I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:8-10)
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1)
A quote from an Evangelical preacher which in a way sums up how the preaching of the Word of God can go wrong:
Evangelicals, (including myself), have distorted the image of Jesus
FROM a Righteous, Reigning, Awesome King of Glory, to be feared, loved and obeyed.
Down to a Friendly Neighbor.
We have diluted the Gospel down to “Say a prayer and get your free ticket to Heaven.” We handed out tickets to heaven, like it was free candy, forgetting the words of Jesus “It is hard for a man to enter the Kingdom of God” and “narrow is the door…few there be that find it”
We have diluted down the image of Hell,
FROM a place of Miserable Agony, Torment, Wrath, Burning & Regret
Down to a much more digestible phrase, “Godless eternity” (which doesn’t seem to put fear in any unbeliever)
Never ever dilute the Gospel even if the person who is hearing might reject the true meaning of the Gospel. It’s your job preach the Word of God without altering it. Don’t worry about the so called “undue” fear mongering because certain things are actually good to fear; ” The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10)”
“Christ is not wisdom and righteousness only to His people, but sanctification also. Men sometimes try to make themselves holy first of all, and sad work they make of it. They toil and labour, and turn over new leaves, and make many changes; and yet, like the woman with the issue of blood, before she came to Christ, they feel “nothing bettered, but rather worse.” (Mark v. 26.) They run in vain, and labour in vain; and little wonder, for they are beginning at the wrong end. They are building up a wall of sand; their work runs down as fast as they throw it up. They are baling water out of a leaky vessel: the leak gains on them, not they on the leak. Other foundation of “holiness” can no man lay than that which Paul laid, even Christ Jesus. “Without Christ we can do nothing.” (John xv. 5.) It is a strong but true saying of Traill’s, “Wisdom out of Christ is damning folly—righteousness out of Christ is guilt and condemnation—sanctification out of Christ is filth and sin—redemption out of Christ is bondage and slavery.” Do you want to attain holiness? Do you feel this day a real hearty desire to be holy? Would you be a partaker of the Divine nature? Then go to Christ.”
― J.C. Ryle
Beware of the “Just in Case” philosophy when conducting church services. It’s human wisdom at its best and I see it creeping into churches. This philosophy says, “Prepare every detail of the service in advance, prepare the worship music exactly the way you want it. Prepare and rehearse the introduction of the sermon and songs, so you don’t stumble over your words. Get the closing prayer written down and ready. Then, Just in Case the Lord doesn’t show up, you can still put on a great show!” Church service should NOT be like a Broadway production. (Robert Brownell)
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD! (Lamentations 3:40)
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. (2 Corinthians 13:5-7)
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6: 3-5)
I recently shared a prayer called ‘Uproot in me every evil seed‘ and then a prayer called ‘Plant in me O Lord’. Now there’s a good reason for it. This year has been quite a dramatic year for me on various fronts. Especially on the spiritual front. So I felt like I better share this one up before the year ends. It’s possible that by knowing this, you too might ask God for the right things in life and elimination of evil from your life.
Just before this year could begin and even right up to April 2015, I’d be encouraged to pray that every evil seed is uprooted from my life. I received such suggestions from various people. Originally, the context of such a praying attitude was to ensure one doesn’t get sick or unwell. However, the field of view expanded. With faith in the Lord Jesus, I kept praying every time there was a call to remove all obstacles that come in the will of God in my life.
Then things started unfolding themselves in my life by the grace of God. I found that evil seeds can also be people, not mere illnesses alone. Suddenly I started noticing some the people who profess the Christian faith and who were good friends and allies of mine at that time for many years, were not all that much into the faith. I mean their view of the Gospel didn’t go by with the true Gospel at all. Let me make it real to you, for starters some believed that once forgiven they do not need to ever repent if they happen sin again. (I’ve already covered this in a much earlier post called as The heresy of pre forgiven sin). And this was surprising to me that they conveniently kept this hidden for a long time from me though they were much aware that I do believe in repentance every time a person sins, not just one time only.
There were another bunch of folks who were of the opinion that God will automatically grant his ‘stamp’ of approval on everything they do, even if meant using deceitful means. For them it was not a case of doing God’s will in their life. It was the opposite, which is their own thoughts and opinions are ‘deemed’ as God’s will for them on the assumption that everything they do is by default approved by the Lord without checking with the Bible. They seemed to conveniently ignore the following verses of the Bible:
- There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 16:25)
- Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Then there was the legalistic brigade which believes that one must fast for almost everything and at every season. Legalism works as a counferfeit of discipline and I surely have had a tough time dealing with such people until I realized that the best way to tackle them is by the Holy Scriptures. And they were the most hostile to deal with but eventually they couldn’t prevail against the principles of the Bible.
I mentioned only three types of deviations in short without going too much in to the specifics, but there are more such deviations from the Gospel I noticed among others this year (again!), which I intend to expose in the future, but these should suffice for now.
A common trend that I noticed among such people is that they were cherry picking Bible verses as per their liking instead of taking the whole of the Bible in context. Besides this they were obsessed with their denominational tags and doctrines far much more than normal. And this led them to label anyone (not just me) as one who is ignorant and in need of their ‘guidance’. Well it didn’t work on me especially when I realized they had an aversion to the teachings of the Epistle of James and also of the Letter to the Hebrews in the Bible. One even said they hate such and such Bible verse and I’d be shocked by such replies. They again ignore the fact that ‘Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (Proverbs 30:5)’. So I also didn’t ignore that they were repeatedly trying to spoil my name in the preaching of the word obviously behind my back since they knew they stand no chance in a debate with me, though I at many times asked for face to face discussion about their points of view. So, I immediately went on guard against them and now they are totally out of my life, for good.
The effect was a lot of peace and joy, which was almost instant. I didn’t realize that they were such a negative influence of me until they actually got removed from my life. I could pray really well again! It came to my mind, that not a single part of me being happy depends on them but it’s only up to the Lord alone. Oddly, I didn’t even have to try too hard. The Lord just made it turn out in such a way that they by their own actions are now in a different direction from me. My only judgement on them was that I won’t be wasting my time on those who hinder my walk with the Lord God. As simple as that!
To those curious about the judgement part I’d suggest that you read a few earlier posts of mine titled Do not judge or do no repent? & Some people seem to read only the words ‘Judge not’ in the Bible. Under those circumstances it had become less of judgement and more of respect to the Lord. One couldn’t remain with such people without them in return attempting to undermine the rightful knowledge of the Gospel.
My own observation was that whatever that I’d ask them to pray for me wouldn’t happen but in fact the reverse would happen. I mean challenges in life would seem to overpower me. But then when they got out of my life, I kept a very basic level of prayer and saw good results. I’d just would read the Bible and then ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand it correctly and then pray as plainly as possible. So the part of the part removing every evil seed prayer, came out well for the glory of God. This was in a way trying to keep only Christ as mediator between myself and God.
There’s the part of planting in one’s life not by one’s own standards but by the will of God. This part is not yet complete but let me say this year as I prayed for the best alliances and friendships in life, the Lord God has indeed given me these things really well. And I know that more is due in the future. It’s just that I was initially more focused on removal of evil. But I know for sure that now in the future, it also needs to be about acceptance of the good things of God by asking in faith.
I do hope that now you know the context of the two prayers about removing evil seeds and planting right seeds and are so are able to pray much better. This doesn’t actually stop at praying effectively alone. It’s more about the will of God going right in your life in terms of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
God be with you, always!
‘Do you search the scriptures?’ is a very simple but effective question to gauge anyone’s growth in the Lord Jesus Christ. Some people say they want to get ‘closer’ to God and to achieve this they subject themselves to extreme levels of fasting, self-flagellation and other penances but they still feel they are lacking in something. Well, what they lack is that they are yet to encounter Jesus Christ in the Holy Scriptures. Don’t be like them, you search for Christ in the Bible and be filled with his grace and mercy.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)
[Jesus said:] You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me (John 5:39)
In your walk with Christ your desire, discipline and dedication towards the Lord can work wonders for you. You must desire to do the will of God. And to effectively do the will of God you must discipline yourself through the Word of God. And you must continue to be dedicated under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to continue in the right desire and discipline that you need to follow Christ.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control,lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
The best desire for any person is to do the will of God. The will of God is that you believe in Christ. The will of God is that you be holy as the Lord your God is holy. The will of God is that you love God and love your neighbor. Now it looks all so simple, yet so many people are not able to desire the will of God either because they are engrossed into worldly passions or are blinded by the devil. Many people pass away into an infernal and painful eternity as they never once, not even once desired to walk in the will of God.
Might be they never had the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to them or may be they heard it but it never took a place in their hearts. However, a believer in Christ who has heard the Gospel has many good things placed before him such as healing, restoration, prosperity, prophecy, wisdom etc. And among the best of these things is the will of God himself. So desire the will of God in your life.
Desire towards the truth is a good to thing to have. Often that is the starting point to receiving Jesus Christ in one’s life. However it doesn’t end over there. A person must live a disciplined life. A misdirected desire might end up in the wrong direction. The principles of discipline in the Bible keep us pointed towards Christ.
To give you an example, just because you profess to love Christ doesn’t mean that you now start fasting, praying for long hours to earn your salvation. (Fasting and praying do not save, only by faith are you saved). Here’s what the Bible says about earning salvation:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Trying to earn your salvation might seem a good desire but in reality it just a lie from the Devil. Jesus called Satan as the father of lies. The Devil is unable to overcome the truth of the Bible. However, to keep people deceived he will invent a lot of lies which go contrary to the Holy Scriptures. No wonder, you must discipline yourself in the Word of God. It will be hard to let go of things, bad things and bad habits that contradict the will of God but once you do it all you will realize that it was worth it. That’s good desire and discipline in action!
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:11-13)
Now the thing that seals the deal with desire and discipline is dedication. Don’t get me wrong but only having desire and discipline will only get you so far. Like for a few months or a couple of years. Dedication takes it further. We are talking about a lifetime. Your belief in Christ was never meant to have an expiry date. None so ever!
Sometimes, I hear testimonies from Christians who came back to Christ after living a life of hedonism and debauchery. They say how they loved Christ and went to church in their childhood but slowly as they ventured into adulthood their zeal for the Lord faded. So much so that there was no trace of it. They loved the false and deceitful pleasures of the world.
Then came that one storm of life that took away all their happiness and set them on a downward spiral of broken relations, being imprisoned and a grave loss of health and money. Eventually someone came by, to preach the Gospel to them and these people truly repented and got saved. Then just to test them a question would be asked, ‘Now will you go back to that sin?’ And there would be a response which is mostly sharp and loud, ‘No, I won’t ever leave Jesus. Why do you even ask that?’. I’m not surprised at their response, for such people have been given a bitter foretaste of hell which hurt their soul within. Only by the grace of God have they tasted the sweet waters of salvation again. That is why they get so emphatic when someone tries to question them about going back into the same set of sins that brought them to serious destruction. This is a just a small glimpse of what dedication feels like.
A person who chooses to live a life of dedication to Christ will not entertain the thought of leaving the great and glorious Saviour Jesus who is the Lamb of God. He will rebuke and shun away all such thoughts that direct him away from Christ. He will realize truly well that the only thing that matters in this life and the next is about continuing to believe in Jesus Christ. For to him, the pain of discipline is nothing in front of the loving mercy of Jesus. A man or a woman who wants to live a life of dedication to the will of God, does continue to maintain both desire and discipline. This is not out of compulsion nor fear of what other believers will say. Rather this is out of great respect and love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
A love for God without respecting him is out of sync with the teachings of the Bible teaching and the will of God. Claiming to love him without respecting him in your heart is plain hypocrisy. Do not imitate Judas Iscariot who claimed to be the Lord’s disciple and yet betrayed him because he loved money more than Christ. Do not imitate Caiaphas who was a high priest of God and yet wanted the Son of God dead because he loved man made traditions more than God. These are hypocrites who will receive their due judgement at Judgement day. These men no longer live and so have lost their chance to repent. However, you have a choice and a life to live. In this regard, you are far better off than them for you; you still have your options open. So then, O believer in Christ, live a life dedicated to the will of God. If you are already doing this, then I encourage you to do so even more. Focus and mediate of the following words of Jesus our Lord:
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:19-20)
I know that it’s not yet December and still I feel inspired to share 25 tips to prepare spiritually for Christmas. A head start in preparation should be of good help for you.
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ Jesus our Lord. Do remember that almost everyone has celebrated their own birthday at some time or the other. Many love to celebrate the birthday of their friend and loved ones. It’s a way to express their love for the gift of life their own have received. And here we have someone even more greater, the giver of life, Christ himself. How much more are we to value his birth and his coming to save us from sin and death?
Let’s read the following scriptures:
- For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:7)
- She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21)
- And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11)
So now here are 25 tips to prepare spiritually for Christmas:
- Read the scriptures about Jesus, especially the reason why Jesus had to come as a man on earth. Read as much as you can. (A little head start, please read 1 Peter 1:20, Hebrews 9:26, Acts 2:23-25)
- Meditate on the scriptures pertaining to the birth of Christ. (Please read Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 7:14, Jeremiah 23:5, Micah 5:2, Luke 1:39-45, John 1:9-14)
- Pray by yourself alone in God’s presence even more. (read Matthew 6:6 which says But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.)
- Don’t neglect to pray in groups as well, especially with your family (read Matthew 18:20 in which Jesus said; For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them)
- Learn to sing praises to the Lord. If you are good at singing already you might as well sing with your family and Christian friends. If not, then do try by yourself first.
- Eat well but in proportion. Do not overeat no matter how nice the pie looks like. This is not a time to gain weight but rather to seek God.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in God’s will. Try to realize what the Spirit wants you to do this Christmas.
- Repent of all sins that you are still stuck in. Our Holy God is best praised by a holy worshiper. So truly repent with your heart and ask for pardon and mercy from Christ.
- Feed the poor and needy, the widows and orphans in need. You may not be able to feed all of them in your city but surely you can feed at least one. Some churches around this season have a feed the poor program, so you might like to check out with them if they need some help from you.
- Tell others about Jesus Christ to non-Christians. Again, you may not be able to reach out to the whole area that you live but you can always speak a little bit here and there to your non-Christian friends who might be curious about the Christian faith. Why not invite them to a Church service that preaches Christ as the Savior of the world.
- Speak about Jesus Christ at home with your family. Even if all know Christ, it’s still good that you as a family reaffirm your faith and unity in Christ.
- Send out greeting cards (or emails for those in the fast lane) to all your friends and dear ones away from home. Let them know that Christ came into the world for them and cares for them.
- Reach to your family especially your parents or anyone whom you have not been in contact for a long time. Speak kindness and encouragement to them. If there are differences see to the best that you can to reconcile in good faith with them. (This point was not what I intended to write today but feel inspired to write anyway. Maybe it’s God’s message for some people who will be reading this)
- Write poems unto the Lord. I’m not talking about publishing them. Rather its about penning your good thoughts about Jesus back to him. It might be your first time but I’m sure the Lord will appreciate your heart into expressing your love to him in poems. (There is no compulsion to do this but do it as you feel inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so. Maybe the Lord wants you do some other art form)
- Refrain from worldly passions which distract you from the will of God. Do not get entangled in unseemly entertainment, hobbies etc.
- Manage your time. I mean schedule your leaves and work or study timings to spend quality time in prayer, Bible reading and praising God.
- Submit your plans to God. As the year is coming to a close and a new year will begin, think of all the things you want to do in the future. Don’t be a in a hurry nor anxious but do it with an open mind ready to accept the grace of God.
- Pray for the persecuted Christians. Not every land on earth is free from violent bigots. A lot of Christians suffer persecution and injustice just because of their faith in Christ. Pray that they come out of prison, pray for their dignity, pray for their peace and safety.
- Do not overspend. Christmas is not a time of splurging and getting into debt. So do not waste money on unnecessary expenses. Keep yourself out of the grasp of materialism. Jesus is going to look at your heart instead of how richly you spend, so don’t worry if you can’t afford a lavish Christmas.
- Be free of legalism. Jesus came to set you free. Do not get into the trap of anything falsely called tradition but only makes you go into a guilt trip to do things to earn the grace of God. If the grace of God can be earned, then it’s not grace at all.
- Rest in God. An often neglected teaching but one must find one’s true rest in Christ Jesus. It’s that you must believe unto God to give you rest. Take time to receive his rest.
- Don’t get too busy in the things that one does to generally prepare for Christmas such as the tree lights, decorations etc. These are just external ways to celebrate and can be a distraction from the true meaning of Christmas if you are too focused on it.
- Avoid undue fights in relationships. Whether its home or church do not waste your time getting into foolish arguments on petty issues like the choice of food and drinks, Christmas carols, clothes etc.
- Be safe. Though it may seem a physical tip it’s much related to your spirit as your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Avoid any contaminated food or drink. Don’t try dangerous stunts just for a camera shot that you want to share with others. Hope you get the idea.
- Be thankful to God. Christmas is the time to thank God for sending Jesus Christ his Son on earth as a man to save us. So do express your gratitude to God.
- Jesus Christ Immanuel God is with us (disciplesofhope.wordpress.com)
- What is the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ? (altruistico.wordpress.com)
- Rest In All Thy Goings !!!!!! (levithetford.com)
- A reminder of God’s love for those who believe in Christ (disciplesofhope.wordpress.com)
Be creative when worshiping the Lord. The Bible encourages us to sing new songs to the Lord. If you have the talent to write songs for God then continue to do so. If there’s someone who writes good songs for God then encourage them. Don’t be part of any legalistic bandwagon that hinders use of new spiritually wholesome songs at church. They are in clear violation of scriptures and must not be given heed to. Instead you walk in the freedom that Jesus gives you.
Let’s read Psalm 96:1-6 which says that:
O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols;
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Honor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.