The Way of the Christian

I Hear You Knocking, But You Can’t Come In!

Image result for pictures of Jesus knocking at the doorDo you know that Jesus stands outside the door of your heart, knocking to get in so that He can fellowship with you? Do you also know that there are consequences for refusing to open to Him? Hear His words —

Rev 3:20  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Allow me to paraphrase this a bit – “if any man hears my voice and opens the door of his heart to me, I’ll come in and dine with him and he with me.”

dine = deipneō; From G1173; to dine, that is, take the principal (or evening) meal: – sup (X -per). “I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me – This is an image denoting intimacy and friendship. Supper, with the ancients, was the principal social meal; and the idea here is, that between the Saviour and those who would receive him there would be the intimacy which subsists between those who sit down to a friendly meal together. In all countries and times, to eat together, to break bread together, has been the symbol of friendship, and this the Saviour promises here.” [1]

Having a relationship with God entails the same dynamics of any personal relationship. In order to get to KNOW someone we must talk with them, ask questions and share our thoughts and feelings as well. Getting to know someone requires lots of time and effort. It isn’t quick and easy like speed dating, or the Bachelor TV show (ridiculously idiotic concepts in my opinion) in which both parties are flung into intimate settings and intimate relationships far too quickly, exposing their hearts to unnecessary hurt from not having adequate safeguards in place. Dear Reader, the purpose of Marriage is to provide the necessary protection for your HEART, so that you won’t suffer unnecessary hurt from sudden rejection and/or abandonment by one who hasn’t made a COMMITMENT to love and stay with you! Love today isn’t much more than physical attraction. In many cases couples merely live together and are intimate without a promise of fidelity or a commitment to stay, leaving hearts unprotected. Granted, there’s no guarantee that a husband or wife will uphold their wedding vows; divorce has been around a long time but it has never been God’s will – 1Co 7:10  And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband…

Mat 19:3  The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 
Mat 19:4  And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 
Mat 19:5  And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 
Mat 19:6  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 
Mat 19:8  He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered (allowed) you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 
Mat 19:9  And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. 

Marriage between one man and one woman is God’s will for most – [2]. 1Co 7:2  Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Gen 2:24  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 

In God’s eyes, MARRIAGE is a COVENANT between two people which BINDS them together forever, not for as long as it’s convenient or pleasant. Marriage is not only a safeguard for your heart, but is the perfect environment in which to raise children. God’s will for a married man and woman is to “be fruitful and multiply” [3]. That’s always been His will and it STILL IS. Nothing has changed with God for He “is the same, yesterday, today, and FOREVER.” [4]

Marriage has another purpose; it unveils the mystery of oneness between God and His Church – Eph 5:31  For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. Eph 5:32  This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Marriage may seem old fashioned or outdated to modern society, but it’s HOLY to Almighty God; a sacred union to be respected and guarded at all times, in every generation!

I believe there’s more than one reason I write about ‘marriage’ today, and it’s that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb of God is now ready, awaiting only for His Bride to come and dine with Him!

The Parable of the Wedding Feast —
Mat 22:1  And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 
Mat 22:2  The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 
Mat 22:3  And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 
Mat 22:4  Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 
Mat 22:5  But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 
Mat 22:6  And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 
Mat 22:7  But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 
Mat 22:8  Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 
Mat 22:9  Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 
Mat 22:10  So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 
Mat 22:11  And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 
Mat 22:12  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 
Mat 22:13  Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mat 22:14  For many are called, but few are chosen. 

The ‘chosen’ or ‘elect’ of God are those whom He ‘foreknew’ would keep His commands; these seek to please God regardless of the cost to themselves. The ‘called’ are those who’ve been ‘invited’ to the marriage supper, but REFUSE to come – But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise… They were TOO BUSY attending to their own affairs!

Likewise, those who refuse to ‘open’ when Yeshua comes knocking on the door of their hearts seeking relationship with them, are REFUSED entrance to His Kingdom —

Luk 13:23  Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 
Luk 13:24  Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 
Luk 13:25  When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 
Luk 13:26  Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 
Luk 13:27  But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 
Luk 13:28  There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 
Luk 13:29  And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 
Luk 13:30  And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last. 

That last verse, Lk 13:30 is explained by Mat 21:31 (Jesus saith unto them) Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. Those who think they’re more righteous than certain sinners (as mentioned above) because they have an outer show of religion but whose hearts are full of wickedness, will find themselves LAST or ‘least’ in the kingdom, while the repentant ‘sinners’ who they looked down on, will be FIRST in the kingdom. ‘first’ = in rank, influence, honour / ‘last’ = of rank, grade of worth, last, i.e. lowest

Mat 5:17  Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 
Mat 5:18  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 
Mat 5:19  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 
Mat 5:20  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. What were the Pharisees if not hypocrites? Mat 7:5  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.  hypocrite = hupokritēs; From G5271; an actor under an assumed character (stage player), that is, (figuratively) a dissembler

Men can fool other men with an outward appearance of righteousness through doing so called ‘good deeds’ and keeping various religious sacraments and rites, but they can’t fool God. God sees and judges the thoughts and intents of men’s hearts [5]. He readily forgives the penitent and contrite of heart [6], but hypocrites (who pretend to believe but really don’t) will be thrown into outer darkness with unbelievers, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth [7].

A STERN WARNING to PASTORS, BISHOPS, PROPHETS, APOSTLES, & TEACHERS:
Mat 24:42  Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. 
Mat 24:43  But know this, that if the goodman (overseer; pastor, etc.) of the house (God’s household) had known in what watch the thief (false teacher, heretical doctrine) would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered (allowed) his house to be broken up. 
Mat 24:44  Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. 
Mat 24:45  Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? 
Mat 24:46  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 
Mat 24:47  Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. 
Mat 24:48  But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; [8]
Mat 24:49  And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; 

Note the contrast between a good and evil servant. A good servant ‘watches’ over God’s household, nurtures it, and doesn’t allow it to be ‘broken into’ – diorussō penetrate burglariously: – break through (up). He won’t allow a ‘thief’ to break in and steal the sheep through false doctrine. An evil servant does the opposite as he smites his fellow servants, and eats and drinks with the drunken! ‘smite’ = metaphorically to wound, disquiet one’s conscience; ‘eat and drink’ = metaphorically to devour, consume; ‘drunken’ = metaphorically one who has shed blood or murdered profusely. You can wound someone’s conscience by teaching them to sin against it – telling them to ignore what their conscience is convicting them of, and by living a sinful life-style thereby setting a bad example to those who look to you for guidance in matters of faith! You can murder someone’s soul by teaching that God’s commands aren’t valid for today, and therefore can be set aside. Who do you think God will hold responsible when those so taught end up in Hell? Who’s responsible for watching over God’s household, and sounding the alarm when he sees the wolf coming? The servant or overseer of God’s Household!

Mat 24:50  The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 
Mat 24:51  And shall cut him asunder (cut up by scourging, scourge severely), and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
Joh 10:12  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

Mat 7:21  Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 
Mat 7:22  Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 
Mat 7:23  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. 

The workers of iniquity won’t make it into God’s Kingdom. Iniquity = anomia; From G459; illegality, that is, violation of law or (generally) wickedness: – iniquity, X transgress (-ion of) the law, unrighteousness. Thus, the scripture here speaks of those who profess to know God but teach others to disobey and/or disregard God’s instructions; a very grave offense. Conversely, the truly righteous who DO His will shall enter the marriage and be glad – Rev 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready!

 AMEN! The Lamb’s wife is preparing herself to live and reign with Him forever! She isn’t idle while waiting for Him, nor does she engage in IDOL worship with idol worshipers, but fully devotes herself to living according to His righteous decrees even when it isn’t convenient.

Debra R. Stout, September 3, 2017

Footnotes:

[1] Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
[2] Some choose to remain single, like Paul – 1Co 7:6  But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. 
1Co 7:7  For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. 
1Co 7:8  I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
1Co 7:32  But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord… 
[3] Genesis 1:22
[4] Hebrews13:8
[5] Hebrews 4:12
[6] Psalm 51:17
[7] Mt 22:13, Mt 24:51
[8] This passage is, in fact, “a parable,” though it is not expressly so called. The design is to show that his disciples should act as if they were each moment expecting his return. This he illustrates by the conduct of a servant who did not expect his master soon to return, who acted with great impropriety, and who was accordingly punished. ~ Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
*Words of Christ are in red text throughout.

 

ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE SAVED?

Image result for pictures of a sick seagullOn this bright but breezy Sunday afternoon I was out walking when I saw a woman sitting on a granite block (of which there are many in New England) beneath some trees in a park. At first I walked on by but then I heard a ‘still small voice’ tell me to go back and hand her a tract. So I went back to where she sat and asked if I could give her something as I reached out to hand her a tract. She thanked me and asked if I was Born Again, to which I answered “Yes.” Are you? I asked. She answered in the affirmative adding that she was kind of in a bad place right now and didn’t like getting close to people. I didn’t ask why, maybe because I was in high spirits and didn’t care to hear anything negative. For some reason however, I listened to her pour out her story for the next forty minutes or so. She began by telling that she didn’t attend church anymore, and had a strict religious upbringing by an abusive father whom she more or less, despised. She further expressed she was tired of Christians who say that God ‘allows’ suffering and we just have to accept it without questioning. Then she said she had given up questioning God about things as she felt she hadn’t gotten any answers.

After dropping those bombshells on me, she asserted that we couldn’t really know or understand God, or make any sense out of our experiences, so it was useless to try. I’m pretty sure that line of reasoning didn’t originate with her but came from someplace else, perhaps from an ancient belief system called Deism. [1] Deism is the belief that God is distant, unknowable, and impersonal; a god who doesn’t get involved in or intervene in human affairs. It means we’re basically on our own, left to fend for, and figure things out for ourselves. Could one call it Abandonment Theology? Another belief system that’s been around awhile is Existentialism, which basically asserts that man exists for his own sake, unencumbered by the restraints of religious dogma and demands of a righteous God because there is NO God. [2] In other words, ‘do- your- own- thing’ because there’s no purpose to life outside of pleasing yourself and fulfilling your desires. 

Make no mistake about it, these belief systems were inspired by ancient demonic SPIRITS who still roam the earth, seeking whom they may devour! [1 Pet 5:8] They’ll devour the lukewarm, the misinformed, the deceived, and those who love their lives in this world more than they love God. [Jn 12:25] They might be influencing your thoughts even though you don’t realize it. 

Further into our conversation the woman said that although she was ‘open to God,’ she wasn’t convinced that the New Testament scriptures were inspired of God since men wrote them fifty years after Christ’s death and resurrection. She reasoned that since she can’t remember what she said only yesterday, how could the disciples recall with any accuracy, what they’d heard and seen fifty, a hundred, or two-hundred years after the resurrection of Christ? This is a perfect example of how human intellect can get in the way of knowing God. So I asked her, “What would convince you that they’re inspired?” She replied, “Nothing on this earth!” Have to admit, I stood there in stunned disbelief at this supposed believer’s unbelief. There’s nothing quite as disturbing as a believer’s unbelief. Near the end of our brief encounter, I felt there wasn’t much more I could say to her because she really was not open to the Truth. Her final remark to me was, “You’re entitled to your opinion.” Wow that felt like an insult, since I had spent a good chunk of time listening to her and speaking God’s truth to her. I didn’t take offense realizing that she was just trying to defend her unbelief by labeling God’s Word as merely men’s opinions! To reinforce her stance, she added that everything we hear from anyone is just their opinion which you either believe or you don’t. She was wrong as the Holy Spirit still speaks through God’s servants [3]. People having her mindset can’t truly believe in ANYTHING, as it leaves them with NOTHING but a joyless, meaningless existence. How can one have joy who believes that life has no meaning and God is strict, distant, and uncaring, which she alluded to by saying how God allows suffering but does nothing about it. Truth is, God HAS done something about it. He sent His only begotten Son to die for men’s sins, bearing their griefs and sorrows [Isaiah 53]. But the truth can’t set you free if you don’t believe it.

Despite claims of being ‘open to God,’ her doubts about the reliability of His Word told a different story. It’s questionable how one so FULL OF DOUBT could be Born Again, but if true, she was definitely having difficulty in her relationship with the Lord. Believers have dry periods where they find it hard to sense God’s presence, pray, and worship. There are also times when doubts assail them but those moments should be short-lived. Persistent doubt and unbelief can lead to spiritual barrenness, drought, and spiritual death. When you have a vital personal relationship with God, you’re FULL OF THE JOY OF THE LORD. This woman had NO joy; her face was sullen and her eyes were dull. Believer’s faces SHINE from reflecting God’s glory [Exo 34:29]. The more I thought about these things, I began wondering if she had just pretended to be a believer in order to engage me in a debate. One tactic of the devil is to place people in your path who’ll speak disparaging words to try to discourage you in your faith, and or, plant doubts in your heart about God’s goodness. Isn’t that how the Devil tricked Eve into eating the Forbidden fruit?

The woman I met in the park certainly sounded more like a spokesman for the devil than for the Lord. The truth about God is that he’s NOT distant or uncaring. The fact is Jesus Christ HAS done something about all the evil and suffering in the world. He died for sinners so that “whosoever will” may come to Him in faith, and have eternal life [Jn 3:16]. The key is to be willing; God isn’t going to force or make anyone come to Him. We’re each given a choice as to whom we will serve, “Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, But you’re gonna have to serve somebody…” [Bob Dylan lyrics to song, “Gotta Serve Somebody” 1979] Funny, I should think of Bob Dylan, who at the time he wrote that song, claimed to be a Born Again Christian, but later on defected from the faith! [4]

This encounter reminded me that not all who say they’re Born Again really are. Many sincerely think they are, but their words and actions don’t line up with the Truth. The proof is in the fruit, and we’re told to “try the spirits” as well [1 Jn 4:1]. A truly Born Again (born from above by the Spirit of God) person will bear the “fruit of the Spirit” in their lives which is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Meekness (humility) and Self-Control [Gals 5:22-23]. The woman I met in the park, displayed a good deal of intellectual pride (instead of trust), and stubborn resistance to all my efforts to share biblical truth with her. It’s also possible for one who has been Born Again, to FALL AWAY. This is where the woman could be headed in my estimation. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance…” [Heb 6:4-6] In the end of days the Bible prophesies there will be a “great falling away” [2 Thes 2:3]. Doubting God’s Word and His goodness, is a treacherous, slippery slope that can lead you into Apostasy and spiritual death. As the woman and I walked out of the park together, she stopped to look at the river and spotted a seagull laying motionless in the mud at the river’s edge about twenty feet from us. Its wings were only half open, and it moved just its head. The woman commented that the gull was “dying.” She also pointed out some little fish that were swimming around in the water, but I saw none. At the moment I didn’t think much about it, but later the thought occurred to me that maybe the gull and absence of wildlife around it, could be prophetic signs of the woman’s spiritual condition. I had sensed a substantial amount of heaviness and gloominess about her which could be a sign of spiritual oppression. What’s certain is that her mixing of philosophy with Christian faith, and her over-intellectualizing is dangerous to the health of her faith and soul. Dear reader, WATCH your words and thoughts to be sure you’re not mixing your faith with the vain philosophies of men which can DESTROY your faith in God and the Bible! Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 

When you’re born anew you begin a new life that’s joined to the spirit of God who’ll never leave you, and will guide you constantly if you let him. So, who’s it going to be? Who are you going to serve; yourself, the Devil, or God? It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life so give it lots of thought, counting the cost. Yes, there IS a cost to being one of Christ’s disciples, so make no frivolous or shallow commitment to Him for He hates ‘lukewarmness.’ [Rev 3:16] He wants fully surrendered, zealous believers who’ll lavish their love and worship on Him, and are willing to lose their lives for His sake. [Mk 8:35] Despite the costs of following Jesus, the benefits FAR outweigh them! In the Bible are thousands of wonderful promises for those who faithfully love and serve Him. How do I know that God cares about human suffering? I know because I’ve spent lots of time getting to know Him through studying His Word and by praying and listening to Him. How do I know that His Word is trustworthy and reliable? I know because I have TESTED it. I have STOOD on God’s Word many times when I was all alone raising a severely disabled child, and it was ALL I HAD to get me through long, anxious nights. Plus, it is written, 2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 

I’ve PROVEN God’s Word true by applying it over and over in various circumstances, and found it to be as SOLID as granite! Looking back, I can see how not always having human help available CAUSED me to lean hard on God and His Word, which made my faith STRONG. It wasn’t easy, but learning to trust His Word paid huge dividends for me in the short, and long run. Not that I never make mistakes, but they’re way less often and not catastrophic ones like they once were, due to having stored up so much of His Word in my heart. [Ps 119:11] You can do likewise and get the same good results, if you’re willing to trust and not give in to fear and doubt.

Just remember, not deciding to serve Jesus Christ IS a decision to serve yourself and the Devil. At the moment of physical death your eternal future is sealed, there’ll be no second chances. If you choose to serve Satan, you’ll eat the bitter fruit of death in hell with him and other unrepentant sinners. Why not serve Christ, while you still can, and live with Him forever?

Debra Stout © August 27, 2017

Footnotes:

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/deism.html Deists deny the Trinity, the inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ, miracles, and any supernatural act of redemption or salvation. Deism pictures God as uncaring and uninvolved. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism  Deism (/ˈdiː.ɪzəm/ DEE-iz-əm  or /ˈdeɪ.ɪzəm/DAY-iz-əm; derived from Latin “deus” meaning “god“) is a philosophical position which posits that a god does not interfere directly with the world. It also rejects revelation as a source of religious knowledge and asserts that reasonand observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe.

[2] www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=existentialism  Existentialism in its purest form is any philosophy which states that existence precedes essence; that is to say, that there is no inherent purpose in life (though … http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_existentialism.html Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes individual existence, freedom and choice. It is the view that humans define their own meaning in life, and try to make rational decisions despite existing in an irrational universe. It focuses on the question of human existence, and the feeling that there is no purpose or explanation at the core of existence. It holds that, as there is no God or any other transcendent force, the only way to counter this nothingness (and hence to find meaning in life) is by embracing existence.

[3] It’s disheartening so many believers are misinformed about the gifts of the Spirit which are just as valid and available to believers today as they were in the early Church period. The super-natural gifts given at Pentecost have NOT ceased, Cessationism is a lie, and a doctrine of Demons.

[4] http://www.openculture.com/2014/08/the-religions-of-bob-dylan.html

Any questions re this or any other post, you can email at the address provided under “Contact Me” on my Home Page. Also, if you’re sure you’ve been Born Again yet you really struggle with feeling God’s presence, can’t worship or pray, and have little or no joy or peace in your heart, maybe it’s time to seek counsel. I have no counseling degree, but I have the Holy Spirit. So if you want to contact me via email, I’ll consult with you to see if there’s something I can do to help you. I’ll make myself available to the extent that I can, short-term. May Yahweh bless you.

Godly Sorrow; A Loving Gift

Related imageIn the words of the great Apostle Paul, godly sorrow leads to life –

2Co 7:10  For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.  What was he talking about? There are many fallacies in our modern age about the subject of ‘pain’. We’re constantly being told that all pain is ‘bad’ for us; has no good purpose whatsoever. But is this true? Apostle Paul didn’t seem to think so. Let’s explore what he meant by ‘godly sorrow’ —

2Co 7:8  For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.
2Co 7:9  Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.
2Co 7:11  For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

The Biblical Illustrator [1] sheds some light on what godly sorrow  is—

Godly sorrow

  1. The mental state here exhibited. This sorrow was not of an ordinary kind. He afterwards defines it as sorrow “after a godly manner,” or “according to God.” The emotion was connected with certain local circumstances and events; but it must be regarded as forming an integral part in those arrangements of Divine mercy which are associated with the transformation and the final well-being of the human soul.
  2. This verse is a graphic record of the practical nature of repentance, which is a change of mind from unbelief and alienation against God and His law, to faith and love towards both; and a change of habit and of life from the pursuit and practice of sin, to the pursuit and practice of holiness.
  3. Its blessings. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation.” Elsewhere it is mentioned as being “repentance unto life,” because connected with everlasting happiness (2Pe_3:1-18).

The power of sorrow

Distinguish between sorrow and repentance. To grieve over sin is one thing, to repent of it is another. Sorrow is in itself a thing neither good nor bad; its value depends on the spirit of the person on whom it falls. Fire will inflame straw, soften iron, or harden clay.

  1. The fatal power of the sorrow of the world. It works death—
  2. In the effect of mere regret for worldly loss. We come into the world with health, friends, and sometimes property. So long as these are continued we are happy, and therefore fancy ourselves very grateful to God; but this is not religion; it has as little moral character in it, in the happy human being, as in the happy bird. Nay more, it is a suspicious thing; having been warmed by joy, it will become cold when joy is over; and then when these blessings are removed we count ourselves hardly treated, as if we had been defrauded of a right; rebellious hard feelings come; people become bitter, spiteful, discontented. This is the death of heart; the sorrow of the world has worked death.
  3. When sin is grieved for in a worldly spirit. There are two views of sin: as wrong, or as producing loss, e.g., of character. In such cases, if character could be preserved before the world, grief would not come. In the midst of Saul’s apparent grief the thing uppermost was that he had forfeited his kingly character; almost the only longing was that Samuel should honour him before his people. And hence it comes to pass that often remorse and anguish only begin with exposure. A corpse has been preserved for centuries in the iceberg, or in antiseptic peat, and when air was introduced it crumbled into dust. Exposure worked dissolution, but it only manifested the death which was already there; so with sorrow.
  4. The Divine power of sorrow.
  5. It works repentance, change of life, alteration of habits, renewal of heart. The consequences of sin are meant to wean from sin. The penalty annexed to it is, in the first instance, corrective, not penal. Fire burns the child, to teach it one of the truths of this universe—the property of fire to burn. The first time it cuts its hand with a sharp knife it has gained a lesson which it never will forget. Sorrow avails only when the past is converted into experience, and from failure lessons are learned which never are to be forgotten.
  6. Permanence of alteration. A steady reformation is a more decisive test of the value of mourning than depth of grief. The characteristic of the Divine sorrow is that it is a repentance “not repented of.” And in proportion as the repentance increases the grief diminishes. “I rejoice that I made you sorry, though it were but for a time.” Grief for a time, repentance for ever. And few things more signally prove the wisdom of this apostle than his way of dealing with this grief. He tried no artificial means of intensifying it. So soon as grief had done its work the apostle was anxious to dry useless tears—he even feared lest happily such an one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
  7. It is sorrow according to God. God sees sin in itself: a thing infinitely evil, even if the consequence were happiness instead of misery. So sorrow, according to God, is to see sin as God sees it. The grief of Peter was as bitter as that of Judas. But in Peter’s grief there was an element of hope, because he saw God in it all. Despair of self did not lead to despair of God. This is the peculiar feature of this sorrow; God is there, accordingly self is less prominent. It is not a microscopic self-examination, nor a mourning in which self is ever uppermost; my character gone; the greatness of my Sin; the forfeiture of my salvation. The thought of God absorbs all that. (F. W. Robertson, M. A.)

There must be sorrow for sin working repentance. Upon this point we must—

  1. Remove certain erroneous ideas with regard to repentance and sorrow for sin. Among popular delusions we must mention the suppositions—
  2. That mere sorrow of mind in reference to sin is repentance.
  3. That there can be repentance without sorrow for sin.
  4. That we must reach a certain point of wretchedness and horror, or else we are not truly penitent.
  5. That repentance happens to us once, and is then over.
  6. That repentance is a most unhappy feeling.
  7. That repentance must be mixed with unbelief, and embittered by the fear that mercy will be unable to meet our wretched case.
  8. Distinguish between the two sorrows mentioned in the text.
  9. The godly sorrow which worketh repentance to salvation is sorrow for sin—

(1) As committed against God.

(2) Arising out of an entire change of mind.

(3) Which joyfully accepts salvation by grace.

(4) Leading to future obedience.

(5) Which leads to perpetual perseverance in the ways of God. The ways of sin are forsaken because abhorred. This kind of repentance is never repented of.

  1. The sorrow of the world is—

(1) Caused by shame at being found out.

(2) Attended by hard thoughts of God.

(3) Leads to vexation and sullenness.

(4) Incites to hardening of heart.

(5) Lands the soul in despair.

(6) Works death of the worst kind. This needs to be repented of, for it is in itself sinful and terribly prolific of more sin.

A twofold soul sorrow

  1. The honest administration of gospel truth often inflicts sorrow on its subjects. The apostle made the Corinthians “sorry with a letter.” The gospel is a sword to cut, an arrow to pierce, a fire to burn.
  2. The sorrow is of twofold distinct types. Let us contrast these sorrows.
  3. The one is concerned with the principle of wrong; the other with the results.
  4. Some groan under a sense of their sins because of the injuries which they have already inflicted and their ultimate doom. It is a selfish regret, an unvirtuous emotion.
  5. But others mourn over the moral wrongness of the act; not because of the curse that has or wilt come upon them. The sorrow of Judas represents the one, the sorrow of Peter the other.
  6. The one is concerned for others, the other for self. “Godly sorrow” seems to engulf all personal considerations. The claims of God, the interests of society, the good of the universe, these are the subjects that unseal its fountains.

Godly sorrow

  1. Its nature—Sorrow according to God.
  2. It is sorrow for sin as an offence against God. Not that the penitent is unaffected with the evil of sin as respects his fellow-creatures and his own soul. It is, however, as an offence against God that he chiefly laments it; he views it as rebellion against God, as transgression of His law, a disbelief of His truth, a rejection of His grace, ingratitude for His goodness, and insensibility to His love. “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done evil in Thy sight.” A consideration of his sins, as what occasioned the sufferings and death of Christ, is what especially affects his heart. He looks upon Him whom he has pierced, and mourns for Him.
  3. It is according to the will of God as revealed in Scripture. Not that God delights to see any of His creatures unhappy. He knows that godly sorrow is essential to our-happiness.
  4. It is produced in the heart by the Spirit of God. Man, in his natural state, knows nothing of this sorrow.
  5. It accords with the design of God respecting man. This is evidently none other than to bring us back to Himself.
  6. Its effect. It “worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.” Repentance signifies a change of mind; a change of the understanding from darkness to light, and of the will and affections from sin to holiness. Such a change is attended with the most happy results. We do not wonder, therefore, to hear the apostle declare that it is “not to be repented of.” Whether we consult Scripture or experience, whether we search the Church below or above, not a saint can we meet with that regrets his repentance or his salvation. Conclusion: But is this the case with the impenitent?
  7. Is not the want of “repentance to salvation” often accompanied with such bitterness of reflection, even in the present world, and especially at the approach of death, as makes those who feel it unutterably wretched?
  8. “The sorrow of the world worketh death.” Having no connection with the love and fear of God and faith in His mercy it never ends happily, whatever may be the causes which produce it, it terminates at no time in a change of heart and conduct. (D. Rees.)

True repentance is a godly sorrow

  1. In speaking of the nature of godly sorrow we are led to remark that it is not only sorrow on account of sin, but sorrow of a peculiar kind. The sorrow of which the apostle speaks is godly sorrow which leads men to mourn with a right spirit, and has an eye towards God, against whom sin has been committed (Psa_51:4; Luk_15:18). Godly sorrow not only mourns before God for outward sins, but also for those evil thoughts which can be known only to Him who sees the heart. It will be also an increasing sorrow in proportion as the subject of this gracious repentance is led into all truth, as he is brought to know more of the depths of iniquity, and the evil of sin; as he is enabled to discern more of the workings of his heart, and more of the spirituality of the Divine law. But it will be a feeling accompanied with peace, because it will be recognised as an evidence of grace.
  2. Some of the means by which this godly sorrow is excited, which will farther illustrate this truth. It is difficult sometimes to trace the immediate cause of godly sorrow, because the first workings of this principle are often silent and gentle in their operations.
  3. Affliction. When men are at ease in their possessions, and are intoxicated with the bustle of worldly care, they can indulge in sin with little restraint, and neglect the salvation of their souls as a matter of little concern. The mercies of God seem only to supply fresh encouragement to sin. Hence He is sometimes pleased to awaken the sons of prosperity by means of afflictive dispensations.
  4. Not unfrequently His goodness leadeth to repentance.
  5. Another means which God is pleased to employ in producing godly sorrow is the reading or the preaching of His own Word. In some, as in the case of Josiah, the terrors of the law have prepared the way for spiritual peace. In others the effects have more nearly resembled those which were produced by the sermon of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost.

The effect of this godly sorrow. It worketh, saith the apostle, a repentance “unto salvation” not to be repented of either in this world or the next. Let it then be distinctly remembered that the blessing is not of a temporal character; but the salvation mentioned in the text has reference to higher blessings, and calls for increasing thankfulness because it respects the deliverance of the soul. (W. Mayors, A. M.)

Repentance

  1. The remembrance of sin is the cause of godly sorrow in the heart of a true penitent. The sinner is to be considered in two different periods of time. In the first he is under the infatuation of sin; in the last, after-reflections on his sinful conduct fill his mind.
  2. The sinner is affected with the number of his sins. When we reflect on our past lives sins arise from all parts and absorb our minds in their multitude.
  3. The true penitent adds to a just notion of the number of his sins that of their enormity. Here we must remove the prejudices that we have imbibed concerning the morality of Jesus Christ; for here also we have altered His doctrine, and taken the world for our casuist, the maxims of loose worldlings for our supreme law. We have reduced great crimes to a few principal enormous vices which few people commit.
  4. A third idea that afflicts a penitent is that of the fatal influence which his sins have had on the soul of his neighbour. One sin strikes a thousand blows, while it seems to aim at striking only one. It is a contagious poison which diffuseth itself far and wide, and infects not only him who commits it, but the greatest part of those who see it committed.
  5. The weakness of motives to sin is the fourth cause of the sorrow of a penitent. Motives to sin are innumerable and various; but what are they all? Sometimes an imaginary interest, an inch of ground, and sometimes a crown, the conquest of the universe, the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them (Mat_4:10).
  6. I make a fifth article of the penitent’s uncertainty of his state. For although the mercy of God is infinite yet it is certain the sinner in the first moments of his penitence hath reason to doubt of his state, and till the evidences of his conversion become clear there is almost as much probability of his destruction as of his salvation.
  7. Perhaps hell.
  8. In fine, the last arrow that woundeth the heart of a penitent is an arrow of Divine love. The more we love God the more misery we endure when we have been so unhappy as to offend Him. The union of all these causes which produce sorrow in a true penitent forms the grand difference between that which St. Paul calls godly sorrow and that which he calls the sorrow of the world, that is to say, between true repentance and that uneasiness which worldly systems sometimes give another kind of penitents.

  “Godly sorrow worketh repentance.”

  1. What is repentance? Many of you would answer “sorrow for sin,” but clearly this text draws a distinction between the two. The “repentance” of the Bible is, as the word distinctly expresses, a change of purpose in regard to the sin for which a man mourns. Let me remind you of one or two passages which may show that the right notion of the word, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” i.e., without change of purpose on His part. Again, “The Lord repented of the evil which He had said He would do unto them, and He did it not,” i.e. clearly He changed His purpose. So repentance is not idle tears nor the twitchings of a vain regret, but the resolute turning away of the sinful heart from its sins. It is “repentance toward God,” the turning from sin to the Father.
  2. This change of purpose and breaking off from sin is produced by sorrow for sin; and that the production of this repentance is the main characteristic difference between the godly sorrow and the sorrow of the world. A man may have his paroxysms of regret, but the question is: Does it make any difference in his attitude? Is he standing, after the tempest of sorrow has swept over him, with his face in the same direction as before; or has it whirled him clean round? My brother! when your conscience pricks, is the word of command “Right about face!” or is it, “As you were”?
  3. The means of evoking true repentance is the contemplation of the Cross. Dread of punishment may pulverise the heart, but not change it; and each fragment will have the same characteristics as the whole mass. But “the goodness of God leads to repentance,” as the prodigal is conquered and sees the true hideousness of the swine’s trough when he bethinks himself of the father’s love.

Salvation is the issue of repentance.

  1. What is the connection between repentance and salvation?

(1) You cannot get the salvation of God unless you shake off your sin. “Let the wicked forsake his way,” etc. It is a clear contradiction in terms, and an absolute impossibility in fact, that God should deliver a man from sin whilst he is holding to it.

(2) But you do not get salvation for your repentance. It is no case of barter, it is no case of salvation by works, that work being repentance. “Could my tears for ever flow,” etc.

  1. What is the connection between repentance and faith?

(1) There can be no true repentance without trust in Christ. Repentance without faith would be but like the pains of those poor Hindoo devotees that will go all the way from Cape Comorin to the shrine of Juggernaut, and measure every foot of the road with the length of their own bodies in the dust. Men will do anything, and willingly make any sacrifice rather than open their eyes to see this—that repentance, clasped hand in hand with faith, leads the guiltiest soul into the forgiving presence of the crucified Christ, from whom peace flows into the darkest heart.

(2) On the other hand, faith without repentance in so far as it is possible produces a superficial Christianity which vaguely trusts to Christ without knowing exactly why it needs Him; which practises a religion which is neither a joy nor a security. “These are they which heard the word, and anon with joy received it.” Having no deep consciousness of sin, “they have no root in themselves, and in tinge of temptation they fall away.” If there is to be a life-transforming sin and devil-conquering faith, it must be a faith rooted deep in sorrow for sin. Conclusion: If, by God’s grace, my poor words have touched your consciences, do not trifle with the budding conviction! Do not let it all pass in idle sorrow. If you do, you will be the worse for it, and come nearer to that condition which the sorrow of the world worketh, the awful death of the soul. Do not wince from the knife before the roots of the cancer are cut out. The pain is merciful. Better the wound than the malignant growth. Yield yourselves to the Spirit that would convince you of sin, and listen to the voice that calls to you to forsake your unrighteous ways and thoughts. But do not trust to any tears, any resolves, any reformation. Trust only to the Lord that died for you, whose death for you, whose life in you, will be deliverance from your sin. Then you will have a salvation which “is not to be repented of.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

SUMMARY:

Godly sorrow leads to repentance. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the vain philosophies of men who say that all pain is bad and should be avoided through denial and/or medication so you can’t feel it. The psychologists prescribe you with this or that pill to blunt your GUILT and your God-given sense of SHAME which you feel after you sin! I say ‘after’ because sinning for the moment can feel good and pleasurable, but later on results in remorse and unsavory consequences, even to the loss of conscience and ultimately, death. The sorrow which leads to repentance, is a GOOD kind of pain, as it will save your soul from destruction. Don’t shun or try to numb the pain and guilt that come from consciousness of sin, but accept them as God’s loving gifts to lead you to true, biblical repentance and life.

Debra R. Stout, June 2, 2017

FOOTNOTES:

[1] This whole section was taken from The Biblical Illustrator, a component of e-Sword®Version 11.0.6, a FREE electronic Bible Study program. To download a copy go to www.e-sword.net  This is awesome software that makes bible study quick and easy, so there’s no excuse for bible illiteracy!

*The graphic is of the penitent tax collector vs. the self-righteous Pharisee (the smug looking man putting his tithe in the collection box). The Pharisee thanked God that he wasn’t a sinner like everyone else,“I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week and I give you a tenth of my income.” Luke 18:11-12  The tax collector stood at a distance and didn’t even dare to lift his eyes to heaven because of his shame. Instead he beat his chest in sorrow and prayed, “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” Luke 18:13

 

THE WILES OF THE DEVIL

Do you sometimes find yourself distracted to the point that you’re neglecting prayer and bible study? I know I do.

God has been showing me this month some ways the Devil keeps his children from spending time with Him. One of his tricks is distracting them by whatever means he can. Scripture tells us not to be fooled by his wiles (cunning arts, deceit, craft, trickery) – Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 

For example, you’re about to read your bible and pray, when the phone rings and it’s a fellow believer whom you desire to speak with so you put your bible down and take the call. It’s so subtle you can easily miss it. By the time you’re done talking an hour or so later, you have chores which need doing. So, you don’t read your bible that day and the devil wins because he robbed you of spiritual, life-giving food!

Joh 6:51  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Joh 6:47  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
Joh 6:48  I am that bread of life.
Joh 6:49  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
Joh 6:50  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
Joh 6:52  The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
Joh 6:53  Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Joh 6:54  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Joh 6:55  For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
Joh 6:56  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
Joh 6:63  It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

The Jews were offended by Jesus’s words because they didn’t understand that they need to be understood in the spiritual sense and not literally. As Jesus said, the words He was speaking were spirit, and can only be understood by those having spiritual ears with which to hear. Jesus Christ gives spiritual ears to whomever He chooses. When some Pharisees were questioning Him about where He came from and by what authority He did miracles, etc. Jesus answered by asking them some questions….

Joh 8:43  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.
Joh 8:47  He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.
Deu 29:4  Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
Mat 13:9  Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Mat 13:10  And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
Mat 13:11  He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
Luk 24:44  And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Luk 24:45  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures….

What Jesus meant by “eating His flesh” was that we feed on Him in the spiritual sense by being in His presence, praying, worshiping Him, and meditating on His words [1]. Jesus never meant for anyone to eat his actual flesh! Jesus often spoke in parables to hide the mysteries of the Kingdom from the impious while revealing them to whom they were “given.” The mysteries of the kingdom aren’t given to everyone but only to those whom God chooses. When you come to Jesus, receiving Him by faith as your Savior and Lord, you’re given spiritual understanding. Joh 1:12  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God… “received” = to receive a person, give him access to one’s self [Thayer’s Greek Definitions]

The Bible states that the Temple of God is not a structure made by human hands. 1Co 3:16  Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? In the spirit of a believer is where Christ via the Holy Spirit dwells. It’s from there that believers can (and should) hear God’s “still, small voice” [1 Kings 19:12; Acts 2:37]. If they don’t or can’t, there’s a problem somewhere. It could be that the Spirit of Christ hasn’t taken up residence in them (because they’ve not really received Christ or his words). Those who haven’t a love of the truth (God’s word) will be given a “strong delusion” to believe a lie – 2Th 2:11  And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 2Th 2:12  That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. Other causes may include demonic interference of one form or another, or unrepentant sin. Some are afflicted with a ‘spirit of deafness’ which causes an inability to hear spiritual truth. Then there’s emotional and mental turmoil which can cause enormous distraction in a person. Abuse and a wounded spirit, which only the gentle, loving Spirit of Christ can reach and heal, can be a hindrance to hearing God’s voice clearly. Whatever the case may be, Jesus came to ”set the captives free” [Isa 42:7]. Isa 57:15  For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones

Another means of distraction are daily chores and errands which obviously have to be done. We all have them, but our first priority ought to be Related imagespending time alone with our Lord in communion – not the sacrament of Communion, but communion with His Spirit. SACRAMENTS can be an alluring and subtle means of distracting men from Christ by placing a non-scriptural emphasis on PHYSICAL elements. The Devil has tricked millions into believing the lie that merely partaking of physical bread and wine gives them spiritual life. Catholics believe that when a priest blesses the communion wafer and wine, they become the actual body and Blood of Christ. They call it Transubstantiation, but there’s nothing in the Bible to substantiate that doctrine! It’s a doctrine of men [Mark 7:7-13; Titus 1:14] not of God. Hear what the Scriptures have to say about it —

Col 2:20  Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances
Rom 6:9  Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
Rom 6:10  For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
1Pe 3:18  For Christ also hath once suffered for sins,
Heb 10:12  But this man (Jesus), after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

That last verse alone disproves the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Since Christ now sits on the right hand of God the Father, He isn’t coming back to earth every Sunday to be crucified all over again and offered as a sacrifice! He died ONCE for our sins at the appointed time, and that was/is sufficient. End of argument. The biblical doctrine of Salvation is that we are saved by faith and not by works – Tit 3:5  Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost….

Eating a wafer and drinking wine without having a personal relationship with Jesus, cannot and will not save you from your sin, nor can it impart life to you. Only God through Jesus Christ can impart spiritual and eternal life, and it’s in communion with Him that we receive that Life, not through observance of religious works. Burning candles for the departed, wearing Scapulars, keeping man-made holy days not found in the Bible, etc., do not and cannot impart life. Such observances often serve to distract people from God by replacing relationship with Him, with rituals and talismans. A scapular has no more power to keep you safe from evil than does the sprinkling of water. Burning a candle for a deceased love one, or praying to a statue does no good whatsoever. Putting your faith in such things will lead you away from the Truth. Praying for and to the dead, and bowing before statues, is strictly forbidden in Scripture, Lev 6:1  Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God. [See also Exo 20:3-5; Isa 46:7; Isa 44:9-20].

“Praying for the dead is not a biblical concept. Our prayers have no bearing on someone once he or she has died. The reality is that, at the point of death, one’s eternal destiny is confirmed. Either he is saved through faith in Christ and is in heaven where he is experiencing rest and joy in God’s presence, or he is in torment in hell. The story of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar provides us with a vivid illustration of this truth. Jesus plainly used this story to teach that after death the unrighteous are eternally separated from God, that they remember their rejection of the gospel, that they are in torment, and that their condition cannot be remedied (Luke 16:19-31).” [2]

Distraction can take many forms. Martha, a disciple of Jesus, got distracted by her concerns —

'Christ in the House of Martha and Mary', Jan Vermeer van Delft, 1654Luk 10:38  Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
Luk 10:39  And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
Luk 10:40  But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
Luk 10:41  And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
Luk 10:42  But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

From this passage we can see that Jesus put a priority on spending time  listening to Him. He often spent hours, even whole nights in prayer, thereby setting us an example to follow Heb 5:7  Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared…

My prayer and hope is that believers become astute at hearing from God through spending time alone with Him, who like Mary, put devotion to God’s words first in their lives. May we lay aside our distractions and concerns awhile each day to hear the words of our Savior, for in doing so we’ll find shelter from the storms, as well as safety from the Tempter’s wiles.

Debra R. Stout © April 25, 2017

Footnotes:
[1] To meditate means to ponder, that is, (by implication) converse (with oneself, and hence aloud) or (transitively) utter: – commune, complain, declare, meditate, muse, pray, speak, talk (with) Psa 119:15.       [2] https://www.gotquestions.org/praying-for-the-dead.html

Seek the Lord and Be Restored!


Related imageHos 10:12  Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. 

sow = H2232 זרע BDB Definition:
1) to sow, scatter seed

Act righteously and ye shall reap the reward; a reward not of debt, but of grace. (Pro_11:18) in mercy — according to the measure of the divine “mercy,” which over and above repays the goodness or “mercy” which we show to our fellow man (Luk_6:38). [Jamieson-Fausset-Brown]

Gal 6:7  Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 
Gal 6:8  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 
Jer 4:3  For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 

fallow ground = H5215 נר / ניר 1) tillable or untilled or fallow ground. ‘break up your fallow ground‘ this is ground that lies untilled, not ploughed, nor sown, on which nothing grows but the produce of nature, as weeds, thorns, briers, &c. is common to men and beasts, and is trodden upon, and, so is hard and unsusceptible of seed; which, if it accidentally falls upon it, makes no impression on it, and is not received by it; and the breaking of it up is by the plough. The “fallow ground” fitly represents the hearts of unregenerate men, which are unopened to the word, and unbroken by it; nor have they the seed of divine grace sown in them; but are destitute of faith, hope, love, fear, and the like; there is nothing grows there but the weeds of sin and corruption; and are like a common beaten road; are the common track of sin, where lusts pass to and fro, and dwell; and so are hardened and obdurate, as hard as a stone, yea, harder than the nether millstone; and who, though they may occasionally be under the word, it makes no impression on them; it has no place in them, but is like the seed that falls by the wayside, Mat_13:4, unless divine power attends it; for the Gospel is the plough, and ministers are the ploughmen; but it is the Lord alone that makes it effectual to the breaking up the fallow ground of men’s hearts, Luk_9:62, but when the Lord puts his hand to the plough it enters within, and opens the heart; it is quick, powerful, and sharp; it cuts deep, and makes long and large furrows, even strong convictions of sin; it throws a man’s inside outward, as the plough does the earth; and lays all the wicked of his heart open to him; and roots up the pride, the vanity, and boasting of the creature, and other lusts; and so makes way for the seed of divine grace to be sown there:

and sow not among thorns; or, “that ye may not sow among thorns” (o); for, unless the fallow ground is broken up, it will be no other than sowing among thorns; and unless the hearts of men are opened by the power and grace of God, they will not attend to the things that are spoken; preaching and eating the word will be like sowing among thorns; cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of life, and the lusts thereof, which are comparable to thorns, because pricking, perplexing, and distressing, and because vain and unprofitable, choke the word, and make it unfruitful; see Mat_13:7, now this exhortation in the text does not suppose power in man to break up and open his heart; but to show his want of renewing grace; the necessity of it; and the danger he is in without it; and to awaken in him a concern for it; see Eze_18:31. The words may be applied to backsliding professors, since backsliding Israel and Judah are the persons addressed; and this may be done with great propriety and pertinence to the simile; for fallow ground is that which has been broke up and sown, and laid fallow. It is usual to till and sow two years, and lay fallow a third: and backsliding Christians look very much like fallow ground; so faithless, so lukewarm, and indifferent; so inattentive to the word, and unconcerned under it; so barren and unfruitful, as if they had never had any faith, or love, or good work in them; so that they need to be renewed in the spirit of their minds; to have a new face of things put upon them: and to have a clean heart, and a right spirit, created in them. [John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible]

Break up your fallow ground – Fallow ground is either that which, having been once tilled, has lain long uncultivated; or, ground slightly ploughed, in order to be ploughed again previously to its being sown. Ye have been long uncultivated in righteousness; let true repentance break up your fruitless and hardened hearts; and when the seed of the word of life is sown in them, take heed that worldly cares and concerns do not arise, and, like thorns, choke the good seed. [Adam Clarke]

Is it not time that we should look into our hearts and lives, break up the fallow ground, now covered with thorns and thistles, and begin to sow in righteousness? Let us ask God to drive the plowshares of deep soul-searching and conviction across the hard and sterile acres of our hearts, and sow them with His good seed. [F.B.Meyer; ‘Through the Bible Day by Day’]

*The ‘good seed’ is the Word of God. We need to sow the Word of God DEEPLY into our hearts, which can be done after we ‘break up our fallow ground.’ Our ‘fallow ground’ is soil that needs to be tilled or furrowed so that SEED can be SOWED into it, and we can reap a crop of righteous fruit. We won’t REAP if we don’t SOW. We need to tend the soil of our hearts, lest it become overgrown with ‘thistles and thorns,’ the cares and worries of this life –

Luk 8:11  Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 
Luk 8:12  Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 
Luk 8:13  They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. 
Luk 8:14  And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. 
Luk 8:15  But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. 

Break up your fallow ground ….one sowing sufficeth not. It must be no surface-sowing. And “the soil of our hearts must ever be anew cleansed; for no one in this mortal life is so perfect, in piety, that noxious desires will not spring up again in the heart, as tares….” [Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible]

*Tilling the soil of our hearts would include pulling out the thistles and thorns of wrong or evil thoughts, motives, and pursuits. When we examine our hearts and find these things growing in them, we need to pull them up, and sow the seed of God’s Word in their place! Then we’ll reap a crop of good fruit from our righteous acts when it is ready or ripe. Just like natural crops must ripen before picking, we patiently wait for our spiritual seeds to mature before we see fruit appear –

Gal 6:9  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 

For it is time to seek the Lord – This should be immediately done: the season is passing; and if you do not get the seed in the ground, the early rain will be past, and your fields will be unfruitful. [Adam Clarke’s Commentary]

seek … Lord, fill he come — The prophet bids them “seek diligently,” and perseveringly, “not leaving off or desisting,” if they should not at once find, but continuing the search, quite “up to” the time when they should find. His words imply the need of perseverance and patience, which should stop short of nothing but God’s own time for finding.

“If Israel of old were so to order their ways in expectation of Him, and that they might be prepared for His coming; and if their neglecting to do this made them liable to such heavy judgments, how much severer judgments shall they be worthy of, who, after His Coming and raining upon them the plentiful showers of heavenly doctrine, and abundant measure of His grace and gifts of His Holy Spirit, do, for want of breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, suffer His holy word to be lost on them. The fearful doom of such unfruitful Christians is set down by Paul” Heb_6:4-8.

The present is ever the time to seek the Lord. “Behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the Day of Salvation” 2Co_6:2. As Hosea says, “it is time to seek the Lord until He come,” so Paul saith, “unto them that look for Him, shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation” Heb_9:28. [Albert Barnes]

Rain righteousness upon you – God will give you the early rain in due time, and in proper measure. Here are the metaphors, and the application cannot be difficult.. Here are ploughing, fallowing, sowing, harrowing, watering, reaping, threshing, and feeding on the produce of well-directed labor. All may be applied to the human heart, and the work of God upon it. Correction, contrition, conversion, receiving the grace of Christ, bringing forth fruit, etc. [Adam Clarke’s Commentary]

SUMMATION: The ‘Good Seed’ is the Word of God, the bible. The ‘soil’ represents the hearts of men. The Ploughmen are ministers and preachers who sow the seed. ‘Fallow ground’ is soil that has been left unattended and has hardened so that it can’t receive seed. It’s a condition primarily of unregenerate hearts, but can also occur in those who’ve accepted Christ. The hardened soil of men’s hearts has to be ‘broken up,’ (furrowed/plowed) before the good seed can be sown in them. Whether it be for the first time, or numerous times; however often men discover that ‘thorns and thistles’ (cares of this life) are growing in their hearts!

A PERSONAL NOTE: I feel that the Lord impressed me today with two passages of Scripture from two different prophetic books, Hosea and Isaiah. Both mention SEEKING God and being RECONCILED to Him and to one’s fellow man; a two-pronged message. I feel that the terms ‘seeking’ and ‘reconciliation,’ were highlighted to me as I read those texts, and go hand-in-hand. 2017 may be a year in which many estranged relationships are healed as people reconcile with one another. I sure hope so.

Debra R. Stout, December 31, 2016

Of Sheep, Thieves, and Shepherds; Sheep Know The Truth When They Hear It

Joh 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
Joh 10:28 and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. 

Joh 10:2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
Joh 10:3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
Joh 10:4 When he hath put forth all his own, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
Joh 10:5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
Joh 10:14 I am the good shepherd; and I know mine own, and mine own know me,

“Mine own know Me” but they “know not the voice of strangers.” Strangers G245 allotrios; means another’s, that is, not one’s own; foreign, not akin, hostile: – alien, other (man’s, men’s), strange (-r). To “know” G1097, means – get a knowledge of, perceive, feel; to understand, to become acquainted with. It’s also a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman; thus the term indicates an intimate knowledge of, or being ‘close’ to someone. This Greek term is synonymous with the Hebrew “yada” which has a rich range of meaning, including ‘care, recognition, observation, instruction; familiar friend, kinsfolk, kinsman, have respect for, understand, comprehend, and more. The idea in these passages, is that the sheep of Jesus Christ recognize his voice. They not only recognize His voice, but understand and comprehend what His will is, and do it. Obedience is the key to entering the kingdom of heaven, not prophesying, working of miracles, signs or wonders –
Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works?
Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
‘iniquity’ G458 anomia; without law, lawless, transgressor, unlawful, wicked. According to this definition, those who live in consistent disobedience to God’s words, are considered to be ‘lawless transgressors’ and ‘wicked.’ Transgressors won’t enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus said. It’s a critical point, one not to be taken lightly, for Jesus always means what he says. Of course, what is meant are willful and consistent transgressors; those who make a lifestyle of reckless living, going against God’s revealed will in the Bible, not godly persons who repent when they transgress. To sum up, those who mistakenly think that they have a ticket to heaven because they speak in tongues, prophesy, cast out demons, work miracles and other mighty works, but consistently lived in disobedience to God’s words, will be sorely disappointed. Charisma, charm, intelligence, having a license to preach, being a deacon, pastor, or choir master – won’t gain you entry into the kingdom of heaven either. Obedience to God’s word, is the key to entering the kingdom of heaven. ~ Debra R. Stout © February 26, 2016
 
For a more in depth look—
Joseph Benson’s Commentary of the Old and New Testaments  John 10:1Verily, &c. — The Pharisees supported themselves in their opposition to Christ with this principle, that they were pastors of the church; and that Jesus, having no commission from them, was an intruder and an impostor, and that, therefore, the people were bound in duty to adhere to them against him. In opposition to this, Christ here describes who were the false shepherds and who were the true, leaving them to infer what they were. He introduces his discourse with, Verily, verily, I say unto you — To show, not only the certain truth, but the deep importance of what he uttered. He speaks by way of parable or similitude, taken from the customary way of managing sheep in that country. It is supposed that he was now in the outer court of the temple, near the sheep which were there exposed to sale for sacrifice, the sight of which reminded him of the language of the ancient prophets, “who often compared the teachers of their own time to shepherds, and the people to sheep. Accordingly, in describing the characters of the scribes and Pharisees, he made use of the same metaphor, showing that there are two kinds of evil shepherds, pastors, or teachers; one, who, instead of entering in by the door to lead the flock out and feed it, enter in some other way, with an intention to kill and destroy; another, who, though they may have entered in by the door, feed their flocks with the dispositions of hirelings; for when they see the wolf coming, or any danger approaching, they desert their flocks, because they love themselves only. The Pharisees plainly showed themselves to be of the former character, by excommunicating the man that had been blind, because he would not act contrary to the dictates of his reason and conscience to please them. But though they cast him out of their church, Christ received him into his, which is the true church, the spiritual enclosure, where the sheep go in and out and find pasture.” He that entereth not by the door into the sheep-fold, &c. — “I assure you, that whosoever, in any age of the church, assumed the office of a teacher, without commission from me, and without a sincere regard to the edification and salvation of men’s souls, was a thief and a robber; and in the present age, he is no better who assumes that office without my commission, and particularly without believing on me, and without intending my honour and the good of the church.” — Macknight. Add to this, those do not enter in by Christ, and indeed can have no authority from him, nor ability to become pastors of his flock, who do not first take care to secure, by faith working by love, an interest in, and union with him, or, to be found in him, not having their own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith; to be in him new creatures: Philippians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17. But climbeth up some other way — Enters the sheep-fold as a pastor of Christ’s flock, without the necessary prerequisites and qualifications, without first obtaining a saving acquaintance with Christ, and genuine love to him; without being called to, and qualified for the work by him, and of consequence, without authority from him; who, influenced by unworthy motives, by a view to wealth, or honour, or ease, or a maintenance, or some secular employment or advantage, gets himself appointed a minister of Christ’s church, through the interest of rich and powerful friends and connections, or the aid of natural abilities, and mere human learning; or some endowment or accomplishment which is not connected with, and does not imply true piety, and a manifest call from the Lord Jesus; the same is a thief and a robber — In God’s account; entering the fold “to fleece and butcher, not to feed the flock; robbing Christ of his honour, and starving the souls of his people, in order to enrich himself, and aggrandize his family.” — Scott
 
John 10:2-5. He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd, &c. — “This mode of speaking, with us, conveys the notion that the shepherd is the only person who enters by the door; yet the door-keeper, and the sheep themselves, enter also the same way. The original expression is manifestly intended to denote the constant, not the peculiar, use which the shepherd makes of the door, as opposed to the constant use of thieves and robbers, to force their entrance by breaking or climbing over the fence. The comparison is made, not to the folds used by the common people in remote parts of the country, but to those belonging to the rich in the neighbourhood of a populous city, where the walls and other fences need to be stronger, and the entrance more carefully kept, on account of the greater danger from thieves.” — Campbell. To him the porter openeth — As the shepherd will always choose to enter in by that which is the regular appointed way, so, as soon as he approaches, the door-keeper opens the fold; that is, God in his providence, and by the influence of his Spirit, makes way for such a one to exercise his ministry among his people, and gives success to it. For as it is not unworthy of Christ to be styled the door, by which both the sheep and the true pastors enter, so neither is it unworthy of God the Father to be styled the door-keeper. See Acts 14:27; and Acts 16:14; Colossians 4:3; Revelation 3:8. It was supposed by Sir Isaac Newton, that as the words were spoken near the temple, where sheep were kept in folds to be sold for sacrifices, Christ here alludes to what was peculiar in those folds; that as they were kept locked, they not only excluded the thief, but the shepherd, till the door-keeper opened them. “But I cannot think,” says Dr. Doddridge, “whatever occasion Christ might take from the sight of sheep to represent his people under that image, and himself as a shepherd, he would describe them like sheep shut up in a pen to be sold for sacrifice: nor does the shepherd’s leading them out, &c., agree with this circumstance. In countries where there were so many savage beasts, it might be ordinarily necessary to have the folds better secured than among us; and the chief shepherd might often leave a servant to watch them while thus shut up, and come himself to lead them out to pasture in the morning.” And the sheep hear his voice — The people of God, knowing him to be a true pastor, hearken unto him. All the circumstances here mentioned exactly agree with the customs of the ancient eastern shepherds. They called their sheep by name, went before them, and the sheep followed them. So real Christians hear, attend to, understand, and obey the voice of a shepherd whom Christ hath sent: and he counteth them his own, dearer than any friend or brother; calleth them by name — That is, instructs, advises, directs, encourages each by name, and leadeth them out in the paths of righteousness, beside the waters of comfort. And when he putteth forth his own sheep — Leads them out into the pastures of the ordinances, invites them to the enjoyment of the privileges, and urges them to the practice of the duties of true Christianity; he goeth before them — In all these particulars, and in all the ways of God, teaching them in every point by example, as well as by precept; and the sheep follow him — They tread in his steps; for they know his voice — Having the witness in themselves, that his words are the truth, the wisdom, and the power of God. Reader, art thou a shepherd of souls? Then answer to God: is it thus with thee and thy flock? And a stranger will they not follow — One whom Christ hath not sent, who does not answer the preceding description. Him they will not follow; and who can constrain them to it? But will flee from him — As from the plague. For they know not the voice of strangers — They cannot relish it. It is harsh and grating to them. They find nothing of God therein. In other words, as sheep will not follow a strange shepherd, so the people of God will not hearken to false teachers, or to such as do not declare, plainly, fully, and with a divine unction, the very word of the truth of the gospel: but will avoid them, for they can easily distinguish them from the true messengers of God by their fruits, that is, by their doctrine and practice, and the inefficacy of their preaching to convert, sanctify, and save the souls of men.

‘All We Need Is Love,’ But What Kind?

all_you_need_is_love_205438We hear a lot about love, ‘love is all we need,’ a line from a popular Beetle’s song that became quite popular in American culture back in the 60’s and 70’s. But what kind of love were they referring to? There’s more than one. ‘Eros,’ from the Greek language meaning desire and longing, where we get the term ‘erotica’ from, is the sensual kind of love based on physical attraction and is sexual love between a man and a woman. It’s primarily selfish and self-gratifying. What the pop culture means whenever it uses the term ‘love,’ is typically the sentimental, shallow, sensual, and self-seeking kind. It’s not the kind of love that can endure hardship, suffering, persecution, oppression, or that keeps commitments because it’s based so much on feelings which can be fickle. ‘The basic idea in eros is getting something for yourself. While it may involve a genuine feeling for someone else, that feeling is kindled by the attractiveness of that person and by the excitement, pleasure, and satisfaction which we believe that person will afford us. Eros poses as love for another but is actually love for oneself. It says, “I love you because you make me happy.” Its foundation is some characteristic in the other person that pleases us, such as beauty, charm, warmth, kindness, or talent. If that characteristic is taken away there is nothing left, and it dies. This kind of love looks primarily for what it can get. It may give a little, but the motive is usually to get something in return for what it gives. If it fails to get what it wants, it may turn to resentment, bitterness, or hatred.’ 

Another, more altruistic kind of ‘love’ considers other people as being equally entitled to the world’s resources. This kind of love requires some giving and sharing, even some selflessness. ‘Phileo’ is a brotherly type of love from the Greek term which means to ‘like’ or ‘befriend.’ Philia, the next higher level of love, relates to the soul rather than to the body. It touches the human personality—the intellect, the emotions, and the will. It involves a mutual sharing. We choose friends because of the pleasure we derive from being with them. There are personal qualities in them that we appreciate, intellectual and cultural interests that we share, and mutual self-expression that we find satisfying. We derive something enjoyable from the relationship, but we are also willing to give our fair share. This giving is not free from selfish motivation, but the selfishness is largely obscured by a sense of togetherness. Philia is a higher level of love than eros in that “our” happiness is involved rather than merely “my” happiness. Philia is love’s halfway mark—give a little, get a little; a fifty-fifty proposition. 

There exists yet another kind of love, the kind Jesus displayed during His earthly ministry, and which is taught in the Bible as the kind of love Christians ought to exhibit. ‘Agape,’ is a perfect or mature kind of love that doesn’t rely upon feelings; it’s a choice or an act of your will. With agape, you choose to love despite your feelings. Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love, the highest of the types of love. It does not seek pleasure for itself, but instead delights in giving. It is not kindled by the merit or worth of its object, but originates in its own God-given nature. Agape keeps on loving even when its object is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, or completely unworthy. It desires only the good of the one loved. It lives to make the loved one happy, whatever the personal cost or sacrifice. It doesn’t give fifty percent and expect fifty percent in return. It gives one hundred percent and expects nothing in return! https://bible.org/seriespage/5-i-m-love *For definitions of the three types, see the Footnotes.

Feelings are vacillating and don’t always lead us to do what’s best for our fellow man. Perfect love, the God-kind of love, doesn’t depend upon soulish feelings, but upon principles like selflessness, treating others as you want to be treated, caring for the poor and orphans, the disenfranchised of the world, and your neighbors, whoever they may be. Jesus taught these principles during His ministry, which were written down in the books of the New Testament. To get a full understanding of love in the Bible, you have to read all of it, for there are many examples given of how to love with godly love within its pages. Here are a few examples from the Holy Bible on ‘phileo’ and ‘agape’ love —-

Mat 5:42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Mat 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Mat 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
Mat 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Mat 22:39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Joh 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
Joh 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Joh 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
Rom 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Rom 12:9 Let love be genuine.
Rom 13:9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Rom 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

This passage sums it up nicely I think —-

1Co 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
1Co 13:2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1Co 13:3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1Co 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
1Co 13:5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
1Co 13:6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
1Co 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1Co 13:8 Love never ends.
Col 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
Col 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Col 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

So, where does your Love-meter point? Does it point to the God-kind of love, to the brotherly kind, or to the lustful, sensual kind which seeks only to fulfill its own needs? With all the hatred, prejudice, murder, wars, and greed, in the world today, there’s a huge vacuum of the God-kind of love. It would seem reasonable to take personal inventory of our daily words and actions to see what kind of love is being displayed in our lives, and then take whatever steps are necessary to cultivate God’s kind of love in our hearts. One way to do this is to meditate, chew and digest the parts of God’s Word which teach us what godly love is and how to truly love ourselves and others, and let them go down deep into our psyches. When done regularly and consistently, meditating on God’s words will transform you; a process called, “renewing your mind” –

Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Eph 4:22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,
Eph 4:23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
Col 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.

To love as God loves is a goal to aim for, even though we often fall short of it. Without the Holy Spirit residing within us, it’s really difficult to love with totally pure motives, which is why everyone needs to be ‘born again’ – John 3:3-8.

God sees deeply into our souls and knows our motives. He cares about everyone, small and great, rich and poor, strong and weak. What we think, feel, say, and do – matters very much to Him. May it matter to us as well.

Debra R. Stout, February 13, 2016

Footnotes:

eros, 1: the Greek god of erotic love — compare cupid 2: the sum of life-preserving instincts that are manifested as impulses to gratify basic needs, as sublimated impulses, and as impulses to protect and preserve the body and mind — compare death instinct 3a : love conceived by Plato as a fundamental creative impulse having a sensual element [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

phileō G5368 φιλέω  From G5384; to be a friend to (fond of [an individual or an object]), that is, have affection for (denoting personal attachment, as a matter of sentiment or feeling; while G25 is wider, embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety: the two thus stand related very much as G2309 and G1014, or as G2372 and G3563 respectively; the former being chiefly of the heart and the latter of the head); specifically to kiss (as a mark of tenderness): – kiss, love.

agapē G26 ἀγάπη
Thayer Definition:
1) brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence
2) love feasts
agapaō 1) to love dearly

New Years Greeting & Message

Dear Friends of the One, true God, Yahweh ~ debra looking up_2014_3_paintstrokes

It’s 2016 now, and I’m excited about the possibilities of what lies ahead for myself and each of His children this year and beyond. I think it will be a year of fresh, new beginnings, not just rhetorically but actually. There are things, even relationships in my life which are coming to an end (and needed to), and others that are just beginning. Change is sometimes good. I think we have to let go of those things and relations in our lives which haven’t been bearing good fruit in order to make room for the good things God has in store for us. God will uproot and pluck up anything in our lives which hinders us from fulfilling His purposes. I believe this year will also be a time of ‘uprooting’ and ‘replanting’ for some, in order to get them to a place where they’ll be more fruitful and better able to align themselves with God’s purposes in the earth. 

For me, and I’m sure for many, it’s a time for reflection on the previous year and my actions throughout and what I could do differently or better perhaps. The future isn’t ours to see but as Christians we can trust our fates to our Father’s good and perfect will. I’m sensing His Presence and loving embrace DESPITE my many faults and failures to measure up to His perfect standard, the Bible. I’m humbled that He’s chosen me to be one of His ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20), having entrusted me, and all who’ve placed their trust in Him, to take His Light to the World. Not an easy task due to strong opposition and continual bombardment of evil from our arch enemy Satan, yet our God has promised that the “gates of Hell shall not prevail” against His Church (Mt 16:18). May we stand firmly upon that truth this year as we’re likely to see an increase of terrorist attacks and persecution of Christians and Christianity world-wide creating a climate of fear, “men’s hearts failing them for fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world” – Luke 21:26. But we who believe need not fear because there’s an army of heavenly hosts around us night and day, Luke 2:13, Ps 91:11.

Let us go forth then into the fray with God as our heavenly, and only, Commander in Chief! The Commander of the Hosts of Heaven, the Sovereign God who sets up kings/kingdoms and uproots them, Jer 45:4 Thus says the LORD: Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up–that is, the whole land. Jer 12:17 But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, declares the LORD. Jer 18:8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.

I can’t help but think there’s a word for America in those Jeremiah verses. America needs a massive Revival and wholehearted return to the moral and spiritual standard of God’s holy Word, if she is to survive the next decade as a sovereign nation. Our enemies are at the gates….who will raise the standard against them? Who will be bold and brave enough to stand for the right? May it be all of us who believe.

God Bless You As You Follow Him ~

Debra R. Stout, Jan. 2, 2016

Root Of Bitterness vs. the Grace Of God

The Bible talks about a “root of bitterness defiling many” – Heb 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

“defiled” is a Greek word (miainō) meaning to ‘sully, pollute, contaminate.’ Heb 12:16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, ‘Profane’ in the Greek (bebēlos) means, heathenish, wicked, or ungodly.

‘fail of the grace of God,’ in the Greek (hustereō) means,
Thayer Definition:
1) behind
1a) to come late or too tardily
1a1) to be left behind in the race and so fail to reach the goal, to fall short of the end
1a2) metaphorically fail to become a partaker, fall back from
1b) to be inferior in power, influence and rank
1b1) of the person: to be inferior to
1c) to fail, be wanting
1d) to be in want of, lack
2) to suffer want, to be devoid of, to lack (be inferior) in excellence, worth

The word “profane” here refers to one who by word or conduct treats religion with contempt, or has no reverence for what is sacred. This may be shown by words; by the manner; by a sneer; by neglect of religion; – Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

While this verse is primarily referring to persons within the Body of Christ who become bitter at God when disciplined by Him (Heb 12:5-13), which could cause them to “fall away” from faith if not checked, it can also apply to any ungodly or profane individual. Bitterness is of such a nature that it spreads like a virus from one person to another, polluting and contaminating others. Having had some personal experience with this, I can say that what the Bible says about it is absolutely true. Bitterness not only defiles the person who has it, but others who come in contact with it.

Recently I met a man and wanted to know what his thoughts were of God and Faith. One day while we sat near a water fountain in the city square, I asked him if he had faith and if so, what relevance it had in his daily life. Talk about a loaded question! He began by saying that he was too busy every day, and didn’t have time for that. Then he added that he didn’t believe anything was ‘there’ and that he had learned to rely upon himself because of how his father had treated him. He was terribly abused as a child by his alcoholic father. He told me his father had ruined his life and he hated him so much he wanted to kill him, and would, if he could find a way! With empathy and compassion I said that thousands of others have had it just as bad, and that I too knew how being abused feels. I told him that God could help him forgive his father and mother, as He had done for me and many others. He retorted, “What good is God? “Where was he when I needed him?” Obviously, the man was very ‘bitter’ at God, blaming him for what happened.

When a person is in the clutches of bitterness towards God, he or she can’t receive His grace. The choice is either, hold onto bitterness and forsake God’s grace, or forsake bitterness and partake of His grace. We need God’s grace in order to forgive some men their offenses against us. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that we have to forget what they’ve done, or that we have to allow them access to our lives! In many cases, doing so would be foolish and harmful to our wellbeing. Forgiving someone simply means that we leave their judgment and punishment up to God, and that we let go of ‘demanding payment’ from him or her –

Mat 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Mat 18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Mat 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
Mat 18:24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
Mat 18:25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
Mat 18:26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Mat 18:27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
Mat 18:28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
Mat 18:29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Mat 18:30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
Mat 18:31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Mat 18:32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Mat 18:33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?
Mat 18:34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Mat 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

We often forget how many sins we’ve committed against our fellows, but God has his way of helping us to remember when we’re having difficulty forgiving someone. Remembering how sinful we are helps us to have mercy on others, or it should.

There was no judgement or criticism in my heart or words for this man, who was obviously in great emotional pain and turmoil. I understood where he was coming from since I had hated my own father for many years before I was able to take hold of the “grace of God” which enabled me to completely forgive him, which set my soul free from the heavy weight of hatred and bitterness. I told the man that he could pray to God and find answers for his problems, that God helped me get through many tough times, and that I had to depend upon Him because there was often no one else around. I told him God helped me to forgive my father for committing acts which no child should have to see.

“Well, he’s never done anything for me,” he smirked. “That’s not true” I said, “Jesus paid for all your sins and the sins of the whole world when He died on the Cross.” “What sins?” the man indignantly asked me, “I didn’t sin, what my father did wasn’t my fault!” I said, “I know it wasn’t, all I’m saying is that we have all sinned at one time or another and were born with a nature proned to sin.” I asked him, “Have you ever told a lie?” As if he didn’t hear me he retorted, “God didn’t suffer as much as I did!” “All He did was hide in a cave…” [Not sure what the man was referring to.] I told him that forgiveness for his sins was available and that all he had to do was accept and receive it. I said, “All God wants is a relationship with everyone and we were designed to have that with Him.” He said that he didn’t believe it, and that the Bible was just a bunch of stories, “Who knows whether they’re true or not?” I told him that I knew. He asked me how I knew and I said, “Because I have tried it and found it to be true” – Tit 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, “faithful” means “true, trustworthy, sure.”

The man went on to say that he believed his father would go to hell when he dies (he said at the outset he didn’t believe in God or the Bible)! “That’s a possibility” I told him, “but you’re making your own hell here now.” Looking surprised, he asked, “How so?” “By holding onto hate and revenge which is eating you up inside and holding you back from going forward in life,” “You can’t go forward with baggage hanging onto you like that,” I answered. He objected saying, “But he hasn’t changed over the years, he’s still the same so how can I forgive him?” My answer was simply, “You forgive him in your heart in order to set yourself free.” Sadly, the man refused to listen, preferring to wallow in self-pity over the terrible things his father had done to him. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel empathy for this man, but I knew that holding onto past wrongs and nursing your wounds, keeps you in bondage. Freedom comes when we forgive those who have wronged us, regardless of the nature and depth of the offense. I knew that for anyone, healing of inner wounds is just about impossible while holding onto offenses. We also keep others in bondage by our unforgiveness, not just ourselves. That’s why Jesus made forgiving others their offenses a requirement for our receiving His forgiveness, Mar 11:25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mar 11:26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Luk 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: (See also Mt 18:21-35.)

Though full of anger, hatred, revenge and self-pity, I give the man credit for being honest. Most people try to cover up how they truly feel about God and life.

After leaving him at the fountain, I walked home feeling a bit defeated that I wasn’t able to help him. While it may have seemed that my efforts to steer him in the right direction, failed, I believe he’ll think on my words later, and maybe the Lord will use them to soften his heart. No judgment, ‘But for the grace of God go I.’ I hope he gets the help he needs, from someone, somewhere. Carrying around so much hate and bitterness is a heavy burden on anyone’s soul.

While it’s easy to accept in theory that God allows terrible things to happen because of man’s free will, it’s not easy to accept when it ‘hits home.’ Sometimes people are innocent victims of someone else’s sinful act and end up paying for it, suffering various consequences which can last a lifetime. When we’ve been victimized, we tend to blame not only the culprit, but God too, because we feel He shouldn’t have allowed it and can’t understand why He did. Why?” is a natural and good question, because there IS a reason for everything, and we often need to know ‘why’ something is happening to us, so that we can change our course if we’re going the wrong way. However, it’s a question that we might not get an answer to and one that God isn’t obligated to answer, nor can we make him answer. Another question we could ask is “What?” What is God (or life) trying to tell me? What is the lesson in this trial? What can I learn from it? There’s ALWAYS a lesson or a nugget of truth hidden in every trial awaiting our discovery! – Isa 45:3  and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places…. 

While this may not satisfy everyone, God allows bad things to happen to good people because He can’t interfere with the exercise of man’s free will. If God were to remove or override man’s free will, man would loose the ability to make choices, reducing him to an animal which can’t reason but merely follows its instinct. Man would loose part of the “image of God,” if his free will was removed or interferred with, and that would be tragic. The reason God gave man free will was so he could choose between right and wrong, and whether or not to love, worship, and serve Him. One of the most difficult obstacles in life to overcome, is the temptation and tendency to become bitter. Life affords some, many more opportunities than others on that score, but the Bible tells us that rewards for over comers will be far greater than anything they can imagine – Rev 2:7, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Rev 2:11, He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. Rev 2:17, To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. Rev 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: Rev 2:27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; Rev 2:28 And I will give him the morning star.

“Therefore, let us not fail to become a partaker of the grace of God whereby we are saved.” (Ephs 2:5; Rms 3:24)

Debra R. Stout © July 29, 2015

“Message of Christ Crucified Not Allowed; Our Religious Freedom Wanes”

Jes.carry.cross“Picture of Christ Crucified Not Allowed”

In this dream I saw a very large glass window covering most of the outside wall of a building. On it I had taped up many sheets of paper with a message typed or written on them. In the middle, I had taped up a picture I had drawn of Christ crucified. When done I left all of it and went to another place; home or work I’m not sure.

The next time I looked at the window, the picture of Christ had been removed and in it’s place was a Notice that stated: “You may not put up pictures of Christ crucified, without permission.” I was at work or some place where I couldn’t leave immediately, but felt quite anxious to leave so I could go talk with whomever to get the required permission.

Then I saw my picture of Christ lying in the street in front of the bldg. somewhat crumpled up. I felt shocked and alarmed at the same time and thought, “How could they just take it down like that?” Right away I called a Christian woman and told her what happened. She asked me what I thought we should do. I answered that we should fight for our religious rights, and that we couldn’t just let those people do that to us.

Later when I went inside the bldg. where I had posted my message & picture, I saw a room filled with school age children sitting at a long table. The children were writing on sheets of paper, and one had drawn a picture of Christ, I believe in response to my message. I thought: “Isn’t it odd they’ll allow these children to put up pictures of Christ, but not me?” (My sense was that they were opposed to my message.)

Then I went to speak to a man in authority inside the building, but don’t recall what we spoke about, or if I actually spoke with him or not.

I feel the dream indicates that a time of intensified religious persecution and opposition to the Gospel message has begun. ‘Christ Crucified’, is removed from public spaces and trampled in the streets – ‘streets’ symbolize major public arena’s like business, educational systems, courts & legal systems, and news media. The public school system is teaching children to oppose Christ and the Gospel. Freedom to speak or write about Christ and the Gospel is not allowed now, without ‘permission.’ Even among some Christians the message of the Cross, which is to live a life of self-denial, has become abhorrent! Together, we need to confront the forces and systems arrayed against us and the Gospel without delay, and fight for our right to practice our faith freely, or else it will be taken away from us.

*After the dream a scripture verse came to mind, Col 1:24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and do fill up the things lacking of the tribulations of the Christ in my flesh for his body, which is the assembly, (Young’s Literal Translation)

Debra R. Stout © December 26, 2011

Add to this the fact that thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters are being routinely murdered and tortured all across the globe, but especially in well armed terrorists nations of the Middle East like Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan. Without a sitting president and congress who cares what happens to Christians, our brethren have no support but the prayers of those of us who are yet free (and that may not be much longer the way the Jihadists are going) and any money we can send to aid them in their time of tribulation. Christians in America and Europe have yet to suffer the horrific torture, persecution, and mass murder our brethren have suffered for centuries and are NOW suffering by the hands of militant, cruel, hateful, terrorists who believe in Jihad. Jihad is the doctrine which Muslims believe gives them the right to slaughter all who don’t believe in Alah and the writings of the Koran. It is also a movement to set up a Calliphate and Shariah Law to rule the world. 

In light of 911 and every hateful, deranged terrorist killing of innocent people since 911 around the world, why are our leaders nearly silent on this issue? Why doesn’t the yet free Church speak out loud and strong in defense of their persecuted brethren? Who has muzzled their mouths? I think it’s a spirit of FEAR; fear someone might accuse them of being bigots, arrest them for speaking out against terrorists, and/or fear that they might end up tortured or even dead if they do. 

While some or all of those things may indeed happen, should that stop us from speaking up for our brethren and for our religious freedoms? If we claim that we ‘follow’ Christ, shouldn’t we be willing and ready to suffer persecution for His sake and for the sake of the Gospel, as others have done? 

If we don’t begin to speak up for our religious rights and freedoms, and those of our brothers and sisters, we’ll loose them. Muslims in America have been loudly protesting the practice of the Christian faith wherever they find it. The time may come when the universal Body of Christ will have to go ‘underground’ due to extensive persecution and dissolution of religious rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, but unenforced. The stark reality which can no longer be ignored, for it’s on our very doorstep, is that Jihad has already come to America, disguised and for the most part hidden, yet very real and very dangerous. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in this century. “The expected growth of Islam around the world is perhaps the most striking finding in the recent Pew Research Center report projecting the future of religious groups. Indeed, Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the overall world population between 2010 and 2050 and, in the second half of this century, will likely surpass Christians as the world’s largest religious group.” http://www. pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/23/why-muslims-are-the-worlds-fastest-growing-religious-group/

Many Americans seem oblivious, and or have a cavalier attitude towards real threats to its survival. America and it’s former glory has all but become a distant memory. Those of you too young to recall the slaying of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Bobby, and everyone who has stood for open and honest government since; probably doesn’t relate to much of this, but the history is available online at least. Go search the Internet for news reports of the past and present slaying of Christians around the world, there are plenty available. Then DO something about it, don’t just blithely say, “How sad” then forget what you saw and read! All of us can pray for the nations and for persecuted Christians. Here’s a website that has a lot of resources to make it easy for anyone to pray for the nations http://www.operationworld.org/join-prayer-movement 

All of us will be held accountable by God for what we do and leave undone —

Mat 25:31 But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:
Mat 25:32 and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats;
Mat 25:33 and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Mat 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Mat 25:35 for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in;
Mat 25:36 naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Mat 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink?
Mat 25:38 And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Mat 25:39 And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
Mat 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.
Mat 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels:
Mat 25:42 for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink;
Mat 25:43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Mat 25:44 Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Mat 25:45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.
Mat 25:46 And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.

Selah.

Debra R. Stout © August 2015

 

 

The Violent Take the Kingdom

jesus_mat

This study came about because the Holy Spirit gave me a Rhema early one morning as I was waking up – “the violent take it by force.”

Mat 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

‘take by force’ – G726 harpazo  
Thayer Definition:
1) to seize, carry off by force
2) to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly
3) to snatch out or away  

My first impression of “the violent take it by force” is that it means we are to ‘press into’ the Kingdom; to forcefully take back what the devil has stolen, to make him release his captives, his prisoners (people) through strong, sustained application of the Word, prayer, and promises of God. To appropriate the promises and the Blood of Jesus to the person and/or situation in need of saving (healing, deliverance, etc.).

Luk 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. ‘presseth’ – G971 biazo Thayer Definition: 1) to use force, to apply force 2) to force, inflict violence on.

‘broken’ – G1846 exorusso From G1537 and G3736; to dig out, that is, (by extension) to extract (an eye), remove (a roofing): – break up, pluck. 

Mar 2:2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
Mar 2:3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
Mar 2:4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
Mar 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. (See also Luke 5:15 – 20)

The people in this passage demonstate what it means to “press into the kingdom.” They did whatever it took get the sick man before Jesus so he could be healed, even removing a piece of the roof over the place where Jesus and a large crowd was! Jesus rewarded their faith by healing the man. Taking the Kingdom by force, also means plucking out, or up (as if uprooting) that which hinders you from entering the Kingdom of Heaven, or from appropriating Kingdom promises to yourself and others to whom they are given, ie., the children of God. Notice that these action words aren’t passive; they’re ‘violent’ and ‘forceful,’ in the spiritual sense. In Mt 5:29 we see this kingdom ‘violence’ repeated —

Mat 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Mat 5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off,

‘pluck’ – G1807 exaireo
1) draw out, root out (Thayer’s Gk Definitions)
‘cast it from you’ – G906 ballo; to throw (more or less violent or intense): cast out, send, strike, throw down, thrust. (Strong’s Heb. & Gk. Dictionaries)

Notice that ‘pluck’ and ‘cast’ it from you, are both more or less violent, intense action words. While we’re not to take Jesus’ words to ‘cut off a hand’ or ‘pluck out an eye’ literally, what Jesus meant was that we should take strong measures to rid ourselves of sin, for it will be far better than finding ourselves in hell!  Another example of determined faith in ACTION, is the woman with the issue of blood —

Mar 5:24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
Mar 5:25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
Mar 5:26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
Mar 5:27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
Mar 5:28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
Mar 5:29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

Despite the throng (large crowd) pressing in to see Jesus, the woman, likely weak from her infirmity, nevertheless pressed through the crowd to get close enough to Jesus to ‘touch the hem of his garment.’ In doing so she was instantly healed.

Are we willing to do whatever it takes to press into and take hold of the Kingdom of Heaven to get our healing, deliverance, or whatever it is we need? God’s promises are for his sons and daughters.

Luk 13:24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

“strive” – G75 agōnizomai From G73; to struggle, literally (to compete for a prize), figuratively (to contend with an adversary), or generally (to endeavor to accomplish something): – fight, labor fervently, strive.

Another non-passive, strong action verb which means to struggle, contend, labor, and fight; all of which are involved in entering the Kingdom of Heaven and appropriating God’s provisions and promises, for ourselves and for others.

Our laboring to enter the Kingdom could be compared to ‘child birth’ as we traverse a narrow passageway through many obstacles, trials, and tribulations that squeeze and press against us; yet the rewards for persevering and remaining faithful to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will make it seem like nothing when we see Him face to face – Rms 8:18.

Maranatha Jesus!

Debra R. Stout, March 14, 2015

“Time Travel; God’s Way”

timemachine_modernIt is believed that Time is ‘multi-dimensional’ which would explain many mysteries, like the UFO phenomena, and others. From what I gather, we live in what’s called Linear time, which is a straight line with a past, present, and future. Because God dwells in Eternity, outside of time, he’s not subject to its limitations like we are. He’s the “I AM,” the Ever Present (Omnipresent) One; having no beginning and no end – Heb 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.  Because he isn’t limited, we can travel backward and forward through time and space in the Spirit. There are quite a few examples in the Bible of ordinary mortals who were transported to another dimension, like the ‘third heaven,’ incidentally, where Yahweh’s Throne is (Isa 57:15) – 

The Apostle Paul2Co 12:2 I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not; or whether out of the body, I know not; God knoweth), such a one caught up even to the third heaven.
2Co 12:3 And I know such a man (whether in the body, or apart from the body, I know not; God knoweth),
2Co 12:4 how that he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Elijah the Prophet – 2Ki 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, which parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

Note that Enoch was an ordinary flesh and blood mortal man when he was ‘taken up to heaven.’ What was special about him the Bible says, is that he “walked with God” – Gen 5:24 and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. Did you get that? He WALKED WITH GOD! That means he was in God’s Presence every single day!  ‘took’ = H3947 לקח lâqach, to be taken from or out of, to be taken away, be removed;  snatch, take away (Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions)

Jesus’ Ascension – Luk 24:51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.  ‘carried up’ G399 ἀναφέρω anaphero = to carry or bring up, to lead up; to lift up one’s self, to take upon one’s self (Thayer’s Greek Definitions).

And one day, awaiting Christians – 1Th 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first;
1Th 4:17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. ‘caught up’= G726 ἁρπάζω harpazo 1) to seize, carry off by force 2) to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly 3) to snatch out or away (Thayer Definition)

This is time-travel God’s way, and those who belong to Christ won’t need a time-travel machine, spaceship, or flying saucer to get to heaven. Jesus will beam them up in the “twinkling of an eye!” – 1Co 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Yahweh God is All-powerful (Omnipotent) and reigns over the entire Universe. Once he caused the Sun and the Moon to “stand still” for an entire day – Jos 10:12 Then spake Joshua to Jehovah in the day when Jehovah delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; And thou, Moon, in the valley of Aijalon. Jos 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, Until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. In another biblical account the prophet Isaiah prayed and God performed a miracle whereby the Sun’s rays turned backward ten degrees on a sundial – 2Ki 20:11 And Isaiah the prophet cried unto Jehovah; and he brought the shadow ten steps backward, by which it had gone down on the dial of Ahaz.sundial-istanbul One commentator on this passage states that the ‘shadow’ cast by the sun only appeared to go backward because the Shekinah glory of Yahweh, which is thousands of times brighter than our sun, blocked out all other light sources so that no shadows could be cast.

←Ancient Sundial

See – http://biblefellowshipunion.co.uk/2008/May_Jun/ Sundial. htm

There are other ways to alter time and events in the Spirit, one is through prayer and forgiving others. This truth was brought home to me in Jan 2014 when I know that my prayers for someone coupled with forgiveness, forever changed time and events; past, present, and future. That sounds a bit ‘out there’ I know, but it happened.  The Hebrews have a very interesting view of time, they believed time wasn’t a separate creation outside of themselves as did the Greeks, but that time was human events. They also saw time more in terms of ‘quality’ versus ‘quantity,’ something people in modern society’s fast paced life miss. For a mind stretching exercise check out this link http://ldolphin.org/time.html (Warning: it could blow your mind just a little). 

While our perceptions of time vary, there’s one element of time that every Believer can enter into, but not many do, and that’s eternal time. Eternal time has a different quality and feel to it than linear time. It’s far richer and deeper, and you’ll know you’re in it when you don’t feel rushed, and when it feels like there’s an endless supply of it; more than enough to get all your stuff done! How does one enter into it? By getting into the Presence of God – remember, he lives in Eternity, outside of time. So it’s in and through him that we may enter eternal time. 

On that note, I’ll end wishing every time-traveling believer in Yeshua (Jesus), an endlessly joyous journey to the outer realms of his glorious Kingdom! 

Debra R. Stout, June 6, 2015

 

 

GROANINGS & BIRTH PANGS

There are two types of groaning I will address in this article. One is the ‘groaning too deep for words’ which the Holy Spirit prays in us when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for, and the other is the groaning of the earth before Jesus Christ returns.

Rom 8:26 And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; Rom 8:27 and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

‘groanings’ = stenagmos from stenazo; to make (intransitively be) in straits, that is, (by implication) to sigh, murmur, pray inaudibly: – with grief, groan, grudge, sigh.

There have been times in my life when I was going through difficult straits where I have experienced ‘groaning’ in the Spirit, which is a prayer that’s too deep for words. Once was when I was facing a life-altering decision which affected not only myself, but several other persons. Even though I and others had thought through that decision carefully and prayerfully, I still wasn’t completely sure I was doing the right thing. During the last agonizing moments before my decision would become irreversible, I began to pray with all my heart to God for a sign. In seconds my words were replaced with ‘groanings’ coming from deep within me in waves very similar to birth pangs! I began panting just like a woman in labor!

woman in laborThat was the first time I had ever experienced that kind of prayer, but I knew enough not to stop the Holy Spirit from doing what he wanted to do, so I went with the flow. In about five minutes or so, the prayer abruptly ended just like a woman’s labor pains do when an infant is born. Then a palpable ‘stillness’ came over me followed by a very clear verse of Scripture confirming my decision. As God’s peace filled me, I knew it was all right to go ahead with the plan that was in place. While that decision brought me sorrow, I knew that God was IN IT and that in time, he would work it for my good and the others who were directly affected.

“What mighty God we serve! What a mighty God we serve. Angels bow before him, heaven and earth adore him, what a mighty God we serve!” – Hezekiah Walker

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. – Frances J. Crosby, 1873

God never pressures or tries to force anyone to do anything. He has never and will never violate a person’s ‘free will.’ The Devil and demons on the other hand, pressure and use force to try and make people do what they want. If you’re in doubt about whether God is telling you to do something or not, ask yourself if you feel ‘pressure’ or ‘peace.’ If the latter, it is God, if the former, it’s either your own flesh or a devil speaking to you. Yeshua is the good Shepherd, who firmly yet gently leads his sheep. Before finalizing any major decision in your life, seek and then wait for God’s peace. If you don’t get it, wait until you do.

2Co 5:2 For verily in this we groan, longing to be clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven: 2Co 5:3 if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 2Co 5:4 For indeed we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, but that we would be clothed upon, that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life.

‘groan’ = stenazo; to make (intransitively be) in straits, that is, (by implication) to sigh, murmur, pray inaudibly: – with grief, groan, grudge, sigh.

Rom 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. Rom 8:20 For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope Rom 8:21 that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

Creation itself was subjected to DECAY and CORRUPTION when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command in the Garden of Eden – Rom 5:12 Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned: ‘world’ = kosmos, Thayer Def. 3) the world, the universe

Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Rom 8:23 And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

‘groaneth’ = sustenazo; to moan jointly, that is, (figuratively) experience a common calamity: – groan together.
‘travaleth in pain’ = sunodino; to have (parturition) pangs in company (concert, simultaneously) with, that is, (figuratively) to sympathize (in expectation of relief from suffering): – travail in pain together.
‘body’ = soma, Thayer Definition: 3) is used of a (large or small) number of men closely united into one society, or family as it were; a social, ethical, mystical body, 3a) so in the NT of the church.

Glory be to God! Did you get that? The WHOLE CREATION “groans” as in LABOR PAINS, together with the Sons of God, Christ’s Body, for the COMPLETION of their REDEMPTION which is the GLORIFICATION of their physical bodies!

1Co 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1Co 15:54 But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

Though our spirits are renewed or saved the moment we receive Christ, our souls need to be sanctified (a process) and our physical bodies need to be FREED from DECAY and physical death which is the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Then will our Redemption be completed, finished. Until that day arrives, all of creation GROANS and travails in pain for the Sons of God (born again believers) to be revealed!!! Hallelujah!!!

Now for the grand finale. You’ve probably heard about those loud, strange NOISES being heard all around the world not long ago. Many were saying that they were either Aliens getting ready to invade our planet, or even more bizzare, God’s trumpets sounding! Hechum, if you listen to a recording of those noises, they certainly do not sound like a trumpet! They sound like grinding, screeching, booming, and….GROANING! Those noises sounded really eery and creepy! Do you honestly think God’s angels would play trumpets that badly? When I heard them via youtube, I got a definite impression (God communicates through impressions too) in my mind of part of a Scripture verse, “the whole creation groaneth…” Then I understood that the STRANGE NOISES being heard around the world were the “groanings” of Creation yearning to be free from it’s bondage to the corruption imposed upon it by man’s sin – Romans 8:22.

Jesus said to WATCH for the SIGNS of the ‘end of the age’ and of his coming – Mat 24:33 even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors.

Are you ready? 

Debra R. Stout, June 5, 2015

 

 

Fruitfulness; A Time For Purging

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know; fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.” 

After staying up most the night writing a letter to my girl, I sat down to rest in my lounge chair, and I sensed the nearness of the Lord. It felt like he was right there in the room with me. I couldn’t see his face or eyes, but caught a glimpse of his hair, which is dark and not quite shoulder length. He wore a plain white tunic with a sash or girdle around his waist. The collar had a small, shallow ‘v’ in the middle of it. His tunic didn’t shine brightly, but had a soft glow to it. He dims his brilliancy for us in order to accommodate our weak frames, otherwise we would be blinded by his brightness.

I felt so elated, I just wanted to jump out of my skin and fly away with him! My heart swelled with love for my Prince, and I softly sang songs to him, telling him of my love for him, as the words came.  It didn’t matter to me that I had been up all night. When you’re with him, time doesn’t matter. After about half an hour of soaking up his sweet presence, I couldn’t really hold anymore so stopped and got some rest. It was a beautiful visitation from the Lord, one I had been waiting for, one I really needed at this time in my life. For the past five years I have been going through a fiery furnace trial of my faith. gold crown with purple

Before I rested, he brought back to my mind a few lines from a song. First one was, “After every cross he brings a crown.” I knew immediately what he meant; I had borne my cross, and now he was bringing me the ‘crown of life,’ which I could actually feel. I haven’t always noticed the crown immediately upon giving or surrendering something to the Lord, but this time the crown came almost right away. You see, just as we may abide in Christ NOW and don’t have to wait til heaven; we may likewise wear a ‘crown of life’ now, for the crown comes after we have taken up our cross (surrendered our wills and laid down our rights, demands, desires, preferences, and flesh) to follow him wherever he goes.

He then gave me John 15:1-10 “If any man abides not in me, he is cast forth as a branch and is withered…” And, “every branch that beareth fruit, HE PURGES it that it may bring forth more fruit.” (“purgeth”= kathairo; to cleanse of impurities, prune. Metaphorically: expiate from guilt.)  As a husbandman purges trees and vines from useless shoots, so does the Heavenly Husbandman cleanse his branches of impurities and things hindering their fruitfulness.

grape clusters hanging on vineGod purifies all true Christians so that they may be more useful. He takes away that which hindered their usefulness; teaches them; quickens them; revives them; makes them more pure in motive and in life. This he does by the regular influences of his Spirit in sanctifying them, purifying their motives, teaching them the beauty of holiness, and inducing them to devote themselves more to him. He does it by taking away what opposes their usefulness, however much they may be attached to it, or however painful to part with it; as a vine-dresser will often feel himself compelled to lop off a branch that is large, apparently thrifty, and handsome, but which bears no fruit, and which shades or injures those which do. So God often takes away the property of his people, their children, or other idols. He removes the objects which bind their affections, and which render them inactive. He takes away the things around man, as he did the valued gourds of Jonah Jon_4:5-11, so that he may feel his dependence, and live more to the honor of God, and bring forth more proof of humble and active piety. – Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

The message was clear – God was PRUNING ME, taking away from me that which was unhealthy and was hindering my walk. While deeply painful, there’s a sweetness to his pruning because I know he’s doing it for my good, because he loves me – Heb 12:6  For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Heb 12:7 It is for chastening that ye endure; God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father chasteneth not? Heb 12:8 But if ye are without chastening, whereof all have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. It’s also sweet because he’s telling me that I have been ‘fruitful’ in my walk with him. Hallelujah! Well, sometimes I don’t feel like I’m bearing fruit, some days I feel I’m failing the course! Thank you dear Lord for telling me that I’m not as bad off as I thought. Our enemy the Devil works overtime to try and convince us we’ve veered so far off course, we’ll never find our way back again. Devil, you are a LIAR!

On top of that Rhema (living word), he brought back to my mind a line from a song – “There’s a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecc 3:1) And, “As we leave behind the ashes of old sorrows, he leads us on to where his love makes all things new.”

Again, his message was clear. He’s saying to me that it’s time now to leave behind the ashes of my old sorrows, and seek to fulfill his purposes for me. It’s time to stop mourning my losses and get on with my life, for he has something good for me, I just need to be open to it. He will bring it to me as I abide him. 

You see dear saint, the Spirit of the Lord can use whatever he wishes to speak into our lives. He can use a song, a verse of Scripture, a poem, etc. Don’t put God in a religious box of man’s making. You must think and see outside the proverbial box, in order to shama (hear) his voice. Don’t say God can only speak this way or that, he speaks to men in many different ways; in dreams, visions, signs, prophesying, inspired writings and works of art, etc. Be open and always ready to HEAR what he’s saying, for he is ALWAYS speaking to us. Problem is, we all TALK TOO MUCH, and are too busy most of the time to hear his Voice. “Be still, and know that I am God” – Ps 46:10.

Wishing every branch abiding in the Vine, a very fruitful life!

Shalom,

Debra R. Stout, June 3, 2015

 

 

 

The Pursuit of Happiness

What’s your main goal in life? Is it happiness? If it is, you’re not alone. The forefathers of our nation thought it important enough to pen it into our Declaration of Independence as one of man’s inalienable rights. But as Christians, we’re called to live by a higher standard, the Holy Bible; God’s word and principles should be the driving force of our lives.

Image result for free images of the PuritansThe Puritans were the first Christian sect to settle on America’s northeastern shores, namely Massachusetts. A God-fearing bunch of men and women who left their British homeland to escape the tyrannical church of England, and its oppressive laws which strangled true, biblical religion. The Puritans held to the fundamental teachings of the Bible. They believed and taught men to live by the words of God, and to pursue holiness more so than happiness. Not that happiness is wrong – Jesus loves people and wants them to be happy in the sense of finding fulfillment and satisfaction in their lives. But his brand of happiness is the result of godliness, holiness, and virtuous living, which is different from the world’s kind of happiness which depends wholly upon external, material well-being.

Of course, men don’t need an excuse, or encouragement, to pursue what comes naturally to them. By nature men tend to be self-centered which is not what God would have them be, nor what He created them to be. Selfishness is one of the disastrous results of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Contrariwise, God is completely devoid of selfishness, and desires His unique creation, man, to be like Him in every respect. He created man in “his own likeness” the Bible tells us. That likeness has been tarnished however through sin and one reason Jesus came to earth, was to restore mankind back to his original image and glory.

Happiness shouldn’t be our main goal in life, and if it is, we’ll find much misery in pursuing it. The truth is, the more you chase it, the faster it flees from you. It’s like trying to capture a butterfly in flight – you keep reaching for it but it manages to escape you. No, the quickest way to happiness is to pursue something far better. God, who gave His only Son Jesus, to be crucified on a cross in order to restore mankind, has much to say about what our goals in life should be. In His Sermon on the Mount of Olives, He gave instructions on how to be ‘blessed.’ We enter a state of blessedness by loving and serving God and our fellow man without looking for rewards; that’s when happiness finds us! Someone has said, “Virtue is its own reward.” Jesus taught —

Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Mat 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Mat 5:6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Mat 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Mat 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Mat 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.
Mat 5:10 Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:11 Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Mat 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.

‘blessed’ – (G3107 makarios) describes that joy which has its secret within itself, that joy which is serene and untouchable, and self-contained, that joy which is completely independent of all the chances and the changes of life. The English word happiness gives its own case away. It contains the root hap which means chance. Human happiness is something which is dependent on the chances and the changes of life, something which life may give and which life may also destroy. The Christian blessedness is completely untouchable and unassailable. “No one,” said Jesus, “will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22). The beatitudes speak of that joy which seeks us through our pain, that joy which sorrow and loss, and pain and grief, are powerless to touch, that joy which shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.

The world can win its joys, and the world can equally well lose its joys. A change in fortune, a collapse in health, the failure of a plan, the disappointment of an ambition, even a change in the weather, can take away the fickle joy the world can give. But the Christian has the serene and untouchable joy which comes from walking forever in the company and in the presence of Jesus Christ. – William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible.

Jesus taught his followers to follow his example in every way, even to laying down their lives for one another! (1 Jn 3:16) How putting others first rubs against our natural inclination, our flesh cringes at the thought! The difference between the natural man and a child of God is the indwelling Holy Spirit who enables one to truly love God, and his neighbor as himself. Some might object saying there have been many philanthropists who did great things for the betterment of mankind and did so without espousing any faith and without having any religious impetus. True, but the motivations, known only to God, may or may not have been selfless. Usually there’s some self-gain involved in the natural man’s giving, be it notoriety, tax credits, etc.  Many help others expecting the favor to be returned; ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’

Only God sees the true motive for every deed done, and only he can purify our hearts so that we do what we do for the right reasons. Our motivation for giving shouldn’t be to get something in return, be it recognition or some other type of compensation. Our motivation in all that we think, say, and do, should be to glorify God. When we live solely for His glory we find true and lasting happiness, the biblical term is joy. Joy is far superior to happiness in that it’s not dependent upon anything outside of ourselves, whereas happiness totally depends upon things going the way we want them to. Joy resides in the heart of a person living in obedience to God’s word, and nothing external can take it away!

By Debra R. Stout, April 22, 2015