The Whole Armor of God Our lives are involved in a daily battle, fought not against people who may aggravate and challenge us but rather spiritual battles fought against unseen demonic foes whose assignment is to fill us with fear, anger and frustration. On our own, we cannot defeat these powerful foes. However. protected by the armor of God, we are victorious. Our faith in God brings victory.
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 8:26-27)
“We will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” ~Acts:15:11
Law or grace? Now that we have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, don’t we still have to try living by the Law? Can we simply turn our backs on what God gave His people through Moses? I hear Christians refer to meeting on the Sabbath, meaning Sunday; or for some, Saturday. Which is proper and what does God expect from Christians today?
Faith in Jesus Christ brings righteousness (apart from the law) to all who believe!
(Romans 3:19-26) “The law commands many things. We know that those commands are for those who are under the law. This stops all excuses and brings the whole world under God’s judgment, because no one can be made right with God by following the law. The law only shows us our sin. But God has a way to make people right with him without the law. And God has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all are the same. All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory. People are made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith. And all of this is because of the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair. God was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And God gave Jesus to show today that God does what is right. God did this so that he could judge rightly and also make right any person who has faith in Jesus.” Realizing how difficult it is for Jews, who have been taught that following The Law is essential, Paul uses strong language to explain that faith in Christ is what justifies everyone…Jew and Gentile. (Gal. 2:15-16) “You and I are Jews by birth, not sinners like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” One of the most powerful explanations of the difference between law and grace is verse twenty-one: (Gal. 2:21) “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.”
Beginning chapter three, Paul slaps the Galatians in the face with this powerful point: (Gal. 3:1-4) “Foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of His death on the cross. Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”
Pounding the message home further, Paul’s fervent love and concern for the Galatians continues in verse 5, “I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.”
A scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (Mark 12:28-31) Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”
In the Gospel of John, Jesus emphasizes the importance of love as a command:
(John 14:15; 15:9, 17) “If you love me, you will obey what I command…As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…This is my command: Love each other.” “Love each other.” Sounds easy, especially when we are not frustrated with each other; when all is going well; when we are in agreement; when we’re not stuck in traffic in the pouring rain and the gas gauge is hovering over empty! God’s example of love is the innocent Jesus dying on the cross. Love is sacrifice
“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Phillip was introduced to Christ at a small California church when he was nineteen. He was thrilled to find something worthwhile at last. His life had been mundane, unsettled and filled with a roller coaster of emotions as he looked for some kind of answer; something that made sense. And now he’d found it…Jesus Christ, God’s Son; and now his Savior. What a relief.
But, as it does, life moves on, carrying each of us along the strong current of circumstances, failures, needs, crashing businesses and broken hearts. Phillip had not tended to his newborn faith. He’d not watered with the words of the Bible. He had not learned to pray to dispel the weeds of doubt and uncertainty. In short, Phillip returned to what was convenient in handling the problems of life, what he had learned, even though his methods were faulty and weak. In a few years, Phillip’s faith was a distant memory. Change was no longer a possibility for him, he was alone in this troubled world, setting aside the only hope he had.
Faith in Christ, however, does bring the possibility of change, change that is permanent and eternal. In Phillip’s case, his daily struggles weighed heavily on him as his faith in Christ became more distant. His Bible sat beside his chair, unopened and unread. He was facing life on his own while his only hope lay in the unopened Bible beside his chair. Phillip was not protected, he was vulnerable. The armor of God, provided for every Christian, lay in a heap, collecting dust beside his chair also.
Phillip represents any Christian who has given up the battle to make the best choices in life even though God has prepared everything needed for victory. We are not alone in this fight which means if we are not victorious it is our choice, our fear, our laziness. Victory, however, is just a prayer of repentance away. The Holy Spirit is armed and ready to defend and guide every Christian. God has not abandoned us–we have turned our backs on Him when we refuse to listen to the Holy Spirit and make all our own choices. Don’t forget, when we are weak (giving up our own strength), then we are strong (through dependence on Christ).
2 Corinthians 12:10
That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.
Victory takes effort. Willie Davenport, who won the 110-meter high hurdles at the 1968 summer Olympics, came back from a severe injury to compete in the 1976 Olympics.
”It was the semifinals of the A.A.U. outdoor championships in 1975,” he recalled in an interview with Red Smith of The New York Times four years later. ”Taking off for a hurdle, I busted a tendon in my left knee. I had surgery the next day, and two days later I had a blood clot in my right lung. The surgeon wasn’t very optimistic. He told me I would walk with a limp and should forget about running. That was June. By January I was hurdling again, and that summer I won the Olympic bronze.” At 33, Davenport was the oldest competitor, ten years older than his fellow American, who was fourth.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17
So stop evaluating Christians by what the world thinks about them or by what they seem to be like on the outside. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, merely as a human being like myself. How differently I feel now!When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun!
Our lives as Christians require daily practice—daily workouts at the Faith Gym. Life is an accumulation of daily and hourly events, decisions, actions, thoughts and choices. God has given us everything we need to make the changes—but it does take practice and effort.
“Your words were found and I ate them. . .” Jeremiah 15:16
After fasting forty days and forty nights Jesus was hungry. Incredibly hungry! His body would have been screaming for sustenance. In one translation it says, “And the tempter came to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3)
Have you ever been really hungry? So hungry you are weak and not sure when your next meal would come? Most of us have not, short of being lost or imprisoned. But even in prison, the captives are usually fed. One thing I do know, the farther between meals we go, the weaker and more vulnerable we become. And that is where Jesus was…weak. Satan could tempt him with food, or so he thought.
Instead, Jesus called upon the Word of God (Deut. 8:2-3) and replied, “It is written, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:1-4)
Is God my food? Do I see that God’s word is the basis of my very life? Is it like food and water to my soul? Or has it become an occasional snack when I feel those slight hunger pangs a few times a day. You know, those times when a few bites will do. Do we savor every morsel He’s written or do we approach his banqueting table as a buffet, picking and choosing the bits we prefer?
The prophet Isaiah proclaims this, regarding the birth of Christ our Lord: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)
2 Tim. 3:16 “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for re-setting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living. The scriptures are the comprehensive equipment of the man of God and fit him fully for all branches of his work.” – Phillips
1 Peter 2:1-2 “So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment.”
John 6:32-35 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “give us that bread every day.” 35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
John 6:57-58 “I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
Job 23:12 “I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.”
I knew a young man in the Navy who, after three years of good service went off the deep end, walked away from his duty assignments (more than once) and spent time in the brig (more than once). After getting his head straight, he was transferred to his final duty assignment, a Navy ship. On the first day, his immediate supervisor called him aside and said words something like this, “I know all about what you have done and I don’t care. I will judge you by what you do starting today. So if you want to get along here, just do your job and we will get along fine.” The sailor discovered that his supervisor was a man of his word which brought out the best in him. He was forgiven and was determined to show his supervisor how thankful he was.
Our walk with Jesus is like this relationship. He has taken our sins and forgiven us forever. Shouldn’t we show our Lord how thankful we are by devouring His word?
Jeremiah 15:16 “When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.”
“Are you sanctified?” bellowed the animated preacher, pointing and sweeping his right hand in a grand gesture to the church. “Are you sure? Are you holy? If you have any doubts you better come down to the altar and pray your way through! God is not happy with any fence sitters tonight. He means business and you better mean business too. You got to be sanctified to make God happy and get a golden key to your heavenly mansion.”
Terrified and confused people flocked to the altar, crying and begging God for the elusive sanctification, fearing they might miss the golden key awaiting those who have achieved sanctification, as the sweat-drenched pastor walked to and fro among them, satisfied with the response to his fear-packed message. Contrary to his threats and confusing statements, God was not happy with him or his misguided sermon. Believers do not receive sanctification as a result of fear or condemnation.
This very emotional and dramatic pastor should rather have claimed, “Your faith has made you whole and you are all sanctified (made holy) by the Holy Spirit!”
Let’s see what God’s Word has to say about our sanctification/holiness.
Romans 6:19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
1 Corinthians I:30-31 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
1 Corinthians 6:11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Along with the unimaginable grace and mercy of God’s provision for our sanctification, He also expects us to do our part, to work our faith in day to day circumstances. He has already done the impossible and has assigned us the possible such as making choices and slipping on His armor. We’re at war!
2 Corinthians 7:1 Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
1 Thessalonians 4:3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 As for us, we can’t help but thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation—a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth.
Hebrews 10:10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
Romans 15:16 I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.
Acts 26:18 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
Sanctification is not something we can beg God for at a church altar. Sanctification is a gift from God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Although a gift, God requires our involvement to make choices for purity and holiness. Even so, the Holy Spirit enables us to follow through on our Christ-like decisions.
On the surface, Chuck’s life seemed pretty good. Great job, wife and children. He had become a Christian in his early twenties and dedicated his life to understanding God’s will. Most recently, he was honored for his volunteer efforts in establishing a free food distribution system through their church, serving all who need a helping hand. The program grew each year as more and more people and organizations came on board. Yes, Chuck was highly esteemed among men.
“Something is wrong in my life, Bill, I struggle every day with overcoming Satan’s attacks and my own temptations,” Chuck said to his best friend, at their favorite local restaurant. “I feel as though I should have left all this stuff behind and yet the attacks are very powerful. What am I missing?”
Bill was an older man who also loved the Lord and had studied God’s Word intently. “You could be in the same place I once was, Chuck. When I was about your age I had many of the same feelings and struggles with sin and temptation that seemed insurmountable. I don’t mean to say I am never tempted today but there is a major difference now.”
“That sounds encouraging, Bill. What happened to bring about such a change?”
“The answer is simple but the challenge is in obedience and trust. You know what I am about to tell you but you’ve allowed yourself to neglect God’s instructions. You’ve sacrificed many things in your Christian walk, Chuck, but remember that verse in 1 Samuel 15:22, ‘To obey is better than sacrifice.’ And God has taken delight in describing the steps necessary for our victorious position as we fight the spiritual battle daily.”
“I’m on pins and needles, Bill. What am I missing?”
“Ephesians chapter 6! Beginning with verse 10, the apostle Paul, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, writes, ‘A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Tears filled Chuck’s eyes as he realized the simplicity and yet the challenge of obeying God’s instructions in this section of Scripture. Bill had opened a door to freedom and vital victory for him.
“And then Paul gets specific, ‘Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere”
“My friend, God has used you once again to shine His light of truth into my heart this morning. I am so excited to see the changes in my life as I walk in these verses, trusting in my Savior,” said Chuck.
“Praise God, Chuck. I love how God speaks to us through our fellowship. I like to visualize myself putting on the armor of God each morning. The more I take a few minutes walking through the steps outlined in Ephesians, the more powerful and encouraging it seems to be. Let’s pray.
“Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” ~ Luke 23:46
He knew before it happened. He and His Father were the only ones who did know. The knowledge brought great agony for Jesus, the perfect man, the Lamb led to slaughter. In the garden before he was arrested, he agonized over his obedience to the horrible, tortuous truth about to unfold. But even more unthinkable to Jesus was his brief separation from The Father…that terrible moment when He would become sin for the whole world. Was there any other way to accomplish what had to be done?
Luke 22:41-44 “Then He went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. “Father,” He said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me” (there must have been a long pause as the man Jesus waited for a reply different from what He knew to be God’s will). “Not my will however, but your will be done. Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. In great anguish He prayed even more fervently; His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
And then, in a tumultuous swirl, he was arrested, questioned, horribly beaten, convicted, condemned to death, mocked, hated, spat upon, forced to drag his own cross up crude roads, experienced excruciating pain of nails driven through his hands and feet as He was abruptly attached to the cross as the taunting continued…and then, amazingly, forgave the very people who did this to Him as life was passing from his body.
Luke 23:44-46 “Suddenly God blackened the brightness of the mid-day sun for three hours! At the same time, the huge curtain (approx. 60 feet high) hanging in the temple was torn in two (from top to bottom). Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father in your hands I place my spirit.” He said this and died.”
“Very early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James arrived at the tomb of Jesus to apply the spices and perfumes to his body. They found the stone rolled away and did not find the body of Jesus in the tomb. Suddenly, two men in bright shining robes appeared and the women bowed down to the ground.
“Why are you looking among the dead for One who is alive? He is not here; He has been raised. Remember what He said to you while He was in Galilee: The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.”
“Then the women remembered His words, returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest.” (Luke 22:44-46)
The impossible happened, Jesus was dead and is now alive. Just as the Bible predicted, He was resurrected from the dead. His sacrificial death, the blood of the Lamb of God, provides eternal life and forgiveness of sins to all who believe.
Perhaps you are more hesitant to believe such a story, perhaps you are like the apostle Thomas who proclaimed, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)
A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)
Now what? What is Jesus doing now, after His majestic resurrection? The answer is found in Hebrews 1:1-3 “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”
“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35)
“Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” (Romans 8:34-35)
“He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out…” John 2:15
It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the city, with shoppers looking for bargains and negotiating for the best prices. They learned to favor the tables and stalls in the portico of the church. It was cooler and one could take time looking over the animals, goods and produce. Although it was on church grounds, buyers knew these sellers were crafty and wily.
Because of the Passover feast, sales were brisk at the market as the people needed sacrificial animals. Commerce had crept into their worship so thoroughly that no one noticed; except for one man on this day.
Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem to celebrate The Passover and remember God’s deliverance from the Angel of death. The blood of an innocent lamb brought their deliverance, just as His blood, the Lamb of God, was about to deliver all people from the penalty of their sins.
John 2:14-16 In the temple he found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and he also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, he drove everyone out of the temple with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
After this shocking display the Jewish leaders demanded that he explain his behavior; to which Jesus said, “All right. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:19).” They didn’t understand he was referring to his own body.
Jesus broke the religious rules; he challenged the current ideas and demanded action from his followers. Walking along the seashore, Jesus called out to men, instructing them to lay down their lives right then and follow him. Not only did this cut off their earnings, it damaged the family business as well.
If Jesus barged into our church-world today, how would we receive him? If he showed up at a church bazaar, throwing tables and money about, what would we think? We would probably think he was crazy or too radical. We want church leaders who are more reasonable and predictable. We don’t want to be challenged to give up more and love more (especially to those who are slightly repugnant to us). We desire to feel comfortable in our church surroundings, smiling amiably to fellow members. We adamantly resist Jesus’ harsh light of truth exposing our easy going style of Christianity
Matthew 4:17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
Matthew 4:18-22 As Jesus walked alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” Right away, they left their nets and followed him. Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Jesus was the master of confrontation; the epitome of bluntness; his words penetrated the heart.
Matthew 7:24-27 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Matthew 8:21-22 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”
Matthew 16:22-23 Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: “God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.” But He turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stone that could make me stumble, for you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”
If an elder scolded a pastor today, such as Peter did to Jesus, the pastor would couch his reply in kind and gentle terms, not wanting to offend. And yet, Jesus pierced Peter’s heart with his words, even calling him Satan! In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me (John 7:16).”
Would it be different today? Is it? Do we expect God to work through us, through our church services, through our daily lives? Do we take up our cross daily? Are we willing to look foolish to the world; to the church, to our friends?
Luke 9:23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”
“Do not make an idol for yourself—no form whatsoever” Exodus 20:4
I’ll never forget the first new car I bought. I was so excited to finally have a brand-spanking new car. Shiny and clean. And I vowed to keep it that way. Even though I had a family and job, my red and white Volkswagen Bus was always clean. Rain or Shine! At a neighborhood meeting, I met a man for the first time who said, “Oh, you’re the guy who washes his bus in the rain. Boy, I thought, he is really dedicated.”
But that was the wrong description of what I was. I was obsessed. I was inching God a little off His rightful place of worship in my life to make room for my vehicle. I loved a man-made, metal box on wheels. I was dedicated to its well being. “See my shiny new bus? See how dedicated to keeping it clean and shiny I am?” God was not pleased.
How hard is it for us to let go of things and people we love? Very! But our Heavenly Father understands, which is why he provided Jesus as our Savior, the One who could overcome all the temptations for us. He knew and decided to commit Himself fully to us by sending Jesus to die in our place. “Amazing Grace, how could it be?” And yet, in the middle of His grace and mercy is our choice to be obedient. His death can only cleanse our sins if we choose to follow Him. Choose to be forgiven. And choose to walk in His way.
Matthew 4:10 “For the Scriptures say, You must worship the LORD your God and serve only Him.”
Matthew 16:24-29 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
How serious are we about following the Lord? “Here I am Lord, send me!” Is this our stand? Really? Have we counted the cost?
Matthew 10:32-42 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household!’
“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
“Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”
If we were in an audience listening to a person preaching on this subject, as they finished with this section of Scripture there would be silence in the room. Instinctively we recoil from these demands. Say it isn’t so, we quietly murmur. Surely not. God is not like this. He is a God of love. Indeed He is but He demands our absolute loyalty and focus if we are to walk on the path He’s set out before us.
Life is spiritual and the battle is intense! We are the messengers of the Lord on earth, carrying out our orders from On High. Soldiers in battle are acutely aware of the dangers and keep their senses keenly alert. A moment of lethargy could spell disaster or—death! And that, dear friends, is our life, until the Great and Mighty God calls us home.
Hebrews 12:1-4 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.”
“You cannot serve both God and money” Matthew 6:24
His dream had come true, Paul won the $202 million state lottery. He opted for the instant pay jackpot of $142.2 million. He was set for life. He promised himself he wouldn’t be like so many other winners who blew through their millions. Wise investments for him he told all is friends. He thought of himself as pretty cagy with investments and money management. After all, how could he blow through $142 million, even after about 24% in taxes? Bright and early Monday morning, Paul was in his company’s Human Resources office, giving his two weeks notice. “Paul, do you realize there is a 20% early withdrawal penalty on your retirement package? It’s pretty hefty on yours because of your years of employment. You can leave it alone and let it earn interest until age 65.” “Thanks, but I won’t be needing it anyway, I just won the $202 million lottery, Jane.” “Wow. How much is that after early withdrawal and taxes?” “Well, I actually take $106 million home. But that’s plenty for the rest of my life. I’m not going to just throw it all away, you know. Investments for me. I’ve always been pretty good with money.” Two weeks later, to mark his retirement and lottery winnings, Paul invited 50 of his friends to a party at the Hilton hotel. Not wanting to be cheap, he hired a band with full catering. He wanted everyone to remember him. The cost was $2,450! He was not going to be like those other losers who threw their winnings away. After their around-the-world tour, purchase of a $4 million house, $120,000 for two new cars, $80,000 for his new pickup, $135,000 for their splendid yacht, $785,000 for that cabin in the woods they had always dreamed of, Paul and his wife settled in for the perfect life of riches that was flowing their way. One year later, Paul and his wife were parting ways. She left with her share of the winnings and things they’d bought. Paul was depressed and lonely now in spite of his money and stuff. Five years later, after several business investment failures and a cheating accountant, Paul had $185,000 in the bank and no future earnings. He was only 52-years-old. The Bible warns us about depending on money, thinking it will bring satisfaction and happiness. It never will because true happiness comes from the joy of knowing the Lord. Worldly happiness is very elusive in this life. Using happiness as a bench mark for contentment will bring disappointment and sometimes, depression. Paul was jubilant when he saw his winning lottery numbers. But a few short years later he was discouraged and depressed. Matthew 6:19-34 19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. 20 Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value and are safe from thieves. 21 If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too. 22 “If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. 23 But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be! 24 “You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around. 25 “So my counsel is: Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and wear. 26 Look at the birds! They don’t worry about what to eat—they don’t need to sow or reap or store up food—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. 27 Will all your worries add a single moment to your life? 28 “And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. 29 Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith? 31-32 “So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, 33 and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. 34 “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time. Worry: Mark 4:18; Luke 10:41; Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7; Proverbs 12:25