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New Faith and a New Nature

October 11th, 2018

Your new faith did not erase your old nature.

“Given to us are exceedingly great and precious promises, that you may be partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “new faith and a new nature.”

Salvation resolves the problem of your eternal destiny. Salvation does not solve all your problems in this life immediately. That is a process of grace. So, you are a Christ-follower now. Shouldn’t everyday life become easier? Do you ever wonder if you should be further along in your spiritual growth than you are? Should you be winning new battles instead of still fighting so many of the old ones?

Salvation reconciles your history and begins a wonderful new journey, but there is much more that God wants and needs to accomplish in you. God cares about your destiny. Remember when you finally realized that you could not save yourself by your good works? Paul wrote,  He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 NIV.

Yet it is alarmingly easy to still assume that now you can take it from here. The Bible calls those, dead works. You can no more live your Christian life on your best behavior now, than you could save yourself by your good behavior previously. You know what the problem is? Your new faith did not erase your old nature.

I envision Paul rejoicing as he wrote the words, Because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. Read Ephesians 2:1-5 NIV. You remain vulnerable to the relentless pull of desires incompatible with your confession and spiritual convictions.

And when that happens, feelings of guilt return and doubts cloud your confidence about salvation. You thought that battle was in the past, didn’t you? The Apostle Paul asked and answered the question our hearts ask, Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:23-24 NIV.  Here’s the good news! “Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 NAS. I suggest that you cannot consistently and successfully walk in the power of the Holy Spirit until you request, receive, and realize that you have been filled with the Spirit.

By His Spirit, God Himself dwells within you to deliver you from your old nature, much the same as He redeemed you from your sins by Jesus Christ. See Galatians 2:20 NIV. You will be better, do better, and live better when you rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit. I have heard this wonderful progression of spiritual life and growth explained this way.

At salvation, you were saved from the penalty of sin. In the ongoing process of sanctification, you are being saved from the power of sin. And in eternity you will be saved from the presence of sin. The old nature will then be eradicated forever; never again will you contend with its inclination toward sin.

To accomplish this, there is both an indwelling and an infilling of the Spirit. The indwelling is constant and occurs when the Spirit baptizes you into the Body of Christ. Read 1 Corinthians 12:13 NKJV. The infilling occurs at your invitation – anywhere, anytime, every time – as Jesus baptizes you with His Spirit. The Bible says, 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is,18 be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:17-18 NKJV. The Greek word in that verse that is translated, “filled,” describes the influence of something rather than the quantity of something.

Consider this. A sail boat moves under the influence and direction of the wind when its sails become filled with the wind. Similarly, “When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us . .“ Galatians 5:22 NLT. Live full of the Spirit; the Spirit then gives you the power you lack to forgive, be patient in trials, be loving when mistreated, trust and obey when you don’t understand, break habits, and live as your heart for God desires.

As a child of God, the infilling of the Spirit does not give you more of the Spirit than already abides in you. Yielding more of yourself to live within His authority releases the Holy Spirit’s fullness and influence. See Galatians 5:24-25 NIV. Live every day, in and by the power and influence of the Spirit of God.

Today I pray for you to rely every moment on the power of God’s Spirit.

Christian Communications 2018

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Empty Lives

July 22nd, 2013

“That you may be filled with all of the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19 NKJV

A life void of internal strength succumbs to surrounding pressures.

My thoughts and comments today are about “empty lives.”

In High School, I learned a simple principle of physics; “Nature abhors a vacuum.” To demonstrate, our science teacher presented a metal can, proceeding to extract air out of it until we watched the sturdy can gradually collapse. As resistant, internal pressure is reduced, nature pushes into any void to fill the emptiness. The external pressure was stronger than the strength of the can to resist.

A person’s life can be like that. If your life is void of internal strength you lose the power to resist and withstand, gradually succumbing to the pressures of the world and culture around you. Life is not easy; temptations are many. The pressures to compromise – to give in, to go along to get along – will seem irresistible. The Bible recognizes such spiritual realities and gives the strength to resist such situations successfully. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore . .“ Ephesians 6:13-14 NKJV.

You can successfully stand firm, strong, and righteously if you have a greater power within you than the one oppressing you; “Because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” 1 John 4:4 NIV – a greater power with you than opposing you, “Don’t be afraid for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Kings 6:16 NIV.

Jesus sat purposefully beside Jacob’s well at noonday when a woman from the city came to draw water. Read John 4:3-30 NKJV. Her supply was gone; her life was empty. In vain, she tried to fill her emptiness with relationships that did not work and pleasures that could not satisfy, never finding a sense of fullness until she met a Man unlike any other she had known. Her emptiness met Jesus’ fullness. Other men only took precious things from her – sanctity, dignity, integrity; Jesus gave the most precious of things to her – forgiveness, freedom, and fullness.

Jesus saw the emptiness of her heart, and invited her to a fullness of life she had never known. “If you knew the gift God has for you, and Who I am, you would ask Me and I would give you Living Water . . people soon become thirsty again after drinking this water, but the water that I give takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:10-13 NLT. In a moment, her life went from empty to full, from life always failing to life ever flowing. See Colossians 1:27 NIV.

Your response can be as hers, “Please sir, give me this Living Water that I may never thirst again.” John 4:15 NKJV.  Recognition is the first step to release. Read John 7:37-39/2 Corinthians 9:8. What did she do? She drank deeply of the Living Water offered her, and then straightway ran to her village and told everyone she knew, “Come; see a Man who told me everything I ever did!” John 4:28-30/39-42 NKJV. You don’t change by denying your past; you change by releasing it to Jesus.

You can know the Savior, yet still struggle with spiritual emptiness, lacking His sufficiency of grace, love, joy, peace, patience, trust, rest, or provision. See Galatians 5:22-25 NLT. God invites you to overflowing, abiding fullness, “That you may be filled with all of the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16-21 NKJV. Everything you will ever need or look for, its fullness is found in Jesus. 

My prayer for you this day is: understand that empty lives find fullness only in Jesus.

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Right Desires

January 4th, 2013

Govern your desires and you will rightly direct your life.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” Matthew 5:6 NKJV.

Life is driven by desires and appetites, not casual whims. Those desires can be oriented spiritually or will originate carnally. As early as the Garden of Eden, human nature has suffered from a resident fallenness which is not naturally inclined heavenward. “When [Eve] saw that the tree was good for food, and pleasant to the eyes, and . . desirable to make one wise, she took of the fruit . .” Genesis 3:6 NKJV. Her direction was set when her natural desires overpowered her longing to obey God.

Desire must be wisely governed and purposefully directed or will express your baser nature. Know this; wrong appetites are never fully satisfied. Right desires and Godly appetites always are. “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4 NLT. In describing the pathway to “supreme blessedness,” Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6 NKJV.  The original word translated as “filled” is so much more. The Greek word suggests the idea of “being saturated.”

The Biblical concept is more akin to the Bible’s description of a person experiencing, “. . good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over . . filled with all the fullness of God . . always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance . .” See Luke 6:38/Ephesians 3:19/2 Corinthians 9:8. Even those superlatives are inadequate to describe all God desires for you. Clearly, the Father’s will for you is overflowing, everlasting fullness but His love for you will not allow your satisfaction with unworthy desires. Read Isaiah 55:1-2 NIV.

Life is not really determined by your decisions and directions; those are just symptomatic. Decisions and directions are subtly, or strongly, determined by your desires. Govern your desires and you will rightly direct your life. David learned first-hand the danger of not monitoring and ruling his desires. In repentance, he sought to recapture the purity of his heart for God – the recovery of his “first love.” See Revelation 2:1-5 NKJV. “One thing I have desired of the Lord; that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” Psalm 27:4 NKJV. See Psalm 42:1-2 NLT.

Jesus was clear about the power of desires and appetites to direct a person’s life in pursuit of things either perishable or imperishable: “But you shouldn’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose . . Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’” John 6:27 NLT/7:37-39 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you desire the highest and best of all that is eternal.

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Out of Options?

July 9th, 2012

“He prayed that he might die.” 1 Kings 19:4 NKJV

When you are through with your options, you are ready for real solutions.

My thoughts and comments today ask “out of options?”

Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” The verse is a bit shocking; “[Elijah] prayed that he might die.” 1 Kings 19:4 NKJV. He was full of fear and tired. This prophet had been powerfully used by God on Mt. Carmel. Kings feared him; a nation revered him; but a queen despised him. “[Elijah] ran for his life . . a day’s journey into the wilderness.” You can never run fast enough or far enough to get away from your fear and despair. Really, if Elijah wanted to die, Jezebel would gladly have accommodated him.

So soon after a great victory, he no longer had the will to live. Extreme highs and severe lows are not always far apart. Elijah felt alone in his task, his life threatened by Jezebel. He was exhausted physically, wrung out emotionally and mentally, and weary and confused spiritually. He had nothing left. Read 1 Kings 19:1-4/10. Elijah was running on empty, literally. Elijah didn’t feel he could face another day. Life had become more than he could bear.

Let’s be practical; God always is. The recovery of Elijah began simply enough, with rest and nourishment. This was not the time for further depletion. Before you try to figure it all out with worry-filled days and sleepless nights, give yourself a time for recovery. Then God provided supernatural sustenance for forty days, until he finally came “as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.” See verses 5-8. Elijah ran from Jezebel, but at least he ran toward God. Along the way and at Horeb, God met Elijah, quieting his inner turmoil long enough to hear a fresh assignment. God has more for him. His life wasn’t over; a new chapter was yet to be written. See verses 11-18.

When you have gone as far as you can go with the strength you possess, what do you do? Inevitably, that is a common dilemma. From that point, your success or failure is found in your answer to that question. There will be a moment when what you’ve been doing is no longer working, when what you have is no longer enough, when what you know is not what you need to know. Sometimes, life seems to offer a dead end; going back isn’t an option and going forward doesn’t feel possible. Ever hear someone describe their situation as being “between a rock and a hard place?” Sometimes God allows you to get yourself into tight places until you will turn to Him. Ever been where you think you are out of options? When you are through with your options, you are ready for real solutions. God is your best option.

Out of options? You are in good company. The Apostle Paul described an experience when he was, “. . burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NKJV. Maybe what he learned from that personal experience convinced Paul to pray for the Christ-followers at Ephesus, “to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man . . to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Read Ephesians 3:16-20 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you find God when you are searching for answers.

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Spiritual Vacuum

June 11th, 2012

“Do not . . give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:27 NKJV

Wherever God and good do not fill, lesser things will.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spiritual vacuum.”

I learned from my high school physics teacher the principle that “nature abhors a vacuum.” When the normal atmospheric pressure inside an object is lessened significantly and that object has insufficient strength to resist, the greater pressure that surrounds it will cause its increasing and eventual collapse. That has been helpful in my spiritual life; let me tell you how.

Jesus told of an evil spirit who was removed but returned to find its former place, “empty, swept, and put in order.” Read Matthew 12:43-45 NKJV. It was a place clean but not occupied. That description might at first seem good, but is not good enough. The keyword is “empty.” A spiritual vulnerability existed; the vacancy left a spiritual vacuum waiting to be filled by something or someone. The unclean spirit finds “seven other spirits more wicked than himself and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Tragically and needlessly, spiritual collapse is all too common. In your heart and life, wherever God and good do not fill, lesser things will.

I see a practical application in the Bible’s warning, “Do not . . give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:27 NKJV. The devil’s “wiles and devices” are always pressing for access into one’s life. Read Ephesians 6:10-18/2 Corinthians 2:11 NKJV. But how do you limit the daily intrusions the devil continually seeks in your soul and spirit? Feebly resisting wrong attitudes and actions without initiating and strongly sustaining righteous practices does not work. Your spiritual success will only come from actively giving God “place” in your life everyday. That is how you start everyday, live your day, and end your day; doing so must become your spiritual lifestyle.

The more extensive “place” you purposefully allow God in your life – your time, affections, thoughts, desires, and practices – the more the devilish intrusions are restrained until eliminated. Paul applies the principle in practical matters: lying or speaking truth, stealing or working, profane or edifying language, bitterness or kindness, anger or tenderheartedness, malice or forgiveness. Ephesians 4:25-32 NKJV. It is always your choice; a choice you must make.

Any spiritual vacuum is a vulnerability you cannot afford. The truth is simple enough. Writing of the Holy Spirit who is within the Christ-follower in contrast to the spirit which embodies the world and its culture, John affirmed, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 NKJV. Our modern, high-tech, low-touch world offers no suitable substitutes for the daily practice of ancient, spiritual disciplines of Biblical meditation, prayer, fasting, and New Testament fellowship.

Fill your heart with the right things; leave no place for wrong. Fear is the absence of courage; take courage. Unbelief is the absence of faith; choose faith. Disobedience is the absence of obedience; obey. Worry is the absence of trust; begin to trust. Sin is the absence of righteousness; live righteously. Discord is the absence of peace; sow peace. Hate or indifference is the absence of love; prefer love. Sadness is the absence of joy; rejoice. For every spiritual vacuum there is a fullness of God’s provision. See Ephesians 3:19 NLT/2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV. Every emptiness you feel is an absence of God there. Invite and welcome His fullness today.

My prayer for you today is that you will experience fullness that fills and overflows.

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