Contagious Joy…

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1 John 1:1-4 (KJV)

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

Jesus calls us to be His “witnesses.”

When some Christians hear this word, they worry that they need exceptional skill or charisma in order to share the good news with others.

Yet to witness is not to merely speak of the “plan of salvation” to someone.

The word literally means to see, hear, or know by personal presence and perception; to testify; bear witness to; give or afford evidence of.

When John wrote that he was sharing what he had experienced first-hand, he was saying, “I am full of joy because of the experience of knowing Jesus, and I want to invite you to share in that joy!”

When you’re in love with someone, you are excited about the relationship and time spent together.

Likewise, when you’re in love with Jesus, you can’t keep to yourself the joy that comes from knowing Him–it just spills over, bearing witness and strengthening other believers.

In fact, as you give testimony of who God is and how He’s working in your life, it makes no difference whether you speak quietly or with great exuberance: in their spirit, Christians will pick up on the deep, genuine gladness in your heart that goes beyond natural happiness.

And people who don’t yet know the Lord will find themselves hungering for the relationship you have.

In that way, they will be drawn to His Spirit in you.

Witnessing is not a matter of eloquence or talent.

It’s an overflow of the personal relationship with Jesus Christ that is conforming you to His image.

As you allow the Holy Spirit to increasingly express His life and power through you, contagious joy will be “fruit” of His indwelling presence.

Meaningless Repetition…

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Matthew 6:7-15 (KJV)

7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

In Matthew 6:7, Jesus cautioned against meaningless repetition when talking to the Father.

Just two verses later, He left a pattern to help us pray.

However, in using this passage, which is known as the Lord’s Prayer, we’re often guilty of the very thing Jesus warned against: Instead of thoughtfully praying each line, we run through the words mindlessly.

But if we take time to carefully examine Christ’s words, we’ll find the pattern that can transform our prayer life.

Adoration of the Father

 (Matt. 6:9). God the Father is the focus of all our prayers. We should never forget what a privilege it is to bend our knees on earth and reach almighty God in heaven.

Submission to His Will

(Matt. 6:10). Prayer should reflect a desire to align ourselves with God’s goals and purposes, not to get Him to follow our plans.

Petition God for our needs

(Matt. 6:11). We are dependent upon the Lord, and He wants us to come to Him with our requests.

Confession of sins

(Matt. 6:12). When we repent, and forgive others, we maintain fellowship with God. But if we hold grudges, that fellowship is broken. God loves to answer our prayers when the lines of communication are not disrupted.

Deliverance from evil

(Matt. 6:13). Our enemy is too strong for us, but Christ has already won the victory over him.

Jesus ended the prayer where He began—with praise to the Father for His kingdom, power, and glory (Matt. 6:13). Next time you say this prayer, concentrate on each verse.

Then, following this pattern will result in a more dynamic and effective prayer life because it will be God-centered.

The Futility of Worldly Thinking…

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1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (KJV)

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

After exposing the futility of worldly thinking in 1 Corinthians 1, Paul introduces Christians to the higher realm of godly wisdom.

This kind of knowledge and understanding isn’t available through human intelligence and reasoning; it comes strictly through divine revelation.

Only those indwelt by God’s Spirit have “the mind of Christ” (v. 16) and access to “the things freely given” to them by God (v. 12).

Without this supernatural insight, no one can accurately know the Lord or His ways.

Many people say they believe in God yet may not have a correct understanding of Him because their perceptions are based on their own thoughts and ideas.

It’s easier to custom-design a god to fit our preferences than to make the required adjustments that worship of the one true God demands.

Even believers need to guard against trying to fit God into their preconceived image of Him.

The Bible is the only reliable source of divine revelation, but we must be careful to consider the Scriptures as a whole–it’s critical that we don’t just pick and choose the verses we want to believe.

For example, by focusing only on passages that emphasize the Lord’s lovingkindness while excluding those that speak of His holiness and justice, we misunderstand His true nature.

Let’s seek to know the Lord in truth by considering the entire counsel of Scripture.

Divine wisdom is available to every believer through the Holy Spirit, who searches the depths of God.

May we never try to limit Him to fit our preferences. Instead, may He enlarge our minds to embrace His thoughts.

Speaking To An Audience of One…

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Matthew 6:5-6 (KJV)

5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

People who are uncomfortable praying in public tend to love Matthew 6:6 because Jesus advocates praying in secret.

However, Christ’s point was not our location but our attitude.

His admonition wasn’t to avoid public prayer; rather, it was a warning not to pray hypocritically by seeking the approval of others.

We may be quick to think we’d never do that, but in reality, corporate prayer can be intimidating to many believers.

We wonder how we sound to others: Did I say the right things? What did they think when I stumbled on my words? Was my prayer too long? Too short?

Generally, our problem is less about trying to impress others with our eloquence and spirituality than it is about feeling self-conscious, tongue-tied, and inept.

However, if our focus is on how we sound, we may still be praying like a hypocrite because all we can think about is ourselves and other people’s perception of us.

Although we may not admit it, we want their approval.

But the Lord never calls us out for being inarticulate or using bad grammar. He’s listening to the motivation of our spirit. How well we speak doesn’t matter if we’re truly talking to Him and not other people.

When our focus is on God, His Spirit unites with ours, and those who hear are drawn into that sweet communion.

The solution for hypocrisy is not abstinence from all public prayer.

Whether we pray in a closet or in an auditorium filled with people, we must remember that we’re speaking to an audience of one, and He delights in hearing from His children.

Ignoring Pride, Position, and Power…

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John 13:3-15 (KJV)

3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5 After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
6 Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7 Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

Israel can be a dusty place, and sandaled feet get filthy walking to and fro.

In ancient times, a person entering a home removed his sandals and cleaned his feet. Or if the homeowners were wealthy, servants would do the washing.

This distasteful but necessary task fell to the worker of lowest position in the household.

Imagine the disciples’ surprise when the Son of God put Himself in the role of a lowly servant and knelt to wash their feet.

The need for such a service was great, as they had been traveling for some time.

But not one of them offered to do it.

Jesus did more than fill a need; He offered an object lesson.

As He explained, “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:15). Some churches have incorrectly interpreted this as a command to make foot washing an ordinance.

But it’s possible to perform a ritual without contemplating the significance of Christ’s actions.

In fact, the washing isn’t the main point—it’s the attitude that counts, not the act.

Jesus desires that we be willing to humble ourselves to serve others.

He is looking for men and women who will ignore pride, position, and power in order to do whatever must be done, wherever it needs doing, and for whoever requires assistance.

Jesus performed His greatest and most humble acts of service within 24 hours of each other.

He washed dirty feet by using hands that would then be pierced by nails.

The message here is that every task God gives us is important to His kingdom.

His Uniqueness…

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Matthew 16 (KJV)

When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” they replied, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

But Peter answered,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:13-16).

What set Jesus apart as the Messiah?

  • His birth:
    He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born, as prophesied, in Bethlehem to a virgin. Though angels announced His arrival and He reigns over all creation, Jesus entered our world in a lowly manner so He could be identified with the meek and the poor.
  • His wisdom:
    At age 12, He spent three days with rabbis, asking questions that showed his uncommon understanding.
  • His baptism:
    Though He didn’t need cleansing, Jesus asked John to baptize Him so He could identify with sinners and demonstrate His love to them.
  • His temptation:
    Satan tempted Him relentlessly for 40 days, yet He did not sin.
  • His ministry:
    He challenged man-made religious traditions. And by healing people–regardless of nationality–raising the dead, and forgiving sins, He revealed that God wants to be involved personally in our lives. Leading Pharisees wanted Him dead, but the Father protected His life until the crucifixion.

Many people deny Christ’s deity, calling Him simply a “prophet” or “good teacher.”

But Jesus was never merely human. As complex as it is for us to comprehend, He was fully God and fully man.

This is the unique way in which our heavenly Father chose to demonstrate His eternal love for us.

Forgiveness, More at Stake Than You Realize…

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Hebrews 12:14-15 (KJV)

14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
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;

Scripture stresses the importance of pardoning those who have offended us.

While it may feel natural to pull away from hurtful people, refusing to forgive has consequences far worse than the pain of being wronged.

Unforgiveness …

Harms family interactions. 

Have you ever tried to maintain a growing relationship with an individual who’s rooted in bitterness? You can’t do it, because that person is fixated on unhealthy feelings about someone else. Moreover, it’s hard to spend time with anyone consumed by resentment, because such people simply cease being likable.

Hinders prayer life.

Unforgiveness is sin, and unconfessed sin creates “static” in a believer’s relationship with God. So it’s important to forgive others before prayer or worship (Matt. 5:23-24).

Damages one’s personal witness.

The highlight of your testimony is salvation, which centers around the truth that the Lord has forgiven all your sins. How can you stress the importance of this if your listener can’t see even a hint of forgiveness in your own life?

Thwarts spiritual growth.

God will not bless sinful actions. And so, if you are living a life mired in unforgiveness, you cannot expect Him to shower you with His blessings. By persisting in disobedience, you disrupt intimate fellowship with the Lord and put yourself in a dangerous position.

Is there anyone you need to forgive today?

Don’t let another day pass without granting that forgiveness.

There is more at stake than you may have realized.

The Harvest of Spiritual Fruit…

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Acts 1:8 (KJV)

8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

God’s Spirit works in every believer.

He does not limit Himself to pastors and missionaries.

If you’ve received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, then residing within you is the same great power that raised Christ from the dead (Rom 8:11)

The Holy Spirit pours His energy into creating godly character in all who follow the Lord.

The fruit of the Spirit is so named because it is the character and conduct that the Holy Spirit produces in believers.

These are qualities that we can’t generate consistently on our own.

The most powerful message we can give isn’t a testimony or sermon; it is the life we live when the pressure is on, temptation is tremendous, or we are buried under an avalanche of problems.

What the world most needs to see in this modern culture is godly families loving one another, business people working with integrity and frugality, and young men and women who choose moral purity.

In a word, the world needs to be exposed to believers who are obedient.

By showing peace instead of anxiety or practicing patience rather than speaking a sharp word, a Christian bears witness to the beauty of the gospel.

We attract unbelievers to Christ through our words and deeds.

They may turn down a doctrine, but they cannot ignore a righteous life.

The strongest gospel message does not come from a pulpit.

The most powerful witness for Jesus Christ where you work, where you live, and where you relax is you.

Submit to the Holy Spirit’s work, and He will produce a great harvest of spiritual fruit in your life.