment of time. But what we have in Jesus can never be taken away from us. Therefore, WE REJOICE! Who Can Rejoice in the Lord? The Potential is only given to those who qualify. See if you qualify Saints Can Rejoice in the Lord – What is a Saint? Who are They? Paul wrote this short book to the “saints in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:1). The word “saint” had a different meaning in the first century than the usual definition today. The word in the Greek language means separated or devoted to. Morally and spiritually it is describing someone or something that is separated from sin and devoted to God. Being a saint is a position that one receives at salvation when he is born-again (born anew or born from above). It is defined further by saying “in Christ Jesus.” When a person is born-again, he is “in Christ”. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” (II Cor. 5:17) The word “saint” is applied to every born-again person in the New Testament. (Philippians 4:21-22; Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:2; Acts 9:13, 32; 26:10; Rom. 8:27; I Cor. 1:2; Additional references are too numerous to list.) A person is not born again by being baptized or joining a church or by good works. A person is born again by simple repentance, faith, and trust in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. It is a conscious decision made by a person who knows and confesses that he is a sinner. He knows and believes that Jesus died to pay for his sin and then rose again from the dead. He trusts Jesus as his own personal Savior and receives assurance from the Word of God that his sins have been forgiven. Being a Saint is a Position “In Christ”, But Not All Saints Live Up to That Position. Many years ago, I earned a BS in Accounting and immediately got a job as an accountant. But to say that I was a proficient accountant the first day, or month, or first half-year, would be a real stretch of the imagination. Newly born-again Christians are compared to human babies. They need to grow up and that is a process that takes time. They are still a child of God, but they are not acting like their Father. The Bible is full of stories of Christians that failed and fell into sin. They were still Christians but had to repent, ask for forgiveness, and the Lord restored them to the place of blessing. So, the first qualification to rejoice in the Lord is to be a born-again Christian. Rejoice in the Lord: Making It Possible The rest of the criteria to be able to rejoice in the Lord is given in Phil. 4:5-9. (5) “Let your moderation (gentleness) be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. (6) Be careful for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. (7) And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9) Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Perhaps the key to the whole secret of rejoicing is in v. 9. What you have learned, received, heard, and seen, DO. It is good to have Bible knowledge. But if you don’t act on it, there will be few good results. Actions that Make Rejoicing in the Lord Possible: Actions enabled by the Holy Spirit. •Gentleness (moderation) (v. 5) This is a spirit of calmness, kindness, and tranquility. If there is rudeness, harshness, and a critical, judgmental spirit, there can be no joy, peace, or harmony, but just contention. •Be careful for nothing: Not full of cares, or worried, or anxious, or upset, but instead: - - •Prayer – asking and supplication – pleading, voicing definite requests. In the words of the old hymn, “Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.” •With Thanksgiving – we can even be thankful for the trial or problem that has come our way because God is wanting to teach us or bless us through that trial. I Thessalonians 5:18 says “In EVERY THING give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” When we reach this point, we have completely entrusted the problem or need to the Lord. •Results: Peace of God – His peace that He gives us internally because we have committed the problem completely to Him – and left it there. This peace keeps (guards) like a garrison of soldiers internally protecting your heart and mind. •Discipline of mind (v. 8) to keep the peace and joy. You’ve committed the problem totally to the Lord. Leave it there. Don’t pick it up again, figuring out how you are going to solve the problem. Instead, discipline your mind (with the Lord’s help) to think about those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. Sometimes this step seems the most difficult because we, as humans, like to think we can solve the problem ourselves. Review and Apply So – to get the full benefit from this post you need to do this: Make sure you are a saint – a born-again Christian Build gentleness into your Christian demeanor Don’t be anxious, but pray Thank the Lord Voice your specific requests to the Lord Experience His peace You’ve committed the problem to the Lord, so now discipline your mind to leave the problem with the Lord and think true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and good report thoughts. May God give you victory and peace so that you can REJOICE in the Lord!
Abandoned At Death’s Door
Left to die alone! No one to comfort, no one to encourage, no one to pray with him. Death usually brings family and friends together. They cry, pray, reminisce, hug, and offer support in any way possible. Not so with this man. Scriptures described him as despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. (Isaiah 53:3) He spent 40 days fasting and praying alone in the wilderness while Satan tempted him. He spoke in his hometown and the crowd attempted to throw him off a cliff. One of his 12 most loyal disciples betrayed him. Jesus prayed before his most dangerous confrontation and sweat drops of blood. His disciples fell asleep instead of praying. The soldiers came to arrest him, and his disciples forsook him and fled. His enemies brought Jesus to trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin. No defense lawyer. No close friend to defend him. The apostle John was there but had no opportunity to speak for Jesus. Outside that courtroom, his most loyal and outspoken disciple denied that he even knew Jesus. Jesus went to trial alone before Pilate, Herod, and then Pilate again. Finally, Pilate surrendered to the demands of Jesus’ enemies and condemned him to death. The soldiers scourged him with a whip over his bare back, which became one mangled mass of raw flesh. Soldiers jammed a crown of thorns down on his head. Blood flowed. They struck him on the head and his body. He carried his cross on the way to the crucifixion site. They drove nails through his hands and feet, fastening him to the cross. The soldiers picked up the cross and dropped it into the prepared hole, thus jarring and tearing his many wounds. Jesus gasped and struggled for breath. The crowds jeered and hurled insults at him. John the apostle, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and some other women witnessed the horrible execution but were powerless to do anything. But the physical and emotional pain of the cross was minuscule compared to the spiritual suffering. Jesus was sinless, but II Corinthians 5:21 says that He was made sin for us. Isaiah 53:5-6 states that He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. He took upon himself our guilt and the sins of all humanity before and after the cross. In Psalm 32, David speaks of his terrible guilt after his sin against Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah. He said in Ps. 32:4, “For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me.” Jesus felt the massive weight of blame and the horror of all the murders, adulteries, and mental, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse sinners had committed through the ages. His emotional agony spiked, and his loving heart broke. He was accepting upon Himself the judgment for all those sins. Yet, even on the cross, He still loved the sinner and demonstrated that by helping the repentant, dying thief on the nearby cross. But the physical, spiritual, and emotional suffering for sin and human aloneness was merely the first part of the suffering. The worst was yet to come. Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus, at this time, was the embodiment of all sin and guilt. God, in His holiness, could not look upon sin and turned His back on Jesus. God, the Father, had forsaken His only begotten Son. The sinless Jesus, who had maintained the closest possible relationship with God every moment of every day of His physical life, was crushed by this loss of communion with the One dearest to Him. This loss was similar to losing your beloved spouse – only innumerable times worse. But this is not the end of the story! Jesus offered His blood for the sins of all, and God the Father accepted that payment. Jesus arose victorious from the dead! He gives salvation to all that will receive Him. “But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12) Have you trusted the risen Jesus as your own personal Lord and Savior? By himself and abandoned, Christ paid the ultimate penalty for man’s sin. He died in our place so we could live eternally in heaven with Him.
I lay on my back on the ground, looking up. My childhood imagination could not grasp the immensity and vastness of the night sky with all its innumerable twinkling stars. It was magnificent and breathtaking and stretched on forever. Having been raised in a Christian home, I had learned of Psalm 8:3,4, in which David paused in worshipful wonder, saying, “When I consider the heavens, the moon and stars which thou hast made, what is man that thou art mindful of him? As a child, I realized some of my smallness and the immensity of God’s creation. Later, I learned that the earth was a small sphere in our solar system and merely a tiny speck in the universe. I was less than a tiny pinpoint on this planet called earth. Why would God even care about me? The sun, our nearest star, is 93 million miles from us. Its diameter is 109 times that of the earth, and its surface temperature is 9900 degrees Fahrenheit. But the sun is dwarfed by other stars. We reside in the Milky Way Galaxy, which is only one of an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. The Wolf-Rayet (R136a1) star, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy, is 265 times more massive than the sun, is nine times hotter, and shines 8.7 million times brighter. In the hope-inspiring Resurrection chapter of the Bible, the apostle Paul said, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.” (I Corinthians 15:41) God’s physical purpose for putting lights in the sky is stated clearly in Genesis 1:14-15: (1) To divide the day from the night; (2) For signs, seasons, days, and years; (3) To give light upon the earth. When God finished lighting the earth, He said it was good. When you consider the vastness of God’s creation and then look at the creation story, notice that it almost seems to be an afterthought of God to make the stars. Genesis 1:16 states, “God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” It is almost as if God says, “O, by the way, I made the stars too.” Creating the stars was not a complex engineering project for God (but infinitely complex to us). Psalm 33:6 states, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.“ In the same chapter, verse 9, the psalmist says, “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” God created the stars by merely speaking on this fourth day of creation. Our omnipotent and omniscient God had no difficulty with this instant act of creation. Isaiah challenges us. “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.` (Isa. 40:26) Isaiah didn’t know the number of stars – but God did, and he called them all by names. It is beyond our weak minds to comprehend this. God also had a divine purpose in all that He created. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” He wanted all people to know Him as Creator. Then, because He also wanted us to know Him as Savior, He gave us His word. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” (Ps. 19:6:) Then God gave the ultimate proof of His purpose. He gave His Son, The Word, who is also the Light. The sun, the moon, and the stars were not sufficient light. “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. - - That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:4,9) Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12) In Revelation 22:16, Jesus calls Himself the “bright and morning star.” In the next verse, He invites all to come to Him. “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Will you come to Him today? Information source is from the Institute for Creation Research (icr.org); Creation.com