Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
This passage declares that God would demonstrate his sovereignty by overthrowing the Chaldean Empire and bringing the Jews back to Palestine. He was the same God who made a path through the Red Sea for the Hebrews of the Exodus, and drowned the Egyptian chariots that pursued after them. But his coming deliverance was to eclipse even that in glory. For he would conduct the liberated Jews through the parched Syrian Desert, and cause it to put forth streams of water to quench their thirst (probably figurative for the sustaining provision he would grant the pioneers through their early years of privation and suffering).
This new beginning was going to be so great that they were to forget all that had happened in the past.
Jesus said a similar thing when in answer to a question John the Baptist’s disciples asked about His disciples not fasting. He answered, in essence by saying you can’t mix a new thing with the old. If you both the new and old will be destroyed.
Matthew 9:14-17 NIV Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
At another time Jesus told His disciples that they are living in a time that the prophets longed to see.
Luke 10:24 (NLT) I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”
New Wine in New Wineskins
We need new wineskins because God has new wine for us. Our mindsets cannot contain what God wants to do in and through us. It means letting go of what’s comfortable, what we can understand and do well, what we want to do – and letting God lead us into a whole new world of experiences. Jesus said “What I am bringing cannot be contained in your thinking right now”.
New Wine, New Wineskins helps African American congregations understand and benefit from the cultural shifts we are now experiencing. Many African American churches once thought they were immune to the cultural shock waves in our streets and neighborhoods. They simple argued that they have always been all about participation and being relational; yet like many churches, their numbers continue to decline. African American churches must find a way to reclaim their missional orientation, while at the same time remaining true to their historical identity and witness of speaking truth to power. The worthy goals of justice and bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ in this time, requires new practices and fresh ideas―new wine. The old framework just won’t work any more. We need new wine skins.
Last month I published the post “Why Should I Go To Church?”. In it wrote that the Church was a place to belong, and a place to believe. "Those who isolate themselves from other believers do so at their own peril, because the Bible tells us that it is important to get together, encourage one another, and correct one another.". . A true Christian will want to be around other Christians. After all, why should God go to your house if you won't go to His? A lot of us want all of the fringe benefits of Christianity without applying ourselves. - Greg Laurie (from "What Makes an 'Authentic' Christian?")
Dr. Charles Stanley gives us another reason to not “not neglect our meeting together”, Life Principle 28 of the YouVerson Reading Plan, Dr. Charles Stanley Life Principles To Live By, 30 Day Reading Plan from InTouch Ministries..
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Together in the Christian Life
Life Principle 28: No Christian has ever been called to “go it alone” in his or her walk of faith.
In Hebrews 10:25, the author makes it clear that believers should not stop meeting together. God wants us to regularly meet with other believers—He wants His people in church! There are those, however, who don’t take this admonition seriously. I’ve often heard this refrain: “I can worship God at home. I don’t need to go to church.” Many believe the sole reason we meet together is to worship—and understandably so. After all, we call it a worship service.
If worship were the only reason we’re commanded to meet, then those who claim they can worship at home would have a strong argument. But worship isn't the sole reason. Nor is it so we can be taught God’s truth. We can turn on our radios, televisions, and visit websites to hear sound biblical teaching. On the surface, it seems that anything we can do at church we can do just as well at home.
So why are we commanded to meet? Why go to church?
The writer of Hebrews says it’s to safeguard against drifting. We’re the body of Christ, and when we’re with other believers, we’re doing what comes naturally and what we’ll do for eternity—being together in His presence. We make up the church, and together we provide strength for one another through prayer, fellowship, and encouragement.
Enemy forces are always at work around us, seeking to blow us off course. Sheer individual commitment is not enough to keep us in line. We need the presence and accountability of other believers—and they need us. When we surrender our lives to Christ, He uses us in countless ways we may never know.
The accountability and encouragement found in church anchor us against the tides that work to sweep us away. To neglect the regular assembly of fellow Christians is to miss out on this essential element in the development of our faith.
Regular church attendance should never be viewed as something you do to gain God’s merit. Instead, it should provide the catalyst for spiritual growth. Ask God to lead you to a church that teaches the Word of God without compromising His truth and demonstrates His love, grace, and forgiveness to all. When He does, you will find He's led you to a church you can truly call home.
Today, February 21, 2018, Billy Graham, the most famous American evangelist of the 20th century went to be with the Lord. Several years ago Evangelist Graham said “When I die, tell others that I’ve gone to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—that’s where I am.” Billy Graham, who preached to millions of people all over the world in his life, was known as “America’s Pastor” because he preached during a time when the United States was less polarized politically and culturally. He became a spiritual adviser to presidents, developing friendships with Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, the Bushes and Bill Clinton.
I want to share a devotion written by Dr. Graham and originally shared by faithgateway.com, devotionalsdaily.
God is Love
by Billy Graham
Who can describe or measure the love of God? Our Bible is a revelation of the fact that God is love. When we preach justice, it is justice tempered with love. When we preach righteousness, it is righteousness founded on love. When we preach atonement for sin, it is atonement necessitated because of love, provided by love, finished by love.
When we preach the resurrection of Christ, we are preaching the miracle of love. When we preach the abiding presence of Christ, we are preaching the power of love. When we preach the return of Christ, we are preaching the fulfillment of love.
No matter what sin we have committed, no matter how black, dirty, shameful, or terrible it may be, God loves us. We may be at the very gate of hell itself, but God loves us with an everlasting love.
The proof? Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, went to the Cross for us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Please visit the Billy Graham memorial website (https://memorial.billygraham.org) to learn more about his life and legacy
Amen is a Hebrew word that comes from the Hebrew root ‘AMN’ which stands for stability and means ‘so be it’/’I agree’/’let it be so’. Thus, when we say ‘Amen’ at the end of our prayers, we are actually asking God to ‘please let it be as we have prayed’.
Saying amen at the end of our prayer is powerful. It states that whatever we may be talking to God about, it shall be so. We are telling God to let whatever we are concerned about be. Let it be and put it in God’s hands. We are transferring our burdens onto Him and granting Him to have it be as God wants it to be.
Saying amen gives me hope. This word teaches me that I am not figuring life out by myself. Every situation I find myself in, I can say amen, let it be so. I can say this because God is so loyal and trustworthy. There is no one else I would want to trust my burdens and prayers in. God is perfect and His will is perfect, therefore, let it be so in His grace.
Saying amen gives me peace. I have struggled with anxiety since I can remember. Anxiety has played a huge role in my life and has controlled me for years. When I am trusting God with my plans and dreams for my life, I am saying “so be it”. I am saying amen to God because I cannot control my life on my own. When I say amen, I am conquering anxiety. I am conquering my constant desire to be in control. My soul is at peace when I say amen.
Saying amen reminds me I am not in control. No matter how much I hate the fact that I am not in control, I love it. God controls my life and has a plan for my life. I make decisions, yes. I choose things, yes. But ultimately, God has supreme power over my life. I know that I am going to go through really hard times. I know that I will struggle. But, most importantly, I know that I can say amen in every circumstance. I know I can say “so be it”, because God never fails us.
Saying ‘Amen’ at the end tells God we’ve said a prayer that we really meant. It shows that we believe God has heard our prayer and will answer it in His perfect way.
Que será, será
Writer/s: JAY LIVINGSTON, RAY EVANS
Publisher: Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group
When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here's what she said to me
Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be
When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart, what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows
Day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said
Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be
Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome
Will I be rich
I tell them tenderly
Que será, será
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que será, será
What will be, will be
The lyrics of this song made popular by Doris Day, a long time ago (most of you have no idea who Doris Day was), say that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do your destiny is already set, there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing you do can change it. If that's true it would mean that if you are saved it was predetermined and nothing you do or have done could or can ever change it. If it is already predetermined that you will not be saved and will go to hell there is nothing you could or can ever change it. It would mean that, from the foundation of the world and well before you were born God predetermined you to heaven or hell. That doesn’t sound like the God of the bible who is described as being love.
1 John 4:8 (NLT) But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
It doesn’t sound like the God who is delaying the return of Jesus because He doesn’t want anybody to perish.
2 Peter 3:9 (NLT) The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.
While not the emphasis of this post I published Predestination or Free Will nearly three years ago. Here is what I said in that post;
“Because God is sovereign and omniscient or all-knowing He has known from before the foundation of the world who will be saved and have eternal life in His presence, and who will not be saved and be in eternal torment. Foreknowledge of those who will and will not be saved is not the same as predetermining who will and will not be saved. What is predestined, as shown in Romans 8:29, is that those whom God foreknew would be saved, will be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus. The choice of acceptance of that salvation is yours. Just like the slave who is confined to the slave ship has the choice to row or not row and to accept the penalty of not rowing, we have the choice to accept the sacrifice of Jesus as payment for our sins or to reject it and accept the penalty. The choice is yours. It’s God’s desire that all men be saved, but He has given us the free will to accept or reject salvation. Eternal life with God or eternal separation from Him is your choice. I urge and pray that if you haven’t done so please choose life.”
I recently completed a YouVerson Reading Plan Faith Vs Fate written by Pastor Lisa Singh Senior Pastor at Heavenly Grace Ministries in Queens, New York. It addresses the battle of fate versus faith and shows why faith wins.
Faith Vs Fate
In the world we live in, many people view their destiny as their Fate— or as the saying goes , “whatever will be, will be.” But as a believer, Faith is the word that should be part of our vocabulary, for faith is a gift given to men after they have put their trust in God and this faith can chart a different course for your life. Are you fate-driven or are you faith-driven ? I hope this plan will help you move from a fate to faith mindset!
When God created the human race, He created them in His image and likeness according to the book of Genesis in the Bible. Man was created in the likeness of his creator and as a result, God has written a good plan for our lives, but God does not dictate or demand that we take His way because He created us with the power to choose. The power to choose is what sets us apart from all other creations, and that is a lot of power we have been given when we really think about it. God had perfection in mind for us when He created mankind, but our first earthly father and mother—Adam and Eve, chose against God's best for them and as a result, perfection was tainted. But then, God the Father sent His son Jesus, the second Adam, to give us a second chance at choosing God's best, but today many people are still taking the path of the first Adam which will only lead to death. I hear the saying all the time from people who have not chosen Jesus as their Lord, "Whatever will be, will be." Have you ever heard that statement also? If we look deeper into that statement, it is actually bone-chilling to think that whatever happens in life was meant to be, but unfortunately that is the modus operandi of the world we live in. But I beg to differ that if this belief system is true, then what is the reason for prayer, quiet times with the Lord, fasting, or even going to church? If our lives were meant to be lived with this predestined path of unfortunate and tragic events with a few happy moments in between, then why would Jesus even need to come to earth to save us?
There is two beliefs system that many people live by in the world and one is fate and the other is faith. Fate is the will or principle or determining cause by which things, in general, are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do. Fate is also defined as something that unavoidably befalls a person or that which is inevitably predetermined: destiny. With this definition it gives the idea that if someone has a wonderful end to their destiny, it will happen to them no matter what and nothing they do can change it. This sounds great but on the flip side, if someone has a bad end to their destiny there is also nothing they can do to change it. This belief system sounds very flawed and very unfair. But it also shows that the author of our destiny seems to have biases and this is clearly not the God who created man in His image.
I believe God and His word, and if Jesus gave His life for us in the extent of such bitter and physical abuse even unto death to return us to the position of right standing with our Heavenly Father, then the belief system of "Whatever will be, will be" should have no space in our lives. When Jesus died and rose again from the dead our Heavenly Father not only gave us eternal life but He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ—(Ephesians 1:3 NIV). This suggests that though our destiny was derailed by Adam's wrong choice, now because of the position of Jesus, He has reestablished us to our destiny which can now be changed to the perfect plan God has for us and it is no longer "Whatever will be, will be"!
"I've seen dreams that move the mountains, hope that doesn't ever end, even when the sky is falling. I've seen miracles just happen, silent prayers get answered, broken hearts become brand new—That's what faith can do" ~ Kutless
Today we want to focus on the other belief system, and most believers live their lives by it—that is faith. The Greek word for faith according to Strong's concordance is pistis and it means "Firm persuasion"—a conviction based upon hearing. Strong's also notes, "Faith (4102/pistis) is always a gift from God, and never something that can be produced by people. In short, 4102/pistis ("faith") for the believer is "God's divine persuasion"'—and therefore distinct from human belief (confidence), yet involving it. The Lord continuously births faith in the yielded believer so they can know what He prefers, i.e. the persuasion of His will" (1 Jn 5:4 NIV).
From the definition above we can clearly see that faith is a gift given to men after they have put their trust in Him, and this faith isn't just given as a one-time gift but rather a continuous, growing, and progressive gift. I want you to pay close attention to the statement in the definition, "A conviction based on hearing". In fact, that is the way we get faith, the Bible tells us, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17 NKJV). True faith can only come by continuously hearing the words of Christ, the good news and the promises of God. The enemy of our souls (Satan) would love to engraft the erroneous belief of "Whatever will be, will be", but God's words are true and powerful and are able to chart a very different course for our lives even if we were heading for doom.
I am so grateful for the gift of faith because it changed my life, and I am praying it would change yours also. For many years I believed in fate, I believed my life was destined to doom and gloom, I believed I was useless because of the color of my skin and the texture of my hair, because of my lack of money, and educational background. I believed these lies because I constantly heard words of rejection, and the enemy magnified those words to me, and I was ready for and living a life of failure. Perhaps you are in a place where you are also listening to the lies of the enemy about your destiny, perhaps the enemy has convinced you because of the alcoholic history, or violent and abusive traits of your father, or maybe you come from deep poverty and have no education, or your family line is plagued with divorce and heartbreak. I don't know what your plight might be, but the God who created you does and if He was to speak to you right now I believe He would say, "Son or Daughter, I know your genealogy, history, and present but I have always had a good plan for you; would you trust me in this moment and forget all the lies you've been told? Today I want to give you a gift called faith and with it you can chart a different course for your life. It doesn't have to turn out how it did for the generations past, I offered them the gift but they didn't want it. Come to me, believe me, and I will give you rest."
Hebrews 11:1 NIV Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
1 John 5:4 NIV for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.
Romans 10:17 NIV Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Romans 12:3 NIV For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Matthew 11:28 NIV “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
"There is still One whose faith in you has never wavered. And how wonderful it is that that one should be Jesus Christ! It was a wonderful dream God dreamed, Christ says when He created you; it was a stately being that was in His mind when you were fashioned, and I can make you all He meant that you should be." ~ A. J. Gossip
Faith pleases God
When I think about pleasing God it brings delight to my soul now, but it was not always that way. Because of the many negative teachings I heard while growing up about God, the term "Pleasing God" was anything but delightful; in fact, I would say there was more fear associated with the statement. I think this stems from my own personal experience I had with the lack of a father figure in my life, so it was easy for me to adopt the notion that God was hard to please and that drained my soul. But now, being married to a wonderful man and having two children of my own, I have been able to see the love of a father through their eyes; as a result of this revelation, my relationship with my heavenly father has become delightful. When we understand that God loved us even while we were rebellious to Him, there is really nothing more we can do to please Him for acceptance, but the pleasing Him now flows from the gift of faith that shows Him how much our confidence is in Him. My kids do not have to please me for me to love them more; my love was fixed from the moment I laid eyes on them and nothing they do can make me love them less or more.
When our kids do something out of love and appreciation for us, that moves us to magnify our love in that moment where our hearts are pleased. In the same way when we bring praise and thanksgiving, or just valuing time in God's presence pleases His heart also. Pleasing God is not hard and laborious work, but rather it is the exercising of faith in the One who is able to do the impossible. The Bible tells us God is a rewarder of those that seek Him (Hebrews 11:6 NIV). In other words, to please God doesn't require our works and ability in ourselves, but pleasing God is resting in who He is and His ability to do what he says He will do, and this faith is only maintained by reading, hearing and meditating on Him and His words.
In Hebrews 11, we read about the heroes of faith, and they were all very simple people like you and me but their confidence in God to come through for them, to do what He promised, is what etched their names in the hall of faith—they pleased God because they believed in Him. When we decide to put our trust and confidence in our Creator rather than in creation, we will be positioned to see mountains move, oceans parted, supplies never run dry, dead bones live and death defeated. One of the heroes of faith skipped death completely, and all we know is that He walked faithfully with God and one-day God took him (Genesis 5:24). How wonderful it would be to have our names engraved in the hall of faith in heaven. It's not too late my friends to please God—just come to Him, believe who He says He is, and watch Him do what He said He would do. Take the step of faith today and trust Him!
Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
Hebrews 11:5-6 NIV By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
"Faith looks not at what happens to him but at Him Whom he believes." ~Watchman Nee
Prompted by Faith
Faith is progressive. As we grow in our walk with God, and as we become more aware of His presence, and His promises, we begin to believe Him for greater things. When I first started my walk with God, I had little faith, and I would pray for things for myself and my family. I would ask for personal material needs, but I did not believe God wanted to heal my headache as much as He wanted to provide for me, so I would suffer physical pain because I didn't yet understand God could heal. As years went by and I began to study God's word, it opened up a vault of treasures that had been hidden in plain sight, and my mind began to understand the depth of love my Father had for me. My faith began to grow, and then I started believing God could heal me just like He healed so many in the Bible. Now I can say I have moved out of the small sphere into a larger realm of faith, and I know I still have some way to go, but now I believe God for nations, mass deliverance, and healings all because I increased my time I spent with God and meditating on His word.
In Hebrews 11 we also hear about the great man Moses; his life was extraordinary and he definitely lived a life of faith in God. But before Moses' life went into depth, there is a small mention of his parents. Moses's parents were slaves in Egypt and they lived in terrifying times; Pharaoh passed a law that all baby boys born in that time should be thrown in the river Nile, but the girls could live. Pharaoh was afraid he and his people would be overpowered by the Hebrew people. But Moses's parents refused to kill him, and they hid him for three months because they believed God was able to save him. The Amplified Bible says it this way, "[Prompted] by faith Moses, after his birth, was kept concealed for three months by his parents, because they saw how comely the child was; and they were not overawed and terrified by the king's decree." (Hebrews 11:23 AMPC)
The parents of Moses were from the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, and they were very familiar with the promise made to Abraham that they would one day have their own land and be a free people and because of the promises of God to their ancestors, they never lost hope or their faith. They trusted God to keep Moses, and God honored their faith in Him to do it. Moses's parents took a great leap of faith, and Moses ended up living like royalty in Pharaoh's palace and was still raised by his natural mother, all because his parents were prompted by faith in their God. Maybe today you are facing a situation that is detrimental with nowhere to turn and you feel hopeless. I want to encourage you today like Moses's parents to spend some time in God's presence reading His promises and let Him prompt you for the next move in your life; let go and let God because He has a plan!
"Faith is the willingness to risk anything on God." ~ Jack Hyles
Exodus 1:22 NIV Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Exodus 2:10 NIV When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”
Four Stages In Progressive Faith
Moses's story is always one of amazement, and his parent's faith is what preserved his life in order that he would one day become the deliverer of the people of Israel. I wonder what would have happened if Moses's mother decided to accept the fate that was presented to her at that time. I am sure God would have been able to raise up another person, but before the foundation of the earth, God had written the plan for Moses's life and He would look for partners of faith to bring his plan to fruition. I am sure glad Moses's parents didn't sit on the bank of the river Nile and say, "Whatever will be, will be."
Today as we come to a close, I want us to examine the scriptures in Hebrews 11 about Moses and pay attention to the words used in the Amplified Bible as the author describes Moses's journey.
1. Aroused faith (Hebrews 11:24 – 26 AMPC)
When our faith is aroused we will be able to
· Conquer the things of the world and refuse to be called a son of bondage (Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter).
· You will be able to take up the greater cause for Christ, and His church even if it means being cut off from being popular according to the world standards (Moses preferred to share in the oppression of his own people).
· To weigh your choices and make Godly decisions (Moses gave up the riches and comfort in bondage to have freedom with God).
2. Motivated faith (Hebrews 11:27 AMPC)
When our faith is motivated we will be able to
· Conquer fears of the present situations and circumstances and look to the One who promises (Moses left Egypt).
3. Simple faith (Hebrews 11:28 AMPC)
When we operate in simple faith we will be able to
· Depend on God as your only source of life, needs, protection, health, wholeness, and wealth (Moses instituted the Passover).
4. Urged on faith (Hebrews 11:29 AMPC)
When we are urged on by faith we will be able to
· Set the stage for miracles (with God's help Moses parted the Red Sea).
· Release everything into God's hands (Moses had total faith as he led the people of Israel in the dry path of the sea).
· See the enemy defeated by the very same thing that was your deliverance (Moses saw the Egyptian army drown in the Red Sea).
So you see my friends, faith is progressive but with every level, while there may be more difficult obstacles to overcome, it becomes easier to trust God who is bigger than our troubles. Faith catches God's attention because faith screams "I can't do this Lord but I know you can!" Without fail, God will show up at every juncture of faith. I pray that you will begin to live your life by faith and not fate.
1 Timothy 6:12 NIV Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Hebrews 10:23 NIV Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
"Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading."~ Oswald Chambers
Several years ago I published a post titled Take Responsibility, Stop Blaming The Devil And Use The Power And Authority That You Have In Christ. In that post I said that too many Christians blame every unpleasant thing that happens to them on the devil. We must start to take some responsibility for some, if not, most of those things. Realize that you have the power to resist the devil and the bible says if you do he will flee.
James 4:7 (NKJV) 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Here is something written in 2005 by Waynes Stiles and published by In Insight For Living Ministries. The article is very powerful and adds real meat to my 2015 past. I am including it in its entirety in this blog post.
The Devil Made Me Do It?
June 15, 2009
by Wayne Stiles
More than thirty years ago Flip Wilson kept America in stitches with his television characters “Reverend Leroy,” the friendly, pompous pastor of the “Church of What’s Happening Now,” and “Geraldine Jones,” the sassy African-American woman in a miniskirt. Whenever Geraldine would impulsively buy a dress—or do anything she shouldn’t—she excused her urge by uttering the line she made famous, “The Devil made me do it!”
America laughed at Geraldine for her obviously lame excuse. In fact, to say, “The Devil made me do it,” became the rage all over the country. Of course, we all know that the Devil wants us to sin, but everybody knew the truth.
Today we see a widespread theology that seems to be a strange mix between Reverend Leroy and Geraldine. We find ministries with leaders who point to the Devil and his imps for the sins that plague us. For example, one very radical ministry told a Christian woman who visited them that her problems came from a “legion” of demons within her, and in order to get rid of them, she needed to vomit them out right there in church! Others are told they have a “spirit of divorce,” a “spirit of lust,” “neglect,” or “procrastination.” These spirits are blamed for people’s sins, and the solution to these sins then becomes casting out the spirit causing them. Geraldine would be proud.
Frequently the Bible uses the word “spirit” to refer to a demon, often attaching a descriptive word or phrase such as “unclean spirit” (Mark 1:23), “evil spirit” (Acts 19:12-13), “spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:11), and “deaf and mute spirit” (Mark 9:25). Words such as “unclean” and “evil” describe the nature of the spirit itself. But phrases like “spirit of infirmity” and “deaf and mute spirit” describe the particular affliction the spirits cause. Unfortunately, many people launch from these verses into theological error when they confuse affliction with transgression, naming a demon after their sin.
The Bible never describes the work of demons in the lives of believers directly in terms of immorality. In other words, to say a believer has a “spirit of lust”—as if his real problem is a demon—assumes something the Bible never teaches. The demonic realm can influence a believer’s morality. However, God’s Word describes demonic influence in a believer’s life not as “possession”—or even “oppression”—but primarily as temptation.
In the Garden of Eden, God confronted the first man and woman after they sinned, and their reaction set the course for an entire race of blame-shifters.
The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12-13, emphasis added)
Adam blamed his wife (and God), but then confessed, “I ate.” The woman blamed the serpent, but then confessed, “I ate.” It’s always easier to point the finger at someone or something else when we sin. We even add influences like genetics and environment (“Genetics made me do it!”) to our arsenal of excuses. And while these may play a part in influencing us—along with demons—the final decision to sin lies squarely on our shoulders. In spite of the Devil’s initiative, God held Adam and Eve responsible for their own sins. The Devil enticed them, without a doubt, but he did not make them do it.
God’s solution to their sin did not come by blaming Satan. Instead God elicited a confession from the sinners, “I ate,” and provided a sacrificial death on their behalf, removing their shame (3:21).
Nothing has changed. God’s plan for removing our guilt involves removing the sin that caused it—not removing some “spirit of (insert your sin here).” In other words, when we recognize our sin and receive God’s provision through the finished work of Christ on the cross, we have the forgiveness we craved when we used to blame-shift to somebody else.
So, how should we respond to temptation? We must know and hold fast to the Word of God. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, the Devil again tried to muddle God’s Word, as he did with the woman in the garden. But Jesus not only knew the Scripture, He clung to it—and sent the Devil packing (Matthew 4:1-11). James 4:7 teaches us to employ the same strategy, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
Mark it down as a fact: We will always struggle with temptation in this life. But God has not left us alone in the struggle. He has provided all we need to defeat sin and Satan (Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 John 4:4). Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13), and He told the disciples, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). He has delivered us from sin’s power through His death and resurrection (Romans 6:1-14); He has provided the Holy Spirit to help us grow as we submit to the Word of God (Galatians 5:16); He has promised to limit our temptation to that which we can resist, and He always provides a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
We cannot cast out temptation. But we can resist. We have a great opportunity to glorify Christ by responding with faithfulness in the face of evil enticements.
Taken from Wayne Stiles, “The Devil Made Me Do It?” Insights (July 2005): 1-2. Copyright © 2005 by Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide.
The church doesn't talk about obedience much today. We talk about love, grace, praise, thanksgiving, blessings, peace, joy, all the good things that come with salvation. However we don't talk much about how to get the most out of our relationship with God which is through obedience.
God is our heavenly Father and as with any parent He wants the best for His children. Because children don't always know what's best for themselves a loving parent sets down some rules which if the child obeys will enhance their odds for success. Obedience will teach them how to get along with others and keep them safe. Rules are needed to provide discipline until children learn to discipline themselves. For Christians obedience is part of the sanctification process which will be complete when we are with the Lord, at death or, on His return to the earth. Until then when we obey we are blessed.
When children obey their parents it makes them happy. It’s the same with our Heavenly Father. When we obey it makes Him smile.
God Smiles When We Obey Wholeheartedly
Daily Hope with Rick Warren - January 27, 2018
“Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord. As long as I live I’ll wholeheartedly obey” (Psalm 119:33-34 TLB).
God smiles when we obey him wholeheartedly. That means doing whatever God asks without reservation or hesitation. You don’t procrastinate and say, “I’ll pray about it.” You do it without delay. Every parent knows that delayed obedience is really disobedience.
God doesn’t owe you an explanation or reason for everything he asks you to do. Understanding can wait, but obedience can’t. Instant obedience will teach you more about God than a lifetime of Bible discussions. In fact, you will never understand some commands until you obey them first. Obedience unlocks understanding.
Often we try to offer God partial obedience. We want to pick and choose the commands we obey. We make a list of the commands we like and then obey those while ignoring the ones we think are unreasonable, difficult, expensive, or unpopular. “I’ll attend church, but I won’t tithe.” “I’ll read my Bible, but I won’t forgive the person who hurt me.” Yet partial obedience is disobedience.
Wholehearted obedience is done joyfully, with enthusiasm. The Bible says, “Obey him gladly” (Psalm 100:2 TLB).
This is the attitude of David: “Just tell me what to do and I will do it, Lord. As long as I live I’ll wholeheartedly obey” (Psalm 119:33-34 TLB).
James, writing to Christians, says God is pleased not only by what we believe, but also by what we do (see James 2:24).
God’s Word is clear that you can’t earn your salvation. It comes only by grace, not your effort. But as a child of God you can bring pleasure to your heavenly Father through obedience. Any act of obedience is also an act of worship.
Why is obedience pleasing to God? Because it demonstrates that you really love him. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:15 GNT).
This devotional © 2017 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT) 13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.
The alternative to Hell is the glorious joy that awaits those who will follow Jesus Christ. — Billy Graham
Last year I wrote the post “Hell What, Where, Who Has Been There”. I ended that post by saying; “...hell is real, eternal, and to be avoided at all costs. It may be, like I said in my blog post about heaven; an actual place or it may be another dimension where everyone who has died will await the return of Jesus Christ. Then everybody that has been born from the beginning or time will be resurrected. At that time everybody ever born will be assigned to their final eternal existence. All those who received salvation through their faith in Jesus as their Savior and Lord, to the eternal presence of God on a new earth. That's heaven. Those who rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior to eternal separation from God where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That's hell. “
I also wrote the post It’s “Your Choice”. In that post I wrote;
“God gave every person the right to choose to accept or reject the gift of life through Jesus Christ. Those who choose to accept will spend eternity in heaven and those who reject Christ have already been told what awaits them in hell.
We make many choices every day. We choose whether to obey or not obey our parents as children. We choose the college we want to attend. We choose our friends. We choose our spouses. We choose what car to buy, what to eat, and on and on. For some of the choices we think long and hard and even pray. For others we give little thought, but there is one choice that everybody must make and that is whether to accept or reject Christ."
That choice will not only affect us while we live but will affect us after death. That choice will affect us for eternally.
Two Roads To Eternity - Heaven And Hell
Today, in the Devotionals Daily newsletter I received in my email, from faithgateway.com, I read an excerpt from Billy Graham’s final book, Where I Am
When asked, “Where is Heaven?” Billy Graham wisely replied, “Heaven is where Jesus Christ is, and I’m going to Him soon.”
The greatest promise ever given to the human race came from the lips of our Redeemer when Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me…I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1–3). Just after his ninety–fifth birthday, Mr. Graham proclaimed with resolve, “When I die, tell others that I’ve gone to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—that’s where I am.”
The following is an excerpt from Billy Graham’s final book, Where I Am.
Most people accept that Heaven is real, according to a Fox News poll (1). Many — religious and nonreligious — believe they will go there because God is a God of love.
Many of these same people, however, reject that Hell is real. Yet they reserve Hell as a very real place for people who have perpetrated some of the most hideous crimes in history and have absolutely no remorse in wanting some of the most infamous criminals to “go to Hell.”
What does it reveal about people’s hearts when they want someone condemned to Hell? They are obviously judging that person’s actions against their own merit. They believe they are good enough to pass judgment on another person, but they accuse God — who is holy — of condemning people to this foreboding place.
“Please… write on anything but Hell!” This comes from bloggers in cyberspace who claim to be Christians. Responding to those who are sounding the warning about Hell, they write, “This makes Christians look like they serve a God filled with anger and wrath.”
The Bible clearly states of those who do not believe what it says, Satan has blinded their eyes and muted their hearing (2 Corinthians 4:3-5). Meanwhile, these non-believers brag and make light of the fact that they look forward to going to Hell, where they will enjoy their works of evil without the righteousness of God hovering over them.
The reality is that none of us will ever escape the righteousness of God. The psalmist wrote:
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. — Psalm 139:7-8
While we cannot escape the righteous judgment of God, it is also true that God, in His mercy and grace, wants to impart His righteousness through salvation to all people.
Yet there are those who refuse such a gift.
So why do people want to close their eyes to the idea of Hell when the world is talking, blogging, and writing about a literal place that intrigues and inflames such passion? Hell is not an idea, a figment of the imagination, or the setting for a horror movie. It is the hideous reality that awaits those who refuse to let God come into their lives and make them new creations, filled with His forgiveness and love.
Please hear this truth: you will not escape God’s righteousness by going to Hell.
Consider this: Multitudes do not flinch when they condemn to Hell people such as Saudi Arabia’s Osama bin Laden, Germany’s Adolf Hitler, or Cambodia’s Pol Pot; or notorious Americans, such as Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. Their accusers do not hesitate to suggest that certain people who have “stepped over the line” of what they consider evil will land in Hell when life on earth is over. In the next breath, however, many will say, “I do not believe that God would send good people to Hell.”
Herein lies the problem — we see ourselves as good and refuse to see that we, too, harbor wickedness within. As the Bible says,
The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? — Jeremiah 17:9
From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wicked- ness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man. — Mark 7:21-23
You see, God does not play favorites. The sin of pride is in the same sentence as the sin of murder.
Where do you fit in? Are you like the rich young ruler who declared to Jesus that he had lived a perfect life? Or perhaps you feel only certain sins merit Hell. It does not really matter how we think of it; the truth of the Bible is what matters. And God’s Word proclaims that all people are sinners. God — not man — has set the standard, and we all fall short.
The bloggers I mentioned earlier stated emphatically that no murderer should go to Heaven. The Bible says,
The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful [people], and be crucified, and the third day rise again. — Luke 24:7
Who are these sinful people? You and me. Our sins nailed Jesus Christ to the cross, and we have His blood on our hands. But God wants the blood of His Son to cover the sin in our hearts. This is why He came. Jesus looked down on mankind and said,
“I love you with an everlasting love; repent of your sin and follow Me that where I am going you may also go.”
Many people teach today that the blood of Jesus covers all sin, regardless of whether the sinner repents or not. This is Satan’s great lie. Some believe they will automatically walk into Heaven when this earthly life is over because God is love. That would negate the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. Don’t be deceived, for God is not mocked. God is also a God of justice and righteousness.
He is not preparing a place in Heaven for unrepentant sinners.
While we have contributed nothing to God’s free gift of salvation, there is a condition to possessing it — we must confess our sin, turn from it, and receive Christ on His terms.
This truth is repulsive to many. The pride that flaunts our self-proclaimed innocence is the very evidence of our guilt. Continuing in rebellion against God, whether the sin be pride or murder, will send souls to Hell. Then there will be no turning back, no second chances. There is no afterthought in the afterlife. Today is the time to decide where you will live forever — either Heaven or Hell. This may very well be an unpopular teaching, but popularity polls do not determine destiny for anyone.
What will be your eternal destination after this earthly life is over for you? Are you going to Heaven — or to Hell? This is the most important question you will ever face.
I pray you will answer it honestly and that you will know the reason behind it. If you say that you will go to Heaven because you are good, the Bible says,
There is none who does good, no, not one. — Romans 3:12
So if no one is good and Heaven is filled with only the righteous, who will be there? The answer is found in salvation — for God desires that all people be saved. Those who repent of sin against God, receive His forgiveness, and live in obedience to Him, God sees through the righteousness of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is preparing a place in Heaven for those who belong to Him. This is the goodness of Heaven.
The doom of Hell was not intended for human beings. God created us for fellowship with Him, though many have turned their backs on Him. Hell was created for the devil and his demons, and Satan wants to take the world with him into this diabolical place.
Don’t think for one minute that Hell will be the “hottest” happy hour of all.
The world wonders about Hell every day. It is one of the most daunting and repeated topics seen in art, read in literature, debated among educators, and heard in music.
One blog took on the subject of Heaven and Hell. As people weighed in, the discussion became a vicious cycle. Finally one commenter frantically typed in, “Could someone please explain how to avoid Hell?”
Another asked, “How do you spell Hell?”
The flippant reply was, “Hoping Evil Lives Long.”
But the Bible spells it this way: Hopelessly Everlasting, Literally Loveless.
You may be thinking, Billy, surely you do not believe all of this Hellfire and brimstone! My dear friends, it is not what I say that counts; it is what the Word of God says. Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven. Why? Because of His great compassion for souls. He gave His life to spare you the agony, torment, and gruesome reality that Hell is reserved for those who reject Christ.
I can tell you this: not one word about Hell in the Bible would ever make you want to go there. And no one who understands the peace of Heaven would ever want to end up anywhere else. As Scripture puts it,
He who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame. — 1 Peter 2:6
The world is talking about eternity. It is high time that the true church of Jesus Christ declares to the world the promises God gives in His Word on how to get to Heaven and how to avoid Hell.
The alternative to Hell is the glorious joy that awaits those who will follow Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, to His heavenly home.
Father, I desire that they also… be with Me where I am. — John 17:24
(1) Dana Blanton, “10/28/05 Fox News Poll: More Believe in Heaven than Hell,” FoxNews.com, October 28, 2005, http://www.foxnews.com/story/2005/10/28/102805-fox-poll-more-believe-in-heaven-than-hell.html.
Excerpted with permission from Where I Am by Billy Graham, copyright Thomas Nelson.
We as Christians, when we are faced with things that we can’t control or explain, quite often attribute those things to a spirit. We say there’s a spirit of worry, a spirit of anxiety, a spirit of alcohol, a spirit of fear. When we run into a person who seems angry all the time we say they have an angry spirit and sometimes we try to cast it out of them.
Same thing with spirits of sexual perversion, drugs, arrogance, pride, etc. Conversely when things are going right we say that we have a spirit of peace, or joy, or happiness. When we are around people who always seem pleasant we say they have a spirit of gentleness, love, kindness, etc., In other words there is a spirit for almost any and every thing.
I’ve always had a problem with this especially those good spirits of peace, joy, and happiness. The Bible says that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is the source of peace, joy, and happiness.
Romans 14:17 (NLT)17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Romans 16:20 (NKJV)20 And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
Luke 10:17-20 (NKJV)17 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."18 And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."
Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
1 Peter 1:6-9 (NKJV)6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,9 receiving the end of your faith--the salvation of your souls.
Worry, anxiety, fear, and sickness have spiritual and or physical consequences, but they are not spirits, and as such can’t be cast out of a believer or anybody else. What we can do is submit ourselves to God, rebuke or resist the demonic spirit, if there is one, causing the problem and the Bible tells us that spirit will flee.
James 4:7 (NKJV)7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
I know that there are demonic spirits under the direction of God’s enemy, Satan, who can and do oppress and even control humans, but I have not found any reference in Scripture to spirits of worry, anxiety, sickness, fear, joy, peace, power, love, etc.
The evil spirits or demons that possessed the people that Jesus healed by casting the demonic spirits out were the cause of the sickness not their names.
Matthew 12:22-23 (NLT)22 Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see.
23 The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”
Matthew 17:14-18 (NLT)14 At the foot of the mountain, a large crowd was waiting for them. A man came and knelt before Jesus and said,15 “Lord, have mercy on my son. He has seizures and suffers terribly. He often falls into the fire or into the water.16 So I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.”17 Jesus replied, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”18 Then Jesus rebuked the demon in the boy, and it left him. From that moment the boy was well.
These possessed were also unsaved before their deliverance. With salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit a believer can never be possessed (SEE Possession or Oppression).
Spirit of Fear - An Example
2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
Many take this verse of scripture as evidence that there are spirits that correspond to emotions or actions. However is that what Paul had in mind when he wrote this in his letter to his protegee Timothy?
2 Timothy 1:3-7 (NLT)3 Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.4 I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again.5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
The word spirit can mean a number of things;
An alcoholic drink, the non-physical part of a human, a supernatural being; the prevailing or typical quality, mood, or attitude of a person, group, or period of time; the quality of courage, energy, and determination; the real meaning or the intention behind something as opposed to its strict verbal interpretation; a highly refined substance or fluid thought to govern vital phenomena.
The only two definitions that make sense here are a supernatural being, or attitude of a person. Let’s look at the verse in those ways;
In our first option if there is a supernatural being of “fear” then there would be a supernatural beings of “power”, “love”, and “”self-discipline”. Those characteristics sound a lot like the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
If we read the verse, using the second option, with respect to motivations, characteristics, or disposition, the word spirit maintains clarity throughout the verse.
Here is the way the verse reads in the NIV; “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
When we talk about the “spirit of fear” or the “spirit of love”, these are not supernatural beings that take control of us. These are simply figures of speech that describe how God changes us
Emotions, characteristics, and actions are real but they are not spirits. When we realize that these things are not spirits we will start to take responsibility for the things that we do to cause worry, anxiety, sickness, fear and doubt (SEE Stop Blaming the Devil for Everything Take Some Responsibility at this LINK).
Through prayer and God’s word we are able to combat our own negative emotions and actions, and those of others through the power and authority we received when we believed on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us.
Also see Are Generational Curses Biblical at this LINK
On New Year's Eve one of the ministers at my church delivered a sermon that he titled “You’re On The Eve Of Your Breakthrough". He told us to not give up even though we have “been waiting for what seems like forever for that job we need, deliverance from a habit, healing, salvation of a loved one, whatever you’ve been praying for”.
He told us not to give up because “this is the Eve of your breakthrough”.
A breakthrough is a sudden, dramatic, and important discovery or development, and if you’re on the eve of your breakthrough it means that you are in the period of time immediately before the thing you’ve been looking and waiting for happens.
I came away, from that sermon, realizing that no matter how long I have to waited, I’m be “on the eve of my breakthrough. It’s God, not me , that knows the perfect time for my breakthrough. He’s come through too many times for me and others for me to doubt Him. I trust Him because;
Matthew 6:25, 31-34 (NKJV)25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Psalm 25:3 (NLT)3 No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.
Your breakthrough is never late it’s right on time. With God it’s never too late you are always on “the eve of your breakthrough”.
Galatians 6:9 (NLT)9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
God is described by David as "God of the breakthrough"
2 Samuel 5:20 (NKJV) 20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there; and he said, "The LORD has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water." Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim.
It's Never Too Late for a New Beginning
by O.S. Hawkins, excerpted from The James Code
From O.S. Hawkins
You can start over whenever you decide.
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
— James 5:19-20
For years a beautiful antique table has graced the entryway of our home. But when I first saw it, there was nothing of beauty about it. Only the promise of beauty. We acquired the table more than forty years ago during the days of our first pastorate out on the plains of southwestern Oklahoma. The little farming community of Hobart was undergoing a transition. The kids of those wheat farmers went away to college but never came back to the farms. Instead, after earning their degrees, they made their way to the big cities, the site of expanding employment opportunities. So when the parents died, no one would take over the family farms, and their household possessions were often sold at auctions. Those Saturday auctions were the place to be, and crowds of people came from all the nearby farms and towns.
That antique table caught my eye at one of those farmhouse auctions. For many years, probably decades, it had just sat out in the barn. Chickens had roosted on it. Old greasy tools had sat on it. In fact, through the years all sorts of trash had been thrown on it. It was filthy and flimsy, and when the auctioneer called its number, no one even made a bid on it. So I did. I bought that old table for just a couple of dollars and the next week took it to a man in Hobart who loved to restore old furniture items in a shed behind his house. He stripped it down to its bare wood and, over the course of several days, restored it to the thing of beauty it once was. To this day that table is one of our most cherished possessions and conversation pieces.
Like my friend in Hobart,
God Himself is in the restoration business
As I’ve said before, it is never too late for a new beginning for anyone. And what is even more remarkable, He uses folks like you and me to help people find a new beginning. There are people all around us who have been relegated to an old barn somewhere, beaten and broken by life’s circumstances, and finally put off to the side where they began to lose their beauty. But there is a land of beginning again — for any and all of us.
In addition to needing the opportunity to begin again, all of us need a partner in ministry. James certainly had a great one in Peter. They, in effect, served as co-pastors of the church in Jerusalem, and together they convened the great Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). These two men were the undisputed leaders of the early church.
It may well be that James had Peter in mind when he penned these words because if ever someone needed restoration and a new beginning, it was Simon Peter. You probably remember the story well. Peter had been so self-confident and boastful about his commitment to the Lord Jesus, boldly asserting that even if all the others turned back, he would always stay true to his Lord. And Peter was true to his word until the heat was turned up! Jesus had been arrested and subsequently been interrogated by Caiaphas, the Jews’ chief priest. Peter “followed at a distance” (Luke 22:54), and when he was recognized as one of the Galilean followers of Christ, Peter denied it three times. As Jesus had prophesied, the rooster then crowed to signal the coming dawn. But Peter, remembering Jesus’ earlier warning that he would betray Him, went out and “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).
Later, however, the resurrected Christ met Peter and some of the disciples on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. There Jesus provided Peter with three opportunities to reaffirm his love for Him. Peter’s second chance was not only possible, but it was also profitable. Simon Peter never turned back. Restored, he became the rock who led the church into its greatest days of expansion (Matthew 16:18).
The Bible contains many accounts of men and women who got a second chance and, by God’s grace, used it well. Who would have picked a murderer to deliver a nation from slavery and lead them to freedom? God did. Moses had blown it (Exodus 2:11-14). But forty years in obscurity on the back-side of a desert enabled him to take advantage of the second chance God gave him, and he became the great emancipator of his people. And what about the lustful fellow who was described as a “man after God’s own heart” (2 Samuel 11:1- 27; 1 Samuel 13:14)? Read David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 and see what qualifies people for a second chance. And what about Jonah? He got his do-over: “The word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time” (Jonah 3:1). He also found that a second chance is possible for anyone.
The second chance is possible, but it is not automatic
Judas didn’t get a second chance. Why? He didn’t repent, so he didn’t receive the opportunity to be restored. Do you remember the rich young ruler? He didn’t get a second chance either. He was remorseful upon hearing the demands of discipleship and “went away sorrowful.” Sorrow is not the same as repentance. This rich young man didn’t repent so he was not restored. And what about Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who condemned Jesus to death? He washed his hands in a basin of water, regretting that he had done as the crowd demanded, but Pilate did not repent. The second chance is possible but not automatic. It is reserved for people like Simon Peter, who don’t merely feel remorse or try to reform, but who truly repent. That is, they change their minds, which results in a change of action; and as they do so, they find a new beginning.
Simon Peter definitely took advantage of his second chance. He went from his seaside meeting with Christ to become the powerful preacher of Pentecost, and his message brought about the birth of the church. We find Peter over and over in the book of Acts being imprisoned and beaten yet saying, “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Tradition tells us he met a martyr’s death by crucifixion. But telling his executioners that he was unworthy to die in the same manner as his Savior, he requested to be crucified upside down. And so he was.
James closed his letter with the important reminder that sin can wreck hearts, homes, plans, and people. But your sin can never keep God from loving you. James was shouting again now. Can you hear him?
“It is never too late for a new beginning!”
Every time I walk past that antique table, I am reminded that God specializes in the restoration business. All of us know people who are like that old table used to be, who are battered and bruised and have been stuck in the back corners of life, having lost their beauty, and who are not being used for any real purpose. James concluded his letter with this challenge to us:
Take the sinners and the broken people we know by the hand and bring them to the One who can make old things pass away and make all things become new.
Just Do It! God desires that all of us get into the restoration business. Paul framed it like this:
If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. — Galatians 6:1-2
In the Greek, the word restore is from a medical term that means “to set a broken bone.” When someone breaks a bone in his or her arm, a doctor sets it, realigning it and then putting a cast on it to keep it in place as it heals. Then during about six weeks, God does the actual healing.
Our job is to find those broken people who need a second chance. We are to restore them: we are to help get their lives and priorities lined up with Scripture and God’s will. Once that realigning is done, God can then do the healing. After all, it’s never too late for a new beginning.
Excerpted with permission from The James Code by O. S. Hawkins, copyright O. S. Hawkins.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.