Self-Sufficiency and Pride…

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Galatians 2:20 (KJV)

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

 There’s a goal to the Christian life, which God expresses this way: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).

This refining process is called sanctification.

And there are several identifiable stages en route to this goal, but sadly, most believers are unfamiliar with them. Let me offer some definitions so you can identify where you are on the journey and understand what to expect.

 Salvation is the first stage of the Christian life.

This describes our redemption from sinfulness through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. What results is forgiveness of sin, which lets us have a relationship with Almighty God.

 Next, God gives us opportunity to serve (Eph. 2:10).

We were created to do good works in Jesus’ name.

 But at some point, we notice something isn’t working. This is the start to stage three: frustrated inadequacy.

This unpleasant but necessary part of the journey can last varying amounts of time. Without it, we’d undoubtedly experience self-sufficiency and pride. But we should recognize this difficult phase as beautiful because it leads us into the best part of our spiritual lives: total dependency upon Jesus as Lord of our life. And we will be fulfilling our ultimate goal: becoming a reflection of Christ.

 Sadly, many Christians don’t reach a point of complete reliance on the Lord.

Pride, discouragement, and distraction can ruin focus and perseverance. Paul reminds us to fix our eyes on the goal of maturity in Christ (Phil. 3:14).

 Learning to die to self is painful, but ironically, it’s the only true way to life.

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Pray With Absolute Confidence…

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1 John 5:14-15 (KJV)

14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

 Since praying is such a common practice for believers, over time it’s easy to fall into habits that result in a lifeless and empty prayer life.

Instead of a dynamic conversation with thoughtful requests and active listening for God’s response, our prayers can seem more like grocery lists.

 Because communication with the Lord is such a vital part of the Christian life, we occasionally need to step back and examine how we’re doing.

Begin by asking yourself these questions:

How effective are my prayers? Is God answering my petitions, or does it seem as if they never go past the ceiling?

Who am I praying for? Are most of my requests for myself or others?

What am I asking the Lord to do? Have I looked in the Word to see what He wants, or am I trying to get Him to intervene according to my plans and desires?

When do I pray? Is it only during emergencies or when I need something?

 If you discovered any selfishness in your answers, you’re not alone.

Most of us struggle to enter God’s presence with our eyes focused on Him instead of our needs. But the only way we’ll be able to pray with impact is to fill our minds with Scripture so we can find out what the Lord wants to do.

Your prayer life can become effective and dynamic if you’ll approach the Lord with a clean heart (Psalms 66:18), align your requests with His will, and believe He will do what He says (Mark 11:24).

 Then you’ll be able to pray with absolute confidence knowing that He will hear and answer your petitions.

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Running With Endurance…

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1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (KJV)

24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

The Christian life can be likened to a race with a predetermined course and a finish line in eternity.

Each child of God has a personalized route specially designed by the Lord. Our goal is to stay on track and run with endurance, but the path can be discerned and navigated only by focusing on Jesus.

Because He ran the race perfectly and finished His course, He can show us the way.

As with any long-term race, the course is full of obstacles that threaten to trip or sidetrack us. Temptations lure us to what we imagine are lush green pastures, while busyness can lead us down rabbit trails that end in exhaustion.

Worry and fear grab hold of our minds, and emotions take us places the Lord never intended for us to go.

Although sins present the most obvious hindrances, other obstacles and detours are subtler. Anything that takes precedence over our relationship with the Lord can send us down the wrong path. Because involvement in the daily activities of earthly life is necessary, we can easily let our families, jobs, and pleasures distract us from a wholehearted pursuit of Christ.

Surprisingly, even God’s blessings can become obstacles in the race if we start to pursue them more than we do the Lord Himself.

We must remember that the goal is not to focus on the path or to try and find our own way. Instead, we’re to fix our eyes on Jesus. He is not only our guide but also our destination.

And He will welcome us home with open arms when we finish the race and cross into eternity.

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Human Failures…

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Romans 7:15-21 (KJV)

15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

The Christian life involves encountering certain paradoxes that challenge our thinking.

A prime example is Jesus’ comment that “the last shall be first and the first, last” (Matt.20:16).

Hard sayings like this may seem illogical and confusing until we remember that we’ve been called out of this world into a new way of living.

Self-effort, which is standard operating procedure for the natural man, must be abandoned by the Spirit-filled believer.

That is why the Lord sometimes allows us to experience failure in our pursuit of holiness.

He wants to show us how totally dependent we are on Him. When seen in that light, our human failures can actually be viewed as friends to instruct us rather than enemies to be resisted.

This perspective is not easily obtained.

From earliest childhood, we are urged to work hard, strive for excellence, and do our very best. We are told to set goals and then pursue them with diligence and determination. While these virtues are useful when conscientiously employed, they can actually betray us by suggesting that our salvation lies in them. They whisper to the human ego, “You have all that it takes to be successful.”

Gradually, if we pay attention to these voices, our confidence begins to shift from trusting in the Spirit to relying upon the flesh.

God will not accept our dependence upon anything or anyone besides Him.

If necessary, He will engineer circumstances in order to defeat our best efforts and humble us until we fully learn to live by faith—in total reliance upon Him.

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Motivation For Daily Choices…

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1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (KJV)

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Paul was single-minded in the message he preached.

The cross was not only his primary subject; it was also his motivation for living. When we begin to understand all that Jesus did for us at Calvary, we, too, can receive fresh motivation to live for Him. For instance, we can…

Walk humbly before God. 

Since the power to live the Christian life is supplied by Christ, there is no room for pride. When Jesus died, our “flesh” nature was crucified with Him so that we could live in newness of life. Any success we achieve in living righteously or walking in obedience is possible only because He is working through us.

Serve the Lord faithfully.

At the cross, we were placed “in Christ,” and He is in us (Gal.2:20). We are now His body on earth, created for good works which God has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Jesus wasn’t crucified so we could sit in pews each Sunday and listen to sermons. He has specific tasks for each of us to achieve during our lifetime.

Share our faith. 

Knowing all that Jesus accomplished at the cross should motivate us to share the gospel with others. This world is filled with hurting people who know nothing about salvation. Since their eternal destiny is at stake, how can we keep our mouths closed?

Too often we view the cross only as a past event that secured our eternal destiny, and we fail to see how it can motivate daily choices and activities. Stop to contemplate all that God is continually accomplishing in you though the cross.

Let it be your motivation to live wholeheartedly for Christ.

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The Most Central Element…

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1 Peter 1:3-9 (KJV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

 Faith is perhaps the most central element in the Christian life because it is the means by which we enter into salvation.

But that’s only the beginning. From then onward, our faith—or lack of it—shapes our lives and determines what happens to us when the winds of adversity blow. Some Christians never lose their footing even in hurricane-force winds, but others are toppled by the slightest gust.

 To understand why this is true, we need to examine the source of our faith.

Inherited faith: If you grew up in a Christian home, you probably adopted some of the beliefs of your parents. This kind of godly foundation is a wonderful gift from the Lord, but eventually, each person must assume responsibility for his own beliefs.

 Textbook faith: The Bible is the ultimate guide for establishing our beliefs.

But that’s not the only source of influence. Books, preachers, teachers, and friends all impact our convictions. Our theology may in fact be sound, but faith is merely mental acceptance until it’s put to the test.

 Proven Faith: Only when we trust the Lord through the fires of adversity will we have faith that can stand.

 It is no longer based on what others have told us or what we’ve accepted as true but on our firsthand experience of His faithfulness.

 To evaluate your faith, consider how you react to adversity.

Do you cling to the Lord or get angry at Him? Is your attitude one of rejoicing because He’s making you more like His Son, or are you bitter?

 No one can escape adversity, but those with proven faith will benefit from it.

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Expect Victory!

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John 6:44- 51(KJV)

44No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 46Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. 47Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. 48I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 49I am the living bread which came down from heaven: 50if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which 51I will give for the life of the world.

 The Christian life is difficult, no one knew that better than the disciples.

As they listened to Jesus speak about His mission on earth, they were challenged. The things He spoke of were hard to accept.

Scripture teaches,”Many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is hard saying;who can understand it?” …From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:60,66).

 Perhaps you have encountered difficulties that have made you want to turn away, but you didn’t.

The disciples faced the crucifixion, which was the most disheartening and dreadful event they could ever experience. Their hopes and dreams of an earthly Savior were destroyed. But they also experienced the glory of the resurrection, which showed them God’s greater mission of salvation.

The disciples that stayed with Christ were able to see Jesus risen from the grave. Peter testified, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus,whom you crucified,both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Peter was able to see God’s victory.

Whichever of your dreams seem to have died, don’t walk away from the Savior. Jesus desires to show you His glory in the most difficult issues you face.

 No matter how difficult the situation, if you stand by the Savior, you will see victory.

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Sacrificing Our Own Desires…

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Romans 12:1 (KJV)

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

The apostle Paul lived in an age when sensuality, the pursuit of pleasure, and rebellion against the Lord were prevalent.

In response, he wrote letters urging Christians not to follow in the ways of the world. Like those early believers, we are to pursue godliness by…

Presenting our bodies to God.

Our total being–mind, will, emotions, personality, and physical body–are to be turned over to our heavenly Father (James 4:7a).

Submitting ourselves to the Lord requires a definite decision to give Him control and a daily commitment to remain under His authority. By surrendering to Him, we will position ourselves for godly living.

Becoming living sacrifices.

The Christian life is built around the concept of sacrifice. Jesus left the perfection of heaven to dwell among a sinful people so He might reconcile us to God. He offered up His life to make payment for our sins (1 John 3:16) and brought us into His family. As believers, we are to follow His example. Paul called it a living sacrifice, because it is ongoing–one that is repeated daily.

Life is full of options.

Many decisions involve a choice between following God’s way or our own. Maturing Christians will increasingly sacrifice their own desires and embrace His will.

A life of godliness is characterized by a heart and mind bent toward the things of God.

Although we will live imperfectly, our focus is to be on obeying His will and pleasing Him.

Let’s commit to becoming more like Jesus, the One who willingly gave Himself to God as a sacrifice for us.

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