No Good Thing

“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing…” (Romans 7:18).

Once we give our life to God, we discover that inside of us there is both the ‘old man’ (that person we were before God saved us), and now the ‘new man’ (that God is making us into). The very nature of the ‘old man’ is rebellion against God. Slowly we discover that we are not able to carry out our earnest desires to be good or to do anything good. All too often we find ourselves going in the opposite direction of our new nature—the ‘new man’—even though we don’t want to anymore. Therefore, we can’t put any confidence in our flesh, our ‘old man,’ even after we become believers.

Before we were believers in Christ, many of us tried to prove that we were righteous and deserved to be saved by our righteous deeds (hoping they would outnumber our unrighteous deeds). After we became believers, at some point we (hopefully) learned that there was nothing righteous about our ‘old man,’ and we really deserve nothing good from God at all. Our real problem is our old self. Inside our ‘old man’ there is no good thing. He doesn’t want to pray or hear God’s Word because he hates both. He does no good thing, because nothing in his nature is truly good (according to God’s standards). Why? because the ‘old man’ (the “flesh”) has made us weak due to sin, while our spirit is now quite strong and willing to do good.

The moment eventually comes when we finally realize that no good thing is naturally in our flesh. This means that we can’t put anything in ourselves that is good—only God can.

And where do good things come from? They come from the grace of God, from Jesus Christ, and from the Holy Spirit’s influence. So God comes in and makes a way for us to be set apart unto Him.

The Apostle Paul thought he could keep the law perfectly after God saved him. Slowly he began to understand that the ‘old man’ was still there, interfering with his ability to do so. Then he realized that “…it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Romans 7:17). When he saw that he would have to struggle all his life with this issue, he cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). He came to understand that it was not him linked to Christ who was failing. It was sin living within him which still controlled him and caused him to fail. He wrote “…For to will [to do good] is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not (Romans 7:18). He did not have the power necessary to overcome the old sin nature, the ‘old man.’

Paul discovered a law here. The ‘new man’ inside him delighted to do the law of God. But, in spite of all his determined hard effort, by doing this he did not become holy like he thought he would. God allowed Paul to try his own way until he finally learned that it was destined to failure. Then he learned that our flesh is no different from anyone else’s. We can try all we want by our own effort to overcome our flesh, but we will never succeed on our own, even after we become believers. But when we finally give up, then God’s Spirit can come in and work on us.

Think of it this way: Suppose an abnormal growth is inside of you, threatening your life if left to develop on its own. Your doctor says it must be removed. Do you go home and cut yourself open so you can pull that thing out of you? Hopefully not! You know you must have the doctor remove the abnormal growth. While lying on the operating table, do you reach out and grab his scalpel and say, “Let me have that. I can cut this thing out of me”? No, you know you have to submit to the doctor’s superior knowledge and ability in this area. You have to trust him to do what needs to be done to help you. You are not capable of operating on yourself, even though you very strongly desire to get rid of the abnormal growth.

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When we give our lives to God, we have to come to the point where we trust Him to do what must be done to remove the abnormalities caused by sin that are hindering our progress in becoming a true man or woman of God. When our heart as a believer becomes more holy and pure, we more earnestly desire to obey God as we grow in His grace. And the more holy we become, the more we want that abnormal growth of sin still deep inside us to be gone. But then we discover another law in us, which Paul called the “law of sin and death.”

The ‘old man’ is the carnal man who has not been delivered from the bondage of the law. The ‘new man’ is the spiritual man, filled with God’s Spirit, and Jesus has become the ruler of his life. Sin can no longer rule over the ‘new man’ when grace rules instead.

Grace comes from outside of us—from God Himself—to help us overcome the lusts of our carnal mind. He sets us free from their control while inspiring a love of holiness in us. God’s supernatural grace is strong enough to hold back the ‘old man,’ so he can no longer do all the evil things he wants to.

The carnal (fleshly or worldly) part of our mind is constantly at war with the renewed mind that Christ has given us. Should we fight with it? No—it will bring us down every time. Turn away instead and be totally done with it! No amount of self-effort can bring this conflict within us to an end. When we finally realize that, we then learn the way to reach our goal. We need to delight in Jesus Christ risen from the dead—the only One who can deliver from the power of sin. We should look away from our self and law, and look to the risen Christ instead. When we cry out in anguish, “Who shall deliver me?”, what is the proper response? God will deliver us, through His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4).

This is our battle: to crucify this indwelling principle of evil in our flesh, as we wage war continually against it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yield to God and obey Him; then we will be well pleasing to Him. We can’t live for God in our own strength. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit living inside us can we truly live for God as He wants us to.

Willing Spirit, Weak Flesh

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“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17).

When the Apostle Paul wrote these words, he was saying that he had discovered that he had no strength of his own to carry out the good that he wanted or willed to do in his life. He also said, “…how to perform that which is good, I find not…(Romans 7:18). After wrestling with this knowledge for a while, he came to the conclusion that he could carry out no good thing without Jesus Christ.

Why is this? It is because the “flesh” wants what the Spirit does not want, while the Spirit wants what the flesh does not want. And this is because “…these are contrary the one to the other…” They are total opposites, hostile toward each other in an ongoing conflict that never ends. If the Spirit side wants to do good, the other side opposes it and wants to do what is evil in God’s eyes. But when the evil side wants to do evil, the Spirit of God in those who believe in God opposes and tries to restrain it.

Now just what is “the flesh”? In the Bible, “flesh” does not refer particularly to our physical body, but to our human nature that leaves God out. It applies to the way man is as he has adapted to living in the world system. It refers to man’s “lower nature” where “no good thing” dwells.

The spirit of man is willing to do what God wants, once the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus) has access to it. But man’s flesh has been so weakened through sin that it always gets in the way of the good the Holy Spirit wants to do in and through our lives. Paul came to the realization that no good thing lives in our flesh. The good things live in our heart and spirit.

“For to be carnally [fleshly] minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity [hatred] against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:6-7).

The spirit of man cannot carry out the good things he wills to do because of this lack of harmony within him—unless he can tap into a strength higher than his own. Those “who walk in the spirit will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” because of this higher power in them, which the Bible calls “grace.” “And these are contrary …” meaning they are opposites and never in harmony with each other over anything. The Spirit of God leads us in the right way, but our carnal nature leads us in another.

When we are born again, we receive a new nature within us that comes from God. This is one very good reason to want to be born again. But those who become born again, like Paul, soon discover that we can still do the evil we used to do before we were born again. How perplexing this is to us, as we wonder why we can’t carry out the good we now desire to do. Our opposition comes from our old self, our “flesh.” Our old carnal, fleshly self always sides with what it loves, and what it loves is always contrary to what the Spirit of God loves.

What does God do about this? He imparts His supernatural grace into our born again soul, so that we can overcome all the lusts of our carnal, fleshly self and be free from their domination. In the Bible, “grace” refers to God’s compassion, mercy, and forbearance, His favor and forgiveness. Therefore, sin no longer has any right to dominate our body, because the new reigning power in our soul is grace. Our old self no longer leads the way to more sin for us, because the stronger power of the Holy Spirit that comes through God’s grace restrains it. Then God can inspire us to seek holiness in our soul instead.

Are we now going to continue to let our weak flesh do what it pleases? No, our new self now needs to watch and pray, as Jesus told His disciples.

Our flesh is not evil in itself, being a basic part of our make-up as human beings. But it continues to be weak, even though our spirit is becoming more and more strong. Our goal should be to overcome the influence and domination of the flesh by tapping into the strength of the spirit. How do we do this? By watching and praying. “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak´ (Matthew 26:41).

Watching is not just being awake, but using our powers to guard against the evil the flesh wants to yield to. And while we are on guard against evil, we would be wise to ask God to help us overcome it. When we are on watch against evil, we are able to see temptation coming. Then, when we turn to prayer, we receive the strength we need to stand against the temptation when it arrives. Peter’s spirit was willing to watch. But, through his flesh, the evil one weighed him down to keep him from doing so. This is why Jesus warned His disciples to watch and pray. When they failed to, they gave the devil an advantage over their fleshly nature.

Even Jesus needed to watch and pray. When He was praying in the garden of Gethsemane before going to the cross, He was weighed down with sorrow to the point that His flesh was barely able to keep from giving in even unto death.”

(“Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry [wait] ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38)). He was asking His disciples to watch with Him during this most trying time of His life. Yet, even when Jesus was at His weakest point, He showed that He was the only One who could give all strength. He exhibited all grace even when He was undergoing and being crushed under divine judgment like no other man has ever known. Jesus was willing in His spirit to totally yield Himself to the heavenly Father’s will. His spirit was able to master His flesh and bring Him to victory. This meant that He would have to suffer and die on the cross, He who had never yielded to sinful fleshly desires in His entire life.

We are no longer to let sin have the rule in our physical body. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Romans 6:12). No longer are we to obey the sinful impulses, but are now to achieve victory over them. We can’t just come to the point of not doing evil; it is time to learn to do good. Jesus set the example for us. He will not accept those as His own who continue to yield themselves to be the slaves of sin. We have been trying in our own strength, in our flesh, to overcome, and we should know by now that this way does not work. What we are missing is that we need to tap into a power higher than our own to achieve victory. We need to depend on His Spirit working in us to overcome our sinful fleshly desires. Then we will no longer be the slaves of sin and the flesh, but willing slaves of Jesus Christ, obedient to His Spirit.

Tempted and Tried

sunset

“Jesus said unto him, It is written again…You shall not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 6:16; Matthew 4:7).

What does it mean to “tempt” God? It refers to testing His strength, goodness, value, and truth, or to put Him to the proof to see if what He says is true. It means that we are not to intentionally enter into danger that only the power of God can rescue us from, in order to force Him to come to our aid and rescue us. It can also mean trying Him to see if He really exists. Will He actually come through for us when we really need Him to?

Do we really think that we are strong enough on our own to take it upon ourselves to dare the devil to tempt us, because we feel that we can win against him? Then we imply that we don’t need God to help us. We are purposely stirring God up—not to rescue us—but to leave us to our own devices, since we are so sure we know what we are doing.

And just because God has given certain people great privileges, these alone do not protect or exempt them from being tempted (tested, tried) also. Jesus Himself was put into a situation where He would be tried by the devil. His faith proved to be perfect and determined.

There was not even one thing He was willing to do to put the goodness of God to the test. Why? Because He was already positively confident that God is good. He didn’t need any proof of it at all. He already had all the proof He would ever need of the truthfulness and power of God.

Many people are tempted when they long after or chase their own strong hopes and desires. But Jesus did not have a fallen nature like the children of Adam, so He had no evil hopes or desires beckoning Him to pursue them. This is why the devil was the only one who could be used to tempt Him. All the temptations the devil threw at Him were for one primary purpose. He wanted to get Jesus to wonder if He could trust His heavenly Father in all things, at all times. He wanted to bring Jesus to the point where He would do something to sin against His heavenly Father.

When the devil tempted Him, Jesus did not plead His case against him, or even engage in a discussion with him. He simply replied “It is written” (in the Scriptures/Bible) and quoted the appropriate passage to him. The Devil can use the word of God too, and be very artful and clever about it. But when he uses it, he twists and turns it to fit what he wants to say, or to try to produce the outcome he is looking for. How very crafty he is, as he confronts and very boldly defies God.

But He can be successfully opposed, as Jesus has already proven for our sake. Jesus was successful when He encountered temptation because He met it head on with the proper weapon—the Word of God used in the proper way. How comforting it is to us therefore to know when we are tempted if we do not yield and no longer have ungodly lusts for the devil to appeal to. Then we are not so much tempted as we are tried.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Jesus learned by personal experience what it meant to suffer being tempted. This way, He was also able to learn what it was like to receive support from God the Father and to be delivered from His distress. “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor [bring relief to] them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). Since Jesus has already gone through temptation and successfully resisted it, we can be confident that we can also go through it and be successful too when we follow His example. He will be right there with us to bring assistance, and to relieve and deliver us from every difficulty, every need, every distress.

What can we learn from all this? We need to go to God for help when our need is oppressing, and nowhere else. We need to counter the devil with the Word of God, not our own pitiful ideas and arguments and experiences. We can be confident that our heavenly Father will provide for our need, just as He did for Jesus. Why should we presume? Why should we despair? He is right there to meet our every need and rescue us from every temptation!

You May Know Jesus, But Does He Really Know You?

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [wickedness or wrongdoing]” (Matthew 7:20-23).

Numerous polls and surveys taken frequently throughout the U.S. report a high number of respondents declaring themselves to be Christians. Inquire at a local church on a Sunday morning and the results will likely be that they all consider themselves to be Christians (perhaps with some indignation that such an inquiry was even made!). Or go to a baseball game or soccer match and ask the fans. A fair percentage will very likely again state that they are Christians.

Yet how many of these professing Christians have truly accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and are following through in a relationship with Him? How many of them really know Jesus? How many know of God, but He does not know them? When someone claims to be a Christian, yet shows little to no fruit (results), then he is obviously not allowing Jesus to work within or through him to enable him to produce fruit. Suppose you had apple, peach or orange trees in your yard, and during the whole time you managed your trees, practically no fruit appeared. You would know something was wrong. You might not know what was happening internally, but you would know by their fruit, or lack thereof, that they were not living up to their name of fruit-bearing trees. Similarly, while only God truly knows the heart within a person, the product of the heart will show externally.

Far too many people believe that they are Christians just because they stay around others that claim to be one. It is like saying that you will become a car or truck if you just hang around inside a parking garage long enough. Many believe that they are Christians because they say a prayer or two and follow the requirements laid down by a certain church or religious organization. Many other religions in the world follow this same type of pattern, yet their members are not Christians, nor do they even claim to be. Some believe (or are even taught) that if they do enough good works to make themselves right with God, or clean themselves up before they approach God, they will then be Christians. Sadly, all such works, no matter how good they might seem to be in our eyes, are actually worthless in pleasing God. He does not want our ‘works’ He wants us. He wants our obedience to Him.

God wants us to be in a personal relationship with Him. If one person in a relationship does not really know the other, how can there be a true relationship between them? It is all one-sided.

God desires for us to be dependent upon Him for all of our needs. He does not want to be treated like He is dependent on us, or like He needs us to do His work for Him. Many do things that make it appear that they really know God. Yet appearances can be greatly deceiving, especially in the era that we now live in. Satan is the master of deceit. If he can get someone to believe that they are doing God’s will, that they really know God (and that He knows them), when actually they don’t, then he has succeeded in deceiving them and keeping them from a real relationship with God.

brick facade

If Jesus is not the center of your life, then your life is really just a façade, a shell, with no substance to it. Think of it like a person claiming he lives in a castle, when actually he is just standing under a carport covered in sheets with large stone blocks and windows printed on them. Right now, as you are reading this, you may be struggling inside with some particular sin. Or you may be living your life with no hope, while on the outside, you continue to appear to be doing fine. Maybe you are in a leadership role in a church, but you can’t lead your own life. You might be quite knowledgeable in the Bible, but find that now it no longer makes sense to you. Perhaps you thought you knew Jesus, and that He knew you, but now you are not quite so sure. Or maybe you do know Him personally, and have been trying with all of your own strength to do what is right, but you continue to fail.

There is nothing you can do that will bring victory over your repeated failures, problems and sins except to believe in faith that Jesus accomplished this victory through His sacrifice on the cross. He paid a price for you that you could never pay.

It is impossible for your inherently sinful self to do something that only a sinless being (which God required) could do. You must yield to Jesus and turn all of your sins and problems over to Him and not pick them up again.

You cannot have true intimacy with God until you surrender your life totally to Him. There is only one way to truly know God, and for Him to know you—through His Son, Jesus Christ, and what He did on the cross of Calvary. Only when you fully yield your life to Him will you achieve real satisfaction and victory over sin in your life.

If you persist in claiming that you are a Christian, yet have little or no fruit to show for it, or if you are trying to please God with the abundance of your religiosity and good works, then Jesus will have no choice in the end but to say to you, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity [wickedness or wrongdoing].” God is a holy God that can never accept any amount of sin or wrongdoing. When you are living with sin in your life and won’t surrender it to Him, then there is no possibility that He will welcome you into a real relationship with Him. Don’t continue living your life without Him, under the guise that you are living with Him. Give your heart fully over to Jesus and let Him truly know you.

For more information on how you can know Jesus and He can know you click here.

Jesus Says ASK

person praying

Ask, and it shall be given you;
Seek, and ye shall find;
Knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened
(Matthew 7:7-8).

Did you ever notice, concerning the first letters in the three key words in this passage: “ask,” “seek,” and “knock,” that they form the word “ASK?” This makes it easy to remember the order of the words when we are trying to recall these scriptures. The Lord has laid it out clearly for us. First we need to ask Him for what we need. Then we are to seek Him for the answer. Then we are to knock on His door and He will open it to us.

“Ask, seek and knock” are in the present perfect tense in Greek*, meaning that it is not just a once complete action, but an action that continues. Therefore, the Amplified Bible version adds “keep on” after each instruction. Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. The Lord wants us to come to Him with all of our needs and requests. If we don’t get what we are asking for the first time, we are to come back and ask again. And if not the second time, we are to ask once again, and again and again if necessary. The same with seeking and knocking, which are mental pictures of asking. He is not aggravated with us when we repeatedly come to Him. He wants us to do so, as we read here. He wants to be part of everything in our lives, not just a bystander watching from the distant sidelines.

God emphasizes asking, seeking, knocking without conditions or limitations. But it is important to understand that His answer is not as we will, but as He wills. We need to pray the right way—in faith, submitting to the will of God.

He doesn’t always give us exactly what we have asked for—sometimes He gives us what would be better for us.

Is it wise for us to ask for more than what God determines is best for us? The important thing is our relationship with our Father. That is what is vital for prayer. It is our right as a child of God to come to our Father to make our needs and desires known to Him. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:11).

Also take notice that Jesus said “everyone.” Does God have only certain favorites that He answers when they call? No, it states right here that “everyone” that “asketh receiveth,” etc. It makes no difference whether they are young, old, rich, poor, master, servant, educated, illiterate, Jew, or Gentile. Everyone is welcome to come before God’s throne of grace, but all must come with faith in God, believing that He hears us and will answer our prayers. Our heavenly Father wants us to be persistent and keep at Him until He answers. Then He knows just how serious we are about our request. What is the ‘secret’ to getting God to respond? Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. He who gives up receives nothing!

*Greek is the language the New Testament was originally written in.

The Man in the Middle

scales of justice

What has come between man and God to keep us from being at peace with each other? The source of the disagreement between us is sin (violation of God’s law) going back to the first man, Adam and his wife, Eve. Man’s sin against God provoked Him into dealing with man in a way related to judgment. Man had rebelled against God as the sovereign ruler of his life, declaring himself independent of Him. There was no way man could come before God and honestly declare himself not guilty. His guilt was obvious. Who was satisfied with this situation? Neither man nor God. They needed someone to come between them and reconcile their differences, if they were ever going to be together and at peace with each other again. So God, the King of the Universe, appointed His Son, Jesus Christ, to become a human man and act as a mediator between God and man, between the King and His subjects, who were in rebellion against Him.

Now what does a mediator do? He reconciles differences. He has to deal with two sides—he cannot mediate one side only. And the two sides have to be at odds with each other, or there is nothing to mediate. The two sides need someone in the middle, who understands both sides of the issue, to bring the two warring sides together so they can live in peace with each other again. Jesus Christ is the One qualified and worthy of being chosen to be the only perfect Mediator between God and man.

Man left to his own devices is at a great distance from God. There is hatred of God within man.He is offended at God’s justice.

Jesus came to be the middleman between the two sides. He resolves the differences between them and brings both to a state of harmony and restored friendship. He draws the ones who were far from God close to Him again, to bring honor and glory to God. He was able to accomplish this by presenting His blood that was shed when He died on the Cross before God, the proof that He had died. Someone had to pay the price due for man’s transgression of God’s law, which was death. By this means, Jesus satisfied the demands of the Law of God in a righteous way and justice was upheld and satisfied.

If Jesus was not also God, then He could not have come near to God to speak on man’s behalf. He could not have taken up man’s case to try to help him to be reconciled back to God. And He certainly could not have paid the price man owed on his behalf. The ability to be the sacrifice man needed would not have been available to Jesus if He remained God only. He could not have cleansed man from sin, nor have been able to get a pardon from the King for him. Justice would not have been served and man would still be guilty. He could not have made atonement (giving satisfaction for an offense or injury) for man’s sin nor peace between man and God.

Today, Jesus is still mediating between man and God as He appears in the court of Heaven, in order to intervene between the two parties to restore friendship and harmony between them, and to plead their case before God—the holy and highest Judge.

Jesus is the advocate or the lawyer for man. He makes sure man gets all he is entitled to in God’s court, which concerns the blessings of God’s covenant (contract) with man. This is what He is in court to take care of. He makes sure all the blessings are made available to the clients committed to His care and keeping, and that they are kept safe from risk, harm, or destruction unto everlasting happiness.

But why did Jesus need to become a man in order to carry out this assignment? Someone was needed who would be capable of obeying God by suffering and dying. God is not capable of dying, since He is life itself. Actually, obeying, suffering, and dying are the part man needs to do. He is guilty of having broken the law of God, and is therefore obligated to suffer for his disobedience. The sentence for the crime of rebellion against God is death—not just the end of his physical life, but also separation from God forever. Whoever would take man’s place as his substitute had to be able to do all that man should have done to satisfy perfect, divine justice.

Jesus is the appropriate Mediator between man and God because He has taken on the nature that all men have.

If the issue had been over a cow that man had stolen from God, then he would need to give God another cow, or the price of one, to compensate Him for the loss. The offender has to offer something worthy of restoring to its rightful owner, the offended one. What could man offer God?

The only offering man could make to bring a state of peace or quiet between him and God was his own life, because his crime against God was that severe. He was guilty of red-handed rebellion against God, caught in the very act! And the just penalty for rebellion is execution of the rebel who refuses to obey the law of the kingdom. Jesus agreed to be the One who would be executed as a sacrifice for man’s sin. But He was not able to offer Himself up as a man as the sacrifice required to appease God, the One offended, unless He took on the human form in order to be both man and God—and therefore the perfect Mediator between them. His death was the redemption price paid or demanded for the release of someone from captivity. Redemption means to redeem, to buy back, to get or win back. Finally, complete peace between the two could be made forever.

Now, if Jesus was willing to go through all this as man’s great Mediator, don’t you think He has compassion on man’s behalf? And that He wants man to be reconciled with God so he can be with Him and part of the Kingdom of Heaven forever? Do you truly want to be reconciled to God? Then you must go through the Mediator that He selected, who is qualified and has compassion on you. You have to go through Jesus, the Mediator for all mankind, to come to God, because He is the One who has made peace by His blood shed on the cross when He, as a man, offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sin.

 Jesus is the only man who can bring you in touch with God and reconcile both of you. He is the only One who has ever been both man and God. And He is the only One who can make peace between man and God. Through Jesus, God the Father is able to touch man and man is able to touch God. He has already done all that is necessary for you to have peace with God. Your part is to accept this fact, to believe it, and to give your life to God. He has already paid the ransom price for you. You now owe your life to Him!

 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Tim. 2:5-6).

—Alana Pangburn

Living Water Prevents a Stagnant Heart

stagnant stream

The warm, cloudless summer afternoon was just perfect for a good swim and John was quite excited as he changed into his swimming trunks. He gathered his towel, music player, a huge mug of iced tea and dashed out the back door to the pool in the backyard. As he approached the deck of the pool, John noticed how quiet the yard was today, too quiet actually. “Oh, no!” John loudly exclaimed in disappointment, “the pump isn’t running.” He hurriedly climbed up the steps onto the deck. “Ugh!” he remarked with disgust as he took the cover off of the pool, “the pump must have been off for weeks. How stagnant and awful this water has become.” His prior excitement now waned quickly as he thought of the amount of time and cleaning that the pool would need before he can even place his foot in it.

Have you ever seen a stagnant body of water? It looks rather unpleasant, in fact, the longer it remains that way the more disgusting and repulsive it becomes. There are all kinds of collected water, from ditches to large lakes that can become stagnant. Some are loaded with oil and other chemicals, while others are full of trash, debris and bacteria. Some may even have dead fish or small animals in them.

stagnant puddle

The way these bodies of water became stagnant varies, but their one common element is the lack of a source of fresh water. When they no longer have anything to keep them fresh, stagnation develops. For example, a small pond can become so stagnant that even a heavy rainstorm does little to clear it. There are instances where the stagnation becomes worse when the water begins to evaporate—leaving less space available for the debris to move around, and less room for anything to enter to help eliminate the stagnation. Although there are beneficial uses for stagnation, the focus here is on the areas of stagnation that can cause harm.

When we believe in Jesus Christ and allow Him to reign in our hearts, we become like a lake of fresh water. The more we allow Him to work by His Spirit inside of us, to purge us of all of the sinful baggage we’ve accumulated throughout our lives, the more that ‘lake of water’ becomes cleaner and clearer. But when we hinder, or even stop His purging, then the clean water no longer enters in. The result—we begin to stagnate. If we continue to resist His work in our lives, He will eventually withdraw, leaving us to ourselves, and we’ll ultimately come to the point of complete stagnation.

Any time we take our eyes off of Jesus and His complete sacrifice made for us at the cross, and put them on the cares and pleasures of this world, we are saying essentially that we don’t need His help, and that we are happy with the way we were before He entered our hearts. When we do this, we are actually rejecting the sacrifice He made for us. This allows doubt and unbelief to enter into our hearts, which will bring us back to trying to solve our problems on our own again without God, problems that we really can’t solve without Him.

Ways to keep from becoming stagnant:

  • Spend more time with Jesus in fellowship and communication through prayer. Prayer is when God changes us as we seek Him to meet our needs.
  • Read His Word (the Bible). The more we spend time reading, studying, and concentrating on His Word, the more we understand Him, and the stronger our foundation becomes.
  • Separate ourselves from the cares and pleasures of this world. As we submit more and more to Jesus, we’ll have less interest in what we once considered to be of great value and importance before we knew Him.
  • Continually yield ourselves to Him as He works more and more within us. When we resist the work that He is doing in our hearts through His Spirit, then He backs off and leaves us on our own to solve our problems.
  • Trust in and obey His Word. When He speaks to us through His written Word, His spoken Word, or His Word placed on our hearts, we need to act on what He says. If we ignore or fail to do what He is leading us to do, He will withdraw and wait until we eventually do respond and obey.

 

If we allow ourselves to become more and more ‘stagnant,’ sin is the ‘debris’ that starts to fill our formerly clean ‘lake.’ As a result, we become repulsive to God, since He is holy and can never fellowship with sin. Let’s keep the fresh, living water of Jesus Christ flowing in and through our hearts. We should not allow ourselves to become stagnant by ignoring God and His Word, thereby taking the whole problem on ourselves. Jesus said, “…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 4:14). Let’s continually drink of the water that He gives, and keep the stagnation out of our hearts.

–James Pangburn

Packed, Shipped …and Forgotten.

package

The young woman was eager to get her treasured articles sent off to her beloved living thousands of miles on the opposite coast of the country. She packed it carefully in a box, sealed, addressed and dropped it off at the shipping facility. Then she waited for her beloved’s response. One week, two weeks, over a month had elapsed and still no word was received from him concerning the box. She returned to the shipping facility and spoke to the clerk at the counter. He inquired with all the sources available to him and determined that the package just might be misplaced. She was told to wait a little longer before giving up and disappointed she returned home. After another month had passed, she again with great anticipation returned to the facility. The manager in charge this time checked with every point that the package should have traveled through on its journey. He eventually concluded that her package fell off of a conveyor somewhere and is forgotten.

How often do you feel that your prayers and requests to God are like this package? You make your need known and yet nothing happens. You send them off with great anticipation, believing that the answer will come very soon and you wait and wait and wait without a single word or response from your Heavenly Father. How often do you feel forgotten by God?

Well, God has similar feelings about you. How often has He persuaded you to come and yield yourself to Him? How many times has He tried to convince you that He knows more about you and your situation or problem than you ever could know for yourself? We too easily fall short in our understanding of just how patient and longsuffering He is toward us.

How we fail to see all of the times we ignored Him when He called out to us. God sent His only Son to this earth, who willfully and innocently died a horrible death on the cross, to redeem us from the curse of sin and death. Yet we quickly forget all of this for some valueless distraction in our own life.

In these modern, hectic and fast paced times we gravitate towards an instant response mentality. We ask for a hamburger and fries and we expect them in no more than a few minutes later. We stop at a red traffic light and are upset if it takes more than twenty seconds to change to green. Heating a meal in a microwave for two minutes feels like fifteen minutes and if a program on television can’t make its point in thirty to forty-five seconds we keep changing the channel until we can find one that does.

intersection

All of this leads us to feel forgotten by God when He does not respond to our requests in our timing. You may feel right now like He has forgotten or rejected you and your needs. You may feel like He is giving you ‘the silent treatment’ such as one spouse would give the other when they did not meet up to the others’ demands or requests. Yet this is not so with God. He said in Deuteronomy 31:8, “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed (emphasis mine).” Unless you are knowingly living with sin in your life (which you need to repent of and seek His forgiveness), He does hear your cries to Him. He wants to hear from you, in fact, He expects to hear from you.

We are quick to give up when asking God for a particular need. True, many needs are met rather quickly and sometimes instantaneous, but only God sees the bigger picture that you cannot see. He knows when it is the appropriate time to respond or when your faith just needs to be tested and refined. Jesus said in Luke 11:9, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye [you] shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” He wants us to keep on asking, to keep on seeking and to keep on knocking.

So if you are at the brink of feeling forgotten, don’t quit now. He may not answer today, He may not answer for what seems like a long time but He will answer. When God says in His Word that He will do something, He will do it. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 emphasis mine). God will never forget you, even when you forget Him.

–James Pangburn

Fixing the Unfixable

metrorail station

I recently read an article about the poor state of the Metrorail mass transit system in the Washington, D.C. area. It has had many problems over the years, but more recently, the “Metro” has been plagued with frequent breakdowns, serious safety concerns, and mismanagement.

I can still remember riding the Metro to visit the museums in downtown Washington when I was very young. It was fairly new back then. I was always fascinated, yet fearful, of the whole subway concept—from entering the stations, buying the fare cards, riding in the cars, transferring trains for other track lines, to riding the escalators to exit the stations. While I certainly enjoyed the ease of being able to commute from the heart of the Maryland suburbs to downtown Washington without dealing with the traffic, especially when the traffic was beginning to backup, I never was really thrilled about the whole trip. There are many things I remember being impressed about concerning the Metro system, such as how advanced and high-tech the cars and their controlling systems were for the times in which they were built, and the paper fare cards with their magnetic strip that could be ‘loaded’ with money for the necessary fares. (Actually, they only had a unique number encoded into the strip linked to a temporary account when read by the appropriate machine). I also recall how gloomy the underground stations were and how little there was for a young child like myself to do there.

Yet, in spite of their glamor (if you could call it that) for that era, the Metrorail system had more than their share of problems even back then. For example, after inserting the fare cards, the machine reading them would occasionally not return them. I was always afraid that it would happen to me, which is very alarming for a young child. This was normal if no money was left on the card, but those who had cards with money left on them were stranded at the machine until an attendant arrived who could hopefully resolve the situation.

But the most frequent problem was late arrivals. I remember quite well the many times we had to wait and wait for the next set of cars to arrive so we could return home.

Even with all of the state-of-the-art technology, there was no real notification system of late arrivals back then. We would wander around in circles hoping our train would come soon (this was pre-Internet and cell phones), or we would just stand at the platform and wait. If we were waiting in an underground station, we would often stare down a dark tunnel in hopeful anticipation of possibly seeing the distant lights of our oncoming train. Of course, for a child, it all seemed like much more than an hour in wait time.

Nowadays, electrical fires or collisions and derailment greatly exacerbate the wait times, but possible solutions are few and very costly. Part of the problem is that there is no single authority for the whole system. Each municipality involved has a governing part and each municipality decides what should or should not be in their part of the total budget. Whoever oversees this multi-authority operation has to continually find a balance between everyone involved (which will likely be contradictory) and still please the riders who are paying for all of this. Another part of the problem is the design. While it was state-of-the-art when built, it could not adequately adapt to significant growth, or even simple breakdowns. Rather than looking at other systems that are relatively successful, they look to their own system and try to rearrange various dysfunctional elements in it, in an attempt to make everything operational again.

Sadly, this is the result of man trying to solve his own unfixable physical problems. It is much like you using yourself as a ladder or step stool to attempt to climb over a wall; the more you try, the less effective you become.

Actually, we do this all of the time with our moral and spiritual problems. We try to solve something intangible with something tangible and wonder why we can’t arrive at a solution. Only God can solve our moral and spiritual problems. The more we leave God out of our lives, the more He leaves us to solve our problems by ourselves. God never created us to function totally on our own. He did not set the world in motion like a top, and then sit back watching it gradually spin down to a standstill.

Many people feel that they are as independent as an island in the middle of an ocean. They consider God to be a crutch, something only the poor and feeble need. They go to great lengths to succeed in this world. They do everything they can to avoid God and anything related to Him. A few will reach the apex of success, at least according to their own standard [insert link], becoming billionaires (and now even trillionaires); though, in the end, their end, they will face the same eternity as the poorest of the poor will face, an eternity spent either with God or without Him.

God created us to love Him. He gave us a free will so that the choice to love Him would be solely of our own doing, not as a robot whose only actions are what have been previously programmed.

God fully proved it by the giving up of His son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for all of us—past, present and future. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). God’s Son, from the time He was conceived in the womb to the time He died, was innocent and without any sin. Yet He willingly gave up His life to die as if He was a guilty criminal for all of us. He paid a debt He never owed for everyone, from the first person created to the person who is yet to be born.

God wants us to seek Him for the solution to our problems. While He is not much concerned with fixing the Metrorail or similar problems, He is very concerned about fixing us, and setting us on the right path. When we say we have no need of God or His Son, we are throwing away the opportunity to have a life with Him—both for now and for all eternity. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). An eternity without God is an eternity with Satan in Hell. There is no third option or middle road. The more we push God out of our lives, the more He will let us try to solve our problems without Him, ultimately to no avail. He will let us reach that point where we either give up, handing our life and efforts over to Him, or else we will never give up and will be lost eternally, along with Satan, who doesn’t care about us and has no love for anyone or anything but himself. Don’t push God out and try to live for eternity without Him. It will never work.

For information on finding the way to God click here.

–James Pangburn

I Love Bread

baguette

I love bread—whether it is toasted or untoasted, broiled or grilled, or freshly baked (my favorite)—I’ll eat it! It could be white bread (but not the cheap, factory-baked kind), rye, pumpernickel, sourdough, focaccia, naan, boule, rice, or even potato bread. But I have never had a fondness for almost all kinds of whole wheat bread. Now, if you were to slather a big slab of butter on a slice, I just might be inclined to eat it! There are many flavored breads that I also enjoy, such as tomato and basil, three-cheese, and cinnamon and raisin (especially with a big smear of butter!).

I found myself thinking about the yeast used in bread recently. It is a key ingredient in many popular types of bread because it is essential to make them rise. Without yeast in bread of this kind, you would have a thick and rather tough lump of baked dough. Or, depending on the recipe used, and if the dough was spread out flat over a baking pan, you would end up with just a very large cracker!

sliced bread

I would help out around the house while my parents were working when I was young. One thing I helped with was baking bread. We would buy loaves of frozen bread dough from the store and bake our own bread at home. When baking bread that has yeast as its leavening source, you need to puncture the rising dough slightly to release the gas that has built up inside the dough, since the baking process hardens the exterior and the dough is unable to free the excess gas on its own. One time, I neglected to do any kind of puncturing of the rising loaf. As a result, I baked one of the largest loaves of bread we had ever seen! I was quite amazed myself, and rather proud of my achievement. But disappointment quickly surfaced when my Dad started to slice this mammoth loaf of bread and it suddenly collapsed—due to the fact that the upper part of the loaf contained only one huge hole. In other words, I had succeeded in baking a very large bread balloon!

When kept under control, yeast can be beneficial. But it can also be quite detrimental when left totally unattended. It is actually a living organism that likes to eat, and when it eats, it grows. The more it grows, the more it eats, until eventually the host that it is eating is destroyed. Yeast will feed on starchy foods, but the top item yeast prefers to feed on is sugar and other sweeteners. Give it something nice and sweet, and it will flourish abundantly. This is why most yeast breads require some type of sweetener for the yeast to eat and release carbon dioxide, which, in turn, will cause the loaf of bread to rise, as well as giving it a lighter texture. After baking, the yeast dies off and you end up with a nice loaf of fresh baked yeast bread.

There are also some types of yeast organisms in your body. When kept in the right balance, they are basically harmless. But when they get out of control, they leave you in a very crippled state and could eventually kill you. Just like the yeast in bread, these organisms love simple sugars, but when they are starved, they will resort to eating most anything with even a hint of sweetener. They will even eat the lining in your digestive system, which then allows them to enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc throughout your body, ultimately bringing on death if the yeast is not destroyed.

yeast form

Sin (disobedience to God’s Word) is a lot like this kind of yeast. The difference is that sin can never be simply controlled; it must be defeated and destroyed. Sin usually starts off as a simple, innocent act, and then continues, until it permeates the whole body—both the soul, where our conscience lives, and the physical body. The yeast organisms in bread are never satisfied with just a little bit of sugar, and sin is not content with just a little bit of you. It never is satisfied with just a one-time act; it wants the whole production.

When you willfully disobey God’s Word (the Bible), you are feeding sin and giving ground for it to grow in. Sin is never just accidental. It is always preconceived in some way. You don’t just go walking along and then suddenly begin sinning. It is something you plan for in advance, whether for a moment, or for months before the actual act occurs. When you stop allowing God to operate in your life, or have never allowed Him to work there in the first place, you are giving sin the means to grow in your heart. Essentially, when you run your life without God, or refuse to accept the sacrifice of His Son at the cross for your sins as applying to you, you are creating fertile ground for sin to grow in. As a result, sin becomes easier and more commonplace, since there is little to stop it.

candida yeast

When those yeast organisms begin to really multiply, they don’t just sit on the surface of your intestines. They begin to take root into the intestinal walls and won’t easily leave. It is the same way with sin. It doesn’t just sit there inside of you; it roots into your spirit or heart, and becomes increasingly difficult to manage. Like yeast organisms, it wants more and more of you, until it eventually destroys you.

Actually, sin is worse than yeast organisms, because it not only impacts your life, it also affects other lives around you, and you are not able to stop it or kill it on your own. It takes someone greater than you to defeat it. And that someone is Jesus Christ. He willfully came to the earth as a human being, just like us (only without any sin), to fulfill the requirements to defeat sin and death. This resulted in Him willfully sacrificing His own life on the cross for us. He paid all of the requirements for every man, woman and child, even though He did not owe anything Himself. There is no other way to overcome sin. Have faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for all of your sins as if it was your own sacrifice for your sins. You can’t overcome sin by going to a multi-step program. You can’t tie yourself up and cover your eyes and ears to keep from sinning or from allowing sin to enter. Only Jesus can successfully overcome sin for you.

Sin is a spiritual and moral problem that eventually manifests as a physical problem.

When harmful yeast organisms become fully active in your body, they can cause all kinds of external reactions (such as flu-like sicknesses, rashes, fungal outbreaks, etc.), many of which can’t easily be directly attributed to the organisms themselves. By comparison, when we allow something as simple as a few lies, or a lustful glance at a man or woman, to go unchecked within us, over a period time these simple acts of sin subtly grow and grow. Eventually we become desensitized to what is really the truth or a lie. We may have adulterous affairs and become unable to establish a normal relationship with someone of the opposite sex. Ultimately, we become so far removed from the originating sins, that we go on to commit totally unrelated sins. Because of sin, every living being on the whole planet (even those still in the womb) is in a degraded state.

The only solution to the sin problem is Jesus. You must accept Him into your heart and surrender full control of your life to Him. You need to ask Him to forgive you of your sins against Him and to repent of these sins. You need to develop a relationship with Him, no longer with the individuals or things that are causing or leading you to sin. This relationship with Him becomes possible when you go before God in sincere prayer, as well as when you read and meditate (think deeply and contemplate) on His Word, the Bible.

Don’t continue to try to control sin on your own. As with yeast, whether it is in a loaf of bread or given free rein in your body, if you continue to feed it and keep it concealed or masked, it will overtake you and eventually lead to death eternally in Hell. Your goal should be to give it all over to God while you still can. Sin may be pleasurable for the moment, but it will never give you real satisfaction; you will always thirst for more. Jesus gives you real satisfaction continually.

“…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 4:14).

To learn more on how to quench this continual desire for sin click here.

–James Pangburn