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The Gift of Conviction

The Gift of Conviction

“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” John 16:8

Jesus taught the disciples many wonderful truths about the Holy Spirit. Just before His ascension Jesus told His disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:49.) On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell on each believer filling them with power from on high to fulfill the ministry Jesus called them to, and to teach and lead them on their journey of life. Today everyone who believes in Jesus receives the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:9-11.) However, as believers we need to daily seek being field with the power, anointing, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We seek Him by staying focused on spiritual things, (Romans 8:5), and through prayer.

The word convict that is used in this scripture is a word that requires action. When God convicts us we humble ourselves before Him agreeing with Him that He is right and we are wrong. It should produce repentance within our lives. In reality God is always right; if God then convicts us of a wrong we must repent or stand in danger of being in rebellion against Him.

We shouldn’t fear God’s conviction. God’s heart is not to bring us down but to build us up. We should rejoice over God’s convicting work in our lives. God convicts us of our errors to restore us into being healthy and productive. Apart from the convicting power of the Holy Spirit we would never know we are sinners standing in rebellion against a holy God. Nor, would we ever know His righteousness, or His righteous standards. Even if we did know of His righteousness and His standards we would not have the ability to live in accordance to it. Praise God that the Holy Spirit empowers us, teaches us, guides us, and convicts us to live in harmony with Him. Truly, the Lord has not left us on our own.

Only the unrepentant should fear the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Not only does the Holy Spirit convict us of sin and righteousness, meaning that we need to turn from sin to righteousness, the Holy Spirit convicts the unrepentant, the “World” of judgment. If one is unrepentant he must know that judgment awaits him. Often times when someone asks me to pray for one who is still in their sin I will pray that God will make them miserable until they repent. That sounds harsh but it is a lot less harsh than the judgment that awaits them if they don’t repent. We should truly rejoice and praise God over the fact that He sends the Holy Spirit to convict. No doubt, conviction truly is a gift!

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Called for His Glory

Called for His Glory

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.” I Corinthians 1:26

More often than not God calls the week to demonstrate His might. Why? He wants His glory to shine and not ours. What we perceive to be our strengths so often become our weaknesses in the kingdom of God. We think we have wisdom, strength, and might, and think our skills and abilities are sufficient, not realizing they can lead us to great failures when we don’t surrender them to the Lord.

Paul was a greatly educated man with great skills as a leader. However, he said, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (I Corinthians 2:2). He also said in I Corinthians 2:4, “and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Paul didn’t trust in his education or his skills; he trusted in the power of God.

Whether we are unlearned or greatly educated God will use us if our heart is to let His glory shine. If we are unwise and unskilled God will give us a great anointing and ability through His power if we are surrendered to Him. If we are full of wisdom and skills they too must be surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus. Even the greatest of education and skills are nothing compared to what God will give to us if we are humble. However, if we are full of pride we will fail. God will not share His glory with another.

Repentance isn’t just turning from sin, it’s turning from self. Repentance is turning from our ways, our heart, our desires, our goals, our visions, and seeking God’s. Remember, true repentance is turning to Jesus, making Him the absolute Lord and authority of our lives. Anything else falls short of His glory. After all, why would we want to trust in our abilities since I Corinthians 1:25 tells us, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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The Holy Spirit Teaches us About God

The Holy Spirit Teaches us About God

The depths of God are so far beyond the wisdom of man’s rationale. We try to comprehend the wonders of who God is with the mind of man and leave greatly disappointed. To truly understand who God is, we need a master teacher-a teacher who perfectly understands the character of God and is able to skillfully teach even the most unteachable the wonderful riches of God’s glory and splendor.

God has indeed given us a master teacher. Our master teacher is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself. Paul explained in I Corinthians 2:9 what our master teacher, the Holy Spirit, is capable of revealing to us. “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” We often make the mistake of putting a future tense on this scripture. However, Paul was not speaking of revelations of God to come. As you look at the entirety of I Corinthians 2, you see that Paul was telling us the master teacher, the Holy Spirit, opens our eyes to those truths today.

I Corinthians 2:10 says, “for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.” Who better to teach us than the Holy Spirit, the one who searches even the deep things of God? Paul also said in the next verse, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” Again, who better to teach us the thoughts and mind of God other than His very own Spirit?

Paul continues in verse fourteen of the same chapter by saying, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” The natural man is the unsaved man who does not have the Holy Spirit within him. Therefore, he cannot understand nor comprehend the things of God. He has no teacher. However, of the Christian Paul says in verse twelve of the same chapter, “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.” God has given us His Spirit so we may know Him, and the Holy Spirit will reveal all the truths of God, even the “depths of God.”

Again, God wants us to know Him. He has given us everything we need to know Him. Jesus died on the cross to remove the obstacle of sin; He lived before us to demonstrate His character; He has given us His Holy Word; and He has given us His Spirit to bring us the revelation of it all. What an awesome God we truly serve. We are truly lacking in nothing. The conclusion then is this: If we do not know God, it is not because God has not given us the opportunity to know Him. It is because we have chosen not to know Him.

Romans 8:14 says, “for all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” When we set in our hearts and minds to truly seek God, we must totally submit ourselves to the Spirit of God. Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.” So often we put full attention on not being drunk with wine with no attention on being filled with the Spirit. If we are filled with God’s Spirit, we don’t have to worry about the “drunk on wine” part. Why? If we are full of the Spirit, we are full; and there is no room for anything else. If we are full of the Spirit, we are full of God; and God will then draw us into His glory.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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It’s not Religion

It’s not Religion

Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Jesus ended that statement in the same verse with “for they shall be satisfied”. We are blessed and satisfied when we hunger and thirst for righteousness. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness is hungering and thirsting for God.

God has placed a natural void in our lives that He intended to be filled with Himself. However, most people (Christians and non-Christians) try to fill that void in their lives with many things of this world only to discover that they are never satisfied. Money, power, sex, possessions, drugs, or anything else of this world will never satisfy us. Only the righteousness of God that comes from seeking Him will ever satisfy us.

However, if the devil can’t draw us away from God with the immoral rivals of this world, he will attempt to distract us with the invalid rituals of religion. Satan loves religion. That may  strike you as odd at first, but hear me out. We must ask ourselves “what is religion?” Religion for the most part is a system of things that we should do and things that we should not do. It is a meaningless and emotionless system that is only rooted in what we do and is focused entirely on us. The things that are done out of the spirit of religion may be good and proper and even biblical; yet, they are done out of a sense of tradition rather than a Spirit-led soul that seeks the face of God. Many times religious rituals are done out of a sense of guilt, trying to appease God rather than out of a heart that is sold out to God.

As we look in the Gospels, we find that the people that Jesus was the harshest to were the Pharisees. The Pharisees had religion down to an art. However, Jesus said of them in Matthew 25:27, 28, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Religion focuses only on external things to the neglect of the soul. God isn’t concerned with outward things. He is focused on the heart.

Shortly after God called me to plant a church in 2006 He gave us our first convert who repented from her sins and wholeheartedly gave her life to Jesus. When that first convert walked forward, I noticed she was wearing a shirt with a large beer logo on the front of it. It didn’t bother me; however, the religious person would have turned her away and said, “Don’t come back until you are dressed properly.” What we later found was she had lost everything she owned in Hurricane Katrina except the clothes on her back. In the process of rebuilding her life, her newly acquired home as well as her few belongings burned to the ground just a few days before we met. The clothes she had on that day was all she owned, and they were given to her by someone else. Had I been a religious, person I would have turned her away in her most desperate time of need. She most likely then would have viewed all Christians and all churches as cold and heartless, and her soul would have been forever condemned to hell. Yes, Satan loves religion.

Being focused on the external rather than the internal keeps our focus off of God as well. Jesus said in John14:15, “If you love Me you will keep My commandments.” Notice Jesus did not say, “If you keep My commandments, you will demonstrate your love for Me.” That is religion. However, if we know Jesus because we are seeking Him, we will love Him. And if we love Him we will obey Him-not out of a sense of necessity because that is the right thing to do, but out of a sense of bringing honor and glory to the One we love.

What do you think my wife would have done if on our wedding day I would have said to her, “Honey, I will stay faithful and true to you all the days of my life because that is the socially acceptable thing to do and that is everyone’s expectation of me? Besides, what would everyone think of me if I was ever unfaithful to you?”  She would have thrown the ring back in my face and marched right out of there! I am not faithful to my wife because it is the right thing to do. I am faithful to her because I love her. In like manner, I am not faithful to Jesus because it is the right thing to do. That is religion. I am faithful to Him because I love Him.

God despises religion but longs for relationship. God loved us first; and, therefore, desires for us to love Him back. I John 4:19 says, “We love, because He first loved us.” God doesn’t want our hearts and minds focused on ritualistic religion, but He wants a relationship that longs to know Him more and more. Why do I then go to church? To seek Him and worship Him and to know Him more! Why then do I pray? To seek Him and worship Him and know Him more! Why then do I read His word? To seek Him and worship Him and know Him more! Anything I do for the Lord should be for the purpose of seeking Him, worshiping Him, and knowing Him more-not because it is simply the right thing to do.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Saved with a Holy Calling.

Saved with a Holy Calling.

One of the difficulties we often have is understanding how totally depraved we are apart from Christ.  We often think that we are deserving of the gifts and the blessings of God. However, the Word of God says in Isaiah 64:6, “our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Our righteousness is the best we can give, and it alone is not enough. The Bible also says in Ephesians 2:3, “by nature we are children of wrath.” The word of God gives a very bleak picture of the nature of man. Every man, woman, and child that has ever lived upon this earth has made a conscious choice at some point in their lives to rebel and sin against God. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.”

The Bible also tells us that God requires death as the payment for our sins. (Romans 6:23). Death had to be paid as a penalty of sin, but praise be to God that I Corinthians 15:3 tells us, “Christ died for our sins.” We should have paid the penalty for our sins but Jesus stood in our place. Although we have turned our backs on Him time after time, God loves us enough to send us His son to become sin for us. II Corinthians 5:21 says, “He (God) made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Due to this great sacrifice, John said in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” No one is worthy of this great gift of sacrifice. We deserve death and hell; yet, God gives us grace by giving us His Son.

With this grace in mind, Paul said in Romans 12:1, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” He is urging us, because of the mercy of God, to give ourselves entirely to Himself as a living and holy sacrifice. God doesn’t want dead sacrifices. He desires living sacrifices that are set apart for His own purposes. If we truly understand the mercies of God and the great grace that God has bestowed upon us, we will have no problem serving Him. The mercies of God have purchased us from sin, death, and hell and have reconciled us into a right relationship with Him. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (Ephesians 2:4).

As the Apostle Paul began to write his second letter to young Timothy, he knew his life was going to end soon. He was imprisoned and about to be executed because of his faith in Jesus and his faithful service to Jesus. With this in mind, Paul wrote these words to Timothy in II Timothy 1:8, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” Now, anyone else would have said, “Are you out of your mind? You are about to die and you want me to come join with you in suffering!” What reason would Timothy have in joining with Paul in suffering? Why would he continue to walk down this path of service and loyalty to Jesus when this is the very path that has Paul where he is? Paul answered that question in the very next verse when he said, “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.” I will serve Him for no other reason than that I am saved by His wonderful grace.

What an honor and a privilege to serve God. When God saves us, He calls us; however, we must also understand that when He calls us, He equips us. When we are called by God, we are not our own, we are His! The bible says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Through Christ we are called to good works. By the hand of God we are shaped, formed, and fitted to fulfill them. God may not have called you to be a pastor or an evangelist or to go to a foreign mission field, but you are called nonetheless. The calling He has placed upon your life may be done in a manner where no one in the world may ever be aware of it. However, it is still a glorious and honorable calling. If we were to be called upon by a king or dignitary of this world to render service, we would consider it an honor. We, however, have been called by the King of Kings. What a glorious honor; for He has saved us and called us with a holy calling.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Pay Close Attention to Yourself

Pay Close Attention to Yourself

“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” I Timothy 4:16

If we are going to be effective tools for the Lord we must take heed to the words of Paul and pay close attention to ourselves. With this in mind we should continually examine ourselves. We examine ourselves through the Word of God and through prayer. Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” This should be a continual prayer from our heart.

Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” If God will not hear us, he certainly will not use us. Therefore, as we examine our heart we must ask God to reveal any wickedness we may have hidden in our heart. One may say, “I have no need for this, far my heart is pure.” That is pride, which is in every way, wickedness. Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18). The Pharisees were prideful in what they perceived to be their righteousness but, Jesus called them sons of hell.

Iniquity and wickedness is sneaky, hiding in the darkest corners of our soul, unwilling to show itself for what it is so it can control your will and manipulate you into thinking you are right with God. Some iniquity could have been lingering in the darkness for years while we are clueless of its power over us. Other forms of wickedness could have recently crept in trying to take root. For this reason we must pay close attention to ourselves and seek God for revelation of any form of wickedness hidden deep within.

Wickedness can come in many forms. It is found in the heart that is unloving and selfish. It is found in the soul that is self-centered and self seeking. It is found in the heart of the prideful trusting in their own power rather than God’s. It is found in the heart of the prejudice thinking they are better than the other. It is found in the vengeful, spiteful, resentful, and unforgiving spirit. It is found in the one who is seeking his own kingdom with worldly ambitions rather than the advancements of God’s. It comes in many forms and in many ways but the worst form of wickedness is the stubborn soul that refuses to repent and submit to God.

As we pay close attention to ourselves we are sure to find flaws in our character that do not line up with God’s. We first trust in His grace and receive forgiveness, then we seek His transforming and renewing power trusting that He will restore us into right relationship. We realize that we never reach the pinnacle of maturity as a Christian. We are perpetually learning and growing.

If Jesus is not central and exalted in our lives, we open the door for wickedness to enter in, and close the door for the power of God to work through us. Therefore, when we pay close attention to ourselves, the main question should always be, “Is Jesus central and exalted in my life?”

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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Our Authority

Our Authority

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 4:6, “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” In this verse he is telling the church of Corinth that he and Apollos have made a standard for themselves not to exceed what is written. He is now telling the church of Corinth to follow their example. What was written? The scriptures. Clearly the Word of God is our authority that we are not to exceed or go beyond.

Paul also wrote in II Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” When one looks at this text in its original language they will see that the literal meaning of “inspired by God” means “God breathed.” God used many men to write down His word but all Scripture comes directly from the breath of God. It is God’s word not mans. II Peter 1:20-21 says, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” For anyone to go beyond what is written is arrogant, boastful, and blasphemous. God has given to us His word “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” (I Peter 1:19).

Paul said that Scripture is profitable. He then listed several things it was profitable for. Since it is profitable we will gain and increase through the study of the Word of God which is God breathed. The end result we gain from Scripture is “that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Through God’s word we have everything we will ever need to be thoroughly equipped for service unto Him.

Paul first mentions that Scripture is profitable for teaching. When we are taught, the teaching must be centered in Scripture. When we teach, our teaching must be centered in Scripture. He then says that scripture is profitable for reproof. To reproof someone is to call them out for an error or a wrong. When calling one out for being wrong or for an error in their lives or teaching we must use Scripture. Our opinions are always susceptible to being wrong. However, Scripture is always right. Paul then said Scripture is profitable for correction. Correction is restoration to an upright position. We don’t want to be reproved and not know how to correct the error of our way. Scripture brings us back into the right path, out of the error. It corrects us.

Paul then tells us that Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness. Romans 3:10 tells us that, “there is no one righteous, not even one.” Most everyone will admit that they are a sinner. However, not everyone knows the guilt of their unrighteousness. Scripture makes it clear. Romans 3:22 then tells us that we receive righteousness by placing our faith in Christ and Romans 3:26 tells us that faith in Christ justifies us-makes us righty with God. Yet, how will we or anyone else know these truths apart from the authority of God’s word? We won’t. And, apart from Scripture, how will we grow in righteousness? We won’t.

Whether it is for our personal growth, or teaching others, we trust in the authority of God’s breathed word. Paul said not to go beyond what it written. If we were to go beyond what is written it will profit us nothing and more than likely will cause great harm. However, when we trust in the authority of the written word that was breathed from God with our lives and our ministry we will be adequately equipped for every good work. In other words, we will be lacking in nothing.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Bible Study, Devotional, Uncategorized

 

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