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Integrity and Christian Ethics

—Part 1

free-bible-studies-online-anchorPeople with integrity are those whose words match their deeds and whose behaviors mirror their values. Their honesty and ethics can be trusted unconditionally. They honor commitments. They are dependable. They are known for doing the right things, for the right reasons, at the right times. While numerous tales of integrity take place in public settings where others can see them, often the most powerful examples occur in the quiet stillness of a private moment—when no one else is looking.—Stephen Covey

That is similar to the line penned by William Shakespeare that is so often quoted: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Be truth-speakers at all times, people of integrity, people who can be counted on to deal with each other honestly, squarely, fairly, and with truth. That’s being a good example of Me‚ a good reflection of Me‚ and you will reap personal blessings for being upfront and honest.—Jesus, speaking in prophecy

Integrity might mean different things to different people, but I think most people would agree that it’s centered in maintaining clear values and beliefs, standing on Christian principles. As was just mentioned, it’s often in those moments when it’s just you and the Lord, when no one else would know, when no one else sees, that your character and integrity are tested.

Take this story, for example:

At a tennis tournament in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in January 1982, top-ranked pros Vitas Gerulaitis and Eliot Teltscher met in the semi-finals. They split the first two sets. In the eighth game of the deciding third set, Gerulaitis slashed his way to match point.

After one of their fiercest rallies, Gerulaitis hit a ball that struck the top of the net and dribbled over for what seemed a sure match winner. But Teltscher came tearing up to the net, dived at the ball and miraculously managed to loft it over Gerulaitis’s head. Stunned, Gerulaitis moved back late, pushing his shot wide.

The crowd went nuts. Teltscher had survived match point—or so it seemed. As the cheering died, Teltscher indicated that in his lunge toward the final shot, he touched the net—a violation. Never mind that the umpire hadn’t seen it or that a lot of money was at stake. For Teltscher, none of this changed the rules of the game or the gentleman’s code that is their basis. He shook Gerulaitis’s hand, nodded to the crowds and walked off the court—a winner in defeat.—Laurence Shames

For those of you who like sports stories, here is another true story about a man of integrity.

Bobby Jones was not only a consummately skilled golfer, but he also exemplified the principles of sportsmanship and fair play. Early in his amateur career, he was in the final playoff of the 1925 U.S. Open at the Worcester Country Club. During the match, his ball ended up in the rough just off the fairway, and as he was setting up to play his shot, his iron caused a slight movement of the ball. He immediately got angry with himself, turned to the marshals, and called a penalty on himself. The marshals discussed among themselves and questioned some of the gallery if anyone had seen Jones’ ball move. Their decision was that neither they nor anyone else had witnessed any incident, so the decision was left to Jones. Bobby Jones called the two-stroke penalty on himself, not knowing that he would lose the tournament by that one stroke. When he was praised for his gesture, Jones replied, “You may as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.”

Doing what you know in your heart to be honorable, according to the principles of God’s Word and your personal conviction of right and wrong, is to live with integrity. Your conscience, what the Bible calls the Lord’s “still small voice,” is very often a reliable guide when it comes to determining right and wrong.

Gandhi put it well when he said: “The only tyrant I accept in this world is the ‘still small voice’ within me.”

Now, here is a story about a single mother in California who died, leaving her eight children parentless.

The oldest daughter, who was 16 at the time that her mother died, took up the enormous challenge of raising her seven brothers and sisters. It was a tremendous struggle; she missed her mother terribly, but she managed to keep her brothers and sisters clean, well-fed, and in school.

When someone complimented her on the sacrifice she was making, saying she really didn’t have to do all that, she replied, “I can’t take credit for something I have to do.” The enquirer then challenged her, saying, “But, my dear, you don’t have to. You could get out of it.”

She paused for a moment and then replied, “Yes, that’s true. But what about the ‘have to’ that’s inside of me?”—Stephen Covey

We all have an internal compass that directs our thoughts and decisions. And how we develop our character depends on if we’re willing to trust and respect our inner conscience, which will inevitably lead us to make hard decisions from time to time if we want to do the right thing. It’s not easy.

There’s often a way, especially in today’s society and business world, to justify little deviances from what we know to be right, and such deviances can put us on a slippery slope pretty quickly. One wrong leads to another, and pretty soon our convictions wane, we excuse ourselves, and that’s when we run the risk of our character being weakened, damaging our integrity, tarnishing our reputation, coming to the point where we devalue the bond of our word and allow our personal happiness and peace of mind to come under attack through condemnation, regret, and embarrassment.

I think everyone wants to live without regret. But how do you do that? By making decisions that are based on your personal conviction, your personal Christian code of ethics.

Regardless of whether a person is a Christian or not, there are characteristics, attitudes, and actions that will hinder your success and hurt your reputation.—Behaviors such as lying, gossiping, having prejudices, not keeping your word, not following through on your commitments, not being dependable to do quality work, or not making your deadlines.

There are practical approaches to living a Christian, principle-centered life, one that you’ll be proud of. Let’s check out some advice of several outstanding men in the field of leadership.

John C. Maxwell, called America’s expert on leadership, is a New York Times bestselling author who has sold more than 19 million books, some of which have been translated into more than 50 languages. He is a Christian. His book, Ethics 101, puts forth the concept that a person can live a life of integrity by following the Golden Rule: “Do onto others as you would have others do onto you.”

So ask yourself the question, “How would I like to be treated in this situation?” Doing this is an integrity guideline for any situation.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the Golden Rule. There are times that I think we are so familiar with this term that we altogether miss its powerful meaning. An interesting fact about the Golden Rule is that a rendering of it is found in most of the widespread belief systems. The Golden Rule is a guideline of life in almost every culture I know of. It may surprise you to know how similarly the world’s religions view this concept. Let’s look at a few of these:

Confucianism states: “Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.”

Zoroastrians are advised that “if you do not wish to be mistreated by others, do not mistreat anyone yourself.”

Muslims are taught no one is a true believer “until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.”

Hinduism warns never to behave “towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself.”

The Torah says, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.”—Jon Huntsman

It is interesting that so many other faiths have this fundamental value as a tenet of their religious conviction. That shows clearly just how important and valuable the words of Jesus are: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Take a moment to meditate on those words. Do you truly live them?

If you need a little more practical application of this Golden Rule approach to integrity, consider what you’re thinking about your decisions, what your “self-talk” is saying.

Rationalizing an unethical decision, such as by justifying or minimizing the potential impact of your actions, can distort your thinking. To see if you are rationalizing, ask yourself these questions:

If you were on the receiving end of this action, how would you feel?

Would you want a loved one to be on the receiving end?

If your action was covered on the evening news, how would you feel?

Would you want your child to emulate this action?

How would you feel if your mother, father, or someone you greatly admire knew about this?—Ronald A. Howard and Clinton D. Korver

In Ethics 101, Maxwell also explains that people make poor ethical decisions, or actively choose an unethical path, for three reasons:

First, they do what comes easily to them rather than what they know is right.

Second, they think they have to act unethically to get ahead.

Third, they let themselves be guided by situational ethics, doing what seems right in specific situations rather than adhering to a consistent code of behavior.

It’s worth our while to reflect on these three traps to see if we are either guilty of such behavior, or tottering on the brink and about to slip into poor ethical behavior.

Of course, it’s not easy to make the right decisions all the time. There will be times when it will cost us to make those hard calls, and you might even wonder if it’s that big a deal, really, in the overall scope of life. This is when it’s important to remember that good character can’t be developed quickly. You build it over years of conscious ethical choices. So if you want to be a person of great character, it’s those difficult daily decisions that make the difference, and if you choose the easy path, you might never reach your desired destination.—John C. Maxwell

Okay, what about the idea that you have to step outside your personal belief system or code of ethics as a Christian to get ahead. Is that true? I’m sure plenty of people would have you believe that, and might even actively try to win you to that school of thought, possibly in an effort to justify their own flawed thinking. But this is when it’s important to remember the “God factor.” God is all-seeing, all-knowing. He loves us and He wants us to be happy, and He’s eager for us to have what we and our families need. He is not a stingy, hard-line, long-faced taskmaster who wants us to suffer or live in squalor and poverty. He is a generous, loving God, who wants to provide what we need. So to think that we would have to step outside of the Golden Rule in order to get ahead is an insult to God. It’s like a slap in the face, telling Him that He’s not making good on His promises.

I will help to engineer things so that you will be happy, you will have your needs met, and I will even do extra things for you to reward you. You will forget about the sacrifices, because I will pay you back abundantly. And remember that when I pay you back to the point where you don’t feel that you’ve made a sacrifice, that’s where it has only reached one percent of your reward. My promise is to repay one hundredfold, so there’s much, much, much more yet to come!—Jesus, speaking in prophecy

 
 

Roadmap. Copyright © The Family International.

The Pharisee and the Publican!

(Luke 18:9-14)

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

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Throughout His life and ministry, Jesus often taught in PARABLES. One of the shortest, yet one of the most profound of all His parables was that of the Pharisee and the Publican. The Bible tells us that Jesus “spake this parable unto those who trusted in THEMSELVES, that THEY were righteous, and who therefore despised and looked down upon others.” (Luke 18:9)

Before we read the actual parable, it might be helpful to know exactly what a “Pharisee”, and what a “Publican” IS. The PHARISEES were the most influential of all the Jewish religious sects of Jesus’ day. The word “Pharisee” literally means “the SEPARATED ones, SEPARATISTS”, which sums up the basic nature of their beliefs. They were the strictest LEGALISTS of the day, who pledged themselves to obey and observe ALL the countless restrictive rules, traditions and ceremonial laws of orthodox Judaism. They considered themselves to be the only true followers of God’s Laws, and therefore felt that they were much better and holier than anyone else. Thus they separated themselves not only from the non-Jews–whom they absolutely despised and considered pagan “Gentile dogs”–but they even set themselves above and apart from their own Jewish brethren.

The PUBLICANS, on the other hand, were considered by their fellow-Jews to be the absolutely WORST kind of characters! For the Publicans were TAX COLLECTORS for the foreign occupier and ruler of Palestine, Imperial ROME. They were officially-appointed Jewish tax collectors for Caesar, and were therefore considered TRAITORS by their brethren. The Romans would instruct the Publicans how much taxes to collect from the people, and then the Publicans could charge whatever they wanted to MORE than that for their OWN income. So they were usually extortioners, cheaters and robbers of the Jews, and were therefore absolutely DESPISED by their Jewish brethren who considered them the scum of the Earth.

So when Jesus told this parable, comparing a Pharisee and a Publican, He had chosen the two most OPPOSITE figures in the entire Jewish community. The one was held to be the BEST, the most RIGHTEOUS, the most RELIGIOUS, the most HOLY, the most GODLY of all men. Whereas the other was looked on as the WORST, FILTHIEST, TRAITOROUS scoundrel imaginable!

Here is the parable itself in Jesus’ Own Words: “Two men went up into the Temple to pray. One was a PHARISEE, and the other was a PUBLICAN. The Pharisee stood up and prayed thus within himself: ‘Oh God, I thank You that I am not like OTHER men are; robbers, extortioners, unjust, evil-doers, adulterers. Or even as this PUBLICAN! I fast twice every week and I faithfully give tithes, one-tenth, of all that I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even lift up his eyes to look toward Heaven, but he beat upon his breast and said, ‘God, be MERCIFUL to me, a SINNER!’

“Then Jesus said to those around Him, ‘I tell you the truth, that THIS man, rather than the other, went home JUSTIFIED before God. For everyone who EXALTS HIMSELF will be HUMBLED, and he who HUMBLES HIMSELF will be EXALTED!'” (Luke 18:9-14)

Which one of these two men did Jesus say was actually justified before GOD? The Pharisee who APPEARED to be so righteous and holy, and who no doubt FELT that he was a very righteous and good man? Or the tax collector, the sinner, who was DESPISED by OTHERS, and who apparently even DESPISED HIMSELF, who felt so ashamed of himself that he wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to Heaven, but simply begged God to have mercy upon him and forgive him?

So often, GOD’S way of looking at things is very different from OURS! He says, “MY thoughts are not YOUR thoughts!–Neither are YOUR ways MY ways!” (Isaiah 55:8,9) Although that Publican’s sins were undoubtedly many, because of his honest and humble CONFESSION and RECOGNITION of the fact that he was a SINNER–one who NEEDED God’s HELP–Jesus said HE was the one who left the Temple justified that day! Not the Pharisee who was so proud of his OWN goodness and his own righteousness, that he didn’t even think he NEEDED God’s help at all! If anything, he probably felt that HE was doing GOD a favor by honoring Him with HIS prayers!

But in the sight of God, self-righteous religious pride like this Pharisee manifested is the GREATEST and WORST of ALL SINS! That hypocritical “holier-than-thou” attitude, that causes people who are self-righteous to DESPISE and look DOWN on others who they don’t consider as holy or pure or faithful or good as they think THEY are! When people get this way, others usually find them to be the hardest, most narrow-minded and intolerant folks they ever met! Because instead of loving, forgiving and understanding others, they’re always criticising, judging and condemning folks who don’t do all the “good” things that THEY do!

The Gospels tell us that, “When the Pharisees saw Jesus sitting down and eating a meal with many Publicans and sinners who came and sat with Him, they were enraged, and asked His Disciples, ‘How can your Master eat with unclean Publicans and sinners?’ But Jesus answered them, ‘You need to go and learn what this means; ‘I desire MERCY, and NOT SACRIFICE!'” (Matthew 9:10-13) In other words, what He was saying was, “I would rather see you have LOVE and MERCY, and not just your dutiful keeping of the Law and making of sacrifices! I’d rather you’d give LOVE to others than to just be so self-righteous and CONDEMNING!”

Let’s face it, none of us have any goodness of our OWN, anything good about us is only the LORD, and HIS goodness! GOD is the ONLY One Who is good! His Word says, “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) EVERYBODY is bad except those who have faith and have the goodness of GOD, the love of GOD, the righteousness of GOD! Even St. Paul said, “In ME, in MY SELF, there is NO good thing!” (Romans 7:18) Jesus got so infuriated by the hypocritical, self-righteous hypocrisy of the Pharisees that He told them that they were WORSE than the drunks and the prostitutes, the publicans and the sinners that they despised! And that there was more chance for such SINNERS to make it to Heaven, than there was for them!

Jesus told them to their faces, “Truly I tell you, the Publicans and the harlots will go into the Kingdom of God before YOU!” (Matthew 21:31) He even told His OWN disciples, “Truly I tell you, unless YOUR righteousness SURPASSES that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will certainly NOT enter into the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:20) In other words, unless you are better than THEY are, you’ll never get to Heaven! And the only way that you can be better than THEY were, is to have CHRIST’S righteousness, because the Pharisees were as good as anyone could possibly BE in the NATURAL.

Jesus so hated the Pharisees’ hypocritical pretense, pretending to be so righteous and right all the time, that in the most bitter denunciation He ever uttered against anyone, He publicly told them, “WOE unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you make clean the OUTSIDE of the cup and of the plate, but WITHIN you are full of EXTORTION and FILTHINESS! You BLIND PHARISEE, clean first that which is WITHIN the cup and the plate, then the outside of them may be clean also!

“WOE unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like WHITE-WASHED TOMBS, which indeed look BEAUTIFUL on the OUTSIDE, but on the INSIDE are full of DEAD MEN’S BONES and EVERYTHING UNCLEAN! In the same way, on the OUTSIDE you APPEAR to others as RIGHTEOUS, but on the INSIDE you are full of HYPOCRISY and INIQUITY!” (Matthew 23:25-28)

The thing that made the Pharisees so self-righteous and hypocritical was their PRIDE! They were too proud to confess that they were SINNERS like everyone else. In fact, they not only couldn’t CONFESS their sins, they couldn’t even SEE their sins! They couldn’t admit that there was anything that could possibly be wrong with them, and therefore they became “blind leaders of the blind”! (Matthew 15:14) It’s almost a relief to KNOW you’re bad, to honestly admit that you’re NOT good. After all, God has SAID so in His Word, that NOBODY is good! That’s why the worst kind of people in the sight of God are those who PRETEND to be good and look down on everybody else. His Word says, “There is NONE righteous, no, not one! Therefore, by GRACE are we saved through faith, and that NOT of OURSELVES. It is the GIFT of GOD, not of our own WORKS or GOODNESS, lest any man should boast.” (Romans 3:10; Ephesians 2:8,9) We just need to be honest and confess, “I’m no good, I’m bad, I’m a sinner, of course I make mistakes! Anything good about me is only JESUS!”

GOD’S idea of righteousness is not the supposedly sinless perfectionist, but the pitiful, hopeless, humble, sinful SINNER who knows he needs GOD! Those are the ones He came to save! “For I came NOT to call the RIGHTEOUS,” Jesus said, “but SINNERS!” (Matthew 9:13) God’s idea of goodness is GODLINESS–a sinner who knows he needs GOD and depends on HIM for Salvation. Not the self-made, self-righteous, hypocritical Pharisees who think they can save themselves by their own goodness!

God’s idea of saintliness is a SINNER saved by GRACE, a sinner who has NO perfection, no righteousness of his own at all, but is TOTALLY dependent on the grace and the love and the mercy of GOD! And believe it or not, those are the ONLY kind of saints there are! There are no others!

So which of the two are YOU like? The PHARISEE? Or the PUBLICAN?

* * *

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we know that self-righteousness is PRIDE, and pride is the OPPOSITE of LOVE and HUMILITY. So, Lord, please give us LOVE today. Help us not to condemn others, or ever think or pray, “I thank You, O God, that I am not as this man.” If we’re critical, lifted up in pride and glad we’re not as bad as others, then WE are even WORSE!

You said, “I will have MERCY and NOT sacrifice.” We must spend time alone with You to learn what this means! Lord, please help us to LOVE and FORGIVE OTHER men’s sins as YOU have forgiven US! And help us to have mercy upon OTHERS as YOU have had mercy upon US. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Peace!–In the Midst of Storm!

Compiled from the writings of David Brandt Berg

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Have you ever been in a big storm, a powerful hurricane, earthquake or typhoon? Were you afraid or scared or worried? Well, most people ARE when caught in such storms because they never know if they’re going to get blown away or if the lightning is going to strike them or the wind will rip the roof off their house or somehow hurt or even kill them!

But this little family is peaceful and unafraid, even though all around them a terrible storm is raging! The wind is howling, big trees are being uprooted and blown down, lightning is flashing and thunder is crashing! But they don’t look worried at all! They’re perfectly at peace and at rest!

Do you know what a mother hen does with her little chicks whenever danger is near? She gathers them under her wings and covers and protects them there. Well, the Bible says that the Lord does the same thing with HIS children. “He shall cover you, and under His wings you can trust. There you need not fear the terror by night, nor the destruction by day, for the LORD is your refuge and place of protection.” (Psalm 91)

If we belong to the Lord and stay close to Him, He will take care of us.–ALWAYS! So that even if we’re in the middle of a terrible storm like we see in this picture, His strong and loving Heavenly hands will be there to keep, protect and take care of us. Even when all is dark and stormy OUTSIDE, we can have the sunshine of His love and rainbow of His blessings and peace INSIDE!

Did you ever hear the Bible story of Rahab? A long time ago, there was a city called Jericho which was so wicked that God was going to punish and destroy it. But within the city was a dear little woman named Rahab who was kind and helpful to God’s children. And because she was good to God’s people, God was good to her!

The huge protective walls that ran around Jericho were very high and very thick–so thick that many people actually had their houses ON the walls, as did Rahab. When the day of God’s judgements came, He shook the city and caused the ENTIRE WALL to COLLAPSE to the ground! Except for ONE tiny little part of it that remained standing all alone–and that was the house of Rahab! Because she had faith and because she had received and been good to God’s children, when He destroyed the entire city and everybody else in it, her little house didn’t fall and she and her family were spared and protected! (Joshua 2 and 6)

So why worry? If you’re the LORD’S child, HE will take care of you! His children who stay close to Him live in a CHARMED CIRCLE of His protection! It’s like a special FORCE-FIELD that nothing can get through without His permission! Of course this doesn’t mean that the Lord will NEVER allow us to be harmed or tested, but He’ll never allow us to have any INSUFFERABLE harm or any UNBEARABLE damage, and He promises to always save us out of our troubles. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord DELIVERS him out of them ALL!” (Psalm 34:19)

If He doesn’t deliver us any other way, He delivers us by DEATH! Because for the CHRISTIAN, the one who loves the Lord, death is no problem! It’s our HOMEGOING to HEAVEN, and you couldn’t go to a better place than Heaven! Then all your worries will be over and you will have graduated from this life! He will either take CARE of you or He will TAKE you, so you’ve got it made one way or the other!

So the most important thing is to make sure that you belong to HIM. Then you’ll KNOW that everything will be all right and that WHATEVER happens to you will be for your GOOD. He says that “ALL things work together for GOOD to them that love the Lord.” (Romans 8:28) If you are His child, you’ll know that everything that happens in your life comes from Him and is somehow for your good!

Then even if there’s a terrible storm and great destruction all around you, you won’t need to fear! The Lord says, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, I am thy God! You shall be SAFE in the midst of storm, in the hollow of My hand, for underneath you are MY Everlasting Arms.” (Isaiah 41:10; Deuteronomy 33:27) He is ALWAYS there, He’ll NEVER EVER leave you, for He promises, “I am with you ALWAYS, even to the End of the World!” (Matthew 28:20)

If you would like to have such peace and assurance and heavenly protection, all you need to do is receive and love God’s Son, JESUS! Then, no matter WHAT difficulties or hardships arise in your life, HE will help you to BRAVE the storms and FACE the winds and NOT be swept away! No matter HOW dark the clouds become that may sometimes overshadow you, the Light of His Love will ALWAYS come bursting through to encourage you and to give you hope and strength to pull through!

He and His Love are just that WONDERFUL! He will brighten your life and give you peace that the Bible says even “passes your own understanding–PERFECT peace, because you TRUST in Him!” (Philippians 4:7; Isaiah 26:3) No matter HOW dark or stormy or difficult the outward conditions may be, in your HEART the sun can always be shining, the birds can always be singing, the flowers can always be blossoming, and all can be well and happy in Him!

So may God bless you with His PEACE and His LOVE through the one and only “PRINCE of peace”, JESUS CHRIST! He LOVES you and will come into your life right NOW if you’ll just ask Him into your heart! He says, “Behold, I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock. If any man hear My voice and open the door, I WILL come into him.” (Revelation 3:20)

Simply pray: “Lord Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God and that You died for me. Please forgive me for all my sins. I ask You, Jesus, to please come into my heart and give me Your free Gift of Eternal Life! Help me to love You and to love others by telling them about You and Your Love. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

God BLESS you! We LOVE you!

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

The Parable of the Sower!

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

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When speaking to the multitudes, Jesus often taught them in PARABLES, simple stories about common events, circumstances and things that His listeners could easily relate to. Most of the people that Jesus addressed were simple folk, and He knew that even the CHILDREN would be interested in His message if He presented it by using such illustrated stories.

The “PARABLE OF THE SOWER” is one of the few parables that is found in three different Gospels: In Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8. This wonderful parable reveals the four different states in which the hearts of men can be classified. As we now read Jesus’ Own words, you could ask yourself which of these four categories describes YOU!…

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, (1) some fell upon the PATH, and the BIRDS of the air came and ATE it up. (2) And some fell upon STONY GROUND where there was not much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the SUN came up, the plants were SCORCHED, and they WITHERED, because they had NO DEPTH of ROOT. (3) “Other seed fell among THORNS, and the thorns grew up WITH it and CHOKED the plants. (4) But other seed fell upon GOOD GROUND, and it came up, grew, and produced a crop–thirty times, sixty times, or a hundred times what was sown.

“And when He had said these things He cried, ‘He that has ears to HEAR, let him HEAR! Listen to what the parable of the sower means.'”

Now Jesus is going to interpret and explain for us exactly what this parable is all about: “The SEED is the WORD OF GOD. Those along the path, are the ones who HEAR, but then comes the DEVIL and TAKES AWAY THE WORD from their hearts, lest they should BELIEVE and be SAVED.”

When the life-giving seed of the Word of God is sown on this FIRST kind of ground, this kind of heart, what happens? Paths are usually hard and packed earth, and before the seed is able to sink in, Satan comes along and snatches it away before they even understand it, before they can receive it, before they even get saved!

Oh, how the Devil FIGHTS against the Word of God! The Bible tells us that, “FAITH comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10:17), so to try to prevent people from believing in Jesus and getting saved, he’ll do all that he can to keep them from hearing or receiving the Truth of God’s wonderful Word! The Apostle Paul says, “If our Gospel is HID, it is hid to those who are LOST, in whom the GOD OF THIS WORLD (the Devil) has BLINDED the MINDS of those who do not believe, so that the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ cannot shine unto them!” (2Corinthians 4:3,4)

We trust that YOU who are reading this are ALREADY born again, that you have ALREADY received the precious seed of God’s Word and have asked His Son, Jesus, into your hearts. If you have received Jesus, then you don’t need to worry about being this FIRST kind of ground, thank the Lord!

But what about the SECOND kind of ground that Jesus describes? He says, “Some, like seed sown on STONY ground, hear the Word and at first RECEIVE it with JOY. But these have NO ROOT, and for AWHILE believe, but when TROUBLE or PERSECUTION arises because of the Word, they are OFFENDED and quickly fall away!”

This second kind actually receive the Word joyfully and begin to grow, but when a time of TESTING or TRIAL or PERSECUTION for the Word’s sake arises, their enthusiasm wanes, their faith withers and they fade away! This doesn’t mean that they lose their salvation, because once you have received Jesus into your heart, you are His FOREVER. He says, “I am with you ALWAYS, I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you!” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5) But these kind of Christians simply “have no ROOT”, no DEPTH, they are SHALLOW, and they never really STAND UP and GROW and become FRUITFUL. They just sort of die out spiritually and fall away when a time of testing comes, when the hot sun of persecution or tribulation arises. They’re weak and they can’t take it.

How many Christians are like that! They’re happy to receive Jesus, but they never really study and feed on God’s Word and let His Truth sink deep down in their hearts. They are “easy believers” who gladly accept God’s Gift of salvation; a very convenient fire-escape from Hell and a sort of “life-insurance” for the next life. But when the time comes that they should really STAND UP for their faith and tell OTHERS about Jesus, and be willing to endure reproach, rejection, humiliation, or even downright suffering and persecution for the Gospel, they just wither up and fade away!

Now here is Jesus’ explanation of the THIRD kind of ground: “Others, like the seed sown among THORNS, hear the Word; but the CARES and CONCERNS of THIS life, the DECEITFULNESS of RICHES and the DESIRE for other THINGS enters in and CHOKES out the Word, making them unfruitful.”

Being choked-out by the cares, riches and concerns of this life is probably the greatest pitfall for most Christians in the World today! The wonderful way that God could use them is absolutely smothered and choked-out by the MATERIALISTIC cares of THIS temporal life. They get so busy with so many things besides the Lord and His Word and His Work–the “affairs of this life” (2Timothy 2:4)–and their spiritual growth is severely stunted, their strength is sapped, and the thorns of this World choke out their fruitfulness and render them USELESS to God’s eternal Kingdom!

This is not to say that riches are evil. It is “the LOVE of money” that is the root of all evil. (1Timothy 6:10) It is when we value riches and wealth and material things MORE than the LORD that we begin to be choked and fruitless and deceived by “the deceitfulness of riches”!

Finally, the FOURTH kind of ground that Jesus describes: “They who receive the seed that fell on the GOOD GROUND are they who, in an HONEST and GOOD heart, hear the Word and RETAIN it, and with PATIENCE produce a crop yielding thirty, sixty or an hundred times what was sown!”

Unlike the other unfruitful grounds, this fourth kind of ground receives the Word and KEEPS it, RETAINS it, and PATIENTLY PERSEVERES until it grows and matures and becomes FRUITFUL for God’s glory!

* * *

What is the ground of YOUR heart like? Even though SAVED, a good many Christians become like the SECOND kind of ground, stony, rocky and shallow because of their DISOBEDIENCE to the Lord. Their hearts become “HARDENED through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13), and they never become the strong plants for the Lord that they COULD be, they never grow or mature spiritually or become fruitful. So when the “fiery trials” of temptation arise, their faith withers away because they have no DEPTH, and have never been “ROOTED and ESTABLISHED in the faith” as they should have been! (1Peter 4:12; Colossians 2:6,7)

Or like the THIRD kind of ground, they allow their potential usefulness to God to be CHOKED OUT by the thorny material cares of this life. They never seem to find time–to MAKE time–to prayerfully read and feed from God’s Word, thus they lack the “spirit and life” that His Word would give them. (John 6:63)

How different is the Bible’s description of the man who, like the FOURTH kind of ground, gives the LORD and His WORD FIRST place: “His DELIGHT is in the Word of the Lord, and in His Word he meditates DAY and NIGHT. He shall be like a TREE planted by the rivers of water, which yields its FRUIT in season and whose leaf does NOT wither.-WHATEVER he does shall PROSPER!” (Psalm 1:2,3)

Oh, if we will only realise the ETERNAL IMPORTANCE of yielding to God’s Word and God’s Will–like good, fertile, receptive ground yields to the farmer’s plow, receives the seed he sows and patiently yields a crop–then surely we will DESPISE the thought of allowing our usefulness to God to be choked out by passing material things! And we certainly won’t allow our faith to wither or fade away because of a little opposition, trouble or persecution for the Gospel!

If your desire is to please the Lord and be fruitful and useful for Him, then YIELD your heart to Him TODAY and let Him make you what HE wants you to be! If you faithfully read and draw strength from God’s life-giving WORDS, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you will grow spiritually. And if you obey Jesus’ command to “preach the Gospel” and you tell OTHERS about His Love, then the seed of God’s Word that you sow in THEIR hearts will take root and grow, and you will win OTHERS to Jesus, and thus bear FRUIT, thirty times, sixty times or even one hundred times more than was originally sown in your life! And God Himself will reward you with EVERLASTING saved SOULS and you’ll shine as the stars FOREVER! (Daniel 12:3)

* * *

PRAYER: Dear Lord, we sincerely ask You to please help us to yield to You, to be obedient to You, so we can be the good fruitful kind of ground that You desire! You said, “BLESSED are they who do HUNGER and THIRST after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” So please help us to really HUNGER for YOU and Your life-giving WORD, to read it faithfully and to share it with others so they too can find You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

Near to the Heart of God

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe great passion of the writer of Hebrews is that we “draw near” to God. (Hebrews 4:16, 7:25, 10:22, 11:6) Draw near to his throne to find all the help we need. Draw near to him, confident that he will reward us with all that he is for us in Jesus. And this is clearly what he means in Hebrews 10:22, because verse 19 says that we have confidence “to enter the holy place,” that is, the new heavenly “holy of holies,” like that inner room in the old tabernacle of the Old Testament where the high priest met with God once a year, and where his glory descended on the ark of the covenant. So the one command, the one exhortation that we are given in Hebrews 10:19–22 is to draw near to God. The great aim of this writer is that we get near God, that we have fellowship with him, that we not settle for a Christian life at a distance from God, that God not be a distant thought, but a near and present reality, that we experience what the old Puritans called communion with God.

This drawing near is not a physical act. It’s not building a tower of Babel, by your achievements, to get to heaven. It’s not necessarily going into a church building, or walking to an altar at the front. It is an invisible act of the heart. … It is a directing of the heart into the presence of God who is as distant as the holy of holies in heaven, and yet as near as the door of faith. He is commanding us to come, to approach him, to draw near to him…

“We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:11) This is the center of the gospel—this is what the Garden of Gethsemane and Good Friday are all about—that God has done astonishing and costly things to draw us near. He has sent his Son to suffer and to die so that through him we might draw near. It’s all so that we might draw near. And all of this is for our joy and for his glory.

He does not need us. If we stay away, he is not impoverished. He does not need us in order to be happy in the fellowship of the Trinity. But he magnifies his mercy by giving us free access through his Son, in spite of our sin, to the one Reality that can satisfy us completely and forever, namely, himself. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

—John Piper

 
Keep going for God

You’ve got to keep going for the Lord in this life! No matter how many mistakes you make, how many stumbles and falls and how many times you get off the track, you’ve just got to keep trying. You’ve got to keep going! Even if you keep on crying, you’ve got to keep on trying. Keep going for God! Hallelujah!

To love someone more dearly every day,
To help a wandering soul to find his way,
To ponder o’er His holy Word and pray,
And pray when evening comes,
And smile when evening comes: This is my task.

To follow truth as blind men long for light,
To do my best from dawn of day till night,
To keep my heart fit for His holy sight
And answer when He calls
And answer when He calls: This is my task.

And then my Savior by and by I’ll see,
When faith hath made our task on earth complete,
And lay my homage at my Master’s feet,
Within those jasper walls,
Within those jasper walls: This crowns my task!

(My Task,” Maude Ray (1903), adapted)

God bless you and make you a blessing! May that be your task, in Jesus’ name, amen. Whatever you do, keep going for God! Jesus never fails!

—David Brandt Berg

 
Bigger than anything

Bigger than all my problems, bigger than all my fears,
God is bigger than any mountain I can, or cannot, see,
Bigger than all my questions, bigger than anything,
God is bigger than any mountain I can, or cannot, see.

God is far bigger than I can ever imagine! God is a “doing” God! He is a God who is well able to do anything! He is able to do anything, far beyond our every human thought or imagination. The Bible says in Ephesians 3:20, “Unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.”

There is no impossible circumstance too far gone that God cannot minister to,
No problem too big that God cannot solve,
No sickness He cannot heal,
No miracle which God cannot do,
No prayer which He cannot answer,
No sinner too lost in their sin that God cannot save,
No backslider too far from God that God cannot restore,
No city too hard that God cannot bring a mighty revival to.
For our God is well able to do far above all that we ask or think … He is able to do!

If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we, more often than not, tend to fix our eyes on the problem. Then as we dwell on it, we allow it to grow until it becomes to us this huge mountain before us. However, in the eyes of our great and awesome God, it is but a speck of dust, which He can blow away by the gentlest breath…

Our God is able to do whatever it is you need Him to do.
Our God is able to heal you.
Our God is able to rescue you.
Our God is able to save you.
Our God is able to meet all your needs.
Our God is able to turn things around for you.
Our God is able to restore you.
Our God is able to heal your broken marriage.
Our God is able to forgive you.
Our God is able to show you mercy and grace.
Our God is able to answer all your prayers.
Our God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
Our God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Our God is a great big God, bigger than all our problems; He is bigger than anything.

We may never grasp how awesome God is, or the enormity of God. Or even how omnipotent, omnipresent, or omniscient He is. However, may we grasp the fullness of this promise from the Lord in Ephesians 3:20: “Unto Him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think,” because our God is an awesome God!

—Matthew McDonald

 
 

Copyright © 2017 The Family International.

Overcoming Vices!

Based on the writings of David Brandt Berg

free-bible-studies-online-overcoming-vices

We all have habits, both good and bad. Anything you do automatically without consciously thinking about it, or without specifically deciding to do it, is a habit. Good habits or practices–such as tidiness, courtesy, good manners etc. are a real blessing. But when the habits you’ve picked up are BAD or DESTRUCTIVE, and you find them hard or almost impossible to change, they are known as VICES.

There’s a true story about a man who owned an eagle, and for many years had chained him to a stake. Over the years, the eagle had walked around and around that stake so much on the end of his chain that he’d worn an actual rut in the ground. Finally, he was getting old and his master felt sorry for him and thought, “These are his last days, so I’m going to set him free!” So he took the metal ring off the eagle’s foot, took him up in his hand and tossed him into the air. But what do you suppose happened? The old eagle had almost totally forgotten how to fly! He flip-flopped right back down to the ground, walked back over to the old rut and started walking around the rut like he had done for years! No chain or birdband held him! Just the habit!

It has been said that “The chains of bad habits are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken!” EXCEPT by the Lord! And “Habit is a cable; you weave a thread of it every day, and at last you cannot break it.” These are very true.

How many times have you tried to quit a bad habit, but found yourself almost powerless to get rid of it or stop doing it, no matter how much you tried to exert will power against it? The fact is that, in one area or another, we are all weak and very human and fallible, and subject to many different problems which can turn into bad habits and vices.

What most people do not realise is that a vice or a bad habit is often MORE than just an ingrained natural reaction. When you have a certain weakness, and you entertain and give in to it for a prolonged period of time, very often evil spirits–demons–are BEHIND these habits, playing them up and trying to keep you addicted to them, especially if they are bad habits which endanger you or your health, or your relationship with others.

According to God’s Word, there are definitely demons who play up certain sins and vices and try to destroy us through them. Such as demons of gluttony, demons of alcohol and drugs and cigarettes, demons of gambling, demons of sexual perversions, of homosexuality etc. These are some of the most OBVIOUS vices, but what many people do not realise is that things like hatred, guilt, bitterness, worry, pride, jealousy, self-righteousness, fear, lying and deception are also bad habits and vices, and the spiritual powers that bind people to them can be just as strong and destructive as the addiction that drives someone to compulsive gambling, drugs or alcohol abuse!

There are demons that will try to harm and destroy you in almost every phase of your life if you let them. This is especially true if you have a TENDENCY or a BESETTING SIN along some line, say, for example, a strong inclination to be jealous or to critically judge others. Or if you have a WEAKNESS towards alcohol or anything else. The Enemy can play on that and tempt you with it constantly.

ALCOHOLISM is a vice that has plagued mankind for millenniums, and though drinking wine in moderation was very common in Bible times, the Bible has much to say against the constant ABUSE of and OVER-indulgence in wine and other alcohol. (See Proverbs 20:1; 21:17; 23:29-35; 31:4, Ephesians 5:18; Titus 2:3) The Lord can not only set you free from the spirit behind alcoholism, but He can also give you the will power to continue to resist it once He’s delivered you.

We all know, of course, that the nicotine and tar in TOBACCO is very bad for our health and has been proven to be a major cause of cancer! Even most smokers recognise that smoking is a vice and a bad habit, but the point is, how can they STOP? As it can have such a grip and be so addicting! The solution to stopping is to desperately pray for the Lord to free you from the physical dependence on the nicotine, and to rebuke any bad spirits which could possibly be aggravating and adding to the addiction. Ask the LORD to DELIVER you, and He WILL!

DRUGS are also very addicting and very harmful. This includes not only the illegal drugs, but also the “legal” prescribed drugs that millions of people buy across the pharmacy counter. Many are addicting, and whatever “benefits” they give–whether escape from reality or relief from pain–almost all of them have bad side-effects, are harmful and expensive! But the good news is that the Lord has DELIVERED untold thousands of people from drug addiction of all kinds! MIRACULOUSLY! And often without any withdrawal symptoms!

GAMBLING is a vice as addicting as alcoholism or drugs, and is clearly a case of deceptive evil spirits compelling someone to gamble their hard-earned savings away at a toss of the dice, the turn or a wheel, the speed of a horse or a chance good hand of cards. The principle behind gambling is that you can make easy money without labour, just the opposite of the values of diligence, hard work and thrift that the Bible teaches. Also, the dependence on “luck” is nothing more than wishing for the blessing of the Devil, as the word “LUCK” comes from his name, “LUCifer”. It’s bad enough that some people are foolish enough to take RISKS or CHANCES in gambling, but those who are actually “good” at it or “lucky” are even MORE in need of deliverance!

HOMOSEXUALITY–or Sodomy, as it is known in the Bible–has been more fully covered in another article in this site, “The Doom of the Sodomites”. Please read this story and its “Food for Thought” if you have a problem with homosexuality.

Many Christians who self-righteously condemn others who are caught up in the obvious vices of alcoholism, drugs or sexual perversion think nothing of over-eating and obesity. Yet GLUTTONY, or COMPULSIVE EATING are often spiritually induced vices as well, and a compulsive bad habit that takes real prayer and determination to overcome. Gluttonly is often as strong and as bad a habit as drug addiction or alcoholism, and God’s Word gives ample warning against it. (See Proverbs 23:2,20-21; 1Peter 4:3.)

Speaking of SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS and a condemning CRITICAL SPIRIT, these are definitely very serious spiritual problems and vices also. If you find yourself constantly judging and critical, looking down on others, thinking you are better than they are, then you should definitely seek for deliverance from the negative, divisive spirits which cause you to be that way.

Self-righteousness is very closely related to PRIDE, and stems directly from it. And though we all have the besetting sin of pride and a love and concern for ourselves, the Enemy of our soul can often play on that natural human weakness and blow it up into the worst of all problems! Pride is the root of ALL sin, and was the cause of SATAN’S downfall. (Isaiah 14:12-15) The Lord HATES pride! (Proverbs 6:16-17)

Two other common vices that countless millions of people are afflicted with are HATRED and BITTERNESS. Like other sins of the mind and of the heart, these are definitely weaknesses brought on by evil spirits. For what the Bible has to say about bitterness, read Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:19; Hebrews 12:15; James 3:14-15. For hatred, read Proverbs 10:12; 15:17; 26:26; Galatians 5:19-21. Not only are these bad habits detrimental and even dangerous to others, but medical science has proven that they cause all kinds of psychosomatic illnesses to the one who is bitter or hateful by releasing actual poisons into the bloodstream.

FEAR and WORRY are related negative emotions which cause no end of bad effects to the one who is plagued by them. Being deeply fearful or constantly worrying are usually more than just ingrained habits or the result of some bad childhood experience. Fear especially is a terrible bondage, and the Bible clearly states that “GOD has NOT given us the spirit of fear, but of POWER, and of LOVE, and of a sound mind!” (2Timothy 1:7) (See also Proverbs 29:25; Luke 21:26; 2Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 2:15; 1John 4:18)

GUILT or a feeling of condemnation is also definitely spiritual, and brought on by the Devil, whom the Bible calls “the Accuser of the Saints”. (Revelation 12:10) People usually suffer from guilt because they are either disobedient and “have a certain fearful expectation of judgement” (Hebrews 10:27), or because “their conscience is weak” and therefore susceptible to the lies of the Enemy. (1Corinthians 8:7; Titus 1:15) The solution to breaking such an oppressive habit is to study the truth of GOD’S WORD to know what is WRONG and what is RIGHT, and then to OBEY and do the RIGHT THING! (Hebrews 10:22; John 15:3)

Some people have a compulsive bad habit of LYING or of practicing DECEPTION. The Bible makes it clear that this is also a serious vice. For Bible verses on lying, see Psalm 119:163; Proverbs 6:16-17; 10:18; 12:22, 13:5; 26:28; Ephesians 4:25. For deceitfulness, see Proverbs 12:5,17; 14:8,25; 26:24. There are many more bad habits and vices which we could list, but these are just a few examples of some of the most common ones. But remember, ANY bad or negative habit you have that hurts yourself or others is a VICE, and it is very possible that the Enemy of your soul is behind it, using it to try to defeat or hinder you.

It’s interesting also that a VICE is a workman’s TOOL that GRIPS something so it cannot move!

If you’re a Christian, evil spirits cannot permanently possess you, but they can try to put thoughts in your head to motivate you to do things which you shouldn’t. They try to INFLUENCE your mind and your spirit, and try to get you to yield to them. And if they can get you to yield to their influence or to decide to do their will, they get control and can almost bind you into vices or bad habits. If you get into a bad habit and do it continually, you can wind up in total defeat to where you’re obeying and listening to the Devil instead of the Lord.

Even born-again Christians who love the Lord are sometimes subject to evil spirits. Not permanently possessed, but OPPRESSED or under their influence. A Christian is the LORD’S property and possessed by the LORD and HIS Spirit. But of course, if you have some besetting sin, some dark corner of your life or bad habit that you’re not willing to yield to the Lord, the Enemy can bother you and plague you on that point. He can use that thing to weaken you or to cause defeat in that particular area of your life. This is why God’s Word says, “Neither give PLACE to the Devil!” (Ephesians 4:27) The Scripture calls them “BESETTING SINS” because they are SPIRITS that ATTACK you, “WEIGHTS” you must “lay aside”. (Hebrews 12:1)

When you “give place” to the Enemy in your life, it’s like having an evil boarder in your house: He’s not in control of the house, but he annoys you and causes you trouble and all kinds of damage. You tell him to leave several times but he won’t leave, so finally by the authority and the law–in this case the authority of the WORD and the Name of JESUS–you literally THROW him out! Otherwise he just won’t leave!

It’s sad that many Christians go so long without getting complete DELIVERANCE from deep-seated vices and bad habits! They just sort of harbour them and allow them to hang around without really getting RID of them. They don’t recognise that their problems are SPIRITUAL as well as physical, so they don’t take SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY over these spirits and REBUKE them and get RID of them.

You have to first of all be willing to RECOGNISE that there is a SPIRITUAL FORCE binding you into that vice, and you have to want to be FREE of it enough that you are not only willing to CONFESS it to the LORD and cry out to HIM for help, but you have to be willing to confess to OTHERS that you need help and prayer to overcome your weakness and bad habit. Because some vices have such a strong grip on people–even Christians–that they’re almost powerless to overcome them on their own.

If you have a real serious problem and you cannot seem to get deliverance through private prayer or trying to resist some vice on your own, then you need to contact other Spirit-filled Christians whom you know and trust and let them know you have a serious problem and ask for their united prayer! Never be ashamed to ask for help or prayer when you need it.

Remember, God’s Word says: “ONE can chase a THOUSAND, but TWO can put TEN THOUSAND to flight” (Deuteronomy 32:30), and it helps greatly to have someone else pray with you when you feel oppressed or distressed or attacked by the Enemy. “Where TWO or THREE are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” And, “If any TWO of you shall AGREE on Earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven.”(Matthew 18:19-20)

“If there is any SICK among you (SPIRITUALLY as well as physically), let him CALL for the ELDERS of the church and let them pray over him, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick. And if they have committed any sins, they shall be forgiven them. CONFESS your FAULTS one to another, and PRAY one for another, that ye may be HEALED.” (James 5:14-16) When you pray, quote and remind the Lord of the Promises that He has made in His Word. When you remind God of His Word, it shows you have faith in it. He has promised to keep His Word, so remind Him of it, cling to His Promises, memorise and quote them continually, and never doubt for a moment that God is going to answer–and He WILL! He HAS to! If you sincerely WANT deliverance and PRAY for a real victory over any bad habits, the LORD will help you! Jesus never fails! He always answers when we call upon Him with a WHOLE HEART.

“ALL power is given unto Me in Heaven and in Earth,” Jesus said (Matthew 28:18), and we have JESUS, so we have HIS power, so even the evil spirits and demons are subject unto us! (Matthew 10:1; Luke 9:1; 10:17-19, Acts 8:7). If there are demonic powers behind your bad habits, you can rebuke them in the name of Jesus, and they HAVE to DEPART!

To overcome a vice or bad habit, you first or all have to get delivered of the spiritual power that is behind the bad habit. Before you’re delivered, the binding spirit may pretty much have control, but after you are DELIVERED, it will be within your power to RESIST its re-entry!

But even after prayer and spiritual deliverance, it sometimes takes awhile to completely break free from the HABIT. Although you are delivered of the SPIRIT, you still have the ingrained HABIT, and the spirit may keep trying to come back to tempt you for awhile and play up on your weakness or tendencies along that line. Especially if a certain weakness or vice has been a big problem or habit for many years. It makes you much more SUSCEPTIBLE to attacks along that line. So for some time after prayer you may still have some battles with it. But don’t give up! It’s a real battle to overcome a strong bad habit you’ve had for years, but you need to resist even thinking about doing those things again. Rebuke the very THOUGHT of temptation, quote Scriptures and praise the Lord continually!

It’s not YOUR fault that you get TEMPTED. Nobody can keep temptation from coming, but you don’t have to YIELD to temptation! “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can CERTAINLY keep them from building a NEST in your hair!” Attack and hit the Devil back every time he tries his tactics on you! The Devil can only win if you SURRENDER! He can NEVER win as long as you keep FIGHTING. “RESIST the Devil and he will FLEE from you!” (James 4:7). As long as you keep resisting, he’ll keep fleeing. But if you stop resisting, he uses his lies and temptations and persuasion to win. When JESUS WAS TEMPTED by the Devil, He fought him with SCRIPTURES! (Luke 4:1-13). So quote the Word of God and rebuke the Enemy!

Some changes are instantaneous, overnight, and others take awhile. You can’t get over some habits in one day necessarily, because the Enemy doesn’t very willingly surrender territory which he has controlled so long. When people have had weaknesses and had channels open to the Enemy before, he tries to get back in if he can. But if you keep praying and asking the Lord to protect and deliver and give you the complete victory, and you claim and quote His Word, He WILL! “Whom the Son shall set free is FREE INDEED!” (John 8:36).

One of your best protections is to KEEP BUSY for God and others, doing what you know you SHOULD, as well as filling your mind and heart with positive, encouraging, strengthening and faith-building thoughts from His Word, remembering, memorising and continually quoting to yourself and even to the Enemy when he attacks you. And “pray without ceasing!” (1Thessalonians 5:17). As the poem says: “The Devil flees when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees!”

“Ye are of GOD, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is HE (JESUS) that is IN YOU, than HE (THE DEVIL) that is in the WORLD.” (1John 4:4). The power of the Lord is far greater, and is able to break all the chains that may bind you!

WHATEVER your bad habit is, JESUS can set you FREE! Are YOU free? Or do you need HELP? “ASK and ye SHALL RECEIVE!” Amen?

* * *

The following is a sample of a prayer for deliverance that you might find helpful, as it offers you an example, not only of how to call out to the Lord for His help to overcome vices, but also how to CLAIM and QUOTE Scriptures as you rebuke the Enemy:

(PRAY:) “Lord Jesus, I call out to YOU now with my whole heart and ask You, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, to FREE me from the terrible grip that this vice has on my life! YOU said in Your WORD, Jesus, ‘Greater is He that is in me (YOU in my heart, Lord!) than he that is in the World (the Devil)!’ So I KNOW that YOU are GREATER than the Enemy and CAN overcome this vice! You said, ‘ALL power is given unto Me in Heaven and on Earth’ and that `if ye shall ask ANYTHING in My Name, I WILL DO it’! So I ask You right now, Jesus, to BREAK every hold the Enemy has in my life and DESTROY the power of this bad habit! I REBUKE the Devil and ALL of his influence, right NOW, in Jesus’ name!

“Your Word says, ‘Give NO place to the Enemy’, and I don’t want ANYTHING that’s not of YOU, Jesus! Your disciples said, ‘Even the evil spirits are SUBJECT unto us!’, so I CLAIM that promise, I claim that SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY over the power of the Enemy–right NOW! And I REBUKE the Devil in the Name of JESUS CHRIST! I claim Your Promise, Lord: `RESIST the Devil and he will FLEE from you!’ I RESIST you, Satan, in the Name of JESUS CHRIST! I BIND and REBUKE any hold you might have on my life, any power you might have over me, in the Name of JESUS!

“JESUS, You PROMISED that “When ye shall call unto Me with a WHOLE HEART, I WILL answer thee!’ And Jesus, I AM crying out with ALL my heart for You to deliver me! And I EXPECT you to do it! You promised, ‘Whatsoever ye shall bind on Earth SHALL be BOUND in Heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on Earth, shall be loosed in Heaven’, so I BIND the power of the Enemy in YOUR NAME and I loose the grip he has on me and I ask You to cast him far away from me, NEVER to return! In JESUS’ name! I count it DONE, Lord! Thank You, Jesus! Thank You for setting me FREE! Help me now to take a stand of faith against the Enemy’s devices! Please give me the spiritual power to do what I can to resist temptation, and STAY free from the ingrained habits, Lord! In the Name of Jesus Christ! AMEN!”

 
 

Treasures. Copyright (c) The Family International

Anchor

Countercultural Christianity

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorBut you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
—1 Peter 2:9

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Every generation must face this quandary of how to maintain cultural influence, and in our changing world, the conversation has been resurrected again.

In an effort to appeal to outsiders, some Christians simply copy culture. They become a Xerox of what they perceive as hip in hopes that people will perceive them—and their organizations, ministries, and churches—as “cool” and give them a chance. Unfortunately, this pursuit of pop culture removes the church from its historically prophetic position in society. Relating to the world by following the world is a recipe for disaster.

The next generation of Christians aren’t separatists, antagonists, or striving to be “relevant.” Instead, they are countercultural as they advance the common good in society. The next Christians see themselves as salt, preserving agents actively working for restoration in the middle of a decaying culture. They attach themselves to people and structures that are in danger of rotting while availing themselves of Christ’s redeeming power to work through them. They understand that by being restorers they fight against the cultural norms and often flow counter to the cultural tide. But they feel that, as Christians, they’ve been called to partner with God in restoring and renewing everything they see falling apart.

Paradoxically, in our current cultural context, this not only opens up more people to personal salvation, but it also sustains a God-glorifying testimony to the world of His restoration power at work. It’s truly good news to the world. Rather than fighting off culture to protect an insular Christian community, they are fighting for the world to redeem it. …

A commitment to being countercultural rather than being removed or “relevant” isn’t always easy. Living differently can be hard. Going against the ebbs and flows of culture can create friction and sometimes provoke a hostile reaction to the good we are trying to create. Theologians Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon remind us that this should be expected, for “whenever a people are bound together in loyalty to a story that includes something as strange as the Sermon on the Mount, we are put at odds with the world.”

Yet, it is through maintaining this cultural orientation that the world can experience God’s restoration power and people will be convinced that our faith is all we claim, all that Jesus commissioned His followers to. As the apostle Peter encourages, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12 NIV)

Is a countercultural community the answer to restoring the soul of the world, winning the skeptics, and revitalizing our faith? We’ll have to wait and see. For now we know that the clear call of Jesus is for the Christian community to be salt on a rotting world and light in the dimmest places.

—Gabe Lyons

 
God’s new nation

God called His people a new nation, a holy nation. That means a whole new culture, a whole new way of life, a brand-new people. We come from all races, creeds and colors, but now we’re all one in Christ Jesus, and that is a miracle in itself. (Galatians 3:28) No matter what nationality, race, or place we originally came from, we all now have the same faith, love, wonder-working power, and changed lives.

There are many different governments and kingdoms of man, but only one kingdom of God. We are a people without a permanent country on this earth because we seek one to come, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 13:14; 11:10) We seek a country established by God Himself, and it is certainly not any of the nations on the face of this earth. Not even the most Christian ones could be called His country.

We belong to the kingdom of God; that’s our country. We seek a better country, a country which we already have in our hearts, thank the Lord, the kingdom of heaven! That’s our country—the best country in the entire universe, one that has never persecuted the poor or oppressed the weak, a country that’s never lost a battle, and never fought a war for the wrong reasons!

We are strangers and pilgrims here on this earth, God’s representatives and ambassadors of His soon-coming kingdom of love, the greatest kingdom the world is ever going to know.

—David Brandt Berg

 
By this everyone will know

There are some ways in which we don’t want the church to be countercultural. Churches accommodate themselves to culture in a whole number of very good ways. It’s a good thing, for instance, that Christians around the world use a word in their local language for God …

Being countercultural is a strong theme in the Bible. Jesus told his followers that they “do not belong to the world.” (John 15:19 NIV) St. Paul told the Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world.” (Romans 12:2) But it is quite another thing to figure out just what that means. There are a bewildering array of cultures and subcultures which proclaim and embody different values, ideas, and intuitions. How do we decide what we are to be counter to?

The Bible makes clear that the most significant way in which Christians demonstrate their distinctiveness is in the nature of their life together. How the Christian community’s members interact with one another, engage in discourse, and welcome others, for instance, are all part of their witness to God. This is what Jesus was getting at when he told his followers that “by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35) The apostolic church was noted for its distinctive relationships. The life of the early Christians—“all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44)—was countercultural in the context of a Roman society stratified by divisions of wealth. A central part of St. Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians is that, if they want to follow Jesus, all Christians actually need one another—no matter how unlikely that may seem and how much the world presses them to think otherwise.

Interdependence, relatedness, community: these are ideas that strike me as pretty countercultural in our contemporary society.

—Jesse Zink

 
Sent to be a witness

The particular notion that we are “in the world but not of the world” is based on the prayer of Jesus in the Last Supper discourses in the Gospel of John. Jesus said, “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world,” and “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” (John 17:16, 18 NAB)

We are sent into the world to witness and share the good news that we have come to know in Christ. Peace is possible. Love is real. All creation has dignity and is sacred and can bring us closer to God.

This loving witness is costly. We may stick out or be misunderstood. We could end up like the one we follow, and so we must embrace the cross. We may have to pay a major price for proclaiming prophetic messages. Christ, after all, is our model for countercultural gospel living.

In his prayer recorded in John 17:22, Jesus declares that the ultimate aim of all countercultural Christian living is not actually division and separation, but unity: “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

As we live our countercultural Christian lives, may we remain rooted in this vision. May we always remember that we witness Christ’s love in order to more boldly manifest the union and love that is found in God alone.

—Julia Walsh

 
 

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