Pleasing God by Faith

“…without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

We all encounter many kinds of complications as we go through life. Most people go along with no hope of going through them successfully, while many face various difficulties because their selfish desires hinder them in trying to have a relationship with God. Difficulties can also come from lacking faith in who God really is. In their search for inner peace, people often reach out to the physical things of life, yet what they really lack is perfect, divine, peace in their hearts. Where can such perfect peace be found? It comes from God alone.

The Lord Jesus Christ came into my own life and heart many years ago, yet I can still remember that special day when I repented of my sins and accepted Him.

I can still remember that special day many years ago when I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ into my own life and He spoke to my heart: “My son, I have chosen you to bear My name.” When we truly welcome Jesus into our heart, we become His followers. He chooses us to become a ‘living’ vessel to bear His name. Then we can experience true, divine, eternal union with Him.

If we don’t accept Jesus Christ into our heart and life, then we do not have true faith in God. Therefore, it is impossible to please Him.

And what is the essence of faith in God? We must first believe in who He is—in His nature as God, in order to have the kind of faith that truly believes when we approach Him. When we believe in His true nature, we please God. Once we have been renewed in the spirit of our mind and become one of God’s people, created in His own image, then we are to bear witness to others as to who He is.

In both the Old and New Testaments, the name used for God is “Father”. This name describes Him as the One who produces all things, and as the Creator of all men. Therefore, all people have a relationship with Him as part of His creation. But this does not automatically guarantee that we all have salvation (deliverance from the power and effects of sin). Jesus said, “If you had known Me [personally], ye should have known My Father also…” (John 14:7). If we understand that God sustains all life, then we can better understand who He is. He is Jehovah-Elohim (“Lord God”)—the Creator-God—who is not detached from His creation. He takes care of His people by attending to their needs. In fact, the Lord Himself came down to Earth in person in order to help and save us all. By doing this, He demonstrated Himself to be the God who keeps His covenant with man.

The image of God that He put in man is man’s source of kinship with Him. God wants us to “…put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him…” (Colossians 3:10 emphasis mine). At that point, a new creation in Him comes forth from this unique, eternal bond as we are united with our divine Father, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. Once we enter into this eternal relationship with our heavenly Father as a new creation—a “new man”—then we can also devote our lives to His Son, Jesus. This all comes through having faith to believe in Jesus, according to what He did for us when He died in our place on the Cross. Then we can be renewed in the spirit of our minds in Him.

All of us were born originally from our mother’s womb. But all true children of God have also been “born again.”

This second birth comes by the Spirit of God, through reading or hearing the truth of the Bible, which is the Word of God. Jesus Christ has always been in the world, but not always visible to man. “When the fullness of time was come…” (Galatians 4:4), then He became God made known to man in the flesh, or the human form. He is the divine representative of His heavenly Father on Earth as His only begotten Son (born of the Virgin Mary).

This unique, divine, and eternal relationship that Jesus—the Son of God—has with His ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ in the Lord is simple to understand. But the understanding of this relationship only comes to those who have been made alive in a new life—“born again”—by His Holy Spirit. They have become God’s children, so they are now considered to be the brothers and sisters of Jesus. And He has a love relationship, both intimate and eternal, with all who believe in Him by faith.

Many call themselves Christians, claiming to belong to Christ. But the heavenly Father does not know or receive all of them, because many will not let go of their sins. Nor will they acknowledge the heavenly Father’s divine authority over them.

God continues to love them. But they permit their sinful nature to continue to rule over them, which then keeps them apart from Him. What about you? Do you want to personally know God? Do you want to be saved from the power and destructive effects of sin and the sin nature? Then you need to personally know His Son, Jesus Christ, the great Savior. Listen to His voice as He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) and respond to Him while you can. “…He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

If you want to know more about how to come to God personally, please click here.

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Knowing the Voice

studio microphonesheep in snow covered field

A well-dressed man in his early forties and his fiancée were sitting in an upscale Chicago restaurant waiting at their table for their meal. While deeply engrossed in conversation with his wife-to-be, the man sensed that someone was waiting behind him near his right shoulder.

“Excuse me for cutting in,” a woman’s voice suddenly bellowed, “but you wouldn’t happen to be Harlton Grummokes, would you?”

The man momentarily turned away from his fiancée and replied in his deep professional voice, “Why yes, Madam, I certainly am, and you must be one of the followers of my program.”

“Oh my goodness, it really is you!” the woman burst forth in excitement. “I’m Martina Harsterne. My friend and I are visiting from Alberta, Canada, and I listen to your radio program every week.”

“Well, I’m much obliged. I presume that you are really benefitting from it?” Grummokes inquired.

“Definitely! I’ve learned so much from your in-depth discussions and interviews,” the woman eagerly responded.

“So how did you recognize me, since you probably know that I rarely wear suits or dine in fine restaurants?” Grummokes further inquired.

“Oh, I didn’t have the slightest idea what you looked like, what you wear, or even where you eat. In fact, I wasn’t even expecting to ever see you in person. It was your voice that I recognized almost immediately,” the woman continued, “There are certain qualities about your voice that are not like any other. Besides, I’ve been listening to your voice long enough now that I could easily pick you out of a crowd of people!”

How many times do we recognize someone solely by his voice? There are occasions when it is the only way that we are able to identify a person we know. Children quickly learn and know their parent’s voices, partially through sheer repetition, but mostly through intimacy. If we were to blindfold someone who has been married for decades, we would often see how easily they will acknowledge the voice of their spouse when he or she calls out in a crowd. Research has shown that each of us has a unique voiceprint, just like our fingerprints.

sheep congregating with shepherd

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Recognizing His voice isn’t something that occurs immediately. A relationship has to be developed over a period of time. A bond must be formed that is closer and greater than our relationship with friends, relatives, our spouse, or even our children. We need to be willing to let everything go and say in our heart, “Lord, I am all yours; do as you will.” As we yield ourselves to Him with passionate desire and devotion, then He will make Himself more and more known to us. “Draw nigh[near] to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8).

Sheep, like a lot of animals, will not easily follow someone they do not know. Many times they will run away in another direction when someone else calls to them. Only the shepherd that they have been raised under for many, many years will they readily follow when he calls them. “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:5). When the True Shepherd calls, will we know His voice? Have we spent so much time in His presence that when He speaks we will recognize Him, sight unseen? Or have we wandered so far that His voice can no longer be heard? Is our relationship with Him so weak that we can’t even acknowledge that it is He who is speaking?

Just as with any diligent and loving shepherd, Jesus wants us to know His voice. He desires that we spend more of our time seeking and learning about Him. That means reading and studying His Word, the Bible. Most importantly, He wants us to spend more dedicated time with Him in worship and prayer, not five minutes or an hour here and there.

When we want to know more about someone in a relationship, we don’t engage in a conversation with him or her for a short time every so often. We try to find any possible moment and means to be around and communicate with him or her, whether it is in person, on the phone, by a computer, or by mail. We really desire to know him or her better. Likewise, this should be our yearning to know Him whom we claim to love the most. He should be on our mind continually. Naturally, we are always going to hear voices of all kinds around us, but as we get to know Jesus more intimately, His still, small voice will be the one heard most clearly in our heart, just as a child readily hears his mother’s whisper.

Right now the Shepherd is speaking to us. Are we listening for His voice?

Cut the Ballast!

balloon gondola

It was a beautiful, mild Spring morning when Mr. Henry took off in the brightly colored hot air balloon with his new assistant, Cardone Stevens. It was just a routine training session, so the two ascended with little fanfare. In fact, the only other individuals around were an older man and his wife walking their dogs. Mr. Henry had performed these training sessions hundreds of times in the past with very few incidents, so he had no reason to be concerned about this one either. Cardone, on the other hand, was both fascinated and terrified from the moment he severed the anchoring ropes. He had only rode as a casual participant in two flights with another seasoned balloonist prior to this one.

The ascent went smoothly and much more quickly than he had expected, but Mr. Henry wanted to go to a much higher altitude. This pleased Cardone, since his prior flights were always kept somewhat low, due to his inexperience.

“Cardone, please cut some of the ballast,” ordered Mr. Henry. Cardone took the knife given to him for this purpose, reached over the side, and systematically cut off a few of the small bags of sand. He had never really seen these bags up close before, and their size and appearance intrigued him. He just couldn’t bear to drop the bags, so he decided to just to quietly stow them on the floor beside his feet. After a few moments, Cardone wondered why the balloon was not climbing higher. As it began to drift and sink a little, Mr. Henry ordered Cardone to cut more of the ballast. Again, in obedience to Mr. Henry’s orders, he proceeded to cut some more of the little bags of sand from the side of the gondola. He let one drop, but just wasn’t able to let the others go. “They might hurt something below,” he thought, so he again placed the bags on the floor a short distance from himself.

Thirty minutes went by. The balloon had only ascended a few dozen feet. By now, Mr. Henry’s patience had grown thin.

“Mr. Stevens!” he barked, “Did you cut the ballast like I asked?”

Cardone replied sheepishly, “Uh, well, sort of.”

“Sort of!” Mr. Henry shouted incredulously. “How did you “sort of” cut them?”

“Well,” Cardone began, “I just couldn’t let them go. I kind of grew fond of them, so I carefully placed them by my feet. Besides, I didn’t want anyone below to be injured.” He felt justified with this last response.

“I think I’ve heard it all now,” Mr. Henry grumbled. “Just how did you expect to go higher if you didn’t get rid of the ballast?”

Cardone knew that it was necessary to get rid of the ballast. He read all about these things in his textbooks. He just could not bring himself to do it in real life. He wanted to go higher, but how could he if he did not get rid of the ballast? Past experience had led Mr. Henry to believe that Cardone really did want to go higher, but also that he was afraid to do anything to make it happen. After fifteen more minutes of wrangling with Cardone, he reached over and cut almost all of the remaining ballast. With some cries of agony, Cardone reluctantly took up cutting where Mr. Henry let off. Now, with the ballast actually dropped from the gondola, the balloon began to ascend rapidly.

multi-colored balloon floating in sky

“Wow!” Cardone responded in amazement. “We are rising higher than I’ve ever been before.”

“Hrmph!” Mr. Henry replied gruffly in disgust. “Want to go even higher?”

“Oh, that would be great!” Cardone replied eagerly.

“Then get rid of those sandbags you put on the floor!” Mr. Henry hollered.

“Must I?” Cardone responded with anguish. “They are dear to me. I just can’t let them go!”

“Here we go again,” Mr. Henry muttered.

While this narrative might sound a little silly, the truth of the matter is that we as children of God do this with Him all the time. We have these bags of “ballast” in our own life called “the flesh.” It is the part of us that desires the sinful pleasures of this physical life that we have not yet completely removed since we surrendered our heart to the Lord. The more ballast we have in our life, the lower or more shallow our walk and relationship will be with the Lord. As long as we cling to the flesh, our intimacy with Him suffers. Therefore, God does not want any of this flesh to remain in our lives.

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). When Jesus said this, He did not intend for us to literally haul a wooden beam around all day and follow Him. The essence of this verse is that we are to daily die to our self or flesh. We need to give sinful and unproductive desires of the flesh over to Him. Just like the balloon, we need to cut off and discard all that weighs us down spiritually. Naturally, we won’t always know what we need to surrender. This is why God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. As we seek God in prayer and really want to commune with Him more, His Spirit will reveal to us the works of the flesh that we need to cut off.

Notice that Jesus said, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily” (emphasis mine). No one-time house-cleaning or ingesting some magic pill can make us totally clean and perfect.

This process is continual. God expects us to make the choice to let go of a part of our flesh, the same way He expected us to make the choice to surrender our life over to Him. He did not make a planet of robots with no choice or free will. If He was to do everything and we do nothing, then we would become like spoiled children—taking His work for us for granted, with no real gratitude or love for Him in return.

God desires for us to fellowship with Him and be a part of His family so much that He went to efforts beyond our comprehension to make a way for us to be with Him. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). In return, He wants us to give up these hurdles or impediments of the flesh in our life that spiritually hinder our walk with Him. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify [subdue, kill, or permanently eliminate] the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:12,13).

The longer we hold onto these works of the flesh, the more that we separate ourselves from God—until our relationship with Him is dead. At the same time, if we continue to keep the flesh, we demonstrate to God that we have little interest in Him.

Therefore, like a balloon, let’s cut the ballast of our flesh, and let Him bring us higher in our relationship with Him.

Let’s desire more intimacy with our Lord and less with our old self. Remember, if we don’t cut this ballast, we will only cause ourselves to sink lower and lower, until we are no longer in the air at all, but back on the ground of this sinful world.

No Cutting Corners With God

shortcutting prohibited sign

Next time you pass by a site where the ground is being broken and a foundation is about to be laid for a house or other building, try asking the workers to cut some corners and skip the foundation. Can’t find a building in this early stage? Then try to find one lacking a roof, and ask the builders to skip the roof and just lay the roofing material down without it. Better yet, see if some builders will just put the windows up without bothering with the outside walls. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? Will they accept these recommendations? Suppose no plumbing or electric wires were installed, or not even an empty place for them in the future. How about a twenty-story building built with absolutely no windows—just empty holes with plastic stretched across them? None of these means of cutting corners are permitted in an architect’s plan.

Yet there are individuals professing to be true followers of Jesus Christ who do something like this all the time. They feel they can cut some corners in God’s plan for their lives without taking any thought of the consequences. Many think they don’t have to follow every detail or directive of Christ, that only the majority of them really matter. Others find it too painful to obey some of the commands given, so they just skip them for now (or forever). They may also feel that it is just too hard to do everything, but God will accept them regardless. Some have been deceived into believing that not everything Jesus said is to be obeyed, that some areas are just symbolic.

Sadly though, none of this is true. There can be no cutting corners in God’s plan for our lives. Every time we cut a corner in an attempt to get ahead more quickly, or to shorten the trial and tribulation that God is bringing us through, we only push ourselves farther back in our walk with Him instead. If we think we can bypass a portion of our allotted journey, then He will lead us back through it again later, with more difficulty. A structure can’t stand without a solid foundation, and we can’t establish a solid relationship with God unless Jesus Christ and His Word are our foundation.

men climbing over fence
[photo by Government of Moscow shared under a Creative Commons Intl. (CC-BY) license (modified by author)]

Many years ago, an allegorical story was written of a young believer’s journey to Heaven. In one chapter, two men climbed over a wall that went beside the path along the way that the young believer was traveling. When questioned about this, they claimed that they didn’t need to go through all of the troubles and distance that the young believer had to go through. They felt justified in such actions, and merrily hurried on ahead of the young but maturing believer, smug in their accomplishments. No sooner had they gone out of sight when a significant commotion arose from the direction they had just traveled. It wasn’t long before one of them returned in hasty retreat, fleeing home in terror. In passing, he frightfully warned of the horrible danger ahead and that his companion did not make it. But the young believer continued on, wary but not fearful. Why? Because he had not cut corners along the way. He had been continually prepared for such trials to come along the whole pathway that he had been told to take. The others tried to take a shortcut and therefore never received a proper beginning or solid foundation. They were not prepared for the trials ahead and, as a consequence, suffered dreadfully.

When we cut corners or take shortcuts in our walk with Christ, we only set ourselves up for later disappointment or even danger. We make ourselves vulnerable to the enemy by not going through the proper training and instruction first. Imagine the disaster that would unfold if we decided to cut corners and skip the lesson on how to properly use the brakes on our vehicle or bike!

When God gives us instruction, guidance, or correction, it is not optional; He expects our obedience. We can’t pick and choose whatever we feel works best for us and just leave the rest. God has a specific plan for each of us that He knows will work for our good—as long as we follow it. Like a house, God is building us from the ground up. He wants us to yield to His efforts during the time of construction. If He does not cut corners in developing us, why do we think we can cut corners or take shortcuts in our walk with Him? We need to be devoted to His will and obedient to His word, not to what we think is right.

Powered by The Light

Electricity created from light is an amazing source of energy. If we were to stop and think about what causes this to happen, it just doesn’t seem logically possible that a light source, such as the sun, or even something as simple as a desk lamp, could recharge a phone, operate a calculator, or cause a small motor to spin. On a much larger scale, light from the sun can generate enough electricity to provide power for a single home all the way up to a small city, and even more. In fact, it is now becoming increasingly difficult to find something that does not have light as a power source.

While solar power is a rather cost-effective energy source, it lacks the large volume of power that more conventional sources of power (such as coal, gas, or hydroelectric) could generate for the same amount of physical space. Since the output of a solar or “photovoltaic” cell (the component that converts light into electricity) is not powerful enough, it cannot be directly connected to the device that needs power. A common method to accommodate this shortfall is to use a battery. The battery becomes the actual power source while the solar cell recharges the battery. This allows the device to continue operating for a limited period of time when there is no light source.

car battery

A similarity exists between solar cells, batteries, and true believers in Jesus Christ. When we yield to Him and allow Him to work in our life, He becomes the light source that recharges us spiritually, by means of the Holy Spirit. As long as we desire to be in His presence and do the will of our Heavenly Father, we are made strong spiritually. But when we do our own will, and manage in a way that we feel is best, we then move out of His light and into darkness. The more we are in darkness, the more that we are working in our own strength and power. Furthermore, we are not able to generate or produce enough of our own light to keep ourselves charged.

The result?—we soon run out of power and become spiritually dead.

The solution?—stay in The Light.

The means?—through prayer, reading and dwelling on God’s Word (the Bible), and by being obedient to it.

Therefore it is imperative for us to yield to Christ in a real relationship. The more we yield our self to Him, the more we are able to walk in His light. This will, in turn, keep us fully charged with His power and will enable us to carry out God’s will. A solar cell must be in a good source of light to generate electricity. In a similar manner, we must remain consistently in His Light for the Holy Spirit to work through us. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). Let us walk in His light and keep ourselves out of the darkness.

Ritual or Relationship?

 

Do you ever felt like you are making great efforts to do all of the right things (or at least what you were told were the right things) to please God, yet He still seems distant or unreachable to you? Do you feel like a sense of guilt comes over you if you don’t pray or read the Bible? Or have you stopped praying and reading the Bible because you can’t seem to get anywhere, and everything you did read seemed so confusing and dull? Maybe you go to church because this is what you were told do, but you have never felt any real enthusiasm in being there. Or, are you doing as much as you can for your church, yet you still don’t seem to have any reward from God—or even worse—you just feel used by your church? Have you often asked yourself, just where is the fulfillment, the satisfaction and the real joy in following Jesus that others have told you about?

On the other hand, maybe you are one who really does find excitement and satisfaction with God and what He has done for you, but only after you attend church or various religious events and entertainment, thereby necessitating repeat visits to maintain this enthusiasm. All of these are common ploys of Satan to prevent you from having true intimacy with God. He tries to keep you in a mindset where you feel that you have to continually do works to be right with, or accepted by, God. When you left Satan’s domain and entered the domain of Jesus by getting saved, it certainly did not go unnoticed by Satan. And, in revenge for leaving him, he will persist in trying to keep you from having complete peace in Jesus. His goal is to turn your focus off of Jesus Christ and onto yourself (and ultimately onto him alone).

He wants you to wear yourself out in trying to be right with God on your own, to the point where you become bitter or discouraged and turn back to him. Actually, Satan would really like for you to hate God just like he does, and to never want to even try to follow the Lord again.

Since he has had thousands of years to observe others like you, he knows just what technique works to keep you from truly following Jesus.

What Satan tries to do here is to turn all of these ‘good’ efforts into a ritual. Jesus does not want rituals or your ‘works’; He wants a personal relationship with you. He wants yourcross worship trust and faith in Him alone. Religions have rituals, but they add up to nothing in God’s view. When Jesus died on the cross on your behalf, it was a complete work. There are no works, no rituals—there is nothing that you can do to improve on this or make yourself more acceptable to God on your own. Every time you try to do something to make yourself more holy before God, you are, in essence, canceling out the sacrifice that His Son made on your behalf. He already did everything necessary to make you acceptable to God.

You may now be thinking that reading the Bible, praying, or attending church are wrong. Each of these in themselves is right, and God expects them of you. But when doing them becomes your motive behind being accepted or becoming right before God, then doing them becomes just as wrong as worshiping idols. And you also enter the area of self-righteousness, which is just as sinful before God as idolatry or any other sin.

couple on bench

When you accept Jesus Christ into your heart, you are entering into a personal relationship with Him. In our human relationships, one person does not work to make the other accept him or her; instead, each accepts the other for who he or she is, by faith in him or her. They no longer have to prove themselves; they now have established trust between them.

If you have just become married, and you constantly do things to make your spouse love you, then you have entered into marriage for all of the wrong motives (and your spouse will really begin to wonder about you).

Your marriage partner should love you for who you are, not so much for what you do. What you do is a by-product of love, a way of expressing it.

Similarly, Jesus wants you to have trust, and simple, child-like faith in Him. He never set up a complicated set of rules and requirements that you must follow to improve your standing with woman worshipingHim. These only lead to things like favoritism, jealousy, regression, and failure. If you yield your self (or will) to Him in a loving personal relationship, you will soon find that you will want to pray, you will want to read His Word, and you will want to be in a fellowship of other believers who also want to do the same thing. You will also find that that all of these efforts to please Him before will now be the by-product of a relationship with Him now. It is only in a true relationship, not in a ritual, that will you find real peace in God.

You Can’t Drown by Just Falling into Water

flickr photo by odonata98 (Kimberly Reinhart) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Did you know that if you were to fall into a large body of water, such as a pond or lake, you wouldn’t drown? It’s true; you could fall into significant depths of water and still be alive. (Of course, I’m talking about ordinary liquid water, not solid frozen or near-freezing water.) The drowning occurs when you stay underwater. The longer you stay, the sooner you will drown. No matter how much you train or prepare for such a dive, if you don’t get out of the water, you will drown. Even if you keep your head above the surface, if you continue to float, you will eventually succumb from fatigue and drown.

The same is true with sin. Your relationship with God won’t permanently end when you fall into sin. It’s when you remain in sin that your relationship suffers. God is holy and can never have sin in His presence. When you continue to sin, or live in sin, then your relationship and fellowship with Him eventually ceases. Just as with water, it is easy to fall into sin, but getting out takes significantly more effort, and the longer you remain living in sin, the harder it is to get out of it.

Due to the sin of Adam (the first man), mankind has always had an inclination to sin (commonly called the “sin nature.”) Therefore, sin will always be present with you, but you don’t have to be controlled or overcome by it. When Jesus died on the cross, He won the victory over sin and death.

Since He fought the battle over sin and won, you no longer need to fight this battle yourself. In fact, you can’t fight this battle on your own and win.

The answer is to repent (turn completely in the opposite direction) of your sins and sinful ways, surrendering your will and life over to Him. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19).

lambs and sheep

When a sheep falls into a ditch, it doesn’t just lie there. It does its best to get up out of the ditch onto more stable ground. When you fall into sin, don’t just stay there and continue to sin; repent and get up to better ground.

An even better solution is to put your focus on Jesus, and your trust in the victory He made possible through His sacrifice on the cross. It’s when you take your eyes off of Him and place them on your self and your problems that the ease in which you fall into sin becomes greater and greater.

The greatest tool you have against your sin nature is Jesus.

When you take your eyes off of Him and fall into sin, you need to turn your eyes back to Him, repent and flee from that sin, and seek forgiveness from God your Heavenly Father. Then “…the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19b). Sin only keeps you in despair, fear and depression (among many other things) due to your separation from God. So why continue in it when it is only going to prevent you from having real peace with God?

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.

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

Changing Your Destiny

divided roadway

Our ultimate destiny in life depends on only one thing. It is not determined according to how well we have served mankind or how productive we may have been. Nor is it determined by whom we know or how much we have owned. The one thing our destiny depends on is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? You may know Him by name. You may know a lot of facts about Him. But do you know Him? Do you know Him personally? What happens to you after you die all depends on your relationship with Jesus before you die. If you know Him as a wonderful man, or a great teacher, or a prophet sent by God, that is not enough. He did not come to earth primarily for any of those reasons. If you think He came here to be a good example for us to follow, that is still not His primary reason for coming here.

Jesus came to earth to rescue every man, woman and child from the bondage of sin. We did not become sinners after we were born—we already were that way even from the day of our conception. We inherited the disposition toward sin from our fathers and mothers.

Our destiny without Jesus could therefore only be death, because death is the wages of sin, and then to spend eternity in hell. It is not that we chose that destiny, but that it was the only one available by default—because the human race was sold out to the devil.

Jesus came down from heaven and became a man, so that He could save us from this horrible destiny. Jesus permitted man, whom He created, to turn against Him and beat Him almost to death, then to nail Him to a cross to hang there until He died—a horrible death ordinarily assigned to a runaway slave. He went as far as anyone possibly could, to do what needed to be done to give each of us a chance to escape our destiny in hell—in order to spend eternity with God in heaven. He made it possible for you to have a brand new life and a new family—the family of God. You can change your destiny by giving your life to Him. After all, He gave His very life for you.

Death is the destiny each of us should have had. We should have been executed in order to pay for our sin of rebelling against God, who is the King of the universe. But Jesus was sent to earth to take our place instead. Only a perfect man could die the death that a sinner deserves and then be resurrected by a holy God. And there is only one Perfect Man who ever lived. Therefore there was only one Man who was qualified to take our place and die for us. That Man is Jesus.

It is the desire of Jesus Christ to know each one of us personally. He did not die simply for the mass of humanity. He died on the cross for each and every individual human being. He loves each one of us so much that He would go to that extreme to rescue us and set us free, to be with Him forever, even if only one person responded. What greater love could there be than this?

What will your destiny be? With it be death and then eternity without God, like most other people will receive? Or will you be the one who stands out from the crowd and follows Jesus, giving your whole life and future unreservedly to Him? Do you know Jesus personally? Get to know Him while you can. Now is the time to determine what your destiny will be, while you still have time.Click here for more information.

–Alana Pangburn