Complete Commitment to Obedience…

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Psalms 1

 The Bible declares the Lord’s great power and majesty while also revealing His deep mercy and love.

He is worthy of wholehearted, passionate submission, but He doesn’t often get it. Are you among the few who offer themselves to Him without reservation?

 Complete obedience is a choice to follow God regardless of the consequences.

This means that we obey the Lord even if our friends choose a different path or when suffering or embarrassment is guaranteed. Seeing His will done is more important than our own comfort or personal ambition. We commit the consequences to God and cling to His promises: He will never leave us (Heb. 13:5), and He makes good out of every situation (Rom. 8:28).

 Notice the word ‘commitment’ in the title of today’s devotion.

I’m not writing about obedience that is born of the moment (as in, I choose to follow God in this instance) but about submission as a way of life. Setting restrictions on compliance is so tempting–we want to be able to change our mind when obeying upsets our lifestyle, the final result is unclear, or we’re just plain scared.

 But let me ask you this one sobering question: If Jesus is the Lord of your life, what right do you have to limit how and when you’ll do His will?

Believers have no right to set their own limits; their one criterion for making decisions should be, What does God want me to do? The answer at times may cause suffering, but obedience is always right.

 And following God in all things is the surest path to favor and spiritual growth.

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Brokenness…

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2 Corinthians 4:7-10

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

No one enjoys the feeling of broken-ness, but we can’t ignore its benefits to spiritual growth.

Being broken gives us an entirely new perspective on the Lord’s plan for our lives. You see, enjoying a steady, uninterrupted stream of blessings has an interesting effect on most people:

It distorts our view of the Father, often leaving us to assume He exists for us.

We ask the Lord for healing, success, and financial security.

We ask Him to bless our family and our relationships.

We ask and ask and ask.

And the truth is, much of the time we aren’t really talking to God at all. In our mind, we’ve replaced Him with some sort of cosmic errand boy—we tell Him what we want and then send Him off to get it for us.

In all of this, who is actually at the center of our prayers?

It certainly isn’t almighty God, our eternal Savior and Creator of the universe.

No, instead we find ourselves at the center of these prayers. Therefore, the end result is the subtle belief that God exists for our benefit—a far cry from the reality of His divinity. This distortion breaks the Lord’s heart and leads us far away from truly knowing Him for who He is.

The antidote for this self-centered idolatry is brokenness.

When God says “No,” when He takes away instead of adding more, when He divinely manages what we have, how much we have, and how long we have it, He is helping us keep our eyes on Him. Do not despise these moments.

Instead, recognize them as the voice of your Father calling you back into His loving arms.

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A Better Way…

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 Psalm 51:17 (KJV)

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

John 12:24 gives a beautiful illustration of brokenness: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

That is, only by falling and breaking can a single grain produce a rich crop. If it remains isolated and protected, it will never produce anything.

That’s how the Lord works to mature His children.

He breaks us in order to bring spiritual growth and supernatural ministry into our lives. And the process is always the same:

  1. God targets the areas in which we are not submissive to Him.
  2. He arranges circumstances and selects the tools with which to break our self-sufficiency.
  3. He controls the pressure and timing of those circumstances to bring us back into His will.

If we refuse to be re-formed through brokenness and instead cling to the things God wants us to release, He will put us on the shelf.

Just like an unbroken grain of wheat, we’ll be fruitless and alone.

Yet we resist brokenness at every turn. We want to hang on to the things we think bring joy. We want to persist in relationships that stunt our spiritual growth. We want to take the path of least resistance and hope that God will bless our laziness. My friend, that isn’t the road to maturity.

Our Father has a better way.

Brokenness hurts.

The Word, however, proclaims that it hurts far more not to be broken. Don’t be distracted by short-term happiness.

Look where your Father is leading you, and let Him do whatever it takes to get you there.

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Responding To Criticism…

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Proverbs 15:31-33 (KJV)

31 The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.
32 He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. 33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

No one likes criticism, but encountering some is inevitable, so we need to learn how to respond in a godly way.

Although you might be tempted to become defensive or angry, remain calm and listen. The words may hurt, but great benefits come to those who carefully consider what is said.

If we refuse to accept reproof, we’ll limit our potential for godly character development and spiritual growth.

Some of life’s best lessons come through difficult experiences. If the Lord allowed the situation, you can be sure He wants to use it in transforming you into His Son’s image. Whether the criticism is valid or not, whether it’s delivered with kindness or harshness, your goal should always be to respond in a way that glorifies the Lord.

Remember that you are responsible only for how you handle yourself, not for how the other person is acting.

When a criticism comes your way, be quiet and listen until the other person has finished. Make direct eye contact to show attentiveness and respect. When your critic finishes, thank him for bringing his concerns to your attention, and tell him that you will consider what he’s said. Ask the Lord if the accusation is valid.

Let Him search your heart and either affirm your innocence or convict you.

Every rebuke is an opportunity from God. It’s a chance to let your Christian character shine by showing love to your critic. If he is angrily attacking you, your respect and kindness become a powerful testimony.

Criticism is also an occasion to humble yourself and accept the Lord’s correction.

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Taking Blessings For Granted…

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 Nehemiah 8:9-12 (KJV)

9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
11 So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.
12 And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.

Sometimes we take certain blessings for granted.

Stop and think what it would be like if we couldn’t attend the church of our choice or read a Bible in our language.

During the 70-year Babylonian captivity, the temple and its sacrificial system weren’t available to the Israelites. And those born in that land didn’t understand the language of Scripture. So when the opportunity arose to hear God’s Word in Jerusalem, they were ready to listen.

Ezra read to them about the Lord’s promises to Abraham and his descendants, the covenants God made with the nation of Israel, and His requirements of faith and obedience. As the people listened with repentant hearts, they felt conviction and wept over their sins. But they also experienced joy because they were once again following the Lord’s commands.

The people trusted not only the words of Scripture but also the men who explained its meaning.

The Bible is our source of truth about God’s righteous character, mankind’s sinful nature, and the plan of salvation. In its pages, we discover that man has a sin problem but no way to solve it on his own. We also learn that God’s just nature requires a penalty for transgression.

Scripture goes on to reveal how divine justice was carried out against Jesus for our sin—that He died in our place, and through faith in Him, we receive forgiveness and the gift of eternal life. What an amazing provision from the God of love.

Good listening is essential, because faith comes from hearing God’s message (Rom. 10:17), and spiritual growth also depends on heeding what He tell us.

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Blind Spots and Weaknesses…

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Galatians 6:1-10 (KJV)

1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
5 For every man shall bear his own burden.
6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

 An accountability partner is able to perceive what we can’t see when blind spots and weaknesses block our vision.

Such a person serves as a tool in God’s hand to promote spiritual growth, and he or she watches out for our best interest.

 When choosing this type of confidant, look for these characteristics:

1. Godly. A person who walks in the Spirit will offer genuine wisdom based on biblical principles rather than personal opinion.

2. Trustworthy. No matter what you share with this individual, you must be certain that he or she will keep everything in the strictest confidence.

3. Accepting. He or she must allow you to be yourself–frailties and all–and not try to remake you into someone “perfect.”

4. Courageous. A good accountability partner will lovingly confront you with the truth, even when it hurts (Eph. 4:15).

5. Forgiving. When you make mistakes, trust is built through mutual forgiveness.

6. Edifying. Don’t choose someone with an overly critical attitude that will make you feel worthless. Love edifies and builds up (Eph. 4:29). It never destroys.

7. Encouraging. You don’t want someone with a checklist, who judges or acts like a prophet. Instead, choose someone who takes great joy in encouraging you.

 We all can benefit from someone who is able to say what we need to hear without making us feel threatened.

Answerability provides checks and balances that promote spiritual growth and protect us from pitfalls.

 If you don’t already have an accountability partner, pray for that person today.

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The Crowns…

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Revelation 4:9-11

9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,
10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

 Throughout Scripture, we find references to “crowns.”

Let’s take a look at these eternal rewards for a victorious Christian life and a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.

 The Crown of Victory.

To finish life well, believers need Olympic endurance. Athletes in those ancient games received a perishable circlet of laurel leaves. But when we are effective in our God-given ministry and triumph over sin, we’ll be given an imperishable crown (1 Cor. 9:25-27).

 The Crown of Exultation.

The believers that we had a hand in bringing to Christ will be “our glory and joy” before the Lord (1 Thess. 2:18-20). Just imagine how you will rejoice in heaven upon seeing and talking with the people who recognize your contribution to their spiritual development.

 The Crown of Righteousness.

The Christian life is not easy, but there is great reward for living righteously when facing temptation or hardship. Believers who pursue godliness are always thinking about the life to come and striving to meet God with a pure conscience (2 Tim. 4:5-8).

 The Crown of Life.

Heartache and pain are unavoidable in this life, but we can take heart because much spiritual growth happens in adversity. Hang in there to receive the crown of life that the Lord promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

 In heaven, what will we do with the crowns we have earned?

We will cast them before Jesus’ feet (Rev. 4:10), laying them down as a tribute to the One who saved us, gifted us, equipped us, and lived in us.

 Everything good and right came to us through the Lord, so He deserves our crowns.

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Discipline of Godly Habits…

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Hebrews 5:12-14 (KJV)

12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Believers are on a continual growth track that ascends higher and higher.

This side of heaven none of us ever “arrive,” but we each have a responsibility to press on to maturity. Though many people think those who know a lot about the Bible are the spiritually mature ones, Hebrews 5:14 adds the element of practice to the growth equation. This word means a custom or habit.

Christian growth requires the discipline of godly habits carried out daily.

The most important practice to cultivate is a personal devotional time. Since God is the source of all spiritual development, you can’t neglect Him and expect to become mature. Transformation begins with time in His Word and prayer.

Obedience is another essential element for advancement.

When our desire to obey the Lord is stronger than our attraction to sin, we’ll know we are making progress in our spiritual life.

In terms of physical development, the goal is to become more independent and self-sufficient as we age. But in the spiritual realm, the opposite is true. Those who are mature in Christ recognize their own inadequacy and rely on the Holy Spirit within them.

It’s His job to transform our character and empower us to accomplish everything the Lord calls us to do.

Getting older doesn’t mean maturity in God’s eyes. By digging into Scripture and developing righteous habits, we can use our years to grow stronger in the Lord instead of wasting time with passivity.

No one accidentally becomes mature. Spiritual growth requires a diligent pursuit of God.

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