Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Is Anything More Valuable Than Your Soul?

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As Jesus was nearing the end of His life, He made sure His disciples knew how things were going to unfold. He talked about the importance of His followers being willing to lose their lives for His sake. During one such occasion, He asked them, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26.).  It has been hundreds of years since this question was first posed, but it still needs to be asked, and needs to be answered honestly.

What does this question mean? No matter what you think it means, the manner in which it is posed suggests what the correct answer should be. Although everyone is at liberty to answer this question either way, “Yes” would be the wrong answer, because the question is suggesting that you shouldn’t put anything above your soul.

There are individuals who have claimed to be Christians, but with the passing of time, instead of growing in faith, they are living in sin, and don’t seem to care. They avoid the Church, maybe in an effort to avoid confrontation by caring Christians. They act like they either have no conscience at all, or don’t care; I find that very bothersome and scary. How can “Christians” who know what the Bible says about sin feel comfortable living in it? Whatever sin they are “enjoying” cannot be that much more important than their souls, can it?   

The book of Hebrews addresses this issue. I think we all need to pay attention, because God cannot be mocked. He always fulfills His promise, whether it is to bless or to punish. When He said He’d destroy the world for their increased sins, He did! See Genesis 6:9-22, 7:11-24. When He first called Abram, He promised to bless him, make him into a great nation, and make him famous and a blessing to others (see Genesis 12:2-3). Again, He did! These fulfilled promises assure us of God’s faithfulness. See also: Genesis 15:4-5; 15:13-16.

The author of the book of Hebrews says, “If we deliberately continue sinning, after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies” (Hebrews 10:26-27 NLT). And to prove his point, the author reminds us of the consequences that resulted from disobeying the laws of Moses in the Old Testament, and goes on to explain why it will be worse for people who trample on the Son of God, and disrespect the blood of the covenant (see verses 28-29). This message should wake up any Christian who is willfully living in sin-“Is anything worth more than your soul?” No! The pleasures of sin are so temporary and fleeting, and in the end, they sting!
John addresses the issue of Christians caught up in sinful lifestyles this way: “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep sinning, because they are children of God” (1 John 3:9 NLT). His recommendation for prevention? “Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin” (verse 6).

And how do we live in Him? By reading, studying, and meditating on His Word, allowing it to transform our way of thinking and living. As part of a vibrant relationship, we need to maintain open communication through prayer. Nobody can be applying the Word of God and praying for deliverance from temptation while living in sin!

The difference between the children of the devil and the children of God, according to John, is this: “Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God” (1 John 3:10 NLT). So if you claim to be a Christian but are enjoying living in sin, you need to ask yourself if you are really a child of God. It is very possible that you do not know Jesus in a personal way: that you are making a false claim. However, you can make a decision now to live for God by placing your faith in Jesus.

You decide where you are in your spiritual journey. Either you are not a Christian and need to be, or you made a decision for Christ at some point, but did not follow through. Either way you need to repent and allow the Word of God to guide you into godly living.

If you are a Christian, God has called you to be an ambassador for Christ. How are you going to accomplish that by living in sin? An ambassador represents his country of origin to another, by portraying his country in the best possible light. That is what God expects of His children; that we portray Him in the best possible light to the world. We don’t have to figure out how to do it; He has already given us the blueprint—godly living, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings” (John 8:31).  Let’s follow it! We've been redeemed by the blood of Christ; nothing should be more valuable to us than our souls!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Faith Is Not Dependent On Facts

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Faith is defined as reliance, loyalty or complete trust in God, and the Scriptures define it as, “The confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). In short, faith believes that through God, the seemingly impossible will happen!

Facts are the hard evidence of a case or situation that cannot be disputed. Facts predict the outcome of a situation. For instance, when the Israelites left Egypt en route to the Promised Land, they had a number of challenges to overcome. One of their challenges was finding themselves sandwiched between the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian armies pursuing them from behind, with nowhere to go. Here are the facts about the Red Sea: it’s too deep to wade; it is impassable from one bank to the other without an adjoining bridge, a boat, or an airplane. Nevertheless, God miraculously made a way for the Israelites to cross it, getting to the opposite bank safely, on foot, and on dry ground.

Based on known facts, one could have predicted that the Israelites were going to perish, either at the hand of their enemies, or by drowning in the sea, but that’s not what happened; they got across safely without bridges, boats, or airplanes. The Egyptian army, in its pursuit of the Israelites faced the same facts like the Israelites, but without God in the equation, they drowned when they attempted to follow the Israelites on dry ground.    

This is where faith and facts part company: if you walk into a grocery store with no money (fact), you can’t expect to walk out with a bag of paid groceries. Faith however, can allow you to walk into the store with no money, and walk out with a bag of paid groceries, and maybe, even some extra cash in your pocket. Here’s the definition of faith as a math equation:
No money plus (+) complete trust in God to provide needed groceries (equals) =paid bag of groceries at no cost to you! That is how faith works in all seemingly impossible situations.    

One of the things that saddened Jesus during His time here on earth was the lack of faith among the people and especially, His own disciples (see Matthew 17:14-19). Although they’d all witnessed His power at work, time and time again, they never seemed to remember it when a need arose later! On a storm-tossed sea with Jesus in the boat, the disciples were alarmed; they woke Him up, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown” (Luke 8:24 NLT). After He rebuked the storm, He asked them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25 NLT). Jesus must have found that very disappointing; did they really think they were going to drown with Jesus on board the boat?

Can a boat drown with Jesus on board? No! But then, why do we sometimes behave as if that were possible? The Scriptures teach us, “It is impossible to please God without faith” (Hebrews 11:6 NLT). We need to have and exercise faith, if we’d like to be pleasing to God, because after all, He’s promised us, “I will never fail you, I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:6 NLT). Also, He encourages us, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 6:6 NLT). Which portion of these promises don’t I understand, and what about them don’t you understand? We need to stop worrying so much!  

Worrying does not change anything, (see Matthew 6:27); only the prayer of faith and the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6) can move the supposed mountains we worry about. The Scripture commands us, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT). When we pray more specifically and remind ourselves about God’s promises and past provisions, our fears, worries, and concerns will disappear. The facts we know about a situation don’t have to have any bearings on the outcome, because faith in the power of God makes all the difference, it makes possible, the seemingly impossible!

Lord, please forgive us for worrying so much. When we worry, we imply we don’t trust you, and that you don’t have the ability or the power to help us. Please forgive us for being so ungrateful and so faithless! You provide for even the birds of the air, how much less for those for whom you died and rose again! Lord, we turn our needs and concerns over to you, please intervene, and help us to always remember your many blessings. Thank you in Jesus’ name!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


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What is truth? Truth is defined as the state of being the case: facts, verity, and actuality. Personally, when it comes to information sharing, I like to be told everything. I do not appreciate half or partial truths; I hate surprises. There are people who excuse their half-truth presentation of information as a way of protecting people’s feelings.

Having said that, I have heard people, including Christians, who say hell should not be mentioned when the love of God is communicated. They claim it is enough for people to know God loves them. People should not be intimidated by the mention of hell. The gospel message, however, is not complete without the mention of hell (eternal separation from God), because that is the reason Christ died. He died to save us from hell! Yes, people should know God loves them. They should also know what He is saving them from and the implication of not responding to that love.
A parent might say to a child, “I love you. Don’t touch this hot burner.” As inquisitive as children are, don’t you think the child could ignore that instruction and touch it anyway? I believe so. A better approach is, “The burner is hot; you will get hurt if you touch it. I love you and don’t want you hurt, so don’t touch it”

People faced with decision making need to know the facts on which to base their decisions. They need to know their options in order to make the best possible choices. After they know the facts, they are responsible for their decisions and the outcomes. They have no one to blame but themselves for untoward outcomes. On the other hand, if their decisions are based on partial truths, they could be surprised by the outcome and may even feel that others are to blame for their predicament.
God makes sure He tells us the whole truth, and He expects us to go and do the same. When we focus on protecting people’s feelings by sharing partial truths, we really do them a disservice. The idea of hell is frightening, but that is the reason we need to share it. We tell this truth with compassion.
The gospel presentation should therefore include:

Who God is (Our holy Maker who hates sin), “I am God almighty; walk before me and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1 NIV84). (Also see Leviticus 19:2)
Who we are (sinners), “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV84).
The consequences of our sins (death), “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 NIV84).
God’s provisions for our sins (the death of His Son Jesus), “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3 NIV84).
The blessings that come with accepting God’s provision (salvation). “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned” (John 3:18 NIV84).   
The consequences of ignoring His provision (condemnation and hell), “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18 NIV84).

 Most people would prefer to hear the whole truth and believe on Jesus for salvation, rather than have their feelings protected with half-truths. Let’s be diligent and share the gospel, undiluted, with compassion and urgency.