Saturday, September 20, 2014

Our Christian Development and Growth

Before an individual can grow as a Christian they must first be free from sin. Peter writes: "Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:1-2). Later he says: "by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:4). Many Christians seem to be "spinning their wheels" when it comes to Christianity. They want to be an active Christian, yet they also want to continue to entangle themselves with worldly things. We cannot develop and grow into the Christian that God wants us to be if we are not willing to give it 100% effort! Only when we truly "desire" for the righteousness of God will we become a mature, seasoned, responsible, and respected Christian in His service. We must be determined to escape the world’s lusts and have a living faith toward Christ. James writes: "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). Our true character, development and growth as a Christian will be evident to all based upon our works. Our Christian growth will be seen by all without us having to ever say a word. Remember the words of Paul? "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all" (1 Timothy 4:12-15). A Christian’s development, growth, and progress will be evident to all that see him.

Conditions of Growth
We can only grow in Christ when we place our trust and cares on Him. "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus pleads with each of us to "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). When we cast our cares on Jesus, and lean on Jesus, then we are on our way to developing as a Christian ought to. The worrier, the pessimist, the negative individual will not grow spiritually because they have not learned to let Christ be the center of their life. When we try to go through our daily tasks without including God, then we have miserably failed. Each and everyone of us when asked if we would like to grow up to be a strong, active, knowledgeable, fruitful Christian would probably answer YES! What we say we WANT to be and what we actually ARE, often times are two different things. You see, our growth is conditional. Conditioned that we STRIVE to be what we say we WANT to be!

Steps to Christian Growth
So how does an individual grow to become the Christian that God would certainly be proud of? The answer is found in the Bible. Peter writes: "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble" (2 Peter 1:5-10). We learn that the individual that really wants to develop and grow into a servant of God, a dedicated Christian, then there is active work to do. A Christian is one who is virtuous, longs for knowledge (Ephesians 3:19; Proverbs 24:5), exercises temperance (1 Corinthians 9:25; Galatians 5:23), is patient (1 Thessalonians 5:14; James 5:8), godly (1 Timothy 4:7-8), shows brotherly kindness always (Galatians 6:10), and understands that all things must be done first of all because of LOVE (1 Corinthians 13:1-13). Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit informs us that if we are actively pursuing these things then we will never stumble! The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians and encouraged them to remain faithful and to develop and grow as Christians by saying: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-- meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8). May we all strive to develop and grow by putting on the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and meditating on the good, positive aspects of Christianity. As a result, people will be edified by your growth and encouragement!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Praying to God

The prophet Daniel prayed to God three times daily (Daniel 6:10). This godly man serves as an example to each one of us, showing us that it is important that we communicate with God on a continual basis. Without prayer we fail to bring ourselves into the full enjoyment of the blessings of God’s kingdom. 

The Sincere Desire of the Heart
We learn from scripture that our prayers to God are sincere desires from our own heart. Paul wrote in Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” Paul was expressing a desire in his heart that Israel be saved. Our prayers should be addressed to God our Father, expressing the desires of our heart and we must do so in faith without doubting (James 1:6-8). Christians must realize that prayer is an acknowledgment of the all-sufficiency of God and our own dependency upon Him. When we truly realize and recognize this then our prayers will truly be from our heart.

The Importance of Christians Praying
Christians realize that God does not hear the prayers of sinners (John 9:31). Therefore the Christian understands the true value of prayer for the righteous. We know that God does answer prayer and therefore when we pray we pray expecting God to answer, even giving us greater things than we can ask or think (Jeremiah 33:3; Ephesians 3:20-21). Prayer creates an attitude in the Christian that brings peace to the heart. As we study our Bible on a daily basis we gain a deeper and better understanding of our Father. Likewise, when we pray to God on a daily basis, this creates a closeness with our Father and keeps us focused on striving to please Him in all things. Pray to God — because prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance, but laying hold on His willingness!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Beware of Satan

In the past I have written several articles on the blessings of being a Christian and the wonderful love of God. But there is another force that we need to be seriously aware of and that is Satan himself. Matthew 4:1 says "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil". It is Satan that temps us and every day that goes by we can see the hand of Satan somewhere in it. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote "Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (1 Corinthians 7:15). Paul was giving this advice to those that are married because he knew that Satan is always standing ready to tempt all with fleshly desires. One must understand that Satan is a very strong force and we cannot let our guard down for an instant because if we do, we will be tempted by him in an instant. Peter stressed this in his writing of 1 Peter 5:8 when he said "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour". Brethren, we must see Satan as an active force just waiting for us. Satan has been called a "murderer from the beginning" and "does not stand for truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). Not only is he a murderer and full of lies - the father of lies, but he is a sinner, John says "the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

Don’t Give Satan the Advantage
We can see from all the above passages that Satan is "no good" and we need to be very cautious of him. At this point you may be asking "what should I do with him?" First of all, don't give him the advantage. Paul said "...that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes". Once he gets the advantage it becomes harder and harder for us to overcome him. We must continually watch out for him (1 Peter 5:8), and resist him as James says in James 4:7 "Submit therefore to God, Resist the devil and he will flee from you". As Christians, we should be confident that when we do resist Satan that he will flee from us.

Put on the Armor of God
So how do we keep from giving him the advantage, to watch for him, and to resist him? By living a life that is sober as mentioned in 1 Peter 5:8. Another way to do this is to put the armor of God on us. Paul told the Ephesians "Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11). We need to study the Word of God and dwell on Godly things while practicing a life of Godliness all the time. When we do so, there will be much less opportunity for Satan to tempt us.
Satan - The Great Deceiver
Here are just a few things that Satan does that hasn't been mentioned earlier. He entraps
(1 Timothy 3:7; 2 Timothy 2:26), blinds (2 Corinthians 4:4), takes the truth away (Luke 8:12), resists good (Zechariah 3:1; Revelation 2:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:18), promotes evil (Luke 22:3; Acts 5:3), transforms himself (2 Corinthians 11:14), and he deceives as stated in the book of Revelation 12:9 "And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him".
There will come a time when Satan will cease to exist. "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10). Do you know when that will occur? When this world comes to an end. Do you know who will join him? All mankind who have not believed and have not been baptized into Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16). In addition, those who are in the church who have not remained faithful to the end (Revelation 2:10). BEWARE OF SATAN and BELIEVE IN JESUS - Our eternity with God depends on it!