A Fugitive of Righteousness

man in shadow

Are you in a situation right now where you are oppressed and mocked just for standing up for the truth—whether at work, on the road, or even in your own home? Do feel like you are in the wrong place at the right time? You are certainly not alone. Millions throughout history have gone through situations similar to what you are experiencing right now. Some made it through successfully, although not always the way that they had envisioned that the outcome would be. Thousands of years ago, even mighty King David of Israel struggled daily with enemies who would have swallowed him up.

David wrote about his situation in the book of Psalms: “Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me. Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High” (Psalm 56:1-2). This was a very difficult period of his life. He was on the run from King Saul, who continually refused to surrender to the fact that God had appointed David to be king of Israel instead of Saul. David even escaped once into the land of the Philistines, a perpetual enemy to the people of Israel. But to his dismay, the Philistine king, reminded of great victories David had won against his enemies, did not approve David’s entry into his land. Then David pretended that he was insane to escape the king. King Saul had given up his pursuit of David for the time being, but the Philistines picked up where Saul had left off. So David ended up trading one enemy for another, who had many more to fight against him!

The first few verses of this psalm state that every day David felt that his enemies were about to devour him. In verses 5 and 6 he made it known: “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.” This appeared to be a most hopeless situation. But David didn’t give up or give in to his enemies, because He knew someone infinitely greater than all of his opposition combined. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me” (vss. 3-4).

In spite of the great number of enemies bearing down on him, David put his trust in God. He knew God could take care of the situation. He declared a second time: “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (v.11).

David did not let his situation pull him down to a level of murmuring and complaining. Instead, he turned to praising God. Four times in this psalm he mentions giving praise to God and His Word. This is a definite quality that we, as children of God, need to make note of. In times of distress and impossible situations, our recourse should be just like David’s—trust and praise. When we let our stubborn and rebellious self, or ‘flesh,’ control our walk with God, then many of the problems we encounter will hopelessly overwhelm us. By trusting in God and giving Him praise, we demonstrate that He is in charge, not us. If David trusted in himself or those with him, he would have easily been defeated. Yielding this situation over to God and letting Him resolve it led him to victory.

woman in praise

Our first inclination should never be to worry or despair, but to trust and praise. It is actually a good thing to receive opposition and be a fugitive for righteousness. The devil does not like it when we make the truth known in this world. He will strongly oppose it whenever he can. This does not mean that we are to run away with fear and anxiety, but rather, we are to trust and praise God. Whether open and audible, or deep within our heart, we should always give God praise and thanksgiving in every situation.

We may be inclined to think that David had no pain, anguish or suffering, that whenever a problem arose, he just gave it over to God and everything was fine afterward. But verse 8 tells us otherwise: “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” David spent a good portion of his life in difficulties and struggles, even to the point of joining the enemy’s side. Yet God was aware of all that he was going through, and He kept a record throughout David’s life. No matter what the situation, God stayed by His side.

If the greatest king of Israel—a man declared by God to be one after His own heart—went through trials and problems that nearly killed him as he faithfully followed God, do we believe we will have none? In the end, God brought David through them all because he turned to Him. Even when David committed sins that caused thousands to die (including one of his own sons), he still put his trust in God for forgiveness and mercy, and came to Him repenting of his sins. And God still kept him in His hand. When we become a fugitive of righteousness and are at a loss as to what to do, let’s not put our trust in the world’s solutions. Turn instead to God and give Him our trust. Our hearts should be filled with praise to God Almighty, never to another mortal human being, who has no more hope and victory than we do.

Our resolve needs to be like David’s: “Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:12).

Since Psalms is the largest book of the Bible, full of praises to God both for what He has done and who He is, shouldn’t our hearts be full of the same? We owe it to God to give Him praise and trust whether our situation looks bad or good.

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“The Well is Deep”

old water well

I once went hiking near the massive rock formation of Sugarloaf Mountain, with its great, striking view, toward the low forest area of the lower footpath. After a while, it brought me close to a beautiful meadow. I could have taken a longer way around which would have led me to the main road. But it was one of those sweltering summer days. So, when I spied an opening in the weathered split-rail fence surrounding the vast open field, I took the well-worn footpath cutting through the middle of the open meadow instead.

Taking the footpath shortened my walking distance during the intense midday sun of this picture-perfect summer day. After I had hiked almost the full length of the path, it directed me down, going from side to side, to a wide, picturesque sight of numerous wildflowers growing throughout the meadow. It finally led to an old, dusty crossroad where I saw an insignificant, weathered, wooden structure nearby, originally a farmhouse. I discovered a long-standing, isolated, stone well there, sharing the same spot with an ancient oak tree, whose canopy of branches and leaves extended out far and wide providing welcome shade. Tiny, tightly-closed blooms peeked out from scattered morning glory vines nearby, while beautiful wildflowers in full bloom grew near where I stood. Then a small breeze stirred the very dry dust of the road, and the summer sun finally succeeded in penetrating the canopy that had been sheltering me from the midday heat.

I moved closer to the old well, hoping its water would quickly satisfy my thirst. Then I discovered that it was very deep. A tattered rope once held a bucket, but now swung freely back and forth around an old, rusty, cranking mechanism. And there I was, sitting under the shade from the massive oak tree at the well, with no means to draw water!

“The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?” (John 4:11)  

“The well is deep….” The well here was a lot deeper than expected. And this woman of Samaria could see that Jesus had nothing to lower into the well to get a drink of water. There are troubles and issues inside our human nature that can be very deep too. And we know we have nothing to draw them out with ourselves. But do we believe that Jesus has nothing to work with also?

He may come to us as we worry about issues in our heart that we cannot penetrate or come to understand and say to us, “Let not your heart be troubled.” But we shrug and argue, “Lord, this well is deep. I have tried and tried, and I can’t get any calm or comfort out of it. I don’t really see how You can do anything either.”

Why do we think Jesus is poor and powerless in dealing with our situation? He does not draw our help from deep wells of trouble anyway. He reaches up and brings our answer and comfort down from above.

We recall something we let Him do for us in the past, thinking: “Yes, He helped me that time, it’s true, but this time I can’t expect Him to solve this situation.” Why do we limit Him? Is He God Almighty or isn’t He? We want Him to comfort us, and to sympathize with us, but we don’t welcome Him as Almighty God in relation to our problem.

We have attributes and experiences that are Christian, but we don’t abandon ourselves to Jesus. What poor examples we are of Christianity, because we don’t draw on an Almighty Christ. We get into hard situations, and, instead of turning to Him, we say He cannot help us—that He is not able to do what we need. Then we try to go down into the deep well and get the water out ourselves. But the answer isn’t there anyway. We should know that if we look to Jesus, He can give us what we need. The Samaritan woman came for water at the well. But Jesus addressed her deepest unspoken problems and situations instead, and she left with her life totally turned around!

Yes, the well is deep and you are very thirsty. Don’t try to get the water yourself, though. Draw on the One who is the “Water of Life,” and you will never thirst again!

Much Effort; No Results

sprial tablet new ysr's resolutions

At the beginning of each year, we always seem determined to make ourselves better than we were the year before. What great endeavors we make to fulfill whatever resolutions we think will improve our life; yet, for so many, these efforts yield little or no results. Why can’t we accomplish all we set out to do? Or why do we sometimes succeed at something, then later see our success dwindle away? Why does it seem that for every two or three steps forward, we end up moving one or two steps back? How is that we work so hard to achieve so little—or even nothing at all?

For some, the answer lies in laziness, or just lack of initiative. Now if our success resulted solely from the monumental plans we have conceived in our minds, there would be prosperity and happiness in every corner! But, when it comes to walking with God, the real answer is that we are trying to accomplish all of these plans by our own strength and effort. We want to please God. We know we need to be healthy. We try to be abundantly prosperous. But we continue to do it all in our self. Without even realizing it, we leave God out of the picture. Or we do ‘include’ Him, but it ends up being conditional—on our terms. It’s like trying to drive a vehicle with an engine whose output is severely restricted. We make all of these great efforts on our own to get the vehicle moving and keep it going, but in the end, we’ve hardly traveled anywhere. Or, even worse, we boast of our great strides to go nowhere as if we actually accomplished something!

woman exercising in athletic field

God never intended for us to live our lives without Him. He wants us to look to Him for our strength and guidance. When we go forward on our own, we exhibit pride and self-righteousness. We are, in essence, displaying to God that we don’t need Him to solve the problem at hand. Or we are actually telling God that we know more than He does. Children and teenagers exhibit such an attitude at times when they are struggling to assemble an object, or have a difficult school assignment to complete. Rather than allowing (or even going to and asking!) one of their parents to assist them with it, they often angrily and hastily whisk the item away and move to another location. They may even order the parent to leave the room. Such actions naturally make the parent feel hurt. Then the child often does poorly or fails on the project, because he took it all on himself, even though he didn’t fully understand what he was to do.

Obviously, God does not view this or any form of pride and self-righteousness favorably. How could He, when His own creation has just declared themselves to be superior over Him! Our Heavenly Father loves us in a way greater than we, as a physical being, could ever understand. He knows that, due to sin, we are incapable of making ourselves totally right and complete before Him. In fact, it is impossible to make our sinful, mortal self perfect enough to stand before Him. That is one reason why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, who willingly came to this earth to be our perfect substitute. Since He was without any sin, He was the only one qualified for this position. Jesus fulfilled everything that the heavenly Father required in order for us to be able to freely and boldly come before Him—all the way to the point where He sacrificed Himself on a cross. All of this He did on our behalf. We could never reach the position, by our own efforts, where God could declare us to be pure, righteous, not guilty, and without blame.

We therefore need to stop trying by our own efforts to make ourselves acceptable and perfect to God (or anyone else, for that matter). Success will only come when we yield to Jesus and accept His sacrifice on the cross for our sins as our own. All of our resolutions and efforts, whenever they are made and attempted, will not make us any better before God—unless they are done through Christ. We need to commit ourself to Him and then let Him work through us by His Spirit. Even though we are children of God, we cannot just come boldly before Him as we are, due to our inherent sin nature (or sinful self). We must go before Him through His Son, who covers us and cleanses us of all our sins or unrighteousness with His blood that was shed on the cross. While exercise, prayer, budgeting, Bible reading, eating better, etc., are all good in themselves, if our true motive is to improve our self to gain the favor of God, then we will make much effort with no results.

Two Trees — One Choice

The first man saw that the trees in the Garden of Eden were pleasant to look at and good for food. God told him, “…Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat…” Let’s take a look here at two particular trees in that garden: “…the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:9, emphasis mine). God had warned the first man in advance that “…the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2: 16-17). This referred to spiritual death at once (cutting man’s direct connection with God), and physical death in due time.

Adam knew that God had given him that one restriction—to not eat the fruit of one particular tree in the midst of the garden. But the first woman was deceived and she ate one piece of fruit from that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then she gave some to Adam. He ate it too—knowing it was wrong to do so. They both yielded to their own desires instead of obeying and pleasing God. The first man and woman instantly became transgressors, guilty of disobedience to their Creator. God had made it clear that they then would experience the process of death, which began the very day Adam and Eve ate that fruit. How quickly wickedness began to grow after man sowed those first seeds of disobedience. Then he began to reap the sad result. The sin of man brought shame into the world. And the end result of sin is death. God was therefore forced to place restrictions on all human beings who were yet to come in the world.

Why did God plant that tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the first place, knowing it would be the source of disobedience in man?

As a sovereign or supreme entity God is not under the authority of anything or anyone therefore He has the freedom to say or do as He chooses. And He created man in His own image—so man, like God, also has a free will. This means God gave man the power of choice. Man can choose to obey God or disobey Him, to love God or hate Him. He can choose to serve God or his own physical nature. God is all-seeing and all-knowing. So He already knew what man’s reaction was going to be before Adam and Eve ever ate the forbidden fruit. Yet man had to be tested, to prove whether or not he would be obedient to God.

Man was created capable of reason (unlike the animals). God also gave all of us the capability of deciding for ourselves. And He made us capable of being immortal—by eating the fruit of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden. This special tree was an indication that Adam and Eve would never have died if they had not disobeyed God.

This means that there would have been no physical death in the garden, because the fruit of this special tree would have been available to them for healing if needed. Therefore, man did not originally need to die, but could have lived forever with God instead.

And that same original life God gave man furnished him with a nature fully capable of knowing, loving, and serving God. However, having this kind of relationship with God does not guarantee man’s salvation—meaning deliverance from the power and effects of sin. Only those who have been quickened into new life through spiritual rebirth (being ‘born again’ by His Holy Spirit) are really His children.

Jesus Christ created the whole universe. He declared Himself to be not only the Creator, but also the object of creation. “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3) by Jesus’ divine, eternal, living Word. And all the true children of God have been born again by means of the word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden symbolized Jesus coming down from Heaven into this world as a man, in order to be the eternal living ‘Tree of Life’ for man. His ‘fruit’ from this tree for the nourishment of life is within man’s reach.

All need to eat of this fruit, not the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Jesus, as that ‘eternal Tree of life,’ has been made available to us so that we can live—with God—forevermore!

For more information on how to obtain this ‘fruit’ for yourself please click here.

 

In the Heart or Just Floating on Water?

paper boat floating on stream

For centuries, the Bible has been the best-selling book out of all literature. It can be found in print, electronic, spoken, and visual formats. It can be pocket-sized, or so large that it requires both hands to pick it up. Both Old and New Testaments combined have been translated into over five hundred and fifty languages, while individual books have been translated into almost three thousand languages. The Bible can be viewed graphically in comic book format, or seen dramatized in film and video. Both devout believers and adamant unbelievers often quote (and misquote) from it. Passages can be found displayed in many places, from very obscure locations to prominent public monuments, and even on blimps and hot-air balloons. It has also been, and continues to be, banned, censored, rewritten to please a particular group of readers, mistranslated, abused, maligned, and burned or otherwise destroyed.

Yet even though God’s Word has been available in so many places around the world throughout history, the message it contains remains little known, especially (and unfortunately) among those who are most capable of understanding it.

For many in this present day, the plot of a novel or the script of a movie or television show is more easily and frequently known or quoted than even a handful of verses from the Bible.

Why is this so? Since the Bible is available among highly-developed nations more than it ever has been since it was first mass-printed, why are we more likely to hear it quoted today by under-privileged people in third-world countries and repressed nations?

The answer lies in how we view the Word of God. The Bible must be the foundation of our belief in, and understanding of, Him. It must be the means upon which we build our relationship with Him. It should be regarded with great value. When we consider His Word as dry and somewhat meaningless, or just a collection of stories, morals, and advice, then we have no core or structure to follow as a believer in Christ. It becomes a shell with no real substance inside to us.

If the Bible is read as just an obligation or requirement, rather than as a desire, then we evidently have no real love for God. He will have become more of a religion to us rather than a relationship.

Our spiritual strength comes from having God’s Word inside of us. If it is only in our head, then we become unbalanced spiritually. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11, emphasis mine). Too many people boast of their knowledge of the Scriptures instead of their relationship with God. Some have memorized many portions of the Bible. Others can quote it with great eloquence. But is it really in their heart? Do they really know deep down what they are talking about? Even the devil can quote scripture. Does that make him holy, righteous, or a better being? The Word of Almighty God isn’t simply like a little, colorful leaf floating on water—beautiful, but insecure and easily sunk or removed from view.

leaf floating on water

The answer to dealing with the temptations of this life and the wiles of the devil is to have God’s Word rooted deep within our heart. If reading each passage seems to be drudgery, we need to ask the Lord to open up the deeper meaning to us. Almost anybody can just read the Bible, but godly wisdom and knowledge come from studying and meditating on it. God is delighted when we want to know more about Him, and He will then reveal more of Himself to us proportionately though His Word. “Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes” (Psalm 119:68). But we must be willing to make that first step. “Draw [near] to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a). When we are not just reading His Word, but devouring it, we will discover that we will want to read it more and more.

“I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (Psalm 119:14-16).

“And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved” (Psalm 119:47).

The Bible will be more to us than just a reference book, or a manual on how to live correctly, when we begin see it as a glimpse into the very heart of God. As we open our mind to His Word, and bury it in our hearts, it will no longer be like nothing more than a leaf floating on the water, but a stable fortification instead. “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God(Ephesians 6:14-17 emphasis mine).

Have you let God’s Word become lost in a pile of books on a table? Have you carelessly left it someplace where it may become damaged or even ruined? Make an effort to locate it and read it. Study what it says, and put it in your heart where it will do the most good—for yourself, and anyone you may meet.

A Death and Life Matter

cross in clouds

“…I am the resurrection, and the life:
he that believeth in Me,
though he were dead,
yet shall he live:
and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.
Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).

Before He went to the cross to die, Jesus told His followers that He is the resurrection and He is the [eternal] life. Then He told them that whoever lives and believes in Him will die also—yet they will live! This means that they will also be raised from the dead (resurrected) and will live with Him forever in Heaven. Then, when Jesus’ time came to be hung on the cross to pay for the sin of all mankind, He told those who believed in Him that He would go through with it. Afterward, He said that the heavenly Father would raise Him up from the dead and glorify Him (make Him bright, shining and magnificent, like God). Jesus could not be glorified unless and until He was resurrected. And all of His followers will also be saved, and glorified after they die, because He promised that they will be like Him.

The one main thing that makes Christianity different from other faiths is the supernatural power of the living God. And the highest demonstration of this power was Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

The only way the truthfulness of what He taught could be checked out was by Him being raised from the dead like He had promised. First He was alive—then He was crucified and buried—and then He was alive again, just like He had promised! He became known as Lord of the living and of the dead. He said “…I am…the living one…I was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore” (Revelation 1:17-18).

Jesus also said that His followers would be able to live again like He did, because they believe in Him. His death on the cross, and God raising Him from the dead, were for everyone—in order that they would live for Him, not just for themselves anymore. He convinced His followers that they would be taken where He went when they died. His resurrection guaranteed the work He did on the cross.

Everything mankind lost when Adam fell, Jesus took care of on the cross. But His people only have part of what He won for them. The rest will come when we are resurrected too.

In the meantime, those who now live for Christ are eager to join Him. We groan and sigh as we wait and hope for God. When He comes back, then our bodies will be transformed to be like Jesus. We will go from being corrupt to being glorified and immortal.

True faith in Christ doesn’t come from thinking of Him raised from the dead, though. True faith only comes from thinking of Him hanging on the cross to pay the price for our sins that kept us from God. He is not only the way to eternal life—He is the eternal life we are after! This means that being “in Christ” is even more important than being raised from the dead. We who belong to Christ (symbolically) died with Him—we were buried with Him—and we will be resurrected in Him, to “newness of life.” He is the life which He gives in order to give life back to our dead souls.

Jesus’ voice commands dead souls to wake up. He has the authority to do this. His command makes those who are dead in sins become alive. They that hear His voice live. And His voice, speaking to you through His Word [the Bible] will cause you to die to sin. It will also encourage you to leave everything and follow Him.

Jesus died on the cross so that He could raise us from death in sin, which He proved by His own resurrection first. If you don’t hear the voice of Jesus, you will remain asleep and will die in your sin. Then you will never go to Heaven where He has gone.

One day a trumpet will proclaim Christ’s call to believers, like the military call to depart. This signal meant that it was time to march to another place. God is going to take us to another place to be with Him. Suddenly, in only a moment, those who have died in Him will be raised in glorified bodies, never to suffer from disease and death again. The believer’s hope in Christ is not just for the time they are here on Earth. Our hope is to be raised from this life to be personally with Jesus Christ, in order to rule and reign with Him forevermore. Then, when “Death is swallowed up in victory,” our triumph over death will be complete in every way. Let these words of Jesus Christ become a part of you: “… because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19).

If you have just read this and you would like to know more about how to be free from the bondage of sin and the assurance of life for eternity please click here.

Character Pleasing to God

young woman sitting by tree

What we say and what we actually do can be miles apart. But God doesn’t judge us by these as much as He judges us by our character. The one thing He really wants to see is godly character being built up in us. This means the way we behave according to our code of correct behavior, which is then demonstrated by the actions of our body. But we seldom think of character in terms of our body. The character we form is made known by the disposition that rules within us—referring to our customary moods and attitude toward life around us. God can change our disposition, but He is not the one who forms our character. We have to do that ourselves.

There is no quick and easy way to Heaven. This is also true in forming godly character. Choosing a quick and easy way to the ways of God does not benefit us. The only sure way is long and careful. We therefore need patience in the process. We can choose to ignore God and refuse to obey Him, or we can obey Him by bringing every thought and imagination under control. Then His life will be displayed in our body. The issue is not simply keeping us from going to Hell. The issue is that we have been saved for the very purpose of displaying Christ in our everyday life—in everything we do. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them,” said Jesus (John 13:17 emphasis mine).

headshot of a middle aged man

Patient striving for godly character shows the power of our love for God. Jesus did not choose the quick and easy way to the throne and kingdom He was destined for. He chose the long way of humility which took Him first to the Cross of Calvary. The heavenly Father’s perfect standard for a man’s character is represented by the life of Jesus. The Father does not make us walk right. Instead, He gives us the very life and Spirit of His Son, so His patience, love, and gentleness can be displayed in us. Then consistent godly Christian character is formed as the life of Jesus is made evident in our mortal body.

The only way to clearly understand the will of God is by developing godly character. Different Christians interpret His will in various ways at various times, but the Holy Spirit is the only true interpreter. When we first receive the Holy Spirit, we learn the most valuable lesson of spiritual life—that God’s will is revealed according to our character’s condition. But His will doesn’t change our character. It is our attitude toward His will, expressed in our newly-forming character, which begins to reflect His will. Paul said to work out our salvation, and to be consistent in character with what God has worked in, “That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

two indigenous children washing dishes

Our character cannot earn or make us deserve a right to come before God. It is only by His grace that we can ever stand before Him. Let’s be wary of having an arrogant interest in our own character, which can then turn into our reason for believing in God. Be careful that nothing interferes with our proper relationship with Him. Anything that damages this relationship will interfere when God wants to use us to influence others toward Him. It will also mar our reflection of Him in the eyes of others.

“The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” as we are “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (1 John 1:7; 2 Corinthians 7:1 emphasis mine).

Are we guilty of encouraging a false, unhealthy holiness that does not come from the fear of God? If we focus on our own holiness, a subtle pride of the flesh which is not in the Word can slowly rise up in us. It does not lead to building character, but only to having experience. Then we tend to take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough.

three crosses in a field

God gives us the right disposition through the Atonement (Jesus shedding His blood on the cross for our sins). He puts it into us when we are born again. But it is up to us to work it out in everyday life, in and through our physical body. This is also the way our character is made and displayed. It cannot be expressed in any other way except through our body. And how can we tell if our emerging character is of the nature of God? only when the life of His Son is being made manifest (evident) in our body.

Strength in moral life depends on the quality of our morals. But in spiritual life, we need to deal with things that oppose us by drawing from the life of Jesus. This will produce holy character which is wholly pleasing to God. Can we save ourselves or set ourselves apart unto holiness? No, only God can. Our treasure in Heaven is the wealth of character we are storing up by remaining true to Jesus’ faith, not to our faith in Him. But it is dangerous to allow holy character to replace our faith in God. Let’s think long and hard about our development of godly character, and work out what these thoughts concerning what God have worked into us. Then we will know that the character we have developed is pleasing to God.

Counterfeiting the Truth

three bills of United States currency on scannerdrawing of stack of three books

“He that hateth [hides his true motives] with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; when he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart” (Proverbs 26:24, 25).

We locate what we want to buy at the big department store, proceed to the checkout and hand the clerk large sums of our money. The clerk takes the larger denominations of our cash, and with a quick swipe of a special felt-tipped marker, verifies that the bills are genuine. If our money passes this quick test, the clerk finishes the transaction, hands us our change and away we go with goods in hand, ready to head for our next destination. But if one or more of these bills do not pass the test, a member of the store’s management will be summoned. He will also contact the police. Now we are in for quite a bit of questioning by the authorities, as well as confiscation of this suspect cash.

Why do larger denominations of money need to be analyzed before they are accepted? Why are there so many security measures on paper currency? Why, especially, are the twenty and the one hundred dollar (US) bills among the most counterfeited money in the world? Why don’t we find one dollar (US) notes or even pennies frequently counterfeited? The answer lies in value. A twenty dollar bill has far more value than a dollar bill, and a one hundred dollar bill has more value than a twenty and a single dollar bill combined. On the other hand, for convenience, a twenty dollar bill is more likely to be exchanged than one for five, ten, or a hundred dollars. As to pennies, producing one costs more than it is worth. Why take a great amount of time and money making lots of illegal copies (two thousand pennies only equal one twenty dollar bill) or small bills, when just a few larger bills would accomplish the same thing?

Counterfeiting is not limited to currency only. All over the world, numerous kinds of goods are copied and sold for far less than the original. The more valuable something is perceived to be, the more likely it is to be forged. But the more it is forged, the less valuable it becomes! This resembles pouring purple-colored, grape-flavored, sweet water into pure grape juice. The more that is added, the less pure the juice. It may still look and taste a lot like pure grape juice, but eventually it will be so diluted that no nutritive value remains.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6 emphasis mine).

The devil knows how powerful and valuable the Truth is, so he produces imitations of it. He knows that when enough forgeries of the Truth are circulated, people no longer find value in it. Then they lose interest in, or become indifferent toward, God and His Son. The devil delights in these ‘counterfeit Christians’. They consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ, but don’t want to fully obey Him and His Word. They readily follow something that resembles the Truth but has no value in the end, thereby leading them away from the Truth. Jesus said, “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit” (Luke 6:44).

‘Counterfeit Christians’ do not produce good fruit. How could they, when they are not feeding solely on God’s Word? They are living a life that is corrupting what little fruit is produced.

When unbelievers look at them, they don’t see Christ. They see a mixture of Him and the sinful world they live in instead. Therefore these unbelievers see no reason to leave their worldly lifestyle, since these ‘counterfeit Christians’ are not that much different from what they are. Worse yet, they may likely assume that all Christians are the same as the counterfeits.

Jesus mentions such in one of His parables. “Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in [here] not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and [grinding] of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:9-14). The man the king singled out was not wearing the proper garment—a garment of righteousness (being in right standing with God). At face value, the man appeared to be just like the other guests. But the king could see through all of this, and recognized that he was a hypocrite. God does not look lightly on those who proclaim to follow Him yet have no intention of knowing the Truth or doing what He commands.

True children of God should never be like such people. We must not readily accept others as true Christians just because they claim or appear to be one. If they are not producing godly fruit, we need to rethink how much we should be interacting with them, especially on a spiritual level.

Our lives should become transparent to the point that, when others see us, they only see Christ. We need to decrease our dependence on our self, so that He can increase more inside of us by His Spirit.

This is why we are to be reliant upon God for our guidance, like a child. The world we live in is getting worse every day. There will continue to be more and more counterfeiting of the Truth—whether it is via another Christian, a pastor, or what is purporting to be from the Bible itself. Jesus said, “Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them” (Luke 21:8). How do we keep from being deceived? Jesus tells us in Mark 13:33: “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.” We should continue to ask Him for discernment, and have our foundation in His Word, the Bible. The more we increase and intensify our relationship with Him, the less we will fall for counterfeits of the Truth.

 

The Fountain of Youth

outdoor fountain

A variety of folktales about a possible “Fountain of Youth” have circulated across the world for thousands of years. Greek historian Herodotus in the fifth century B.C. wrote about a fountain supposedly in Ethiopia, with a very special kind of water which gave the people superior duration of life. A tale was also told about Alexander the Great crossing the Land of Darkness with his servant to find the spring with the power to restore youthfulness. Juan Ponce de León was searching for such a fountain back in 1513 when he was exploring Florida. Do any such fountains really exist?

There was another account of an eternal source of the water of life. It was during the time of Jesus’ ministry when He was taking the road from Judea to Galilee which went through Samaria, where Jacob’s well was located. As He made the long, hot journey that led Him near this well, He became tired. So He sent His disciples ahead to get food while He rested by Himself at the well during the hottest part of the day. Then a woman from Samaria came to draw water from the well. Jesus looked at her and said, “Give me to drink,” because He had no means to draw water from the well Himself. She looked at Jesus in disbelief and asked, “…How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9). There was great hatred then between the Samaritans and the Jews. It surprised her that Jesus did not show the anger His own nation had against the Samaritans.

Jesus replied, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water” (John 4:10). Then she said, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?” (John 4:11-12).

The well was a very deep one indeed, not only physically, but also spiritually—deeper than anyone could have imagined. This woman did not realize that the man she was speaking directly to was Jesus. She only recognized Him as a Jew dealing with a Samaritan woman. But He was the very Savior her heart and soul had been longing for. She was trying to understand what Jesus was saying to her about living water. But she did it in her own natural way.

Jesus took this opportunity to teach the woman divine things. But what He told her figuratively, she took literally. He helped her to see her ignorance and sinfulness and need of a Savior. He showed her that the water from Jacob’s well would give very limited satisfaction. But the woman had not asked Jesus to give her living water so she could have everlasting life. She only asked Him so she would not have to come back to the well again to draw more water. Then the Lord Jesus severely reproved her current way of life, convicting her conscience.

The woman was going to drop the issue without making a decision until the Messiah comes back. Then Jesus told her, “I that speak to thee am He” (John 4:26).

She was a Samaritan, not part of Israel. Merely talking to her would have been considered a disgrace to a Jew. But this was the woman Jesus revealed Himself to more fully than He had to any of His disciples to that point.

The woman wondered what she needed to do to have eternal life. The answer was very simple: believe and receive Jesus Christ as the divine source of the eternal water of life. These waters spring up into life everlasting, through a “new birth”—the beginning of a new life. This is also referred to as being “born again,” which means beginning to live a new life of holiness for those who have lived the wrong way, or not to much purpose.

In our first biological birth, we were born in sin and were corrupt. We therefore needed to be re-created as new, sinless beings. We must be entirely different from what we were before. We can drink from Christ’s heavenly source of the “eternal water of life,” with its power of regeneration known as the new birth. It comes through this great transformation in the heart of a sinner, by the power of the Holy Spirit, which always produces eternal life. This new birth is from Heaven, meaning believing spiritually in Jesus Christ. None of the sins in our past can keep us from being accepted by Him, if we will just humble ourselves before Him, repent of our sin, and believe in Him as the Christ—the source of the eternal water of life and the Savior of the world .

Man continues to search for the mythical “Fountain of Youth.” But even if one could be found, it cannot produce eternal life for those who drink from it.

No matter what kind of earthly waters we drink to try to extend or restore our youth or to comfort ourselves, we will still thirst again. Jesus said: “…Whosoever drinketh of…” this natural source of “… water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14). Not a “fountain of youth,” but a “fountain of life” really exists. The Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well was searching in her heart for someone to save her from her sins. She found the “living water” that gave her new life. The Lord Jesus is sitting beside you right now. Why not tell Him, “…Sir, give me this water…” (John 4:15) and you will never have to thirst again—because you have found the true “fountain of life”!

No Power

lighted tent at nightunlit tent at night

While cleaning his attic one afternoon, the pastor of a small church rediscovered a medium-size tent he had purchased years ago. As a result, he considered doing something different for vacation that year. Instead of staying at their usual retreat near a large lake, he convinced his wife that they should head out camping in a tent and travel to different campgrounds across the region. After considerable preparation, their vehicle was fully packed and they hit the road.

The most commonly asked question whenever they checked in at the campgrounds was, “Do you want a site with power (electrical hookups) or with no power (no electricity)?” Being the rustic and frugal type (sites with power cost more), his usual response was that ‘no power’ would be fine. But his wife (who always brought the microwave) would often beat him to it, and insist on a site with power. Not being one to start an argument, especially on vacation, he would always agree and pay the extra amount. After several attempts to impress his wife with his fine outdoor cooking skills over a fire, he concluded that a microwave on hand wasn’t such a bad idea after all. In the end, they had a delightful trip overall, although he conceded that a motel room would probably have been better in the long run, and considered doing this again at some future date.

After they returned home, the pastor began thinking about the “power or no power” question—that churches today are offering the same kind of deal. But the difference is that they don’t ask those who regularly attend which choice they want, because the overseers of the church have already chosen “no power.” Then he considered the multitude of churches that are spiritually in the dark. Sure, the lights are on, the music is playing, and the temperature is adequately controlled—but spiritually there is “no power.”

Why is there no power? How do these churches survive without it? They are operating in their own human power, not the power of God. Most of us are taught that to make it in this world, we have to be strong and powerful. We have to be constantly building up our mind, soul, body, spirit, etc. If we show any signs of weakness, we will be overtaken and dominated by someone else. How often this is seen in the business world, where ‘stepping on someone else’ is necessary in order to get ahead and be considered successful. “Survival of the fittest” is definitely the modern motto!

Yet God would have us do the opposite. He wants us weak so that our strength and power come solely from Him. This means that we are to yield our self-centered life over to Him, similar to the way that children submit to their parents and are dependent on them to provide a way through difficult situations. The Apostle Paul was considered to be one the most powerful men spiritually in the Bible. He wrote that Jesus “…said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 emphasis mine). The power of any body of believers in Christ can only come through God and Christ.

man doing pull-ups

man standing with arms folded in prayer

It is good to build ourselves up physically. We need to strengthen our muscles and keep our bodies in shape. When our physical bodies are inactive, we begin to waste away and leave ourselves prone to sickness. But spiritually, our self-centered flesh (the part of us that desires the sinful and godless things of this physical world) needs to surrender and no longer be allowed to control us, so that our spirit can grow strong through Christ. We need to yield ourselves to Him because He must be in control of our lives, not us.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth…” (Romans 1:16 emphasis mine).

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18 emphasis mine).

When “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is the focal point of the message being proclaimed in the church, then there will be power. The churches with no power have downplayed or rejected what Christ accomplished on the cross. They seek and worship God in their own strength and power. They therefore have “…a form of godliness, but [deny] the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5a emphasis mine). If they preach a crucified Christ instead, they go in the opposite direction of what they have been taught. This makes them appear weak to others. Then they lose their ‘dignified image’ to the sinful and ungodly community around them. In other words, their true colors are exposed—that they are pleasing the world and not God, in order to get ahead. They fully realize that people are not going to give generous sums of money to a church that appears weak and powerless. But God will not honor or bless the works of self or the flesh. This is what happens when a church tries to win the favor of the world.

cross on mountain

A church that has no power leaves those who attend with no power to overcome bondage. Only belief in Jesus and His finished work at the cross can bring true victory. That is where the power is. When a church leader proclaims that we have to work our way to holiness or righteousness ourselves to be in right standing with God, he cancels out all that Christ taught when He was here on earth. Sin continues to control us if we don’t confess it and turn it over to Him. No multi-step programs, secret codes to be unlocked, or special seminars, meetings or retreats will set us free from the oppression of sin. Only by faith in the victory of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross can true freedom be brought into our life, because we then have access to the power we need.

Has your church or fellowship chosen power or no power? Do you leave satisfied in your spirit after each service? Or does emptiness still remain in your heart? Is the finished work of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross proclaimed from the pulpit? Do you know more about the latest events on television or some popular movie than you do about the Bible? Is there a passionate desire to know God more intimately, or another fundraiser or new building program continually? Does your place of worship leave you confident that you are able to take on the world by yourself? Or does it bring you to the altar, knowing that you have no power unless Christ is leading you each day?

dark gothic building at sunset

If your church or fellowship has lost its power (or never really had it in the first place), seek God to lead you to one that has the power of God. Maybe the power is dimming where you currently attend. Your prayers are greatly needed there. Call upon the Lord on behalf of the church and plead with Him earnestly that they would choose power instead of no power. Impress upon other believers to do the same, and put to flight the efforts of the devil to kill the power of God there completely. Don’t succumb to peer pressure from other members of your church or fellowship and do nothing. There is no power in inertia or tradition. These things should not dominate your actions. A church that chooses the “no power” option yields a congregation that has no spiritual power.