Don’t look down!

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.I think a lot of times we take a passive and defensive approach when we fight temptation. This powerful draw or pull we experience towards the carnal and wicked desires of our flesh is something we must “not give into” instead of something we must overcome.

Temptation is a powerful foe. And it is a powerful force. But the approach of “to not give in” leaves us with very little to do but to concentrate on both our potential and desire for sin, and ourselves. Ironically focusing on both of these can actually lead us to fall to temptation.

The word of God illustrates temptation and sin in many ways. One of them is the idea of falling. The first sin ever committed is known as the “fall of man.” And we say it all the time. Falling into sin. Falling to temptation.  Now think about falling. It’s allowing gravity to have it’s way. That force is always pulling on us, but we don’t fall all the time. We fall when we become unbalanced. But more importantly, we fall when we cease to stand.

I’ve never started my day thinking, “I hope I don’t trip on the stairs today.” or “I hope I don’t loose my balance when I’m walking.” And I doubt you often think such thoughts either.

No, we simply think about all the things we have to do. We have tasks of varying importance and responsibilities to fulfill. We’re not focused on the idea of failure, we’re focused on the idea of success.

Why is it then, that in our Christian life, we can become so focused on “not messing up.” I know for myself, I can become easily involved in that defensive approach to life. I don’t want to give into eating that cookie, or having that lustful thought. I don’t want to give into covetousness, or allow pride in my life.

The Bible tells us again and again to resist temptation. Resist the devil. Fight against sin. And we must do all of that. But we must remember that our Christian walk is more than just learning to say no to things. The focus is so much higher and the purpose is so much richer.

Colossians 3 says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Did you notice to focus of this verse? Seeking what is above. Our key to defeating temptation is not wrapped up in saying “no” to wickedness as much as it involves saying “yes” to righteousness.

Saying no to that cookie will only get you so far. Contrast it with being wrapped up in healthy meal planning and intentional nutrition.

Saying no to lustful thoughts will only help so much. Contrast it with purposing to meditate on God’s Word and direct your thoughts towards honoring God.

The illustrations can go on and on.

When we continue reading in Colossians 3 we see several verses which touch on leaving behind and taking off sinful lifestyles, but the vast majority of verses following continue to focus on righteous and holy living. I would submit to you that this is the balance that our lives require.

Realizing how Christ has called us to focus on things above. Putting off what is filthy. And putting on the righteousness He has prepared and provided for us.

You don’t shout, “Don’t fall” to a tightrope walker, and you don’t say, “Don’t miss” to your buddy trying to shoot a basket. Don’t tell yourself- “Don’t sin!” in your Christian walk.

When you’re up high and in danger of falling, you don’t look down, because focusing on failure will make it harder to succeed. Don’t make such a fatal mistake in your Christian walk. Don’t focus on the temptation you must overcome or the sin you must avoid. Focus on the King of rightesousness who provides a way of escape, the One who died to make you a new creature, and the wonderful life of purpose He has planned for you.

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If you hunger, you will be filled

I can recollect times in Sunday School when we would recite portions of the Bible in a happy sing-songy voice. Sometimes we paid attention to what we were saying, and sometimes reciting scripture was just a group activity like any other. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5) I can recall specifically. I remember always pronouncing, “Bles-sed” instead of “Blessed” for some odd reason and wondering what it meant to inherit the earth. The teacher usually made  big deal out of being a peacemaker. And usually there was a comment about persecution and how we were actually blessed when persecuted.

These verses hold so much truth. And somehow, knowing them from a young age, I seemed to underestimate their significance. I was reminded of one in particular recently.

Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

God didn’t say, “Blessed are those that go to church every Sunday and try really hard, for they will be righteous.”

God didn’t say, “Blessed are those who were born in a Christian family for they will be righteous.”

God didn’t say, “Blessed are those who have a large portion of Scripture memorized for they will be righteous”

No.

He said,

Blessed are they who hunger to be righteous

Blessed are they who thirst to be righteous

God’s not interested in performance, talent, skill, or even your “Christian heritage” as much as He is interested in the condition of your heart right now. What do you hunger for?

Do you hunger for status? A job promotion? A six figure salary?

Hanging with the cool kids, or having that person like you back? Maybe it’s becoming famous or having your amazing talent recognized. Maybe you just want to sleep most of the day and binge watch tv shows for the rest of it.

What do you hunger for?

I challenge you, hunger to stand righteous before God. Hunger to know His pleasure. Hunger to have his approval.

Hunger to stand before Him and hear Him say, “Well done.”

God doesn’t want your leftovers, or trophies that you gained from meaningless ambitions. He wants all of you. He wants to be first. He wants you to hunger to stand rightly before Him.

And the amazing thing is, if you do desire righteousness, He will bring it to pass in your life. Your desire will be met, you will be filled, and you will know what it means to be righteousness.

I challenge you, Desire God’s pleasure – there’s no higher ambition.

 

Spiritual farming

Farmers are patient people. Really, they are. Especially gardeners. Every spring, they must work hard to plant the seed. They prepare the soil, and put the seed in the ground and then . . . . They wait. Day after day goes by and the ground looks the same. And the next day it still looks like dirt. And the next. And the next. In order to reap a harvest, they must have faith. You see, the reason that farmers, gardeners, and all of us have food to eat is because someone had faith in the principle of sowing and reaping. The someone sowed, and he patiently waited for the harvest. No matter how many days he looked at the barren ground and saw nothing, he was faithful.

It’s a lot like our spiritual lives. We sow either good works, or bad, and in the end we reap. Galatians tells us, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The next verse expounds on that idea in saying, “For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Pretty simple eh? Just like your garden, you put in whatever you want to get.

From this we can draw some conclusions. First (and obviously) if you sow to the flesh you reap corruption. Obviously, if you sin you’re going to mess up your life. But remember the patient farmer? Things didn’t look like they were going to grow at first. And that’s exactly how it is with sin. You plant sin, and then you look at the ground and say, “I don’t see anything.” What’s the big deal? The ground looks the same!” Next day, you plant some other sin. And the ground of your heart looks the same. After a while, all those seeds start growing and bearing fruit, and before you know it you are overwhelmed by the sin in your life and there seems to be no escape! All those previous sins are bringing more sins every day and it’s only by the grace of God that you can break the cycle.

You can put your faith in the principle of sowing and reaping.

Second observation. When you sow righteousness, you gain a reward. Here’s one more situation. You plant righteous living in the ground of your heart. And the next day you’re like, “What’s up with all the hard work? It was a real struggle to plant that and I got nothing!” Next day, you plant, but there’s still no harvest. It’s tempting to quit. It really is. It’s not easy to keep going. That’s why so many people sign up for the gym on New years and quit before they’re in shape. They didn’t sow long enough to reap.

You may think, well I sowed. Shouldn’t I reap? Well, yes, you will. But the Bible also tells us, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” A farmer fills his field with seed, so he has enough harvest to live, and we must do the same. We can’t live off the harvest of one or two seeds. We need a bountiful harvest.

God knows that it isn’t always easy to keep going. That’s why he gives us promises to encourage us. He tells us that we will reap what we sow. He tells us there is a reward for righteousness. He tells us to keep going. Wherever you are, and whatever your situation, I say to you: “Keep going.” Keep sowing. It may not be easy now, but you will reap a harvest. However bountiful your harvest is, depends on what you do now.

I leave you with Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

And just one more Scripture I couldn’t leave out: “The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.” – Proverbs 11:18

Your reward is sure. Keep going!

What did God do wrong?

There is a common idea in the world that says something like, if we worship God, we’re doing Him a favor. Like it’s our “duty” but really we’re helping God out when we do something right. In reality, we’re doing ourselves a favor. And we’re doing the only reasonable thing.

In Jeremiah 2, God is pleading with the people of Israel to come back to Him. God desires revival for His people, and as He calls to them, He asks a question that can really make us think.

One question He asks is in verse 5. He asks, “Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?” What a thought! We will consider breaking it off with someone if they treat us wrongly. God asks those who have turned from Him, “What have I done wrong?” “What sin did I commit?”

God has never done anything amiss. He is eternally righteous and just. If you find that your life is being lived in a way that chases after vanity, realize that you have ceased to seek after God. It is a fundamental axiom of the universe that God is perfect. He does nothing wrong. He commits no sin or injustice. So the question asked in the scripture is obviously rhetorical.

God has given us life, provision, and the promise of an eternal relationship. Why would we turn from Him? What could bring us to turn from our fellowship with Him? Nothing but our own selfishness.

I challenge you, if you have turned from God in any way, go back to Him today. God calls after you just like He called to the Israelites. He is ready to receive you, if you will only turn to Him.

Won’t you turn to Him? After all, what evil has He done to you?

 

When your bones wax old

The human was not designed for sin. I was told once that it is not human nature to sin. In fact, “It is not human nature to sin, and every time a human sins, he becomes less human.” When I heard that, I was astounded. But if you realize that we were created to have a relationship with our Creator, then the idea is no less than common sense.

In Psalm 32, David says something we don’t usually hear in our English. He says, “my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.” At first, this verse can be a little confusing, but if you read the chapter thoroughly, it becomes clear.

David spoke this when he was keeping silent, and further verses explain that he was keeping silent about his sin. David explains that day and night, God’s hand was upon him, prompting him to confess and forsake his sin. While David kept silent about his sin, his body either felt like, or actually was deteriorating.

David made a good choice. He decided to get rid of that sin and stop holding it inside him. Instantly, David felt better. He begins to speak of all the things that God is to Him. As we know, humans were designed to have a relationship with their Creator. He says that God protects him, and is his hiding place, and gives him songs of deliverance. God delivered David from his sin, and David rejoiced and sang songs of praise to Him.

So here’s the contrast, Sin: Bones rotting and cries of distress ~~~ Righteousness: Praise to God, a relationship with Him, and joy.

Which benefit package would you like to apply for today?

I challenge you, if there is unconfessed sin in your life, make it right, right now. You weren’t designed to sin, in fact, sin is the very thing that destroys you and brings your death. Don’t allow such destruction to reside in your heart. Make a choice to make it right today, and God will forgive you.

In Psalm 32, David gives instruction. He says, “Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near thee.” In short, will you be like the animal who must be punished in order to follow his master’s instruction, or will you willingly follow His words because He knows what’s best?

The psalm finishes with, “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” – Psalm 32:11

Choose righteousness and live.

Are you fighting against God?

Have you ever been at the top of the world spiritually? You were having victory over sin, your prayers were being answered, God was using you in the lives of others, and people began to look up to you. You started to notice how well you were doing, and then suddenly, you weren’t doing so well. I have had this happen to me many times. As soon as the believer allows pride into his heart, he is doomed to fail.

1 Corinthians 10:12 tells us, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." If we put our focus on ourselves, we need to watch out. As soon as we are not looking to Jesus, but noticing how well we are doing we are in trouble. If we begin to look at ourselves and focus on how we have been succeeding spiritually, we will be lifted up with pride. When we are lifted up with pride, we put ourselves in a place where God will bring us low. James 4:6 says, "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." That word for ‘resist’ literally means to set yourself in battle against. If you lift yourself up in pride, you are literally putting yourself in battle array against God. Yeah, that’s a bad idea.

So I would like to challenge you: humble yourself. Realize how your success is not the focus of your life. God’s glory is your focus. Don’t fight God for the glory that rightfully belongs to Him. Let us give Him all the glory and honor that He deserves. In return, we will receive grace. Isn’t He a good God?

"And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." – Matthew 23:12

The foolishness of God

Have you ever been impressed by a person who just knows it all. It seems as if they had all the knowledge of the world between their ears. As Christians, we have access to more knowledge than the knowledge of this world. We can have knowledge from God.

Proverbs 2 begins by a father calling to his son to seek for knowledge and wisdom. He tells the son to seek for understanding and knowledge as if he was seeking for treasure. He says that as you seek for knowledge you will gain the fear of the Lord. We know from Proverbs 9 that, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." Knowledge and wisdom come from God. If that isn’t enough, Proverbs 2 continues in verse 6 with, "For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." We can learn from these passages that God is the source of all wisdom and knowledge.

In light of these scriptures, I would like to encourage you. Whatever the world around you is saying, trust God. No matter what historians dig up, or evolutionist say, trust God. He alone is the source of all wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. All the intelligence on earth is foolishness before Him. 1 Corinthians 1:25 says, "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." God is above all in this world. Let us trust what He says and seek Him for the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that only He can give.

"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" – Romans 11:33

It’s my life, right?

Have you ever justified a decision by saying, "It’s my life." Or perhaps you have heard someone justify something by saying that they could do whatever they wanted with their life or their body. I would like to share with you, that your life and your body are not yours.

1 Corinthians 6 was written by Paul to the Corinthians. He was rebuking them for their immoral behavior, specifically fornication. Paul made the argument that not only does a person sin against God, but their own body. But he wasn’t through there. He continued by saying, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" Ye are not your own. What a rebuke. God has given us this life on earth. We did not bring ourselves into existence; He created us. We did not deserve to be redeemed from sin, yet He paid the price. Our entire lives have been given unto us for our stewardship.

So I guess my question for you today is: How are you stewarding your body and your life for Christ? Are you using your body and your life for God’s glory? I would like to challenge you, live the life God has given you with the understanding that it isn’t really yours. Every part of our being belongs to God, let us live in light of that truth.

"For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s." – 1 Corinthians 6:20

Is God on your mind?

Have you ever had something on your mind and you just couldn’t stop thinking about it? Maybe you fell in love and all you thought about was that guy/girl. Or perhaps you were waiting for a video game to come out and that’s all you wanted to think about. God wants us to make Him and His commandments our meditation.

Psalm 1 speaks of a man who is blessed. In verse two it says he is blessed because, "His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." The word meditation means to think, ponder, muse, murmur, and speak. It simply means that you are thinking on something so much that you eventually murmur and speak it to yourself. Some meanings of meditation even get into singing. In short, God should constantly be on our minds. He should be the thing that we anticipate, we long for, we treasure, we love with all our being.

You see meditation is always associated with a reward. For Isaac, his wife came; for Joshua, he had good success; for the psalmist, he had more understanding than all his teachers. When we refrain from sin and meditate on God and His Word, we will not only grow closer to God, but also receive blessing.

Let’s ask God to teach us to meditate on His Word.

"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." – Psalm 1:3

Temptation, and the escape clause

Many times when we are faced with temptation we forget that we have the victory. We may be afraid of temptation. In this devotional, I would like to remind you about the victory you have through Christ.

We should rejoice in temptation. James 1:4 says, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;" James is not saying to be happy when you fall to temptation, but when you are tempted. When we stand strong against temptation, it will strengthen our faith and bring us patience that will allow us to endure through trials.

We don’t have to fear temptation. God promises that He will only allow us to be tempted so far. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." No matter what comes our way, we have the ability to choose a more abundant life with Christ. No matter how much we have fallen to temptation in the past, we don’t have to fall ever again in the future. God has made a way that we do not need to fall to sin. Christ has given us the victory.

So I would like to encourage you, rejoice in temptation. It does not hold power over you. You do not need to fear temptation. God has made a way for us to walk in righteousness continually.

"But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Isn’t that a great promise!