CRITICISM AND A CRITICAL-SPIRIT
Proverbs 18:21 – Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Exercising wisdom, when it comes to our communication with each other is extremely important; and if not exercised can lead to multiple problems, issues, anger, hurt feelings, tears and it will take much time to heal those wounds, if the wounds ever heal at all. A critical spirit in a man’s soul, manifested to others through the use of his tongue, can be a very destructive, debilitating, and discouraging tool used by Satan to bring down others and do much damage to them, to those around them, and the cause of Christ.
Fires don’t start out big and destructive. Fires start out small but have tremendous potential for destruction. So too are the words we say with our tongues. The tongue is a small part of our body, but it can cause tremendous havoc and problems for us and for the innocent people around us. (James 3:5-6 – Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.)
The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that we will eat the fruit of our tongue. That fruit could be sweet and good to the soul or it could be bitter and heart wrenching to our soul, but we will eventually eat the fruit of our tongue one way or the other. What kind of fruit is your tongue producing? Does your tongue, or your speech, or your words have a good reputation or a bad reputation? Is a critical spirit behind your words or is there an encouraging spirit behind your words?
The untamed tongue gives ample opportunity to sin. Solomon tells us in Proverbs, the more you talk the more chances you have to sin, (Proverbs 10:19 – In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.) but the less you talk the less chance you have to sin (Proverbs 13:3 -He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.) – So, watch your words, control the content of your speech, and watch for a critical spirit as you communicate with others.
The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29 – Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. We are not to let any “corrupt communication” proceed out of our mouth. So, what is considered corrupt communication? – Lies, criticism, gossiping, rude or crude words, filthy innuendo, etc. (I Corinthians 15:33 – Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.) Our communication is to be used to edify each other, (I Thessalonians 5:11 – Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do) and our communication should not spring forth from a critical and prideful spirit.
A wise person knows what is proper to say in the situation he finds himself in. (Proverbs 10:32a – The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable:) The wise use their knowledge in the right way to help those around them. They know the right advice to give at the right time. (Proverbs 15:2 – The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.) A wise person knows when to talk and when to keep his mouth shut. (Proverbs 29:11 – A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.) The wise speak helpful words and encouraging words. They speak words that are needed and useful to those around them. (Proverbs 12:18 – There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.)
WHAT WE SHOULD NOT HAVE IS A CRITICAL, COMPLAINING SPIRIT
Criticism is the act of criticizing, it is to judge as a critic, or to find fault: to blame or condemn. Tearing down and/or criticizing fellow believers can cause a stumbling block and damage to one’s faith. We tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. We should judge ourselves and seek to align ourselves with God’s Word. A critical-spirit is having an attitude of fault finding and criticism. Those with critical-spirits tend to seek opportunities to tear down others instead of building them up. Having a critical-spirit one will tend to dwell on the negative and look for the flaws when we should be looking for the positive qualities in people and look to build them up while gently teaching them and guiding them in a direction away from their flaws.
Overtime, being critical prevents one from seeing and appreciating or even enjoying their own Christian walk. A critical person is walking in the flesh, his sin nature, and not the spirit. The opposite of having a critical-spirit is having a godly-spirit, a feeling of optimism and hope because they know they serve a good and gracious God. Apart from Christ and having a solid relationship with Him, the critical person has no real basis for hope. Sometimes trying to find fault in others helps the critical person to deal with their own shortcomings. Criticism can become a reaction of disappointment because unrealistic expectations have not been met. Having a critical-spirit is wrong for a Christian. A critical-spirit affects your entire worldview, you react to faults more than you react to blessings, you criticize when you should encourage, you complain when you should instruct, you sneer when you should minister, you make fun of when you should support, you seek to tear down, when you should be striving to build up, you talk behind someone’s back when you should seek to come along side and offer help. This is the wrong way to behave as Christians. God’s Word teaches us to bear one another’s burdens and to show compassion. We must be careful not to be used as a tool of the devil to discourage or tear down others through criticism. If you are having an issue with someone, it is always better to talk with God about them, then to talk with others about them (Ephesians 4:37 – Neither give place to the devil.) We as Christians need to be encouragers, we need to be building each other up, not tearing each other down. (James 4:6 – But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.) We should ask God to reveal any areas in our life where a critical-spirit may be and seek to rid ourselves of that as quickly as possible (Psalm 139:23-24 – Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.)
SOME SUGGESTED CHANGES IN A CRITICAL PERSON AND FOR A CRITICAL-SPIRIT
First, we simply must have our spiritual eyes opened to see two truths: the heinous depth of our own sin, and the amazing grace of God’s love toward us in Christ. Spiritual sight here is not something we can will. God must give it. (James 4:8-9 – Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.)
Second, we must be deeply convinced that we can never know with certainty another person’s motives. Yes, we can see actions, and sinful actions usually must be confronted. But we must catch ourselves when we hurriedly move to open criticism of actions and of intents of performance. Yes, evaluation is often needed, but it needs to be done in the right time, the right way and in the right spirit, and it must never be done with a critical-spirit. There are so many factors beyond our knowledge that go into another’s actions. Only God sees the heart, and only His judgment will be 100 percent accurate and fair (I Samuel 16:7).
Third, when we’re bothered by another’s actions, we must pray—for both the person and our response to them, instantly and fervently. We must seek God’s face first, poor out our heart to God first, poor out our frustrations to Him. We must not spew forth sinful criticisms of others, but we must always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Fourth, we must learn to be diplomatic and direct in confronting people one-on-one. No fake smiles where we try to call darkness ‘light.’ No repression of negative feelings, but instead, direct, tactful communication. The goal here is not to blast people or tell of all their hidden character flaws; the goal is God’s glory and the reconciliation of broken relationships. This is best done in a one on one situation, or with one other person acting as a witness. I have always been taught by teachers, by college professors, by seminar teachers, by preachers, by leaders of all stripes, it is best to criticize or correct when needed in private and to praise in public; and I have found over the many years in my life when I have been tasked with leading others, that this principle has worked the best (Matthew 18:15–19; Galatians 6:1–2).
IN CONCLUSION: Praying, proclaiming the Word, witnessing, and sharing burdens—these are four wonderful ministries of speech. How much better it is to be involved in these ministries than to be using our tongues for gossip, malicious criticism, and other sinful purposes. Let’s make David’s prayer our prayer: “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3). Matthew Poole made this comment of Psalm 141:3 “That I may not through mine own infirmity, and the great provocations of mine enemies, break forth into any unadvised speeches, or any expressions of impatience, or distrust, or envy, or malice”. We must guard our speech, make sure it is seasoned with love, with patience, with encouragement and not infested with a discouraging and sinful critical-spirit.
Proverbs 28:13 “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” – Concealment of sin delivers no one from God’s wrath, but God will show mercy to the humble penitent. Here the blessing of God’s mercy is declared to sinners, on the condition of their confessing and forsaking their sins; and this condition contains with it the idea and the duty of true repentance, without both true repentance and true forsaking you will not truly gain access to the grace and mercy of God, you will continue to live under the guilt of covered up sin.
“That covereth his sins” – that does not confess them to God, and men too, when the situation calls for it. Covering sins can also take place when one tries to justify them, or deny them, or excuse them, or try to sweep them under the rug to protect so and so, or because of “the good of the ministry”, or to protect our cause. There is never a legitimate justification to cover up sin to protect a ministry or a person, that is just greater sin, compounding sin, and making the whole situation that much worse. The best solution, the biblical solution is to man up to the wrong doing, confess the wrong doing and never try to cover anything up “for the sake of the ministry”, that is a poor, cowardly, and sinful excuse for covering up sin.
“Shall not prosper” – in the end the covering up of sin will not succeed in avoiding punishment, in fact the repercussion of covering up the sin will in the long run be greater than the repercussion of just confessing the original sin. This verse implies that by concealment of sins the person will not find mercy, but it also states that “whoso confesseth and forsaketh them”, (notice it states confess them and forsake them); it is not enough just to confess them, while still planning on doing them again in the future after you engineer a better concealment plan for your sins, but you must sincerely confess them and sincerely plan to forsake them to qualify for the next part of the verse.
“Shall have mercy” – you shall have mercy from God, who hath promised you this mercy and a pardon of the sins you have confessed. You can pray and ask for mercy from the offended person but that may or may not happen, but you will have been forgiven from God, you will have that sin under the blood of His forgiveness. Having forgiveness and mercy from God does not necessarily mean there will no longer be repercussion or punishment of your sins on earth, there most likely still will be, depending on the severity and type of the sin committed.
The folly of indulging sin – or of excusing it, denying it, or making excuses for it, diminishing it, or throwing the blame of it onto others. The Bible is clear “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper.” He will not have long term success in his endeavor to cover his sin. It will be discovered, sooner or later. There is nothing hid which will not be revealed. He that covers his sin will not prosper, nor will he have any true peace of conscience. David talked of himself as having been in a constant state of agitation while he covered his sins, Psalm 32:3-4.
The toll hiding sin takes on someone – Hiding sin can drain us of our resources. It can “eat” at us. In a sense, we have no energies to invest in the lives of others for fear of being exposed or found out. Our energy is invested in covering up our sin, not in ministering to others. A good example of this is found when one chooses to speed while driving. It is difficult to sit back, put on some easy-listening God glorifying music, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. One’s energies are spent being on the lookout for the next police officer, who might ruin his day with a ticket at a high price. He is seeking to hide his sin, to not be found out. However, if he drives the speed limit, then he can sit back and relax. Peace is not available in deception. In fact, unfortunately, we can find ourselves frantically falling deeper and deeper into sin as a result of that deception.
The benefit of parting with sin – both by a sincere confession and a true reformation: He that confesses his guilt to God and is careful not to return to that sin again, will find mercy with God. His conscience will be eased, and his ruin prevented. The man who denies, justifies, or excuses his sins, through pride or hypocrisy, will continue under condemnation, and will not have any long-term success. But he who condemns himself, and humbly confesses his sins in true repentance and faith and works to set his sins right in the eye of the offended, will find mercy from God, however egregious his transgressions may have been.
Our Lord taught repeatedly that sin bottled up on the inside, concealed from everyone else’s view, carries the very same guilt as sin that manifests itself in the worst forms of ungodly behavior. Those who hate others are as guilty as those who act out their hatred; and those who indulge in private lusts are as culpable as out in the open adulterers (Matthew 5:21-30).
God sees the heart – Scripture tells us ” for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7. No sin—not even a whispered curse or a fleeting evil thought—is hidden from the view of God. In fact, if we realized that God Himself is the only audience for such secret sins, we might be less inclined to write them off so lightly. (Isaiah 29:15 – Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?) The Bible also declares that God will one day judge the secrets of every heart (Romans 2:16 – In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. & Ecclesiastes 12:14 – For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.)
Not only that, secret sins will not remain secret. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” – I Corinthians 4:5. In Luke 12:2-3 Jesus said “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.” Those who think they can evade shame by sinning in secret will discover one day that open disclosure of their secrets before the very throne of God is the worst shame of all. (Jeremiah 16:7 – For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.)
Hiding sin involves the compounding sin of hypocrisy – Those who sin secretly or act and engage in hiding sin actually intensify their guilt, because they add the sin of hypocrisy to their offense. Hypocrisy is a grave sin in its own right. It also produces an especially debilitating kind of guilt, because by definition hypocrisy entails the concealing of sin. And the only remedy for any kind of sin involves uncovering our guilt through sincere confession. If you help to conceal the sin of another you are engaging in a terrible sin yourself. As a Christian you should never have anything to do with helping to conceal the sin of another; instead we should rebuke them of that sin and seek to help them and anyone their sin may have affected. (Ephesians 5:11 – And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.)
Hypocrisy will permeate the soul with a predisposition against genuine repentance. Hypocrisy also works directly against the conscience. There’s no way to be hypocritical without searing the conscience. So, hypocrisy inevitably makes way for the vilest, soul-coloring, character-damaging secret sins.
Your secret life is the real litmus test of your character – “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” – Proverbs 23:7a. Do you want to know who you really are? Take a hard look at your private life—especially your innermost thoughts. Gaze into the mirror of God’s Word and allow it to disclose and correct the real thoughts and motives of your heart. You may not like what you see, but it is by being totally honest with oneself that you make the first steps to true repentance and turning your life around to Christ.
Joshua 6:18 “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.” & 7:1-5 “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel. And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.”
The command to abstain from the spoils of Jericho having been secretly violated, a curse is brought upon the Israelites, who are defeated in an attack on Ai (Joshua 7:1-5). Joshua, alarmed at the defeat, turns to the Lord for answers as to why it had happened. The Lord informs him of the cause of the disaster at Ai. This leads to the discovery of the perpetrator, his confession and then his punishment.
Achan was evidently the only offender in this matter among all the thousands of Israel—a wonderful instance of religious discipline and obedience. Yet the whole nation became implicated in the consequences of his transgression, a principal we can get from this is we do not sin in a vacuum, our sin does not only affect us; it affects those around us as well.
The fall of Jericho had been followed up by the temporary fall of Israel as the result of the sin of Achan. There are still Achan desires lurking within the hearts of men today; desires for forbidden and accursed things and sins. Desires that need to be combated and defeated through the power of Christ in the life of a believer. Sin always leads to failure, to lost fellowship with Christ and lost testimony for Him. We are going to examine the seven stages of secret sin and look at what the end result of secret sin is in the life of a believer.
DESIRE – “I saw… then I coveted them…” Joshua 7:21. The first stage in secret sin is desire. Achan first had a desire; he first coveted what he eventually took. Achan’s sin lay not in seeing the things that he eventually took, perhaps he could not help but to see them; but his sin lies in the coveting of them once he saw them. We all may see something sinful for an instant. We should turn our heads and avert our gaze after that. The sin lies in when we keep looking at the sinful thing and then begin to covet after it. (Luke 11:34 – The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.)
The pleasures of sin will be attractive to us. Christians have a great need to watch and guard their hearts from the attraction of sin. Certain circumstances and certain sins we may give into can lead to disastrous results in our life. We need to learn and to practice to bring every thought in our life into the captivity of Christ and His Spirit. (II Corinthians 10:5 – Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;)
DISOBEDIENCE – “He took of the accursed thing…” Joshua 7:21. God had warned the Israelites in Joshua 6:18 to not take of the accursed thing. Achan knew of the warning, Achan sinned willingly, not ignorantly. The fact that Achan hid what he took proves he was conscious of the sin he was doing. He knew it was sin, he knew it was wrong and he did his best to hide it from everyone. (John 3:19 – And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.)
Do you have something in your life that you do your best to hide from everyone? Do you not want anyone to find out about it? Do you hide it from your loved ones? If you are hiding the sin it means you are abundantly aware of the wrongness and sinfulness of your actions.
Do you try to keep up the appearance of godliness to those around you while keeping the secret sin in your life? This is the epitome of hypocrisy. You are putting up a show of being one thing while actually being another thing all together. You need to confess the original sin along with the sin of hypocrisy and turn to God and start living for Him like you should. (Matthew 15:7-8 – Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.) – Where is your heart? Is it right with God? Or is it just pretending to be?
The Bible tells us not to love the world. It was a love of the world and the things it could offer that led Achan into his sin. Are there elements of the world that you love? If there are, confess that to God and seek His help to rid that affection for worldly things out of your life and instead seek those things of God instead. (I John 2:15-17 – Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.)
DEFEAT – “they fled before the men of Ai …” Joshua 7:4. Sin will always lead to defeat. You cannot live a victorious life for Christ while carrying around the burden of a secret sin in your life. There may be a temporary satisfaction or a temporary victory associated with sin, but in the end sin will always lead to defeat. You cannot have true victory in your life while harboring sin in your life. Sin brings defeat, sin brings heartache, sin brings guilt, secret sin brings paranoia, and secret sin will lead to depression in the life of a believer. There is no long term good, satisfaction or upside to having a secret sin in your life. (Hebrews 11:24-26 – By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.)
DEPRESSION – “the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.” Joshua 7:5c. Secret sin in the life of a believer will lead to depression and defeat. Secret sin does not benefit you at all, it only leads to paranoia and living in perpetual concern of being found out which leads to depression and the absence of true joy in your life. Secret sin will lead to unexpected defeats in our life. Secret sin will lead to depression where it feels like everything is crumbling down around us and there is no hope and no way to get victory.
God’s hand of blessing will be removed from the life of those living in secret sin. For awhile it may go unnoticed but eventually you will cease to see God’s hand of blessing in your life. Eventually your secret sin will lead to your depression and living in a defeated and hopeless state of mind, but if you repent of that sin the Lord will begin the healing process in your life. (Psalm 32:3-5 – When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
To get a solution to depression you have to first acknowledge its cause. In the case of secret sin, you have to acknowledge it to God and confess it to Him. Then remember all the promises of God and how He has said He can help you in whatever situation you find yourself in, whether it is your own doing or not. He will always be there for you. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5b – for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.)
DEBILITATION – “could not stand before their enemies…” Joshua 7:12. Secret sin leads to weakness, it leads to lack of motivation, it leads to an uncaring attitude, and it leads to a defeatist attitude. Secret sin, as it worms its way into your soul, debilitates you and leaves you unable to defend yourself from further attacks of the devil and causes you to be easily defeated in other areas of your life. One secret sin in your life is the gateway to countless other sins creeping into your life.
Harboring sin in your life breaks your fellowship with God, because the Bible teaches us that God cannot look upon sin. If we have unconfessed sin in our life our prayers go unheard, our communication line with Christ is broken.
Without a good prayer life our hearts too will melt under pressure when situations get difficult, our spirits will weaken under the stresses of life, our strength will wane, our ability to handle new attacks from the devil will be non-existent because our source of strength is the Lord, and when we have cut off that source by our secret sin we will not be able to renew our strength for what lies ahead. We won’t be able to stand before our enemy. We need the Lord and His strength in our life to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Psalm 28:7-8 – The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.)
DETECTION – “and Achan… was taken” Joshua 7:18. Be sure your sin will find you out, no matter how skillful you think you are at hiding it, it will eventually find you out. Amongst the thousands upon thousands of Israelites at this time, Achan’s sin was discovered. Achan’s sin was found out because nothing is hidden from God. His sin was exposed to all the eyes of the whole nation. It was no longer secret, now humiliation and the most dreadful shame fell upon Achan, this shame must have also fell upon his family too. Every hidden thing will eventually be brought to light. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 28:13 “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Joshua 7:16-18 “So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.” – It was strange that Achan being conscious of his own guilt, when he saw the lot come nearer and nearer to him, did not either make an attempt to escape or try to get grace by making a confession of the sin before the lot fell upon him.
This lack of confession shows the hardened heart that Achan had as a result of unconfessed secret sin. Keeping secret sin in your life and not confessing it and seeking forgiveness will lead you to have a hard heart to God and the things of God. Once a heart is hardened it can be a very difficult thing to get reversed.
You can imagine the moment Achan was singled out as the trespasser to all the nation of Israel. He had been found out; the secret sin was secret no more. Can you imagine the panic that must have went through him, the horror that must have instantly hit him? If only he had not coveted after that sin, if only he had not deceptively hid that sin, if only he had come clean about that sin and confessed it on his own and not had waited until he was found out, what a difference in his life it would have been.
DESTRUCTION – “And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.” Joshua 7:25. There is no way to escape the consequences of your sins. If you are God’s children He will chastise you as you sin. Yes, Christ paid the eternal penalty of your sins on the cross, but there is still earthly chastisement from Him for sins you commit. The Bible teaches us that if fathers love their children they will chastise them and rebuke them when it is needed. So too does our heavenly father love us, so He too will bring chastisement into our life as a result of our sin. (Hebrews 12:6-7 – For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?)
Not just Achan suffered the consequences of his sin. (Joshua 7:24 – And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day. )
Can you imagine the guilt of Achan knowing his sin was responsible for the premature death of his own children?
Achan did not intend anyone to get hurt from his sin. He did not intend for the thirty-six Israelites to die when they first tried to take Ai. He did not intend for his own family and children to die as a result of his sin. When we sin we do not intend for others to get hurt by our sin. We do not think our sin will affect anyone else but us, but that thought is not true. Your sin hurts more than just you. Your sin hurts and affects those that love you. Your sin hurts your family, your church and can even have an effect on your future children.
You need to keep the consequences of sin not just to you personally, but the consequences of your sin to others in the forefront of your mind. You do not ever want to experience the guilt and utter horror that Achan felt knowing he was responsible for the death of his children and knowing that his own children knew they were dying because of something Daddy had done. God forbid anything like this ever be true of anyone of us.
What will be your end? Will it be one of faith and obedience? Or will it be one of disobedience and destruction? Your future, your family’s future can be on the line all because of your secret sin. If you have a secret sin, run from it and run to the Lord and repent of it and seek His immediate forgiveness and grace only He can provide. Seek His comfort, seek His guidance and seek His wisdom in overcoming and conquering the desires in your life that may be leading you to commit your secret sin.
Secret sin in the life of a believer is destructive. (Joshua 7:26 – And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.) Secret sin can destroy your reputation and your testimony. Look at what we know about Achan, he may have been a great man up to, and except for his secret sin, but do we know him for any of that other good stuff he may have done? No! We know him for the secret sin he committed. We know Achan for the shameful sin he perpetrated, for all the death and destruction that resulted from that sin.
Guard your life, guard your decision making. Make sure you are living for God in all areas. Cleanse yourself of any known sin in your life. Carefully examine your heart and your mind, seek to find out all the sin and rid yourself of it, repent of it and turn to God. If you have a secret sin or sins in your life, confess them right now, seek forgiveness right now, seek grace while it is available, and don’t wait to be found out like Achan did. That brings destruction; seek forgiveness and receive grace from God.
The heap of stones left in the valley of Achor would be a reminder that God expects His people to obey His Word. God expects His people to live by His teachings and truths. God did not put that heap of stones in the valley of Achor just for the Israelites; it was put there for us too; to remind us that there really is no such thing as a secret sin. To remind us that God knows everything we do. We cannot hide anything from God. To remind us we need to do all we can to live our life right and good for the Lord. Harboring a pet sin, harboring a secret sin in our life does not pay in the long run and can cause much anguish and pain not just to the person committing the sin but to their family and friends as well.
Do you have a secret sin in your life? Do you have a pet sin that is unconfessed? Do you have a sin that so easily besets you? You need to get that right with God. Don’t wait to be found out. Do the right thing, don’t be an Achan and seek to hide it until you are caught, but voluntarily confess that sin and seek grace and forgiveness, and move on in your life, living it to the fullest for the Lord! (Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,)
“ADOPTION… WHEREBY WE CRY, ABBA, FATHER”
Romans 8:15 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
We will be adopting a wonderful little boy and little girl very soon, and as this day is finally approaching, after almost three years of waiting, I started reflecting on what that word “adoption” means and all the connotations surrounding that word. We are all sinners and if/until we get saved we are under the bondage of sin, but after salvation we are adopted into the family of God and have every right by this privilege to call Him “Abba, Father.” Our little boy from almost the very beginning cried out to me “Daddy, daddy”, and our little girl as soon as she could speak, in fact I think her first word was directed at me, she cried out “Dally”, which is her version of “Daddy.” Just as a Christian is a sinner and under bondage of sin until we get saved, our two little ones, we are adopting soon, are also most definitely little sinners, however cute they may be most of the time. I say this about them with much affection and with a greater understanding of how our heavenly Father must look down on us with the love He has for us as His children. Our little ones too once they accept Christ as their savior will be officially adopted by God into His family and then they too can cry out to Him rightfully “Abba, Father!”
These two precious little ones will soon legally have all rights and privileges to call me Father, for I will be, finally, their legal father, though I have for the past three years already been their father and they have already been my children, but they will have the legal right of being my children, and all the privileges that come with that, and I will have the legal obligation of being their father and all the responsibility that comes with that. They will now have a legal right for an inheritance from their father along with my naturally born son, they will have an equal right with him under the law to that inheritance and I have equal responsibility toward them as I do my natural son. Though my natural son came first, they are no less loved or less important than him. If push came to shove, I would gladly sacrifice myself for them just as willingly as I would my own flesh and blood son.
As you can see as I consider all of this, all the implications to adoption, my mind runs back to the Scriptures and what they say about adoption and how we as Christians are adopted by God into His family as sons. Though we were not His natural children, we are not Israelites, we are lovingly adopted into His family, we are treated equally as His natural children, and Jesus was as willing to sacrifice Himself for us, the adopted children of God, as He was for the Israelites the natural children of God. The Israelites came first, they were His children first, but that does not mean God loves us Gentile Christians any less. We as Christians are just as much His children, though we are adopted into the family, though we are not the natural branches of the His family, God loves us just as much, God cares for us just as much, God sacrificed for us just as much, and we share equally and legally in all privileges of being in His family and also we share equally in the inheritance of God as well. (Romans 11:16-17 – For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;)
Legal inheritance refers to actual property or goods being transferred to the heirs after a family members death. Jewish inheritance customs were linked to family blood lines. Greek and Roman customs also provided for inheritance of possessions for an adopted heir. Though I have read that most Roman adoptions consisted of an adult being adopted by an older adult, who was either left heirless or his naturally born heirs had rejected their father and his blessings. In a theological sense, to inherit means to receive an irrevocable gift, to receive an eternally secure, without possibility of corruption or loss, gift; it has an emphasis on the special relationship between the benefactor and the recipients. Unlike traditional legal inheritance the benefactor, God, did not die, yet He provides the greatest inheritance ever devised to His children. But as with all inheritance, a death is implied to have occurred by the use of the word itself and a death did occur some 2,000 years ago on Mt. Calvary. Jesus died on the cross so that we would have the opportunity to partake of the inheritance of God the Father. Jesus paid our sin debt on the cross, Jesus made it possible for us to be adopted as joint-heirs with Him into the family of God! (Romans 8:16-17 – The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.) All we have to do to have a share of this vast eternal inheritance is to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior – at that moment you will be officially and legally adopted by our heavenly Father into the family of God, you will become His son or His daughter at that moment. (John 1:12 – But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:)
Now let’s examine our opening verse Romans 8:15 a little more closely:
“Ye have not received the spirit of bondage” – All that were under the law were under bondage to its rites and ceremonies; they were not only under the bondage of the law they were under the bondage of sin itself. They were often transgressing, consequently they had forfeited their lives, and were continually, through fear of death, subject to bondage. The Gentiles were also in a state of bondage as well as the Jews, they had also a multitude of burdensome rites and ceremonies, and a multitude of deities to worship; nor could they believe themselves secure of protection while one of their almost endless host of gods, celestial, terrestrial, or infernal, was left unpropitiated. (Hebrews 2:15 – And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.). The believers in Christ Jesus were brought from under that law, and from under its condemnation; they were brought from under the bondage of sin, the Gentiles also were brought from under their bondage to false Gods and sin, and consequently, they were all, that accepted Christ as Savior, freed from that bondage.
“But ye have received the Spirit of adoption” – You are brought into the family of God by adoption; and the agent that brought you into this family is the Holy Spirit; and this very Spirit continues to witness to you the grace in which ye stand, by enabling you to call God your Father, with the utmost familial confidence and affection.
“The Spirit of adoption” – Adoption was an act frequent among the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans; by which a person was taken out of one family and incorporated with another. Men of wealth, who had no children of their own, adopted those of another family. The child who was adopted ceased to belong to his own family and was in every respect bound to the person who had adopted him, as if he were his own child; and in consequence of the death of his adopting father he inherited his estates. If a person after he had adopted a child happened to have children of his own, then the estate was equally divided between the adopted and the natural children. The adopted children were considered equal in all aspects and considered joint-heirs with the natural children. Adoption is the willing and loving act of receiving a stranger as one’s own child and treating and loving that stranger as one’s own natural child. The term Adoption is applied to Christians because God treats them as His children; He receives them into this relation, though they were by nature strangers and enemies. God’s adoption of Christians implies;
(1.) that we by nature had no claim on Him;
(2.) that, therefore, the act is one of unmatched kindness – of pure, sovereign love;
(3.) that we are now under His protection and care as if we were His own natural children; and
(4.) that we, in turn, are bound to manifest towards Him the spirit of children, and yield to Him obedience. (Galatians 4:4-7 – But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.)
“Whereby we cry, Abba, Father” – I am not going to get into any of the theological implications of this phrase, I am just going to touch on the practical implications. As Children who need protection and help, who need to feel the love of Father, who need to know Father is near, who need to know Father is willingly accessible, this phrase exemplifies the habitual spirit of a child of God, it demonstrates a disposition to:
(1.) Express towards Him the feelings due to a Father;
(2.) Call upon Him, to address Him in the language of affection and endearing confidence;
(3.) Seek His protection and aid.
“Abba” – This word is Chaldee and means father. Its repetition here can denote intensity of the child’s address to their Father, like my children when excited about something or scared about something will usually come running to me saying “Daddy, daddy”. It can also denote the interest with which a Christian dwells on the name, it can denote a spirit of affection coming from a tender child. It is not unusual, even today, to repeat such terms of affection. The person that can in sincerity and with ardent affection apply this term to God, addressing God with a familial spirit as his Father, has a true and sincere recognition of his standing with God.
The Greek word translated as adoption in Romans 8:15 is huithesia, it means the placing as a son (figuratively Christian sonship in respect to God). Now let’s dig a little deeper and take this word apart. The first half of the word is huios, the common noun for adult son. The latter half is thesia which means a placement, an installation, a setting of a person or a thing into its place or proper position, so you can look at the whole word as meaning the placing of a child as the son of whoever is adopting them with the full rights, honors and privileges as if they are already adult sons. This is significant in the historical and cultural setting this is found in. In Roman society at this time sons had many more rights, privileges and received greater inheritances than daughters; and sons that had come of age received greater honor and had greater privileges and rights than sons that were younger. So, what this word adoption in this context tells us is the person being adopted in this situation, Christians, are instantly getting the full rights, honors, privileges and inheritance as the natural already adult son, which in this situation which would be Christ Jesus. We are not just treated as a younger son but we are treated instantly as if we are a fully adult son with all that applies to that. We truly are as the Bible teaches us “joint-heirs with Christ”. Digging a little deeper in this situation gives you such a tremendous and marvelous understanding of our position in God’s family. So truly undeserving we are of that position and how eternally grateful we should be for it.
Adoption truly is a wonderful thing. It is wonderful to be able to bring these two little ones officially into our family. They will be given my last name, they will be in the eyes of the law the same as if they were my own flesh and blood. They will get the same rights, privileges and inheritance as my natural born son. They will be loved the same, cared for the same, and protected the same, in my eyes there will be no difference. Adoption is such a wonderful picture of what God through Christ has done for us. Opening up the family of God for a lowly sinner such as I am and welcoming me in, loving me, caring for me, giving me His name, and dying for me when it became necessary, just to give me the opportunity to be adopted into His family. I am incredibly thankful to the Lord, beyond what mere words can express, for my salvation and my adoption into His family. I am also incredibly thankful He allowed us the privilege to be able to adopt these two precious little children and to be able to rescue them from the life situation they were in and to be able to provide them a loving family. Another great picture of what the Lord has done for us, He too rescued us from the terrible sinful life situation we were in and has provided us a loving family to be a part of, and not just be a small part of it, but to be “joint-heirs with Christ”, God adopted us fully into His family, with no limitations. God is an awesome God!
We need to do more than just topical studies in the Bible. A topical study is looking up all the relevant passages to a certain topic and studying those. This is not a bad way to study the Bible, but we also need to study the Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, and verse by verse as it was written. Why work at studying the Bible as whole and not just topical studies? Because with topical studies you risk taking or applying a verse out of context; we need to consider all that God has revealed to us in His Word. (Psalm 119:160 – Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.)
“The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.” – A. W. Tozer
“The Bible is a harp with a thousand strings. Play on one to the exclusion of its relationship to the others, and you will develop discord. Play on all of them, keeping them in their places in the divine scale, and you will hear heavenly music all the time.” – William P. White
Study and learn the Bible both privately and at church. Come to Sunday School and Wednesday night Bible study. The Bible warns us on this subject – “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” II Peter 1:20.
• Some study only at church and none at home. Others only study at home if they study at all and neglect church services. (Hebrews 10:25 – Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.)
• Those that study only at home by themselves are more likely to get a false understanding of passages, along with false application of passages. They are more likely to fall for false teachings and false teachers.
BASIC BIBLE STUDY TOOLS – Some suggestions for some tools to use as you study the Bible to help get the most out of your Bible reading/study time. We are told to study God’s word, and we need to study it as efficiently as possible. (II Timothy 2:15 – Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.)
First you need to make sure you are using the right Bible. The King James Version is the only Bible English speaking people should be using. All the others have great and grievous errors and omissions in them. None other but the KJV can be trusted. Some Bible’s have a paragraph layout instead of a verse layout. The paragraph layout helps you get the complete thought of the writer but can be difficult to use.
Dictionaries, maps, study Bibles are also good tools to have as you read and study your King James Bible. You use these to look up the meaning of words, geographical information, and comments to help explain the meaning of the passage. Make sure you are getting a good reliable study Bible. Consult your Pastor’s opinion on one.
Markup tools. Such as colored pens, highlighters, a straight edge to use in aiding underlining of verses. Write notes in the margins of your Bible about what you got or learned from that passage.
WHAT SHOULD BE MY REPSONSE TO THE WORD OF GOD? – Because the Bible is so important to us, because it is so important to learn and heed its teachings and truths, the Bible teaches us that our response to it should consist of the following:
Believe it. (John 6:68-69 – Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.) – Do you really believe the Bible? A lot of Christians will say they believe the Bible; but you could not tell it by how they are living their lives. Live your life in such a way it is obvious to all those around you that you actually believe every word of the Bible.
Honor it. (Job 23:12 – Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.) – Are you honoring the Bible with your actions? Are you honoring the Word of God with your attitude?
Love it. (Psalm 119:97 – O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.) – If you love something, it will be very important to you. You will want to spend lots of time with it. You will make it a priority. Do you really love the Word of God like you should?
Obey it. (I John 2:5 – But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.) – Are you obeying all the Word of God or just certain parts of it? We are commanded to keep the whole Word of God. Do you have pet sins you allow to stay in your life that go against teachings in the Bible?
Guard it. (I Timothy 6:20 – O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:) – We need to be guarding the Word of God and not being flippant with it, but being sincerely thankful we have such easy access to it as we do.
Fight for it. (Jude 3 – Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.) – Sometimes, now it seems more often than not, we will need to take a stand and fight for what we believe the Word of God teaches. If the world comes into conflict with God’s Word, the Bible makes it clear what we are to do “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29.
Study and teach it. (Ezra 7:10 – For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.) – This is something we all need to be doing. We all need to be diligently studying the Word of God and we all have someone within our influence who knows less about the Word of God than we do that we could be teaching His Word to.
For the person willing to study the Bible carefully, there is great reward. (Psalm 1:1-3 – Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.) We need to develop the habit of Bible reading and study and keep it up the rest of our life. You need to make reading the Bible a pleasurable experience in order to make it a habit and keep it up. Don’t make it like work, start out small and with the New Testament, Genesis, Psalms and Proverbs then progress to the rest of the Bible. Make use of Bible study aides, make sure you study in context, and make sure you study in church and at home. Most importantly make sure you are studying out of the correct Bible so you can trust you are learning correct doctrine and teaching and not missing others that are left out of the wrong versions of the Bible.
The Bible is the source of absolute truth, it is the source of victory, it is the source of spiritual growth, it is the source of power and it is the source of guidance. In God’s Word, a genuine Christian may have unlimited confidence. We can wash our minds and our souls by the studying of, meditating on, and praying over the Word of God. The Word of God is of extreme importance in our life. The Word of God is essential to the cleansing of our soul, minds and spirits.
Because of what the Word of God is, what it does, and how it benefits us, we need to respond to it appropriately. We need to simply believe in it as the living Word of the all powerful, omnipresent, omniscient God. We need to honor it, we need to love it, we need to obey it and when necessary, be willing to fight for its truths and teachings. Most importantly we need to be sharing it with others. We need to be witnessing from it to others in order to bring more into the household of faith. What are you doing with the Word of God? Are you neglecting it? Are you not honoring its teachings? Do you need to recommit yourselves to God and His Word? Do you need to put God’s Word back into the proper place in your life? Make that decision and make that commitment to God to make His Word paramount in your life.
Stop thinking about “it” for awhile. We all have that “thing” we end up thinking about, worrying about. Well try your best to stop thinking about “it” for now and think on what God wants us to think about instead. When your mind drifts to the “it” make it drift to Philippians 4:8 and think on what God wants us to think about. Dwell on those things, seek those things out, trust God and let go of that “it” or that “thing” you are fretting about and practice real faith and trust in God.
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
The Lord gives us a list here of things we are to think on or we should ponder on, keep in our minds, we should seek out these characteristics to learn about so we could incorporate them more and more into ourselves. If you notice no where in this list is included our problems, our concerns, our “worries” – no the Lord does not tell us to dwell on negative attributes, He does not tell us to think on negative situations, He does not tell us to worry and agonize over things we have no control over; which we are so apt to do, to bring ourselves down to ruin the “today’s” thinking about the worst case “tomorrow’s”.
Let’s put to heart and lets determine to not let any more “today’s” go by wasted worrying and fretting instead let’s think on truth, His truth, let’s think on honesty, think on His justice, His purity and how we can live to that end. Praise Him and thank Him for His tender care and love for you. Thank Him today for His many blessings bestowed upon you. Finally, what are you thinking about? Decide today to think on the things mentioned in this verse and stop dwelling on the negatives in life.
Deuteronomy 8:3 “And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”
We need to create the good habit of daily Bible reading. We either have good habits or bad habits. If we have not developed the good habit of daily Bible reading then we have developed the bad habit of NOT reading the Bible daily! Time is a factor in daily Bible reading. Lots of people say they do not have the time. Let’s look at the reality of time.
James 4:14 says “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” As you see James teaches us that our time on earth is brief, but a vapor in comparison to eternity. If we do not develop the good habit of daily Bible study our time on this earth will catch up with us. We will have spent our life on earth not utilizing the time we had for Christ. Many Christians will meet God never having read his Word through once. Wouldn’t that be a shame; to meet God, to meet Christ, knowing everything that was done for you, because He loved you, and you never having bothered to completely read His love letter to you?
WHY IS GOD’S WORD SO IMPORTANT? – Because it contains God’s mind and will for your life, because it is the only source of absolute truth in the world, and because it is the Divine authority for your life. (II Timothy 3:16-17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.) God inspired men of old with His Holy Spirit from time to time, influencing them to speak or write His will to men. (II Peter 1:20-21 – Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.)
God’s Word is infallible in its entirety. (Psalm 19:7 – The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.) – The written Word of God is perfect for our faith and practice, it is perfect in making all who follow it wise unto salvation; it is perfect to trust, it is perfect to accept and it is perfect in its demonstration of the atonement, the righteousness, and the intercession of Christ on behalf of man.
God’s Word is inerrant in its parts. (Proverbs 30:5-6 – Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.) – God’s Word contains no errors or mistakes. There are erroneous versions of the Bible out there, but God has preserved for English speaking people a Bible we can rely on and use with confidence- and that is the King James Version of the Bible. Adam Clarke speaking about these verses in Proverbs we just sited, said “Everything that God has pronounced, every inspiration which the prophets have received, is pure, without mixture of error, without dross.”
God’s Word is complete. (Revelation 22:18-19 – For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.) – These verses are a solemn warning to those who would seek to tamper with and alter the Word of God. It is dire condemnation to them proclaimed in these verses if they add unto or they take away any words from the Holy Scriptures.
God’s Word is authoritative and final. (Psalm 119:89 – For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.) – Although things may happen on earth that go contrary to His Word; in Heaven it is firmly settled and kept pure for eternity.
God’s Word is totally sufficient for our needs. (Psalm 19:7-9 – The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.) – “The law of the LORD is perfect” – the Hebrew word translated as “perfect” means perfectly complete, full and whole. So the Word of the Lord is perfect, complete, and whole. It is all sufficient to meet any and every need that arises. God’s word is sufficient to transform people completely from the inside out. This begins with our salvation and continues with our sanctification.
God’s Word will accomplish what it promises. (Isaiah 55:11 – So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.) The great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon had this comment on Isaiah 55:11 “So we are invited to trust in an effectual gospel which can by no means fall to the ground. We have no cunningly devised fable put before us, but the infallible truth of God who cannot lie. All things else may fail, but the promise of God will be fulfilled as surely as God is God.”
God’s Word is of extreme importance to all men. We need to be in the Word of God on a daily basis. It is the bread of life to a Christian. It should be a treasure to all of those who claim the name of Christ. We should read it, study it, meditate on it, pray it back to God, claim the promises found in it, memorize it and seek to live out it’s teachings in our life. We looked at some of the attributes of the Word of God to demonstrate it’s great importance and necessity to the life of a Christian. Judging by the amount of time you spend in the Word of God each day how much importance would someone surmise that you place on the Word of God? Examine yourself and seek to put the proper importance on the Word of God in your life. (Luke 4:4 – And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.)
THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH
Ephesians 5:25 “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;”
In Bible study there are various laws/rules or methods of study. One of these methods is the Law of First Mention. We are going to look at the first two times “church” is used in the New Testament, this will be the very first building block, the foundation, the backbone, that the DNA of the church is built upon and attached to. We are going to look carefully at the first two mentions of the foundation of the church and of our Fundamental beliefs.
WHEN DID THE CHRUCH BEGIN?
Matthew 16:13-19 “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesa-rea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Our next occurrence of the word church in the New Testament is found in Matthew chapter 18. The word church is found in the New Testament some 113 times.
Matthew 18:15-19 “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
Look at the two expressions isolated Matthew 16:18 “I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH” and Matthew 18:17 “TELL IT TO THE CHURCH”. These are the first two mentions of the word “church” in the New Testament and in the Bible. There is no such thing as the church as we know, with two ordinances, church officers, a Great Commission to fulfill, mentioned in the Old Testament. We can find some pictures of the church in the Old Testament, such as Eve being the bride of Adam and Sarah being the bride of Abraham. The Old Testament teaching is primarily not on the church.
So, when did the church begin? We know by the reading of Matthew 16 where Jesus said “I will build my church” that is was still to come at some point in the future at that time. So, the church was apparently yet future when Jesus spoke those words in Matthew 16. Not long after speaking these words Jesus died on the cross and rose the third day. Pentecost came, and all the component parts of the church were in place. So, think for a moment. What does the Bible say the church is founded upon, what makes up the foundational DNA of the church? The Bible teaches us the church is founded upon the death, the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. The Bible teaches us that Jesus intercedes for the church in Heaven. How can He intercede there, if He is not there? Also, the Bible teaches us that when Jesus ascended on high that He led captivity captive, He moved the saints from Abrahams bosom and took them to Heaven with Him. So, Christians became part of one body the church on the day of Pentecost. One more point on this topic, the Holy Spirit never inhabited believers, as He does today, until the day of Pentecost, now look at what Ephesians 2:21-22 says “In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
ON WHO IS THE CHURCH FOUNDED?
Who is the church founded upon? You may think this is a question all Christians should know the answer to, it may seem to you to be a simple question with a simple answer. But the truth is there are many Christians out there who do not know for sure the answer to the question, and there are many who think they do know the answer except it is the wrong answer that they know. For instance, Catholics will say and teach that Jesus founded His church upon the Apostle Peter based on their reading and under-standing of Matthew 16. Getting this answer correct is fundamental to who we are and to our faith and practice. The answer to this question is foundational to the church. Millions of people around the world do not believe the church is founded upon Jesus Christ. So, this section may seem simple to some, but we have to get this part right, to have the solid foundation to build our lives upon.
The Lord gave us a great illustration to understand this point in Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” Now, while thinking about this illustration in Matthew chapter 7, let’s look again at what Jesus says in Matthew 16:18 “upon this rock I will build my church”. So, the church was founded upon an unmovable large strong rock suitable for an eternal foundation, not a small pebble, not something that could be picked up and thrown, but a solid permanent, stable, eternally secure rock. Now with this thought in mind the rest of Matthew 16:18 makes sense “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
As mentioned earlier, some people and churches will say that Peter was that rock Jesus was referencing building His church upon. One way they get this thinking and this belief from is John 1:42 “And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.” Now let’s look at Matthew 16:17-20 “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.”
The following comment on this passage from The Bible Knowledge Commentary sums up the issue:
“Peter’s words brought a word of commendation from the Lord. Peter was blessed because he had come to a correct conclusion about the person of Christ and because great blessing would be brought into his life. The Lord added, however, this was not a conclusion Peter had determined by his own or others’ ability. God, the Father in heaven, had revealed it to him. Peter was living up to his name (it means “rock”) for he was demonstrating himself to be a rock. When the Lord and Peter first met, Jesus had said Simon would be named Cephas (Aram. for “rock”) or Peter (Gr. for “rock”; John 1:41-42).
But his declaration about Messiah’s person led to a declaration of Messiah’s program. Peter (Petros, masc.) was strong like a rock, but Jesus added that on this rock (petra, fem.) He would build His church. Because of this change in Greek words, many conservative scholars believe that Jesus is now building His church on Himself. Others hold that the church is built on Peter and the other apostles as the building’s foundation stones (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14). Still other scholars say that the church is built on Peter’s testimony. It seems best to understand that Jesus was praising Peter for his accurate statement about Him and was introducing His (Jesus) work of building the church on Himself (Jesus).“
I Corinthians 3:11 “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Albert Barnes, in his New Testament Commentary, made the following comment of Christ being the foundation of the church “Christ is often called the foundation; the stone; the corner stone on which the church is reared, Isa 28:16; Mt 21:42; Ac 4:11; Eph 2:20; 2Ti 2:19; 1Pe 2:6. The meaning is, that no true church can be reared which does not embrace and hold the true doctrines respecting him–those which pertain to his incarnation, his Divine nature, his instructions, his example, his atonement, his resurrection, and his ascension. The reason why no true church can be established without embracing the truth as it is in Christ, is, that it is by him only that men can be saved; and where this doctrine is wanting, all is wanting that enters into the essential idea of a church. The fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion must be embraced, or a church cannot exist; and where those doctrines axe denied, no association of men can be recognized as a church of God. Nor can the foundation be modified or shaped so as to suit the wishes of men. It must be laid as it is in the Scriptures; and the superstructure must be reared on that alone.”
Phillip Doddridge also had a great comment of Christ being the foundation of the church and our faith – “This is all indeed that remains to be done; for other solid foundation no one is able to lay beside what is already laid, which is Jesus Christ, the great foundation-stone which God hath laid in Zion, elect and precious; and I take it for granted, no one who calls himself a Christian will attempt to lay any other.” Phillip Doddridge was a preacher of the Gospel in England until his death in 1751. He declined becoming part of the church of England and instead became an independent Pastor leading an independent congregation separate from the church of England. He did this because he felt there should be no earthly hierarchy over the church and that only One should have the preeminence over the local church and that was Christ and Christ alone. (Colossians 1:15-19 – Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 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: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 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. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;)
THE ESSENTIALS OF THE CHURCH (Matthew 16:13-19)
In this passage in Matthew 16, Christ focused on the essentials of the church. The essentials to a car are the engine, transmission, brakes and electrical system. If you do not have these basic essentials of a car, having just a steering wheel and some tires does not get you anywhere. Christ spoke the words in our passage of study to men He took time to disciple. So, discipling is definitely an essential of the church, Christ also commands as much in Matthew 28:18-20. Christ told Peter that the only reason he stated the correct answer to His question was because the Father illuminated his mind to the right answer. Christ must always be the head of the church, as He is the one that founded it and is the foundation of it (Ephesians 1:22-23). Another essential of the church is the involvement of the Holy Spirit; He must be in the midst of the church, He must be inhabiting the Christians in the church, because you have to be saved to be part of the church. The Holy Spirit does the work of illuminating the Word, which is another essential of the church, to those who are saved, salvation of one’s soul is an essential aspect of one being part of the church.
The number one essential of the church is Christ. Unless Christ is the center of everything in the church, there is no point in doing anything. It can be compared to a person believing in Christ for salvation, but not believing in the resurrection or life after death, what is the point then? Not having Christ in the center of all the church does is like being alive but choosing not to have a heart or lungs. You won’t be alive very long without them and a church that neglects to put Christ in the center of all it does won’t be alive very long either.
Christ must be everything He says He is or He is not Christ at all (I John 4:4 – Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.) Reading the Bible while practicing what it says is essential, loving others while serving them, so they can come to know Christ and be more like Him, is essential.
The church is the only place that Christ is the head of and the place He is directly attached (Ephesians 1:22-23 – And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.) It is a place to call the elders together to pray for healing (James 5:14-16). It is the place you discover your spiritual gifts and use them to serve others and minister to a hurt and broken world. It is the place the Pastor can be found to help minister to broken lives. It is the place where Christ wants His death to be remembered (I Corinthians 11:24-26). The church is the pillar and foundation of truth. The building of the church is where the family of God gathers each week and it is where love matters most (I John 4:8 – He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.)
H.W. Beecher says that “some churches are like lighthouses, built of stone, so strong that the thunder of the sea cannot move them…” The light that shines form these churches is the light of Christ shining through His believers. Sinners are not reached solely through the church’s ceremony, pomp, beautiful music or largeness – they are reached through the Christ-likeness of its individual members.
We need the church as established by Christ, the foundation of the church is the basis of everything, without it we have nothing to build upon. The foundation of the church is Jesus Christ. He is the head of the church, the founder of the church, the interceder for the church, and the Savior of the church. Everything centers on Christ, as should everything in our life too.
Psalm 34:17-19 “The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.”
Discouragement can come in many forms and can come at you from many different directions, including some directions you never thought it could come from. The Devil loves to use this tool, I believe it to be one of his favorite weapons of choice. Discouragement can be caused by being disillusioned about something you never expected to be disillusioned about, or you always assumed it would not be, or you just plain never thought about it much even though you knew this particular source of discouragement could come, you preferred not to think about it.
Once we start to dwell on this source of discouragement we start to give the Devil a foothold into our mind and spirit. He will then seek to deepen this feeling of discouragement, he will seek to deepen the hurt that may have led to it, he will seek to make you think about it over and over again so it will lead you to deeper discouragement and even to despair.
We need to be on the lookout for this trap of his. We need to be on guard against this area of attack. Your present source of discouragement is only one mishap or event in your life of many more to come that will cause you some discouragement. Disappointment is part of life. It does not mean dealing with it is not difficult, it is, but it does mean you need to look at the big picture or life and not dwell on this one event and make it bigger than it really is.
When you get discouraged, look to the Lord, look to His Word, look to His many promises He has given us in His Word. Nowhere does the Bible promise us a perfect carefree, worry-free, discouragement free life, but is does promise that we will never have to face these situations alone, we will always have the Comforter living within us, if we are saved, and the Lord will always be there with us, walking through that disillusionment with us.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture for such a situation, and one I turn to over and over again as I go through life is Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” Keep everything in perspective and trust the Lord to know what is best, trust Him to work out everything according to His will in the situation, trust His Word and use His Word to guide you through the difficult situation one step, and one moment at a time. Seek His face in prayer and poor out your hearts concerns to Him. He will provide you with true comfort and true hope for the next second, the next moment, the next day and the rest of your life.
Turn to the Lord with your disillusionment and discouragement and don’t let the Devil entrap you with these weapons of his. It is easy to fall into his trap of discouragement and depression, all of us are susceptible to this. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you notice you have fallen for these. A man after God’s own heart, David, also fell into these traps of Satan, but he eventually turned back to the Lord and that is what we need to do too. Trust the Lord with your disappointments, give them over to Him, rest in His comfort that only He can provide. (Hebrews 4:9-11 – There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.)
The Lord will see you through this trial, through this situation, He will see you through to the other side of this disillusionment. Just trust in Him, remember the answer to your prayers could come in unexpected ways, and from unexpected sources. Just be true to the Lord, He will help you to get past this moment and this situation in your life. (Isaiah 55:8-9 – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.) Encourage yourself in the Lord, just as David did in a great trial of discouragement and heartache, and the Lord will help you and encourage you, just as He did David. (I Samuel 30:6 – And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.)
I Corinthians 13:4-7 “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
True love, right love, godly love longs for a proper relationship, it longs for restoration if the relationship is broken, it longs for a consistent relationship, it longs for close relationships. Do we have this kind of love in the relationships in our life?
You know the saying that distance makes the heart grow fonder? Well by current personal experience I would have to agree with that. But that is on a temporal earthly level, it is through the perspective of man. When separated from family for long periods of time or by great distance or both, usually people begin to miss their family, they begin to long for their family, they begin to want to talk to them, text with them, see them face to face. It is a natural thing for man to want and desire that which he cannot currently have and is unable to have due to certain circumstances he may be in. I, as of this writing, have not had any personal contact, except by phone, text or FaceTime with my family for a couple weeks now. I can tell you I miss them sorely. I want that relationship restored to its fullest as quickly as possible. I cannot wait to see them, I cannot wait to fellowship with them, I cannot wait to embrace them.
But how many of us feel the same way as I have described in the above paragraph concerning our relationship with the Lord? Do we long to see Him face to face, do we long to embrace Him and put our arms around Him? Do we long for restoration of a broken fellowship with Him we may have, do we long to talk with Him and tell Him about our day and our concerns? Do we desire to be united with Him? Are we willing to do anything and go to any lengths to have our relationship with the Lord be as great as it can be? – I would reply to these questions by sadly saying I think many of us do not have this same kind of longing and desire for a relationship with our Savior as we do for our family. When our relationship is interrupted or a separation of distance or time has occurred we long for our family; do we long for the Lord in the same way? Do you love the Lord less than your family, as much as your family or more than your family? Jesus asked a similar question to Peter “lovest thou me more than these?” Do we… do we truly love the Lord like we should? Do we truly long for the kind of relationship with the Lord like we should?
Does our Savior, who possesses perfect love for us, feel the same way toward us when we have grown distant from Him as we do when our relationship with our family is distant? Does He long to see us restored in fellowship with Him again? Does He want that face time with us to be restored? Does He long to hear our prayers directed at Him? Does He mourn when fellowship with us is broken? – I would say yes to all of these questions. So now start thinking of your relationship with God with an eternal perspective. Just as I am longing to see my family as soon as possible and I only have human imperfect love toward them; imagine how the Lord longs for a consistent and loving relationship with us as He possess perfect love toward us.
Are you making your Lord mournful as a result of your flippant, irreverent, inconsistent and lackadaisical attitude you take to your relationship with Him? That would be a terrible thing, a terrible sin to be guilty of. The Lord longs for a great relationship with us, much more than I, an imperfect vessel, longs for a face to face restored relationship with my family. This distance I now am experiencing from my family has given me a different perspective and understanding; and the Lord has used this separation of distance, in my family relationship, to teach me about how He must feel when we let our relationship grow distant with Him. How must God feel when we are so uncaringly distant in our relationship to Him. I pray that we all consider and examine ourselves to determine if our relationship with the Lord is how it should be and how the Lord told us it should be. (II Corinthians 13:5a – Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves…)
Why don’t you take some time to examine the status of your relationship with the Lord and determine if you are as close to Him as you should be? I would say all of us could have a better relationship with the Lord, all of us could draw closer to Him. Are you causing rejoicing in Heaven because of the status of your relationship with the Lord? Or are you causing a deep sadness, grief and disappointment in Heaven based on the status of your relationship with the Lord? Are you grieving the Lord with the current state of your relationship with Him, with how you act toward Him, with how you communicate or don’t communicate with Him? (Ephesians 4:30 – And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.)
Most importantly have you ever even established a relationship with the Lord? Have you ever accepted Him as your personal Savior? We all need to make sure of our salvation, then with the Lords help and the help of the Holy Spirit living within us after we are saved strive to keep that relationship with the Lord unbroken and constantly growing in love and dedication as we should strive to do the same with our family. (I John 5:13 – These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.)
BEWARE OF THE COMFORT ZONE
A comfort zone is exactly as it sounds; it is a zone of comfort. It is a place you like to be or at least you are used to being and are unwilling to step out of it. It is not necessarily a set location or occupation, but it could be, it is more or less a certain set of circumstances you live in, that you have decided is a good place, or a good enough place to be, or even possibly just have settled into, without ever consciously deciding to do so. The Comfort Zone is not always a place of comfort though, as paradoxical as that can sound to some, but it is an accurate statement, the Comfort Zone is not always comfortable. I know of people, myself at times included, that were not actually very comfortable in their comfort zone. I know some reading this are thinking I am saying two things at odds with each other, but I am not. A Comfort Zone is not always a comforting place to be or to live in, and here is the condition that makes all I just rambled about make sense, a Comfort Zone is not always a comforting place to be if we are living in it outside of God’s will for our life. Do we actually live like we believe what the Lord says in Matthew 6:10 “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” If we are to live out this verse chances are you will not visit the comfort zone very long. The Lord likes to stretch us to get the most out of us for His glory and His kingdom and for His will.
Acts 2:14, 41-42 “But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:” & 41-42 “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
In the Book of Acts we read how the Apostle Peter preached and 3,000 souls were saved in one day; but that never would have happened if Peter had not first been willing, by simple faith in Jesus Christ, to step out of his comfort zone. Peter was a fisherman by trade and that kind of life was his comfort zone. God was able to use Peter once he stepped out of that life. Peter was a rough kind of character, he was impulsive and unpolished, but God was able to use him. God did not call Peter when he was trained, ready and willing to leave his comfort zone to serve Him. God called Peter, when he was untrained, rough around the edges and personally unable to do what God was calling him to do. But that is what God does, He delights in calling those the world would never call, God delights in using those who are unable in mans perception to do the thing God is calling them to do. God delights in using those who are simply willing to obey that call, leave their comfort zone, and trust God to enable them to do what He is calling them to do. Fortunately that is exactly what Peter did; were there some hiccups along the way – yes there usually is. We are frail and weak sheep that need our Lords help. The hiccups usually occur when we think to ourselves “we got this”, and it turns out we don’t. We always need the Lords enabling to do His will with our life. (I Timothy 1:12 – And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;)
Now do you trust the Lord to enable you? Or are you choosing rather to live your life in the status quo and miss out on what God has for you? If you are comfortably living outside of God’s will for your life, you are comfortably living in a sinful state, choosing your will over God’s will. When someone chooses their will over God’s will, who then is the God of their life? Who is on the throne of the person’s life if they are choosing their will above God’s will? Is it themselves or is it God? When someone chooses their own will over God’s will they are putting themselves on an importance level above God. Who else in Scripture did the same thing? I can think of one example, and he is not someone you would want to be compared with, Isaiah 14:12-15 tells us about this “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Have you chosen your will for your life over God’s will, so you do not have to leave your comfort zone? Don’t make your comfort zone your God, don’t put your will above God’s will. Repent of this great sin of subordinating God’s will to your will, if you have done so, and immediately submit yourself to the will of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. (James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.)
Don’t lose hope though if you have currently chosen comfort zone living over God’s will for your life. I dare to say most of us have at some point in our life chosen the comfortable status quo over trusting in the leading of the Lord. The most important thing to do is once you recognize this in your life you need to then choose God and begin the prayer and counsel needed to determine your next step on your adventurous life of living for the Lord, and putting your full trust and confidence in Him. Trust Him with your comfort and happiness and stop trusting in your Comfort Zone; trust God with your future and with your needs and not your Comfort Zone. This needs to become a practice throughout our life, and upon examining my life I remember several distinct moments in my life where I just trusted God and took that leap of faith. I went way, and I mean way out of the comfort zone I was in, and just by faith and faith alone in God, jumped into His will for my life. I hope we all can recognize moments in our life like that too, where we just simply trusted in the leading of the Lord and willingly and enthusiastically jumped into the Lord’s will for our life.
I wish to challenge you to think of what comfort zones you have in your life; are they of the Lord? Or are they of your own making? Watch out and diligently consider if that comfort zone that came to your mind is actually in accordance to God’s will for your life. Do you even consider God’s will in your decision making, as you build your comfort zone or is it all done according to your own will? If you are sensing the Lord trying to tell you something or guide you to something, don’t try to block it out, don’t ignore it, and don’t try to give God some advice on His will for you. Just seek to get assurance of it as quickly as possible and formulate your plan of action to expeditiously pursue His will for your life, no matter what that pursuit of God’s will does to your comfort zone. Make Jesus Christ and His will the preeminent factor in your life. Determine to ensure that your affections are off your comfort zone and that they are actively pursuing Christ and His will for your life. (Colossians 3:1-2 – If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.)
So how do we do this? How do we make sure we are living according to God’s will for our life and not according to our own will? I would think the best thing to do is to follow the examples set for us in Scripture. What did Abraham do when he was trying to determine the will of God, what did Moses do, what did David do, what did so many others do when they were trying to determine the Lords will for their life? Simple…. they prayed, they sought counsel, they searched the Holy Scriptures and in many cases they waited on the Lord for the answer, for the assurance in the next step in pursuing God’s will. So we should at least do the same, there is nothing better than good old fashioned prayer and lots of it in determining the will of God for our life. God speaks to us from His Word, if you are not reading His Word on a consistent basis how do you expect to hear from Him? Sometimes the Lord just wants us to wait, are you willing to do that? The Bible tells us in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom. For me, I personally seek out trusted Godly men to talk to and pray with and request prayers from whenever I need to make a decision that I think the Lord may be leading me into. You will never determine the will of God for your life if you are not willing to pray like you should, if you are not reading your Bible like you should, if you are not willing to wait on the Lord like you should and if you are not seeking counsel like you should. Be on the lookout for those comforts zones of life and always seek to be living for the will of God and not the comfort zone and trust the Lord’s enabling to do so.
One final question, why you ask, should we be willing to leave our Comfort Zone? Why should we be willing to do whatever the Lord leads us to do or to go wherever the Lord leads us to go? Why is this so important? Why should we be in submission to the Lords will for our life, why do we need to lay all on the altar of sacrifice for our Lord? – One simple answer exists to all the why questions a Christian could think to ask the Lord for leaving our zone of comfort and that is this “because he first loved us” I John 4:19b. We ought to love Him, “because he first loved us” and this ought to motivate us to desire His will and motivate us to translate that desire into the action of doing His will, to follow His leading, to go where He wants us to go and to be what He wants us to be.
One last practical application, you may be thinking how does all of this apply to me right now, in the situation I am presently in? Maybe you are still in your parent’s home, maybe you are older, maybe you already know I am where I am supposed to be, or maybe you have no control over the circumstances you face and could not presently change them no matter what you did. You still need to be willing to step out in faith and leave that “comfort zone” you are in. You may say the state I am presently in is not something I would call comfortable, you still need to approach God with a submissive and contrite heart and be willing to be used by Him, be willing to speak up for Him, and be willing to witness and be a testimony for Him right where you are at. As long as you have that attitude of willing faithful submission to the Lord you will be amazed at what He can do with your life. There are no circumstances too big that the Lord could not change, there is no obstacle too large that the Lord could not remove, and there is no mountain too high that the Lord could not help you to climb. You may be in a terrible valley right now, but the Lord can change your circumstance in an instant. God will not only enable you to change and to trust Him and to do what He wills you to do, He will also, in His time, influence the situations of your life to change. He can change the path of your life when you cannot and when you least expect it, so you can do what He wills for you to do with your life, in whatever state of life you find yourself in. We just need to trust Him. Beware of the Comfort Zone and beware equally of not trusting the Lord to be able to change what you cannot. If you are truly walking with Christ you will not be in that Comfort Zone very long, for He is always willing us to grow for Him and to learn something from Him, we just need to do our part and trust in Him and obey His will and direction. (Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.)
II Corinthians 13:11 “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”
Sometimes the Lord ordains the sun to set on one chapter of your life, just so a new chapter can begin. You know the saying “All good things must come to an end”? Saying goodbye to people you love, to people you have co-labored with, to people you have ministered to, to people who have gone through thick and thin with you, and to family whom you love dearly, is a very hard thing to do. Saying goodbye is a very sad thing to do, it can be a very heart wrenching thing to do. You never realize how good you had it sometimes, until it comes to an end. The Lord brings us into people’s lives for a reason, we do not always know why, and we may never know why, but the Lord does all things for a reason, for a purpose, for an eternal purpose, the Bible teaches us that His ways are above our ways, well it is hard to accept His ways sometimes. It can be emotionally trying to accept the change that sometimes comes into our life. (Ecclesiastes 3:1 – To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:)
I have had to say goodbye to people, to situations, and to family in the past, and it never gets easy. Each time I say goodbye it feels like a little of yourself is left in those people, in those circumstances or in that setting. If you have been ministering to a group of people, you have watched over their souls, you have brought their names to God in prayer, over and over again. When you see them and talk to them you are watching for any little indication of how they are doing spiritually and you try to minister to them in some way. Life is not always a happy situation; life comes with its share of sad goodbyes, as well as its share of happy tomorrows.
I had to tell the news of my imminent departure to the group of people I have been pouring my life into for the last six years recently, and if it were not for the strength the Lord gave me at that moment I spoke the words, letting them know I would soon be leaving, I could not have told them on my own. The Lord provided the strength for the goodbye, just like He provided the strength and the wisdom all those times I taught them, and sought to minister to them in some way. The Lord is my strength, I shall not be moved, unless it is the Lord who is the one moving me. My parting admonition to them would be what Paul said in Ephesians 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”
The Lord orders the steps of a good man, the Bible teaches us. Looking back over the years of my life, I can see the Lord neatly and in a very organized way ordering my steps, training me along the way, and preparing me for His service. It may have taken a lot longer in my case to get me ready for what He was wanting to do with my life, I kept thinking throughout my early years, I was just too shy, I was too unusable to do anything of real consequence for the Lord. Boy was I wrong, everything we do every ministry we have, no matter how big or how small, if we are doing it for the Lord, is of great consequence for Him, and for His kingdom.
I can see how all the ministries I have participated in, all the secular jobs I have held, all the schooling I have taken, all of it was ordered and designed providentially to train me, to equip me, to enable me for the ministry God had, in His loving and providential wisdom, had willed me to do. Do not ever think you are unworthy for the service of the Lord. I, of all people, should not be able to do what I am doing and will soon be doing for the Lord, it is definitely not a natural thing for me to stand in front of people and talk, leading others is not something I have ever strived to do, but all throughout my life, God has put me into leadership position, after leadership position, all without my trying to attain that position. I always tried not to be the leader or supervisor or manager, but I always inevitably would end up in that position. I never wanted to stand in front of people and talk, but over the course of my life, the Lord has put me in that position over and over again. He had a plan, and He wanted me to know clearly it was not of myself, that I was able to do this or that for the Lord, it was and will continue to be, all by the Lords enabling that I have been able to do this or that for the Lord and that is how it will continue in my life. (I Timothy 1:12 – And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;)
Goodbyes are sad, goodbyes are hard; goodbyes though mean a new beginning is around the corner. When we say goodbye to a loved one, who is entering eternity with Jesus, it is sad, it is hard for us; but they have just entered a new glorious beginning to a new and joyous chapter of their life. They get to see Jesus, they get to worship their Savior face to face, they get to wrap their arms around their Saviors neck and sob tears of joy and thankfulness to Him, what a glorious future Christians have to look forward to. Goodbyes when we change locations are also truly sad, these can be stressful as well, but look toward the Lord, look toward Him for guidance, for help, for comfort and for joy. He will help you to adjust to the change, He will lead you into the paths of righteousness, He will not suffer us to be lost along the way. He will encourage you if you let Him do so. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and all your being and all your soul, and do not lean on your own understanding of the situation, instead lean on God and trust His sovereign will and His sovereign understanding of the whole situation, of the big picture in our life.
Goodbyes are hard, but the Lord is bigger than any goodbye we may ever have to face, just point your face to His and just trust and obey His direction in your life, “Finally, brethren, farewell.”