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  1. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. - Colossians 2:15 A sad occourence in some circles is the diminishing of the cross of Jesus Christ. We see in many Churches the cross being taken down in sanctuaries, other symbols being used in its stead. There are other more extreme cases where believers start to think of the cross as pagan, unbiblical and even not a cross but a pole as Jehovah Witnesses teach. This should not surprise us that there is enmity and division over the cross as a symbol as it bears the very message and death of the Person of God for a lost humanity. The enemy of our souls knows this and has and continues to oppose or pervert and mis-use its symbol. The cross gives us a powerful message and truth in visible form when looked upon. It says that the eternal God became flesh and submitted himself to death on the cross for humanity. It was death being trampled upon by the death of God. It was the triumphing over demonic hosts in the unseen. It is the love of God and forgiving of sins. Its very symbol speaks to the believer of life, the unbeliever of God's love and the demons of their defeat. When I was in a certain city, the Holy Spirit bore witness in my heart to wear a medium size cross around my neck with large rope. I was actively evangelizing unreached Punjabi peoples in the area with the Good News of Jesus. When I obeyed God and wore the cross an amazing thing happened, everywhere I went the Punjabi people seemed to see me very clearly and where drawn to me. I remember countless times in daily life where they would just stare and after I finished what I was doing, I would go and hand a scripture booklet to them. What that experience spoke to me was that bearing the cross of Christ in reference in a physical way had a spiritual impact. Whether they looked at me with my long beard and cross as a holy man or devoutly religious, I am not sure. But I could not deny the difference it made. It also made me councious that I was a bearer of this message of the Cross to the people daily. Another way the symbol of the cross was used in the early Church was by tracing it on the forehead and other ways. This practice began with water baptism and later became an accepted way of acknowledging the Lord and the death of Christ. Cyril an early church leader in AD. 310 wrote: "Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified. Be the Cross our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still." Martin Luther as other protestants carried on this tradition of the sign of the cross. Luther said, "In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer." This way of doing the sign of cross was to touch the fore-head, then the belly, then left shoulder, then right. This motion made a cross and it signified many things including, (1) acknowledging the Lord (2) declaring triumph over the enemy (3) testifying that our body, spirit and soul belong to God (4) putting in remembrance the death of Christ. Should all believers wear crosses, have cross symbols in their home or church, or make the visible sign of the cross daily? This question should make us ask another question first, Do I daily remember, praise and thank God for the Cross of Christ? Is it always in my remembrance? All of these traditions of the symbol of the cross are servants to the greater reality of the very death of Christ for each of us personally. Life, time, work, vocations distract us at times from the very purpose and person that everything is all about. M. Basilea Schlink says, "You were created and redeemed to focus on Jesus – on Him alone." St. Paul the apostle said that the cross was everything to him, it was his focus and boast (Galatians 6:14). Let us remember daily that it is this powerful cross that frees us from sin, satan and our own very self. Let it be in our gaze daily in all the motions of life. And hear the voice of your Lord saying "Remember Me", "Remember what I did for you." Yes, Lord we will remember you, let us not lose the wonder and holiness of your Cross.
  2. The Sin of Envy

    Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage. - Philippians 2:6 When we are looking to progress in our understanding of the Lord we must look to the heart and what dwells within. Of all the least talked about sins in our day, Envy is near the top of the list. Perhaps one of the greatest roots of envy is the jealously that God is God and we are not. Such evil desires that desires more then what is given or deserved becomes a distortion of love and therefore is the opposite of love. Thomas Aquinas says of Envy: "Envy according to the aspect of its object is contrary to charity, whence the soul derives its spiritual life. Charity rejoices in our neighbor's good, while envy grieves over it." Envy is as old as Adam and Eve. Their firstborn son Cain envied Abel and killed him over extreme jealously. Cain envied Abel because God favored Abel's sacrifice over Cain's. Envy defiles a person and makes them hideous always seeking to put down others that they may be exalted. Of course this is not how it looks on the outside, it can even appear holy but inwardly the desires are evil. Saul envied David (1 Samuel 18:5-9). Isaac, envied the Philistines (Genesis 26:12-16). Envy cannot dwell with true godliness but with only that which is false, unspiritual and demonic (James 3:13-16). John R. Stott says, "Envy! Envy is the reverse side of a coin called vanity. Nobody is ever envious of others who is not first proud of himself." We can envy one's wealth, position, fame, title, honour, health, possessions and many other things. Only Christ who was the one that walked in true humility and did not even count his status as the Son of God important, but humbled himself to death and did not envy but died and emptied himself. In God's kingdom when we empty ourselves we are filled, when we die we live, when we humble ourselves we are exalted. When we envy we destroy ourselves. The holy Apostle Peter tells us to "put away envy" (1 Peter 2:1). Strike it away from yourself, be violent with such evil desires that arise in you. Have a remedy also for this poison of the heart. When someone is exalted rejoice! When you are lowered rejoice. Never desire anothers exaltation but rejoice that they have been blessed of God and praise God for such a thing. Be content with the gifts God has given you, the Heavenly Father is wise and all-knowing in what He has entrusted you with. Sadly when we envy we follow the error also of satan who envied the very throne of God but was cast down in judgment. Let our dying to envy show the evil one and all demons that we are of those who obey Jesus and are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Amen.
  3. If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. - Galatians 5:15 It is unbelievable at times to see how even believers can disagree. One side sticks their feet in and the other side does also. No one is budging or willing to say they are wrong, both are right! Or so they think. Disagreements also happen in marriages, Churches and ministries. The world is helplessly divided as people have strong opinions on so many different topics and choices in life. These strong beliefs people have even come to the place where hurtful actions are taken against each other because of our desires to be right and have our own way (James 4:1). Many people are divided and hurt over differences in the body of Christ also as the Apostle James wrote to believers who were "warring" against each other. All these differences result in hurt lives, divided believers and the world looking on in shock and amazement at this scene. When we can claim to believe in the greatest news in the world that men can be freed from their sins and point to this life-giving Saviour but in the same breath speak evil of our other brethren that have been redeemed we bring a reproach to the world. The beautiful opposite of disagreements is agreement and unity. Our Lord says: That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21). St. Clement of Rome in AD 90 said, "“Love admits no schisms: love gives rise to no seditions: love does all things in harmony.” Christ is not divided neither is his body should be divided. When we humble ourselves and pick up our crosses we choose the low way below disagreements. It takes 2 brothers to argue and debate, but a humble brother will not answer back. Choose today to be an agent of peace and humility, this is pleasing to the Lord and allows His body to be beautiful to Him and the on looking world.
  4. Stay here and keep watch with me. - Luke 26:38 We sometimes guage Christian life and spirituality in terms of what have accomplished or what we have done for God. One over-looked feature of spirituality is that of sharing the very heart of God. One almost revolts at the thought of such intimacy or closeness to God, but our Lord calls his disciples to stay with Him in his deepest hour of sorrow. Have you ever thought to ask God to share in his sorrows and heart for a broken humanity? If you were in Gethemane that night would you accept the call to watch with Jesus? Our Lord at times is seeking those who will simply "watch and pray" with him. Not seek great things in his name or big goals but to simply be at his feet, caring about how the Lord feels. In some way to minister to the very Lord himself. The Old Testament priesthood had this element of ministering and appeasing the Lord himself. While our Lord in the incarnation came into humanity he was touched and ministered to by the tears and the hair of a forgiven woman. As the world grows exceedingly worse in sin and evil, God's heart breaks even more for those he died for. Will we minister to the Lord's heart in such times when evil itself seems to triumph? When last has your heart been broken on the inside for those around you who were lost and without the hope of Christ? When last has a tear dropped from your eye for those who are on their way to a Christless eternity? There is a simple song sung in a Christian community that can be perhaps the echo of the Lord to our heart today: "Stay with me, remain here with me. Watch and pray, watch and pray. My heart is nearly broken with sorrow. Remain here with me, stay awake and pray." Will you hear the Lord's voice today? He is still waiting for you.
  5. Building Intimacy With Christ

    As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. - Psalm 42:1 Julian of Norwich was a medieval follower of Christ. In a day of darkness where form so easily took over any sense of believers intimacy with Christ, she wrote a classic volume on knowing God's love. A quote from her writing says, "God, of thy goodness, give me Thyself; for Thou art enough for me." She came to the experience the wonderful way of seeking God alone for only Himself. She understood that in intimacy with God she found life and peace itself. This again is the heart and core of worship and the secret to a life of fullness and fruitfulness. The Heavenly Throne Room Recently when re-reading the book of Revelation, I saw again the wonderful picture of what our end goal is in Christian life. St. John recounts the majestic picture for us, "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne" (Revelation 5:6). The thought that struck me was that Christian life itself, its purpose, goal and meaning comes down to this one thing: "The wounded Lamb." This is the centerpiece of the heavenly throne room, the living Christ, the resurrected Christ. He is the one we see and the Throne of God where the heavenly Father sits. Oh, what glories are at His right hand. This, dear believer, is our goal and our ultimate purpose, to know this God, this "Lamb." To find our satisfaction in Him alone. The entirety of heaven revolves around His person and should not our earthly lives be the same? Fellowship With God God had always sought for fellowship with man and intimacy even when Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:8). As Enoch walked with God (Genesis 5:22), we also should earnestly desire that inner life of communion with Him. We can always ask Him to increase that desire in us if we find it is lacking. The wonderful truth for us today is that God can be found and intimately known through His Son Jesus Christ. This abiding relationship can become a vibrant reality for us in every situation by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit and the cleansing Blood of our Lord. Whether we find ourselves in a prison cell or in the most beautiful Church sanctuary, whether in a season of restfulness or a season of heaviness, He desires that we find Him in the midst of it all. God not only allows Himself to be found by us, He desires it. Yet it is altogether too easy to find ourselves filling life with times of christian songs, bible readings and even prayer, while missing true communion with Himself. God can be missed in these things when He is not sought for Himself, but only treated as a means to an end. We can sadly seek God to appease our guilty conscience alone, ask for temporal help and blessings, attend Church simply to check it off on our list of moral things to do. This is the picture of coming to a stream as the Psalmist portrays but then not being willing to drink of its goodness. A parched dry tongue, not willing to refresh itself in the very person of God who can only satisfy the longing of the soul. Practical Steps To Take Here are some practical ways to build and grow in our intimacy with Christ: 1. Remember it is Him and Him alone who we are to worship, when you come to a Church gathering bow your head slightly in reverence acknowledging God’s presence (Zechariah 2:13). Let your focus be on meeting God and not on going only to hear a sermon message about Him. 2. Throughout your day take times to quiet your heart and acknowledge the Lord. A moment of silence can be helpful (Psalm 46:10). One practice of the Early Church was to set aside times of the day for prayer. They followed what is called the hours of prayer which originated with the early Jewish believers. Some traditions vary but the times set apart to pray were 9am, noon and 3pm. Let this start to be a practice in your life of disciplined times to acknowledge the Lord you love dearly. 3. When taking Holy Communion (Lord’s Supper), understand that this is part of the heavenly worship of the slain Lamb and we are partaking in a holy way of worshipping God just like in Revelation 5 before the throne of God. Allow times of Holy Communion to be meaningful and build intimacy with you and the risen Lord. 4. From Martin Luther’s Small Catechism it says, “In the morning, when you rise, you shall make the sign of the holy cross, and you shall say: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Then, kneeling or standing, you shall say the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.” The Church has always had traditions and practiced that helped us put our mind on heavenly things, re-center and focus on the Lord. The sign of the cross being a gesture you make by touching with your fore-finger and thumb, your forehead, then stomach, then left shoulder and finally right. You make a tracing of the cross over your body. What this says is, “I am not mine but the Lord’s, my body soul and spirit belong to Him.” It also reminds us “I am crucified with Christ.” This is one other helpful practice that believers have done throughout history to remind themselves of what really matters in life, the cross of Christ and our identifying with it. 5. Find some simple choruses that are very worshipful and meaningful. Think back to when you first knew the Lord and those songs that you sang over and over again in intimate worship. Bring your mind back to that place where time did not exist when you would worship the Lord and love to spend time with Him. Recapture these moments for the Lord has not changed (Malachi 3:6) but we have. Return to the first love you had—-He is waiting for you. And if you are not certain where to begin, begin especially by asking Him to draw you back to that place of first love. Returning Back to Intimacy Christian life always begins this way, when we see the great sacrifice of the cross of Christ, the wounded Lamb. We fall on our faces in worship in thankfulness for His love towards us. Daily we cannot help but praise and thank God, not because we have to but because of experiencing His love and person. But as life passes by, days become weeks and months become years, and amidst the cares of this life we are prone to wander from that place of intimacy, of worship, of seeking God alone. Perhaps this is a reminder for you; perhaps today God is calling to you saying, "My son, my daughter, come back to Me. Spend time with Me. I have longed for your fellowship and adoration. There you will find rest.” Then again our eyes will brim with tears and our hearts will fill with renewed love for the One that we will eternally be praising around the very throne of God.
  6. Forsaking the Love of God

    Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. - Revelation 2:4 Over the years we hear many explanations of the reasons why our Lord spoke so strongly to the Ephesian Church about their loss of their "first love." Our Lord summed up the entire Old Testament in one sentence, paraphrased: "Love God and Love Others." This love has action and proof to it. Intense and sincere devotion to Jesus Christ will produce a life of godliness and good works. Jesus was calling his Church back to practical worship, godliness and a denying of worldliness. They had hatred of evil, endured persecution in their society (Revelation 2:3), were able to spot false teachers and doctrines (Revelation 2:2) and even hated the major evil doctrine of the day taught by the deacon Nicolas (Revelation 2:6). Yet slowly love of pleasures were mingling into their affections for Jesus Christ alone. They passion they had for Him and Him alone was beginning to wane. Their looking to the cross and seeing the "lover of their souls" was something that lost its luster at least for a moment. Nicolas began as a full-hearted believer full of the Spirit of God (Acts 6:2-6). Yet slowly through self-importance he went away from the teaching of the Apostles and formed his own teaching and way. David Wilkerson says of Nicolas of Antoich, "The church fathers had two cardinal rules for believers - do not eat meat offered to idols and avoid fornication. Nicolas evidently fathered a doctrine that led to idolatry and fornication. The society of that day winked at sexual promiscuity. Nicolas and his followers invented a doctrine of false security that eventuated in mixture with the world and an undercurrent of sensuality in their teaching." Clement of Alexandria said of the Nicolaitans, "They abandoned themselves to pleasures like goats, in a life of shameless self indulgence." How do we not lose and forsake our love for the Son of God: 1. Look to Him alone for nothing else but Him. It is God that is our goal, not success, money, fame or anything else the world can offer. Give God your love and worship. 2. Pleasures are always fighting us for our affection for Jesus Christ. Our worship for Him must overcome and let Him be our satisfaction not passing worldly pleasures. 3. Look to the cross. It is there you find meaning, fulfillment, peace, joy and life eternal. Meditate on the cross. Daily thank the Lord for His death. 4. Look to yourself more then others. Instead of seeing others faults, look to your own. See the apostate deacon Nicolas in the early church as a warning sign to look inward in your own life. Are you submitting to what is the apostles doctrines today? Are you believing what the Church has always held to or are you trying to make your new teachings and ideas? The road to apostasy always begins with the separation from the people of God which leads to a leaving of God Himself. 5. Love others, find ways to do good to others. Think of others more then yourself. And you will find peace.
  7. Praising Jesus Everyday

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. - 1 Peter 1:3Sometimes our life seems to spiritually become foggy and we lose sight of what really matters. Pressures, trials, circumstances come in like weeds crowding out the very purpose and reason why we exist. When we lose sight of the cross, when we begin to lose our desire to praise and thank the Lord, we can know that we are failing to really focus on the matter of first importance. Christ was the one that became flesh, who shared our humanity. He suffered and died, and God resurrected him. He is our hope, our sure foundation, our mighty fortress, our promise of eternal life. Our response must be praise, thanksgiving, a singing of hallelujah. As St. Peter opened his epistle with "praise" we should also begin each day with praise to our God.There is a wonderful chorus that goes: "Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Ha-Hallelujah, Ha-Hallelujah, Ha-Hallelujah, Ha-Hallelujah, Ha-Hallelujah." Take time even now while reading this short mediation to praise Jesus, He is longing for your adoration. Look again to the cross, see its beauty and glory. Glorify the risen saviour who paid so much for you. Thank Him who died for you. Heaven will be filled with praise and thanksgiving. God is looking for worshippers in the work of the Lord. It has been noted by godly men that we sing songs about God but our need is to sing worship to Him. Jesus deserves and desires this attention and focus. God alone our goal and sight. Look to Him today, take time to praise Him. This will be our heavenly occupation, enjoy it now.
  8. St. Paul writes to Timothy giving us a picture of how it will look just before the second coming of the Lord. He shares that people will be “unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good” (2 Timothy 3:3). In the end times there will be a great shift in how people live and act worldwide. Jesus spoke of children who will betray parents and how people will even want to put Christians to death (Matthew 24:9-10). But we see the root of the issue in the attitudes of human hearts, and committed believers in Jesus Christ are not excluded. Not having love, not forgiving, and speaking evil of other good believers will be just part of the coming spirit of anti-Christ in the world. Unforgiveness is a prison, a torturer. It will rob us of our joy, peace and even physical health. Jesus knew mankind and he knew that a great problem that many deal with is forgiving others. It is one of our Lord’s primary teachings and the apostles were very keen to this. Peter said to Jesus in answer to his question of forgiveness, seven times! He understood that Jesus said to be extravagant in our forgiveness of others, and the current teaching by rabbis in that day was to forgive three times and then seek revenge. Our Lord’s response showed the extent of how God forgives and how those who claim to follow him should forgive, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). Do you find it hard to forgive other brothers and sisters in the Lord? Do you find it hard to love others in the body of Christ because of hurtful things that were done to you? Are you speaking evil of those brothers and sisters and judging them? It is very important that we are clear of all such sin and are full of love, forgiveness and using our mouths to show mercy and love to others in order to restore them (Galatians 5:1). Early believers lived in great anticipation of the coming of the Lord, and the thought of holding a grudge in unforgiveness with a believer and then entering eternity with this sin was unthinkable. In speaking about disputes, St. James writes, “Don’t grumble against one another” (James 5:9). The terrible reality to him was that the Judge was standing at the door, the Lord was coming back soon.
  9. Criticism is a great danger in the Church in our day where many are even thinking they are doing God a favour by being critical against others. K.P. Yohannan shares ways we can overcome criticism that is directed towards us and understand why people do these things so we can have empathy and compassion for them. Currently we are featuring on SermonIndex.net a sermon on Bitterness by K.P. Yohannan which goes into detail of why believers end up acting in these ways. Only with God’s help through forgiveness can we be freed of this sin and start to live in a way where we bless and not condemn others. Read below what K.P. Yohannan says about Criticism: — In our world, it seems impossible to escape criticism. If we do poorly at school or at work, people will criticize us. Should we do well and excel in business, we still face criticism from people who are jealous of our success. It seems to be a favorite pastime of the human race to take one person after another, good or bad, and “skin them alive” with criticism. What makes people act this way? Psychologists say one of the underlying reasons people criticize each other is to take revenge for the hurts they once received. Whether deserved or not, criticism is always painful. No one likes it. Yet people seem to enjoy themselves when others are cut down. Most believers have accepted the fact that the world will criticize us regardless of how saintly we may live or how many charitable contributions we may make. However, I have found that the greatest shock and discouragement for believers come when they realize that they encounter this same heartless criticism from their brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Of course, God never meant this to happen. But many Christians have never allowed the Lord to cleanse their lives from this destructive behavior. It’s a very serious problem; and if it is not dealt with, it easily can destroy a church. Imagine this: Jesus, the sinless Son of God, faced His worst criticism—not from the Roman government or from ungodly people—but from the most recognized and pious religious leaders of His nation. Paul experienced the same thing. His worst critics were people inside the Church, not the heathen he tried to win. In fact, he deals very thoroughly with this problem in his second letter to the church in Corinth. Whether criticism comes from the world or from within the Church, it is important for us to know how we should respond to it. Here are a few ways to Overcome: 1. Not To Pay Back - The Bible clearly instructs us in Romans 12:17 not to pay back evil for evil, which means we must not lash out and respond in anger in the same manner we were treated. 2. Maintain Love - On the contrary, God wants us to respond differently. We are to maintain our love for the brothers and trust the Lord to handle our defence. Only if we do this will the cycle of destructive criticism be broken. 3. Say No to Discouragement - The feelings of deep hurt and discouragement that follow criticism can easily bring us to a point of despair, giving up our calling or even suicide. In no way must we allow this to happen! If we give in, the enemy has reached his goal of stopping us from building God’s kingdom. 4. Look Objectively - The best we can do when we receive criticism is to look at it objectively. If the accusations are simply empty talk, we should dismiss them and by God’s grace go on with our life. 5. Be Willing to Change - Lastly, On the other hand, if there is any truth in the criticism, let us be willing to change, improve and grow in that area.
  10. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. - Mark 8:31 The Nicene Creed The Nicene Creed declares of the Son of God, What a wonderful statement to consider and think about. Our faith in death and resurrection of Christ are the non-negotiables that we must hold to tightly and dwell on continually. There is an unfathomable depth of richness in these simple statements that should release us on a life of holy contemplation of the sufferings of our Lord. Commemoration of the Death of Christ The early Church remebered the suffering of the Lord and resurrection daily but also commemorated it yearly on a specific day. That day was debated at first and various local believers practiced different days but soon a universal day was recognized. This yearly consideration of the death and ressurection of Christ allows for a season of very deep meditation on the death of the Son of God for us and should greatly deepen us in our holy faith. Some accuse those who practice the yearly memorial that they are missing a daily thinking of the death of Christ but nothing is perhaps further from the truth. The early believers saw the death of Christ in everything, the bleeding side was thought to where the very Church was born (John 19:34), daily many believers will recite the nicene creed or others that speak of the death of Christ, the cross was widely used as a symbol in churches and homes and was a daily reminder of the death of Christ. It should rather be asked to modern believers where churches are removing crosses, are we remembering the Lord's death enough? Jesus Died Jesus died for our sins! It is not a phrase that we should glib over lightily but heaven is consumed with this constantly, the heavenly choruses never end glorifying the son of God who died for all races, peoples and humanity. The incarnation is part of the sufferings of the Godhead in which God humbled himself to save humanity. Every accusation, misunderstanding, evil look, secret plot, word of gossip, slander, all hurt the Son of God's heart. He suffered so many things for us, willingly laying down his life continually on the earth for 33 years (12,000+ days). Every day it was a conscious choice of the son of God to bear the shame for us so that we could be free. In the end with blood stained eyes he looks at humanity killing him and has only love for this is the reason he came. His final foe was death, that he would trample victoriously, as an early liturgy says, "Trampling down death by death." His death defeated all death and in him is life everlasting, resurrection life. We are invited during this season of lent and holy week to consider again what we remind ourselves daily, the great suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord. May it become richer and more meaningful to us each year, as we are simply preparing to enter into the fullness of worship in heaven, declaring to the Lamb: "you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God" (Revelation 5:9). Amen.
  11. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:15 Lesson of Forgiveness Sometimes the lesson of forgiveness can only be obtained through being the recipient of someone not being willing to forgive you. If we have been hurt in our past by someone we can be those who will not forgive others who hurt us. When we do not release others we end up not releasing ourselves. Even physical ailments can be a result of this pent up hurt and unforgiveness that manifests itself in bitterness, envy, resentment and even anger. For a Christian to hold onto any grudge or anger towards someone in the body of Christ affects not just themselves but others are defiled by their sin. It is not only a sin to not forgive but as we do this we enter into the strategy of satan because the demonic world is a world of unforgiveness. Not offering forgiveness is to not offer the love of Christ to another believer. We have received unmerited grace and forgiveness but then we say to someone “I will not forgive you,” we are doing what is opposite than Christ. When we do not forgive we show that we do not love Jesus because if we love him we will obey his commands. And his command is to forgive all. Jesus Suffered On the Cross Jesus on the cross suffered for your sins and he forgave you, he offered you this forgiveness and when we accept it, we become Christians. Jesus the Son of God on the cross was mocked, ridiculed and given a sponge with vinegar that some argue was used for cleaning in the washroom of Romans. If anyone had the right to be unforgiving, vengeful, angry and seek justice it would have been Jesus. But what is the reaction, he says “Forgive them.” He says to God the Father please do not hold these things against those who have hurt me so much. Please not only that please put their punishment on me so that they can be set free. We can share in the heart of Jesus that through our pains and hurts we can be able to help set others free through bearing the hurt with the love of Jesus Christ. Does this excuse sin? No, but it does allow healing and help for those who sin and we become more like the character of God towards others. In the light of sins against Jesus Christ, the sins others do to us are very little. The teaching of Jesus even goes further that if we do not release and forgive others, God will not forgive our sins or hold some of them against us. Lord, help me to forgive and fully release others as we all stand by your grace. Amen.
  12. The Roman Coliseum was one of the main centers for entertainment and, on this day, it was not gladiators or sports competitions, but a different type of crown was being competed for. Rows upon rows of circular seating, with humanity throbbing inside. Fifty thousand faces fixed their attention on the scene below. The noise at times was deafening with cheers of the crowd, anticipating what was to come. To whet the appetites of the onlooking romans, gladiators were sent out to fight. Then wild animals who were starved were released, and a skillful gladiator would kill each one. But all of this is just to prepare the crowd for the main event and attraction. It was the Christians that were competing today for a heavenly crown following the way of Christ in the noble way of martyrdom. What happens next, The Martyr of the Catacombs, details the sad scene well for us: This is an excerpt from the free Christian ebook, The Following of Christ by Greg Gordon.
  13. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. - Proverbs 11:2 Pride and the Devil When we speak of pride we also often times think of the devil. He was the beautiful angel who through transgression and pride fell from his place with God to a fallen state. Lucifer, an anointed cherub of God became the devil, the father of lies (John 8:44). He was soiled and became filthy and the enemy wants to defile all those who are unsoiled also. When we are free from pride the enemy of our souls desires to sow prideful thoughts into our life. Pride is a preoccupation with self, it is to say that I am more important then all others. Pride says "I" am always right. Pride is when at all costs we need to revenge ourselves of our abusers. Pride says that we are more important then others and when sinned against our rights are more important. Personal glory and importance leads to a proud heart and opposition to God (1 Peter 5:5). Pride and Selflessness Pride is in some ways the opposite of selflessness. When we are humble we seek the good of others even when we have been hurt by someone. Disgrace and shame comes with pride because God diminishes the proud one under his own displeasure. Just like Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, we can be blinded by Pride and a sense of self-importance thinking we are able to control situations and even people. This is a profound thought that God himself shows everyone grace, mercy, and gives constant help. And when we see others in the body of Christ fail, or cause abuse, if we become proud, judge them overly and do not do it all in love, we can have God's grace lifted from our lives. And the sad result can be the brother who fails, when we judge him we can become worse then that brother. When we have pride against others in the body of Christ we have insulted the Creator Himself. We should never look down on others, never think we are better especially when we see another of our brothers and sisters fail. The Publican and Pharisee In Luke 18:9-14, we see the famous story of the Publican and Pharisee. It is a great contrast between pride and humility, self-assuredness and humility. The first error of the religious leader Jesus pointed out was of being "confident." It was a self-reliant attitude that I am in a better place with God then most and therefore can speak down to others and also not need God's grace as much. It is a subtle deception on the road towards knowing God we can start to trust on our past experiences of grace and not rely on the grace of God daily. And what happened? The religious leader, "looked down on everyone else" (Luke 18:9). He did not take the humble role of a being below others as a servant but rather assumed priority over others. In such a contrast we see the Publican come to our Lord and simply say in humility, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." (Luke 18:13). This one humbled himself before God, no matter how holy or progressed in our Christian lives when we humble ourselves we keep our position of walking with God in His presence. But once we exalt ourselves then we are cast away. In a famous drawing of this scene, we see the Publican bowing and humble, and the Pharise exalted and with one hand judging the other and the other praising God. Then in the picture we notice the hand of God blessing with grace and mercy the Publican only. Let this be a reminder that when we judge others we cannot praise God with the same breath and miss God's blessing in the process. Serving Others In the Body When we have pride in our own accomplishments and skills we are taking the credit for these things to ourselves. The reality is all giftings given to brethren in the body of Christ is to serve and help others, not ourselves. To follow the way of pride is to follow the way of the devil. The follow the way of humility is to follow in the way of the Lord.
  14. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged. - 2 Corinthians 12:21 There are many tests for the humility of our walk with Christ. One of them is how we react to correction and namely correction by spiritual leaders in the body of Christ. It is never easy to consider we have been wrong in an area of our life and our decisions have caused hurt towards others. Paul the Apostle was encouraging the Corinthian believers to repent fully of their past behaviours, he was full of grace towards them that they could change. But sadly in the 2nd letter he wrote to them at the end he started to doubt whether they had changed. He wrote, I fear there would be "discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder" (2 Corinthians 12:20) still among you! An arrogant attitude says I am never wrong, it says people need to listen to me. Arrogant, proud, haughty men were in the Corinthian church who were not even listening to leaders in their gatherings and were rejecting the Apostle Paul himself. You could possibly hear one of them saying, "I have no authority over me, I only submit to Christ!" It sounds spiritual but in the end such an attitude is of a decieved individual who is found apart from Christ in his pride. The Corinthians were submitting to what Paul called, "super apostles" (2 Corinthians 12:11). These men where ear-tickling preachers that told the people what they wanted to hear. One thing they did not speak about was sexual sins or against disorder and discord in the body. All they probably wanted was the peoples money and esteem. Paul highlights at the end of his letter that "many" have "not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged." No wonder they were not correcting a young man who was in incest (1 Corinthians 5). What shocked me is when I read the word "many"! The Corinthian Church was compromised and were neglecting the cure to their ills which was godly leadership and true spiritual elders guiding them. They were blind leading the blind into lives of sin and selfishness. The end was many who were slandering each other, name-calling, talking behind backs and ultimately division in the body of Christ, something that grieves the heart of God. Paul labored with them and sought to visit them again to spend time with these children of God and tend them like a Shepherd. This comes close to home for us, are we willing to submit to correction by spiritual leaders in the areas of our lives that are amiss. Or do we seek to always justify ourselves and not accept even the godliest of men who counsel against our decisions. Our way of repentance is to humble ourselves under such correction and allow Christ to start to be formed in us again.
  15. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. - John 8:44 We have to remember that Satan is the father of lies. He is a murderer from the beginning and dwells in falsehood. He never wants the glory to go to Jesus Christ but rather twists the truth and deceives those in the Lord’s work to take glory to themselves. Satan is also the master counterfeiter who has been deceiving God’s people since the beginning. He spoke to Eve and deceived her by twisting the truth of God saying, “Has God indeed said?” Such twisting of the truth is his normal activity. Since the earliest days of the apostles, even with our Lord himself, there were deceivers and false brethren present: those who secretly come into God’s flock for personal gain and to infiltrate the liberty of the believers, betrayers, deceivers, false brethren, false prophets, and those desiring preeminence among the saints (3 John 1:9). Diotrephes and one's like him did not seek honour in the church as much as sought his own truth, his own way and seperated himself from the doctrines of the Apostles and all the other Churches. He was stubborn to think he was right and all others were wrong. A false teacher is always who is in admidst but then seeks to draw people "out of" towards themselves. Just like satan, these false teachers do not have, "the truth in them." One key to understand the working of God versus Satan in a meeting of believers is the emphasis put on the Son of God. Those that worship, honor, and glorify the Holy Spirit more than Jesus Christ are not led by the Holy Spirit to do that. The Holy Spirit will always honor Jesus Christ; thus the true working of the Spirit can be distinguished in measure. The Scripture states: “He shall not speak of himself” (John 16:13). All early Church creed statements always elevate the work of the cross and the incarnation of the Son of God. In the end times, there will be an influx of those in the Church teaching doctrines of demons to deceive even the elect of God. There will be many false teachers who claim to be of the truth but are not. The most dangerous weapon against the Church is not persecution, but deception. One key feature of these deceptions is that there is something new offered, when rather we should be seeking to believe the truth that is old and that which the Church has held to from the beginning.
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