Who Is In Control?

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James 1:2-4 (KJV)

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

A Spirit-filled life does not mean one that is problem-free.

Christians who are under the control of the Holy Spirit will still make mistakes, have difficulties, and fall into sin. But there are two definite characteristics that distinguish Spirit-filled followers of Christ from other Christians and from unbelievers.

First, they are not controlled by their circumstances, and second, they refocus quickly after having sinned.

When the Holy Spirit is in charge, our attitude will not be determined by what’s going on around us. In other words, life doesn’t have to be stress-free in order for us to know peace—our spiritual joy won’t diminish even if we should meet with disappointment.

Anyone can be loving, kind, and self-controlled in seasons of blessing.

But what happens to our attitude in trying times?

The real test of who we are occurs not when things are going our way but when misfortune shows up. If the Spirit is in charge, we will learn to do four things:

to love when we want to hate;

 to practice kindness when we are accused;

to respond gently when others are harsh;

and to have self-control when temptation strikes hard.

None of us will do all of this perfectly because there is still “self” within us.

But when we sin, we will respond quickly to the Spirit’s prompting. He won’t have to work hard to get our attention, because we are under His authority. We will recognize our wrong action, confess it, and refocus on God’s ways.

If you are a Christ-follower, who is in control of your life?

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One Precious Assurance…

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Acts 1:1-8 (KJV)

1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,
2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
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 Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

The Bible is a book of promises, each of which is guaranteed by the Lord’s unchanging nature (2 Cor. 1:20).

One precious assurance is that those who trust Jesus as Savior will never be alone.

Our Father has promised to send His Holy Spirit to take up residence within each believer. Scripture teaches that the Spirit is a member of the Trinity, along with God the Father and God the Son.

The triune nature of God is clear in a number of Bible passages. Genesis 1:1-2, for instance, identifies both the Father and the Spirit as active participants in creation.

The New Testament later reveals that Jesus Christ was likewise present when the world was being made (Col. 1:16).

We find another example in John’s gospel. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus told the disciples that He was going away but would ask the Father to send “another Comforter” (14:16). The resurrected Christ later commissioned His followers to make disciples and baptize them in the name of all three members of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19).

On the basis of biblical truth, we can know for sure that the Spirit is fully God, just like the Father and the Son.

Scripture teaches that we can intimately know the Father and Jesus, and the same holds true for the third person of the Trinity. Because of the Spirit’s importance, Jesus spent much time talking about Him with the disciples.

Do you know the Holy Spirit as well as you do the Father and Son?

If not, spend time studying Scripture to gain understanding of His place in your life.

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Spiritual Growth…

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 2 Peter 3:18 (KJV)

18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Not many people can say that on the day they accepted Christ, someone explained how to grow spiritually.

Sadly, some believers aren’t ever taught. God wants His children to bear the image of Christ, but we do not grow in our faith unless we take action.

First, we are responsible for renewing our mind (Rom. 12:2).

Though God saves us and gives us a new spirit, He does not give us a new brain. Our minds have many trenches that have been dug or worn by rebellion, self-focus, or habit. That is why it’s important to meditate on the Bible, which expresses the thoughts of God. Meditation is more than reading—it involves thinking about what the words mean and then applying truth. There’s no way to grow spiritually without absorbing Scripture into our thinking.

A second step toward Christian maturity is being ready to admit and assume responsibility for failure.

When we deny our sins, we delay spiritual growth, but as we learn to confess wrongdoing, the opposite happens—growth is inevitable.

The third step naturally follows the second: after confession should come repentance.

This is more than a mere acknowledgement of wrongdoing or a promise to try harder. Repentance means that we commit to make an about-face and head in the opposite direction from our sin.

Our Father’s goal is for all believers to continually make progress toward Christlikeness. With these steps, you’ll develop in that direction.

And the most important consequence is that your relationship with God will deepen.

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Developing Patience…

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Galatians 5:22-25 (KJV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

We have all kinds of excuses for why we are not patient: stress, ill health, other peoples’ mistakes, running late, or simply having a bad day.

But impatience can cause us to make poor decisions, hurt others, or damage relationships.

God wants something far better for us.

He knows that patience helps us to stay in His will—where His favor rests upon us. We achieve strong, loving, lasting relationships when we are willing to wait for others to change. In so doing, we also become happier ourselves.

How do we develop this attribute?

First, we must view our lives as God does and recognize difficulties as disguised opportunities to learn patience. We must leave behind the mistaken assumption that success in the Christian life means an absence of problems.

God’s purpose is not to provide us with ease, comfort, and pleasure but rather to grow us up into Christlikeness.

Patience is one of those “grown-up” qualities we’re to have.

Second, we have a personal responsibility to pursue the quality of patience and train ourselves in it. We must learn to resist our bad habits, wrong thinking, and negative behavior patterns from the past.

Practice responding with kindness and love, even if the other person is unjustly accusing you.

It takes time, energy, and effort to change our thinking and our responses. Fortunately, we don’t do this alone—the Holy Spirit is committed to producing this fruit in our lives with our cooperation.

See difficulty as God does, and then respond patiently.

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An Important Introduction…

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Revelation 1:4-8 (KJV)

4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

The first chapter of Revelation gives a compact description of the Lord.

In verses 4 to 8, John condenses the wonder of Jesus Christ to the bare but beautiful essentials of who He is:

Jesus Christ is the faithful witness.

Jesus came to earth to more fully reveal the character and ways of the Father (John 14:9). The miracles He performed validated His claim to be the Son of God.

Jesus Christ is the first-born from the dead.

The Savior bore our sins and died on the cross, was buried, and rose again on the third day. His resurrection proved that eternal life is possible for us, too, as Jesus taught in John 11:25: “He who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”

Jesus Christ is the ruler of the kings of the earth.

It is the Lord who raises men to power, just as it is He who removes them (John 19:11; Rom. 13:1). Meanwhile, believers have access to a higher authority. In God’s throne room, we can beseech Him on behalf of our nations and lay claim to His promises.

Jesus Christ loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.

Note the change of tense in John’s writing. The Lord’s love is ever-present, but He has freed believers from their past. Both the penalty and power of sin have been broken.

When people ask you about Jesus, introduce Him by guiding them through this mini-biography.

In just a few sentences, John describes Christ’s character, divinity, and authority.

The disciple was not timid about proclaiming the Lord. We shouldn’t be shy, either, when we serve so great a Savior.

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The Source of Our Peace…

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Colossians 1:15-20(KJV)

15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;
20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Before we knew Jesus Christ, our life was full of godlessness and wickedness—we had self-seeking ways and stubborn, unrepentant hearts (Rom. 1:18; 2:5, 8).

Like our strife-filled world, we clamored for peace and tried to find it, but our efforts failed.

When we came to faith in the Savior, all of that changed. We were rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into Christ’s kingdom (Col 1:13).

Every one of our sins—past, present, and future—was forgiven.

Divine justice was satisfied by Christ’s sacrifice, and God’s wrath upon us was removed. We became a new creation, washed clean by Jesus’ blood (2 Cor. 5:17).

Now that sin’s power over us has been broken, we can live in accord with God.

He sent His Holy Spirit to be our personal guide in this new life, helping each of us experience Christ’s peace (Rom. 8:6). We also can look forward to an eternity spent in heaven, where righteousness, tranquility, and joy abound (Rom. 14:17).

The story of the prodigal son’s return is a picture of our reconciliation with the Lord (Luke 15:11-24).

The son had chosen to leave his father, living instead to please himself. Repentant, he eventually returned home; his father joyfully greeted him and forgave him, and there was harmony between them.

God has done all this for us.

Our unity with the heavenly Father came at a great price—the sacrifice of His only Son. Christ gave His life for us so that we could be reconciled to God (Col. 1:20).

Christian lives are to testify that Jesus is the source of our peace. Does your life communicate this message?

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True Peace…

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Romans 5:1-2 (KJV)

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

One day I posed a question to the waitress at my table: “If you could ask God for anything, what would your request be?”

Her answer was immediate. “I want to feel at peace.” She tearfully explained that her grandmother had died and emotional turmoil resulted.

Many in our world are like this young woman, in that they desire inner calmness but have no relationship with the Lord.

People often seek contentment by trying to improve their appearance, physical fitness, financial situation, or social status—or by abusing substances. But such things can’t bring tranquility of heart or mind.

Only a relationship with Jesus leads to true peace.

Prior to salvation, we were slaves to sin and living in opposition to God (Col. 1:21). Our transgressions had formed a barrier of hostility between Him and us, which we were helpless to cross on our own. Without God’s intervention, we could not have found the way of peace. But our heavenly Father provided the perfect solution to our sin problem.

He sent His Son to pay for our iniquities and remove the separation that existed between us and Him.

When we trusted Jesus as our Savior, we were reconciled to the Lord (Rom. 5:10) and no longer at odds with Him. In Christ, we have peace with the Father.

Our tribune God has provided everything we need for inner tranquility.

The Father opened the way for us to be in His family.

Jesus continually offers His peace so we can experience serenity of mind and heart (John 14:27).  And the Holy Spirit cultivates the fruit of peace in our lives (Gal. 5:22).

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A Thankful Heart…

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Psalms 9:1-2

1 I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.
2 I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.

We are given amazing privileges when we trust in Jesus.

Recalling these promises is a good way to maintain a thankful heart, even when facing challenges in other areas. Consider four such blessings:

Christ’s gift of salvation.

No matter what trial we’re facing, it is microscopic next to the enormity of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. The cross was a steep price to pay, but the Savior willingly took our place in order to offer us forgiveness and eternal life.

Assurance of God’s love.

The Lord cares for us unconditionally—that is His very character (1 John 4:16). Unfortunately, the storms of life can cause us to question this, but Romans 8:31–39 unequivocally tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Answered prayer.

We have the awesome privilege of talking to the Father about anything burdening us—and He never grows tired of listening to His children. Our omnipotent, omniscient God is not only able to help us in any situation; He also knows the best possible way to do so.

A personalized plan.

The Lord has a will, plan, and purpose for our lives that He will accomplish if we obey Him. No one is exempt from adversity, but we can trust God to bring good from everything He permits to come our way.

Hardships, temptations, and tests will touch us all, but the Lord allows difficulty for a reason—even when we don’t understand why (Rom. 8:28).

Therefore, submit yourself to the Father, thank Him for His wisdom, and be confident that He will accomplish His purposes for you.

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