Maintaining Our Surrendered State…

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Romans 8:5-8 (KJV)

5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

A spiritual battle rages for control of our minds because the way we think determines how we will behave.

If we want to conquer our sinful tendencies, we must learn to see ourselves as God sees us—new creations no longer under the mastery of sin.

Because of the presence of Christ’s Spirit, we have the capacity to be “more than conquerors,” regardless of our previous sins (Rom.8:37 NKJV).

We also need to recognize the enemy’s lies that tell us we are weak and will fail again.

We are to fight back with God’s truth that declares Christ’s Spirit is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4).

We are to focus our minds on spiritual things (Phil. 4:8) so we will learn to distinguish between what fits us as believers and what doesn’t.

Finally, we must choose what’s suitable (Matt. 5:3-11) and reject what’s ungodly (Gal. 5:19-21).

The longer we’re Spirit-led, the more sensitive we’ll become to His warnings about temptation and the greater our strength will be to win the battle for our thought lives.

The Spirit-filled life starts with the gift of the Holy Spirit to all who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

It becomes a reality as we place ourselves under the Spirit’s control.

It’s best lived out by using the divine power He releases into our lives.

It also requires diligence on our part to resist temptation and to maintain our surrendered state.

Going into the new year, give yourself a gift.

Trade in your “independent mind,” and experience the victories that God gives to those who are Spirit-filled.

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Humbling Ourselves to Serve Others…

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John 13:3-15 (KJV)

3Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
4He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
5After 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.
6Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet?
7Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.
8Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.
9Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10Jesus 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.
11For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.
12So 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 have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you” (John 13:15 nlt).

Some churches have incorrectly interpreted this as a command to make foot washing an ordinance.

But it’s possible to clean someone else’s skin without contemplating the significance of Christ’s actions.

In fact, the act itself is not the main point; attitude is what counts.

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 using two hands that would be pierced by nails in less than a day.

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

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His Obedience in Suffering…

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Hebrews 5:7-8 (KJV)

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;
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to suffer so much when He came to earth as a man?

One might expect that the Son of the living God would live a comfortable life and die a peaceful death.

After all, wouldn’t His blood have paid for our sins whether it was shed painlessly or torturously?

But Jesus took on human flesh and came to earth not just to die for our transgressions but also—with the exception of sin—to identify with us in every area of our lives. And that includes suffering (Heb. 2:17-18).

 How would a Savior who had no experience with pain help us when we hurt?

Also, when it’s difficult for us to obey the Lord, we need the help of One who learned obedience from the things He suffered.

Unlike us, Jesus didn’t move from being rebellious to becoming obedient. Rather, He learned by personal experience the pathway we have to walk when God calls us to do something difficult or painful.

In His humanity, Christ struggled with the assignment that lay before Him: death on the cross.

Even though the Father heard His cries, the plan was not changed, and Jesus walked through all of it in complete submission, just as He had done with every divine “assignment” throughout His earthly life.

The only reason you and I have salvation is because Jesus always did what pleased His Father—had He rebelled in that one area, all hope for lost humanity would be cancelled.

If His obedience in suffering resulted in such a great benefit, just imagine what is in store for us when we do what God wants.

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Faith Building…

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Matthew 16:6-12 (KJV)

6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
7And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
8Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

Jesus spent time developing His disciples’ faith because He knew it was essential for the tasks ahead of them.

For over three years, they attended a school of faith, with Jesus as their instructor and the Scripture as the textbook.

Sometimes Christ used verbal instructions, but many of the lessons were taught through demonstrations.

He healed the sick, cast out demons, fed thousands, and calmed the sea.

Their training even included tests revealing if they truly believed Jesus was the Messiah.

At times, the disciples’ understanding was slow or faltering, but Christ never gave up on them.

He reproved them when they exhibited a lack of trust (Mark 4:40) but also commended signs of progress (Matt. 16:15-17). His objective was to firmly establish their faith so He could accomplish His work in and through them.

Right before His ascension, He commanded His men to spread the gospel of salvation to the remotest parts of the earth.

Without faith, they would have failed.

The Lord has the same goal for us—increase our faith so we can do the work He’s planned for us.

If our faith is great, He’ll entrust us with challenges and achieve amazing things through us.

But small faith limits God’s activity in a believer’s life. He uses us only to the degree that we trust Him.

Faith building is essential in a believer’s life, and God has two primary means of doing this.

Scripture tells us what to believe about Him, and tests place us in difficult situations that stretch us to believe and rely on God instead of our own understanding.

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Waiting Upon Him is Not Passive…

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Psalms 27:14 (KJV)

14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

There are many lessons for us to learn in God’s School of Obedience.

Believers must learn to wait upon Him.

Have you ever wondered why the psalmist coupled the admonition to wait upon God with encouragement to be strong and courageous?

The reason is that sometimes delaying is the hardest thing to do.

Modern culture is in such a hurry.

Gotta have it now! Gotta do it now! Can’t wait! 

We’ve been primed to stay in a permanent state of readiness.

It takes courage to be still when the world is rushing past.

Everything in us hollers, “Go!” while God whispers, “Wait.”

But people are quick to act, because they are afraid of missing out on something. Believers who buy into that attitude make a move and then hope God will bless them.

God leaves nothing to chance.

He does not place a decision before us with the hope that we’ll make the right choice. That would be irresponsible and out of character. The Father is more than willing to show His children what to do, because He is personally interested in their welfare.

But until the Lord makes clear what is the way forward, we’ve got to pause and wait.

Waiting upon God is not passive.

It is not lazy. It is not an excuse to be careless. In fact, the opposite is true. Those who pause are seeking His will—which means that they are praying, searching Scripture, perhaps even fasting.

And they are still serving the Lord wherever they can.

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Belief and Action…

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Hebrews 11:1-31 (KJV)

1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2For by it the elders obtained a good report.
3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
4By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
5By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
11Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
15And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
21By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
22By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
24By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
25Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
26Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
27By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
28Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
29By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
31By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

It’s the Lord’s desire that we walk by faith.

Yet if we consider our lives honestly, most of us will find a number of areas where we struggle to trust Him.

Some days it’s easy to relinquish control, while at other times we quickly take matters into our own hands.

Thankfully, our heavenly Father is patient and loving.

His Word clearly teaches that sanctification is the process of making us holy, not just the end result. Children are a great illustration of how this works. When toddlers learn to walk, they start by pulling up on something, standing, and then taking a step.

Inevitably, they fall, at which point we help them back up so that they can keep progressing. In the same way, God shows us how to live according to our faith in Him, but we’ll make mistakes.

Falling and getting up again are part of the learning process.

The Lord teaches us, but we also have a role.

Our responsibility is to study Scripture, get to know God’s nature, and learn His promises. As we do these things, our confidence in God grows, enabling us to make choices requiring us to believe in and lean on Him.

When we step out in faith and experience Christ’s provision and dependability, our trust grows.

Consider the responses, actions, and decisions that you’ve made in the past few days.

How many of those were led by the Spirit?

How many were human reactions done from self-reliance?

Living on the basis of trust in Christ requires belief and action. As you allow Him to lead, faith will grow.

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When Contentment is Elusive…

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Philippians 4:11-13 (KJV)

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

God has provided us with many things to enjoy.

But too often our lives are filled with turmoil instead of contentment.

Four practices that create dissatisfaction are . . .

Busyness.

We live in a hurry-up society, dashing from one activity to another.

Jesus did not rush anywhere, yet He accomplished whatever God gave Him to do. Not once did He tell His followers to move faster. He even praised Mary for choosing to stop her work and spend time with Him (Luke 10:39, 42).

Earthly perspective.

Too often we live focused on our circumstances.

Our minds think about what happened earlier in the week, what’s on today’s agenda, and the activities occurring next week, month, or year. No wonder enjoyment of life remains elusive. The solution is to have an eternal perspective, which acknowledges that God is in charge and our goal is to please Him.

Self-imposed pressure.

We have all experienced the unavoidable burdens of schoolwork, employment, and relationships.

But we bring needless pressure on ourselves when we allow unnecessary “musts” and “shoulds” to rule us. The remedy is to turn to God, acknowledge His right to order our days, and ask for His plan.

Unhealthy attitudes.

Perfectionism, false guilt, and apathy all undermine our enjoyment of life.

Satisfaction is found in a life that reflects God’s priorities—and time with Him comes first. Reading His Word, we become mindful of the Father’s great love, learn what He views as important, and experience the joy of belonging to Him.

When contentment is elusive, it’s time to examine our priorities.

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The School of Obedience…

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1 John 1:3-6 (KJV)

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.
5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

Starting at age five, our children are enrolled in school and given lessons to learn each year.

We are students too. At salvation, we became participants in the Lord’s school of obedience.

There, we are discovering the necessity of trusting Him and waiting for His direction.

We are taught the importance of commitment and learn to search His Word for guidance.

God also wants us to learn these lessons:

  • Listen attentively to the Spirit’s promptings. 

Our God does not speak in an audible voice, but He makes Himself heard quite clearly through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Spirit is our Helper who will bring to mind Scripture passages we have studied (John 14:26) and show us how they apply.

  • Obey the next step.

Abraham was called to leave his home and journey to an unknown destination (Gen. 12:1). He obeyed even though the way was unclear to his human mind. We, too, must step out in faith even when we do not know all the details of the itinerary.

  • Expect conflict. 

We can’t live obedient lives without having trouble with the world (John 16:33). Our friends or family may drift away when they realize certain interests of ours have changed. Some may hurl criticism our way or call us unkind names, while others may reject us completely.

Practicing a lifestyle of obedience doesn’t mean we’ll never make mistakes.

But it does require diligence if we are to succeed. Obeying the Father was Jesus’ priority and purpose in life, and we should make it ours as well.

Which of these lessons do you want to tackle first?

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