Little is Much

 

 

kneeling at cross

 

 

“And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered…Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass…And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:35-44).

Jesus had been teaching the people in a solitary part of the region for much of the afternoon. They had come because they were hungry, not for physical food, but for the truth (spiritual food). The people sought Jesus because they knew He taught the truth. Even though Jesus was physically tired at this point, (since He had originally come with His disciples to this desert location for rest), He was strengthened by the people’s desire to hear and learn God’s Word.

Jesus’ disciples, however, grew more concerned with getting physical food for the people than about them hearing the truth.

As the evening drew near, the disciples urged Him to send the people away to find something to eat. The idea never occurred to them that perhaps Jesus could provide for their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Of course, Jesus was fully aware of their concerns. “When Jesus then lifted up [His] eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5, 6). Surprised (and perhaps shocked) at His response, the disciples immediately looked to their own selves to provide food for this great assembly. (Some scholars believe that there could have been over 15,000 individuals present). They replied, “…Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth [several thousand of dollars worth] of bread, and give them to eat?” (Mark 6:37). They really believed that Jesus might be out of His mind at this point, because He was expecting them to meet all of these people’s needs. They had probably expected Jesus to respond, “You’re right, we really ought to send them back to the nearest villages and let them get fed there.”

Jesus wasn’t fazed by all of this though. Instead, He let them see for themselves just how little they had for such a great need. If they hadn’t known what they had begun with, then the full depth of the miracle that Jesus was about to perform wouldn’t have been realized. After they took the smattering of provisions (enough for only a few to eat) over to Him and had the people sit in an orderly manner on the grass, He blessed and broke the bread, then the fish, and gave them to the disciples to be distributed among the people. Notice that He never gave any of these provisions directly to the people Himself—it was always through His disciples. In the end, there was so much distributed from the hands of Jesus that everyone was able to eat and be filled. No lack was mentioned and a dozen basketfuls were still leftover.

How many times do we believers in Jesus Christ go to Him first for our needs, both great and small? When Jesus is trusted solely, a small amount yields an overabundance.

Trying to meet a great need by ourselves is the same kind of problem as the disciples trying to feed the whole multitude with the tiny provisions that were available. Jesus never told them to go and buy all of the food, or to take the loaves and fishes and give everyone just a crumb or two of bread. (We won’t even try to determine how much of a portion of those two fish they would have to give!). That is why Jesus told them “you give them something to eat.” He knew that in their hearts that they would say “We can’t; He will have to do something!”

God wants us, as His children, dependent upon Him for our needs. When we look to our self, we take our eyes off of Him, and meeting our need becomes more and more insurmountable to us. The need doesn’t have to be just for food. It can also be in other areas, physical or spiritual. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

The problem comes when we limit God. The disciples tried to limit God, as in the example above of the five thousand being fed, by implying that the people needed to leave in order to be fed.

They felt that Jesus was so absorbed in teaching and healing the people that He had forgotten about the basic needs of the people and that He needed the disciples to remind Him of this. How often do we limit God, or put Him “in a box,” by saying that He can meet these particular needs, but He probably won’t be able to meet these other needs? How many times are we impatient with God meeting our needs and end up taking care of them ourselves? How many times do we hurt or insult God by not having complete faith in Him?

We must remember that God is always in control of the situation; we are the ones that lose control and become anxious. We are to place our needs and circumstances in the hands of Jesus and let go, not picking them up later when He doesn’t respond or do anything in our anticipated timeframe. If we take back the needs that we laid in His hands, we are effectively saying that we don’t fully trust Him in everything and that we will take care of it ourselves. Again we are back to limiting God. [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Remember that the disciples never even asked Jesus to provide for the people’s needs. How much more will He respond when we really do ask and fully believe?

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.

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

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

Enamored With Our Self

I love me graphic

Stan just stood there, staring at the edge of the lake with a gaze of uncertainty, almost to the point of daydreaming. “Hey, Stan!” he heard his friend shout, “The bus is coming just up the road.”

“Uh, yeah,” Stan replied, with some hesitancy. “I’ll be right there!” He reluctantly wandered back to the bus stop, his dream-like state having been interrupted like a burst balloon.

“Stan, what are you doing? Staring at yourself again?” his friend cynically called out. As Stan got on the bus, he happened to spot his reflection in a mirror. He just couldn’t seem to break himself away from the sight of himself.

“Let’s move it; I’ve got a schedule to keep!” the driver of the bus growled. Stan eventually managed to slip into a seat by a window, two seats down from his friend, who was now really beginning to wonder about him. By this time, the sun was almost gone for the day and the interior lights of the bus began to take on more prominence than the sunlight on the surface of the window, or even much of the activity outside the bus. Now Stan could see himself more clearly in the window’s glossy surface.

Harriet had gently warned him long ago about getting lost in his own reflection. She was always the guiding force in his life, or, at least, that was how he thought of her. That gently curling hair of auburn persuasion, those captivating azure eyes—it seemed like it was just weeks, not years, since he had first become enraptured with her comely looks and radiant disposition.

“We are now approaching the stop for Twelfth Avenue and Rey Street,” a computerized voice interrupted through the intercom of the bus.

Stan’s eyes were now attracted to the change in his reflection, due to the distortions of the window surface of this bus. After a brief stop, the bus jolted as it started to move forward again. Stan sat intrigued by the way his left ear seemed to detach itself as he moved his reflection back and forth over the irregularities of the window’s tinting.

“We are now approaching the stop for Materfell Street Station,” the computerized voice abruptly alerted again, a short time later. Stan was still sitting enamored with his own reflection when he felt some small objects pelting the side of his neck.

“Stan, you daydreamer, this is your stop!” his friend, who had now turned around in his seat, hollered out. Stan suddenly remembered that he and his friend had agreed earlier that they weren’t going to get off at the same stop. Stan was relieved at this crude interruption since the bright exterior lights now moving into view were making his reflection dissipate, and he prepared to leave the bus. While standing at the exit door as the bus came to a stop, Stan glanced in the direction of his friend, waved to him, and then saw his reflection staring back at him again from the mirror above his head. He completely missed the second step on his way out. The driver hurried down the steps with reluctant sympathy, and helped Stan get up from his painfully crumpled position straddled between the curb and the steps of the bus.

“Man, you can’t be doing this,” the driver barked. “You is gonna get killed!”

As the bus pulled away, Stan slowly made his way back to his apartment a few blocks away. In spite of all the clatter of activity stirring around him, he found himself thinking about Harriet again, and his friends, and his family. But his thoughts always seemed to somehow gravitate back to himself. He thought of the many hours he’d spent in front of mirrors fixated on his own appearance. Harriet had often finished long before he did whenever they were getting ready for a date. His meals at his parents’ place frequently needed to be reheated. His employers had regularly scolded him for focusing on himself more than their clients. It seemed like self was more important to Stan than anything or anyone else.

Being caught up with our selves has always been a part of mankind, ever since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of 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…And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:16, 17, 25).

Prior to eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve were not aware of the appearance of their physical selves. They had no need to know how they looked, because being in the presence of their Heavenly Father was all they needed.

“And when the woman saw that the tree [of the knowledge of good and evil] was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:6, 7).

When they disobeyed their heavenly Father, then sin had the legal right to enter and take its course in their lives. Since they did not ask their Father for forgiveness, and did not repent of what they had done, they took their eyes off of their Heavenly Father and suddenly became acutely aware of their own selves. Because of sin they no longer were in God’s presence, and He no longer provided a covering for them. They allowed pride and self-righteousness to take root, which eventually led to the conclusion that they had no need for God, hence the pitiful covering of fig leaves. Initially, they were fearful, but later on, they and their descendants became complacent and began to love themselves more than God their Father. This permitted evil to multiply exponentially.

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

When we become enamored with our self, we then feel like we no longer need God. As a result, God lets us go our own way. He allows us a chance to try to find our “real” self. He even allows us to love our self, though it grieves and hurts Him greatly. But when we come to the end, our end, we go right back to the very thing we were created from—the dust of the earth. In our condition of pride and love of our self, we think that we are something great, something superior to all creation (even of our own kind). Yet, in God’s eyes, we are really nothing. In the book of Job, God asked him, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding” (Job 38:4). The heavenly Father was essentially saying that, if we think we are so great and wonderful, if we know so much and consider ourselves to be so superior, then where were we when He created everything, including us?

God created us to love Him, not our self. He wants us to put Him first in our lives. He placed within us a free will so that we could choose Him and love Him of our own accord. He will never force us to love Him. When He put forth the commandment in the Garden of Eden to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He did this not to tempt or tease man, but rather to test or try us in our love for Him. He loves us, and He wants us to make the effort to love Him in return. He wants us to stop loving our self, and to love Him instead.

There is one detail, though, that we dare not miss. We can’t just freely come before God because He is holy, and He absolutely will not allow any sin to come before Him, including self-love, pride, etc. But the good news for us is that God made a way for anyone who really desires to, to come to Him. His Son, Jesus Christ, is the way.

Jesus freely left His Father and came to this earth as a sinless human being. He fulfilled all of the requirements for the cleansing of sin that God His Father had laid out hundreds of years prior to His arrival. These requirements couldn’t be completely fulfilled by sinful man himself. But the ultimate requirement was for Him to sacrifice His life on the cross (even though He was totally innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever) for the sake of every man, woman and child who ever lived, or is living now, or has yet to be born. He paid the horrible price for sin (that we all actually owed and deserved because of our sins) which is death.

When He shed His blood at the cross, it symbolically covered our sins. Now all we have to do is acknowledge to God that we have sinned, and be willing to turn completely from our sinful ways. Then we need to accept and believe in faith that the sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus at the cross was made in order to cover and cleanse us of our sins. Finally, we need to surrender our life to Him completely, and let Him come in and clean us up from our sinful ways.

For more information on the way to God click here.

–James Pangburn

Who is Your Standard?

Pick up an instrument of measurement sometime, such as a ruler, a scale, or maybe a protractor, and look at the units of measurement on it. Whether pounds, kilograms, centimeters, inches, feet, or degrees, the units are always the same measurement on any instrument that uses them, no matter who manufactured the instrument or what the design might be (unless it was improperly made or has worn out). If you were to pick up a tape measure while you were at a hardware store and measure a piece of wood that you brought with you, you might find that it is two feet, six inches. Now go home and take your own tape measure and measure the same piece of wood, and you will find that it is two feet, six inches by your measure also.

Why is this? Because instruments for measurement are all based on a standard or benchmark that was developed and put in place long ago.

In order to maintain a consistent level of accuracy and compatibility, a mutually agreed upon standard has to be created at some point. Otherwise, no two measurements of an item would ever be the same.

If everyone used their own standards, a one-pound package of butter bought at the store might actually weigh in at only thirteen ounces (or even nineteen ounces) when you check the weight on your own scale at home. A bottle labeled as one liter of soda may actually be a liter and a half according to your measurement. So whose measurement is correct—yours or the manufacturer’s? Or were both of you wrong? Who determines what will be the basis for these measurements? Without a set standard, there can never be a definite answer.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, an organization located near Washington, D.C., sets the standard for items used throughout the world. Tolerances and specifications for thousands of things, from weights and measures to clothing and chemicals, are established there. Industries, institutions, and individuals throughout the United States, as well as many countries across the globe, use the standards set by this organization in order to have consistency regarding what they manufacture or use compared with what is made or used by others. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people rely on the standards set by this organization.

But the standard that we are to continually follow in our lives was set by someone even greater that this or any other organization. He is Jesus, the cornerstone the Bible instructs us to build upon. He is our only accurate guide and reference point.

In all matters, both morally and spiritually (which also impact us physically), He is our only true standard to compare with and measure by. No other standard created or developed by any person or group here on earth is superior to Jesus Himself.

Jesus established the standard back in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. And when He came to earth as a human being, He became the standard Himself, as set forth in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The correct standard was finalized when He died on the cross for the sake of every man, woman and child on this earth, past, present and future. While many of the standards that have been set by man on earth throughout the ages remain beneficial for a long time, none will last throughout all eternity. Philosophy, psychology, and sociology cannot set the standard for us to follow. Science, technology, and education cannot set our standard either. World leaders and international government also cannot be our standard. Even our own parents, relatives, or closest friends cannot serve as our standard. Jesus is the fundamental reference point for everyone, whether they are aware of it or not. How do we measure up compared to Him? Jesus is the only One capable of being our standard to measure all else by.

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7)?

Now ask yourself, who is your reference point? Whose word will never fail? Who is the standard by which you should measure yourself?

 

–James Pangburn