4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.–Exodus 20:4-5a (NLT)
4 “Do not put your trust in idols or make metal images of gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God.–Leviticus 19:4 (NLT)
Our quick response to this question is probably “No.” But think about it for a little while. The better answer might be that we don’t make any statues or images and bow down before them. But where is your focus most of the time? Do you work the hours you work because it is necessary or to feed the need for material possessions? If it is to feed the need then money and material possessions have become your idol. Is God first in every decision you make? If not, then whatever you choose over Him is your god. What do you focus your thoughts on most of the day? Is it Jesus? How much time do you devote to prayer, meditation and Bible study each day? If there is anything in your life that you would not give up if Jesus ask you to, that is an idol. If you compromise your stand on Christianity to please someone, then that person is your idol and god. If our opinions and likes are more important than treating others with respect, then they have become our god. God doesn’t want to be the #1 god in our lives, He wants to be and has every right to be the ONLY GOD IN OUR LIFE. Anything less is an insult to who He is and shows ingratitude for all He has done for us.
7 Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.–Galatians 6:7-10 (NLT)
We are to do good to the members of our faith and also to everyone else. This is how we show the world that there is a difference in our attitude because God’s Spirit dwells within us. When our lifestyles reflect the indwelling of God’s Spirit, it shows the world that we are living to please the Spirit and not our flesh. This is diametrically opposed to what the world believes and teaches us. We must persevere in our lifestyle so that we reap an everlasting life of joy and glory with God. You can’t manipulate or fool God, so our actions have to be from the heart and with right motives, otherwise, they are not worthy of the calling God has on each of our lives.
12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.–1 Cor. 3:12-15
58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.–1 Cor. 15:58
How did you answer yesterday’s question? “Am I fruitful?” Maybe you thought, “Why does it even matter?” The answer is in the passages above. Jesus is the foundation and the head of the Church. There is no other foundation that will stand in eternity. If we are being fruitful, then our work will stand the test of fire. It will show that we have been a valuable part of God’s Kingdom work here on earth. If we are faithful, there are rewards laid up for us in heaven. There is nothing that we do for the Lord that is useless. Does our work earn us salvation? Emphatically, NO,IT DOES NOT! If what we do here on earth proves to be of little or no value, Christians will still make it to heaven, but they will have few or no rewards and their hair may be singed from living too close to the flame.–
12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.–John 15:12-17 (NLT)
Jesus gave His disciples (that includes us) a direct command: Love one another. If we look at our attitudes and lifestyles, it sometimes appears that we think we have a choice in the matter, we don’t! Jesus tells us that, as Christians, we are no longer slaves to our fleshly desires. We are free to make a choice. Jesus chose us and if we respond to that call and choose Him, then we are His friends. If we are His friends then we follow His commands out of our love for Him, not because we are commanded. That love requires us to go and produce fruit with the same power and authority that Jesus used. We have access to that power when we speak the name of Jesus. The question we need to ask ourselves and other Christians is not “How are you doing?”. The question that Jesus would ask and the question we should be asking is this: “Am I being fruitful?”.
3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone–2 Peter 1:3-7 (NLT)
Let’s take a look back over our lives. How did we arrive at our present location and situation? Either God led us here or He allowed us to make the decisions that got us here. Either way, He is the only one that can lead us out. By His divine power, He has given us everything we need to live godly lives. He has given us great promises and He has never failed to keep His Word. Because of this, we can escape corruption. So, how do we respond to God’s faithfulness? We should respond with praises and thanksgiving. We should exercise self-control and patience in our daily lives. This will lead us to a life of godliness that will be shown by loving our fellowman regardless of how they treat us. This affection will lead others to Jesus.
1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.–James 4:1-3 (NLT)
Regardless of what popular songwriters might tell us, there is no such thing as unanswered prayer. There are at least 3 possible answers that God can give. He can say “Yes” or “No” or “Go, but go slow”. The prayers that we perceive as unanswered are those that don’t agree with what we expected the answer to be. If we have crosschecked our desires with Scripture and there is no conflict, the answer is usually “Yes”. God provides everything we need when we need it. He is not required to give us everything we want. Focusing on what we don’t have always causes conflict. The conflict may be limited to our own personal life, but it will most likely affect every relationship we have. We wage personal wars against our conscience and against our family and friends. In the case of nations, we wage war to gain new lands or to dominate the wills of others. So, pray about what to pray about, then pray. God hears and answers every prayer.
26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.–Romans 8:26-28 (NLT)
Living out the love of God in our lives effectively requires us to spend time in prayer. There are times when we know that we need to pray but we just don’t quite know how to approach God about it. Just start a simple prayer and we find that suddenly we are praying about someone or something that we had not planned. There are times when we may be so compassionate about something that we just run out of words to pray. Just remain quietly in the attitude of prayer and God’s Holy Spirit will search your heart and communicate the words to God. While all this is going on, remember that we have an advocate (Jesus) with the Father who is also praying for us. Our simple prayers become effective prayers because the Trinity is praying with us and for us, separately and in unity. This should cause us to pray believing that God will answer us, so we should always end our prayers with praise and thanksgiving.
14 This is the reason I kneel in the presence of the Father 15 from whom all the family in heaven and on earth receives its name. 16 I’m asking God to give you a gift from the wealth of his glory. I pray that he would give you inner strength and power through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will live in you through faith. I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation. 18 This way, with all of God’s people you will be able to understand how wide, long, high, and deep his love is. 19 You will know Christ’s love, which goes far beyond any knowledge. I am praying this so that you may be completely filled with God. 20 Glory belongs to God, whose power is at work in us. By this power he can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. 21 Glory belongs to God in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time and eternity! Amen.–Ephesians 3:14-21 (NLT)
Yesterday, we read about witnessing by allowing God’s love to shine through our lifestyle. Sometimes we feel like we just don’t have the power and the strength to do that consistently. And in the flesh, we don’t. God will never guide where He will not provide. When God asks us to do something for the Kingdom, He gives us everything we need to accomplish the task. Remember, the battle is not ours, it is the Lord’s. He will gain the victory and the glory, He is just allowing us to participate because of His great love for us. Our part is the same as the singers that Jehoshaphat appointed to go before the people into battle. We are to praise Him as He fights the battle! “Give thanks to the Lord; His faithful love endures forever!”–2 Chronicles 20:21b (NLT)
28 One of the experts in Moses’ Teachings went to Jesus during the argument with the Sadducees. He saw how well Jesus answered them, so he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of them all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. 30 So love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”–Mark 12:28-31 (NLT)
We have been discussing witnessing to others by our lifestyle. The best way to do this is to live out these two commandments. To do that, we must allow God’s Spirit to abide in us abundantly. Then we will be filled with the love of God. This love will overflow into our daily life patterns and people will know that there is something different about us. They will watch us carefully and if our life is consistent with God’s word soon or later they will ask us where we get our joy. This will give us an opportunity to witness using words.
4 Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful! 5 Let everyone know how considerate you are. The Lord is near. 6 Never worry about anything. But in every situation let God know what you need in prayers and requests while giving thanks. 7 Then God’s peace, which goes beyond anything we can imagine, will guard your thoughts and emotions through Christ Jesus.–Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)
When we follow Paul’s advice, we find that we have a whole new outlook on life. We also find that the joy of the Lord is contagious and those around us will soon be rejoicing with us. Then God’s peace will guard our thoughts and our emotions. This peace is not an absence of offenses and bad situations, it is a peace in those situations. We live in a world of wars, violence and chaos, but we, as Christians, can experience an inner peace in the midst of the storm. As someone once said, “When we are in a storm, sometimes God calms the storm and sometimes He calms us.” Either way, we can have that peace that the world knows nothing about. So rejoice and give thanks, sing spiritual songs, psalms and hymns. Thanksgiving and praises are the life jackets in the sea of life. 27 “I’m leaving you peace. I’m giving you my peace. I don’t give you the kind of peace that the world gives. So don’t be troubled or cowardly.–John 14:27 (NLT)