18 Jesus said, “Do you still not understand? Surely you know that nothing that enters someone from the outside can make that person unclean. 19 It does not go into the mind, but into the stomach. Then it goes out of the body.” (When Jesus said this, he meant that no longer was any food unclean for people to eat.) 20 And Jesus said, “The things that come out of people are the things that make them unclean. 21 All these evil things begin inside people, in the mind: evil thoughts, sexual sins, stealing, murder, adultery, 22 greed, evil actions, lying, doing sinful things, jealousy, speaking evil of others, pride, and foolish living. 23 All these evil things come from inside and make people unclean.”–Mark 7:18-23 (NCV)
To be successful in living a life that is holy and pleasing to God, we must learn to think right. To do this, we have to learn to avoid all the bad thoughts that society offers us everyday. TV commercials, billboards, ads, and songs all offering us really bad advice about how to be happy, popular and accepted by our friends and neighbors. We must remember that the old “GIGO” (garbage in, garbage out) refers to all computers. Since our mind is the most remarkable computer there is, it certainly applies to us. We must spend time each day getting to know Jesus by studying His letters to us and meditating on the depth of His love for us. The thought is the mother of the action. So, we must allow God’s Spirit to purify our minds. The power of the Word of God is the only way to defeat satan and his mind games.
9 But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the Lord.”–Jonah 2:9 (NASB)
1 Then you will say on that day, “I will give thanks to You, O Lord; for although You were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. 2 “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” — Isaiah 12:1-2 (NASB)
Living a Holy life is impossible on a human level. Just as the people in the Old Testament could not fulfill every point of the law, we cannot live a sinless life. Jesus was and is the only perfect man. There will be times that we fail (and sometimes we will fail miserably) but Jesus has already paid the price for our forgiveness. So, if you have sinned (intentionally or unintentionally), you are already forgiven. Do we need to confess those sins? Yes, forgiveness is free, but you have to ask for it. When Jesus was hanging on the cross and He said, “It is finished”. All of His redemptive work for all times was complete. Jesus is not going to die on the cross again. So, if satan is beating you up over a mistake you made, quote him a Word of Scripture and/or sing Him a good old hymn. Just tell him, “God is my salvation, He is my strength and my song. The point is this, we cannot live perfect lives, but God forgives and restores. Don’t let satan trick you into thinking that now you are useless to God. Nothing could be further from the truth. God still has a plan and a purpose for each of us. God sees each of us as a finished project while we can only see the work in progress. Just remember, it is impossible to surprise God. Before He saved us, He already knew the mistakes we would make, but He saved us anyway. So rejoice and sing praises to Him because He is always faithful.
7 Remember your leaders who taught God’s message to you. Remember how they lived and died, and copy their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not let all kinds of strange teachings lead you into the wrong way. Your hearts should be strengthened by God’s grace, not by obeying rules about foods, which do not help those who obey them.–Hebrews 13:7-9 (NCV)
Not only is Jesus our example, we have many others in the Scriptures. People who were inspired by God to write His Word so that it would be passed on from generation to generation even down to us today. We must keep our hearts and minds focused on Jesus and His Word and not be led astray by strange and false teachings. We are not to be caught up in discussions about rules and the traditions of men. They are useless and will only serve to push people further away from the Gospel. Jesus Christ never changes and neither should the message that we speak and give life to by our lifestyle. Our speech and lifestyle should be the same as Paul’s. 1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.–1 Cor. 2:1, 2 (NKJV)
1 Does your life in Christ give you strength? Does his love comfort you? Do we share together in the spirit? Do you have mercy and kindness? 2 If so, make me very happy by having the same thoughts, sharing the same love, and having one mind and purpose. 3 When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves.4 Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others. 5 In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus.–Philippians 2:1-4 (NCV)
Living a holy life requires us to put Jesus first, others second and ourselves last. We receive strength and comfort from God so that we can continue doing good deeds and helping others. Jesus went about doing good. When we are ignored or mistreated, do we show forgiveness and mercy or do we want to exact revenge? God says that revenge is His and we are to do everything we can to live peaceably with others. Yes, even with those who persecute us. If we humble ourselves and do these things, God has promised to exalt us in due time.–
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it.11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.–1 Cor. 3:10-15 (NASB)
Continuing our thoughts on building God’s Temple, when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the foundation is laid, because He is the foundation. If we try to build on any other foundation, the storms and stresses of life will bring the house down. We must be careful in selecting the material we use to build on the foundation. If we build with world philosophies and religions, they will not stand and the work will be destroyed. But if we allow God’s Spirit to show us the materials and how to use them, then our work will stand. The gold, silver, and precious stones of our building will be faith, hope, and love. These three will abide forever. Anything less will not stand the test of time. If we build with these materials, the Temple will be decorated with the fruits of the Spirit: 22 But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their own sinful selves. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do. 25 We get our new life from the Spirit, so we should follow the Spirit. 26 We must not be proud or make trouble with each other or be jealous of each other.–Galatians 5:22-26 (NCV)
If we build with wood, hay, and straw, these would be such things as pride, greed, and hate, they will not stand the test of fire. The soul will be saved but it will be as if were snatched from the very jaws of death, barely escaping the fires of hell. Let us choose to live and walk after God’s Spirit and the example set by Jesus Christ.
16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.–John 14:16,17
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.–1 Cor. 3:16-17
Yesterday’s thoughts ended with a comment about beginning the remodeling in earnest. Today, we continue with those thoughts. There are changes that will have to be made and they must be made on the inside first. We are beginning to become something new and that starts with the indwelling of God’s Spirit. We, as humans, are not capable of changing ourselves. God knew this and sent the Comforter, His Spirit, to direct and accomplish the work. He is both the Architect and the Master Builder. He already has the plans and knows what the final product will look like if we let the Master do His work. Some of the changes will be quick and almost painless, but others will be painful because the flesh wants to hang onto worldly things. There will be trying times, but as Paul tells us, the finished product will be worth all the pain. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison–2 Cor. 4:16,17 (NASB)(emphasis added)
Or as James puts it “Count it all joy!”
15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”–1 Peter 1:15,16 (NLT)
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.–John 1:14-16 (NASB)
Continuing yesterday’s thoughts on living a holy life: In some of us who have always tried to live by what the world considered “good” rules, there may not be a noticeable change in our personalities and our activities. After all, God did design us with those particular personality traits and talents. But, then, there are those of us who have misused and abused those traits and talents that will have to make major adjustments. That will be necessary to bring our lives in alignment with what God wants us to be here on earth. But whether there is a minor or a major change in our personalities and activities, the areas that all of us will have to make adjustments are our attitudes and our perspectives. Now we must start to look at others through the eyes of Jesus. We must love the unlovable, pray for those who mistreat us, be merciful (full of mercy) and graceful (full of grace) and truthful (full of truth). That is a process that will continue as long as we breathe. We must strive to reflect the character of Jesus in all that we do and say. Salvation was the easy part, now the remodeling begins in earnest.
14 Continue teaching these things, warning people in God’s presence not to argue about words. It does not help anyone, and it ruins those who listen. 15 Make every effort to give yourself to God as the kind of person he will approve. Be a worker who is not ashamed and who uses the true teaching in the right way. 16 Stay away from foolish, useless talk, because that will lead people further away from God. 17 Their evil teaching will spread like a sickness inside the body.– 2 Timothy 2:14-17a (NCV)
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he is encouraging Timothy to continue his witnessing. He urges Timothy to avoid foolish arguments. We have all gotten into those discussions where no one is going to win and we are all worse off for our effort. As Benjamin Franklin put it: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” We need to study and be ready to witness to those God puts in our paths. As Paul tells Timothy later in 2 Timothy 4:2 (NCV) 2 Preach the Good News. Be ready at all times, and tell people what they need to do. Tell them when they are wrong. Encourage them with great patience and careful teaching,
We are not to be ashamed of the Gospel or change it to make it more acceptable. But every word we say must be spoken in love which will draw others to Christ and not push them away. Wrong or evil teaching will spread through the Church (body of Christ) just like a sickness spreads through the body.
2 Continue praying, keeping alert, and always thanking God. 3 Also pray for us that God will give us an opportunity to tell people his message. Pray that we can preach the secret that God has made known about Christ. This is why I am in prison. 4 Pray that I can speak in a way that will make it clear, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers, making the most of every opportunity. 6 When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should.–Colossians 4:2-6 (NCV)
Paul was in an actual prison in Rome requesting prayer for opportunity, strength, and boldness to continue witnessing for Jesus. He wanted to carry on the work that God had called him to do. He was chosen as the apostle to the Gentiles and wanted to set the example for unbelievers. Even in that situation Paul wanted to be kind and pleasant. Even though his cell was cold and uncomfortable, He refused to complain so that his lifestyle would attract others to Christ.
Even though we live in the land of abundance, we are in prisons of our own making. We are held captive by our own fleshly desires, pride and public opinion. Our fear of what others think of us has sealed our lips. We are more concerned with pleasing our families and our friends than we are with pleasing Jesus. We need to pray that we will be like Paul, he didn’t witness because of an obligation, he witnessed because of his love for his Lord and Savior. Pray that God will release us from our fleshly prisons and that our love for Him will override our doubts and fears and our lips will be loosed to praise Him.
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.–Matthew 7:15-20 (NLT)
We need to remember that everyone, regardless of their lifestyle, bears fruit. Wrong thoughts, motives and actions produce the bad fruits. Right thoughts, motives and actions produce fruits for the Kingdom. When people observe our lifestyle, what kind of fruit do they see? If we are to produce the kind of fruit that Jesus wants us to produce, we must get our sustenance from the True Vine. Stay connected to Jesus by daily prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and singing praises. Then, we can be sure that we will produce good fruit and our actions will draw people to Jesus Christ.