4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!
— Philippians 4:4 NLT
If you spend any time talking with non-Christians about Jesus and why they have not accepted Him as their Savior, you soon learn that their views on Jesus are not the primary reason for not accepting Him. It is their view of what they think Christianity is and what it requires them to do or not do. They have this idea that Christians have little or no fun and that to be a Christian, they are going to have to completely change their lifestyle. There will be some changes required. For some, it will be a very dramatic change. For others, it will only be a change in their mindset about why they do the good things they have been doing. The “good” ones are usually the hardest ones to convince that they need a Savior. Back to the point. Have we ever considered where the outsiders get this view that Christians must live a dull, joyless life? Since most of them don’t spend much time, if any, reading the Bible, they get it from watching us and listening to our conversations. Do we show them that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” or do they see us as sad, beaten down people who are forced to stay home on Saturday night so we can go to church on Sunday morning? Is our lifestyle a good advertisement for Jesus or does it turn others away from seeking Him? Think about it.
8 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
This song of praise and thanksgiving was composed by David after the successful movement of the Ark of the Covenant from Obed-Edom’s house to the tent David had prepared especially for the Ark. On the first attempt at getting the Ark to Jerusalem, a man had died because he touched the Ark. David and his men had attempted to do the right thing the wrong way. This time David appointed priests to carry the Ark. They researched the proper way to transport the Ark and were able to bring it safely to Jerusalem. How many times in our lives have we failed when we were sure we were hearing from God and doing what He wanted us to do? When God gives us a work to do, we need to inquire as to how we are to accomplish this work. When we are sure that God has given us a specific work and we fail in trying to do that work, we need to stop and listen to God to determine how He wants His work done. We make a lot of mistakes because originally, we want to do our thing, our way. When we are saved, we want to do God’s thing, our way. As we listen to the Holy Spirit and mature in our walk with God, He brings us to the point that we want to do God’s thing, God’s way. So, when we are sure of God’s purpose for us in life, but we keep failing in our attempts to accomplish that purpose, we need to stop, look and listen. We don’t give up, we give in. When we do this, God is able to use us to accomplish His work His way. Then, we will be successful in His eyes whether the world recognizes it or not.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. — James 1:19-21 NIV
As the end of time draws nearer and nearer, satan seems to be reacting like the cornered, trapped animal that he really is. That same spirit of anger and violence seems to be permeating our society. We see it in all the headlines, the senseless murders and crimes that are being committed on a daily basis. Yes, these things have been happening every since Cain slew Abel but the frequency and the intensity seems to be magnified more and more everyday. That is on a worldwide basis, but what about each individual? There was a time when we could laugh at our mistakes and have a little fun with each other over those issues on which we disagreed. But, more and more we have to be much more sensitive to these things. Statements that once would have been seen as light humor are now taken seriously and great harm is done. Even small, unintended injustices suddenly become someone’s newest campaign against whatever was mentioned. We see over and over the truth of the verse that “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Therefore, we, as Christians must put aside all our foolishness and fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God. Meditating on and storing God’s word in our hearts is our strongest defense against any kind of unacceptable behavior.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. — Psalm 119:11, 12 NIV
In a world of violence and anger, we must stand as lighthouses to lead others to Jesus, the Prince of Peace. We must let the light of Jesus shine through us. We must be the ones to show others that in the middle of the storm, there is a safe harbor, a place of calmness and peace. More and more, the world needs individual peacemakers. By blessing others with our examples of peacemaking, we ourselves receive God’s blessing.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. — Matt. 5:9
6 As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live in him. 7 Keep your roots deep in him and have your lives built on him. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always be thankful. 8 Be sure that no one leads you away with false and empty teaching that is only human, which comes from the ruling spirits of this world, and not from Christ. 9 All of God lives fully in Christ (even when Christ was on earth), 10 and you have a full and true life in Christ, who is ruler over all rulers and powers.– Col. 2:5-10 NCV
The words that Paul wrote to encourage the Church at Colossae are just as true today as then. Receiving Christ as our Savior is the first step in our journey to heaven. The next steps are allowing Him to be Lord of our lives as well. When we were saved, we received the Holy Spirit as an earnest of the fulfillment of the promises God has made to His children. He lives in us, therefore we live in Him. We need to become rooted in His word so that our lifestyles will reflect His examples and give Him glory. We need to study His word and meditate on it daily. We need to spending time talking WITH Him, not just to Him. After we have thanked Him, given Him praise and laid our petitions before Him, we need to sit quietly in His presence and see what He has to say to us. There is always a word from the Lord, if we listen for it. We need this time in His presence early in the day to prepare ourselves for the spiritual battlefield. Jesus gave up His place in glory and lived as all man to set the example for us. He set the example of spending time alone with the Father so that He would be strengthened for the battle. He lived a perfect life and has been restored to all His glory and made ruler over all things. We can’t be perfect but we can have a full and true life if we follow His example on a daily basis.
41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. — Luke 22:41-43 NIV
14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:14-15 NIV
Paul is instructing Timothy (and us) about the destruction and divisions that are caused by debating over doctrines. He is instructing us that our time would be better spent in meditating on God’s Word and doing exactly what it says without adding anything to it. This is what the scribes and Pharisees had done to the Old Testament law. They had added their own interpretations to it and were weighing the people down with useless requirements. Some of us do the same thing today and then wonder why our church attendance is down.
The important thing for us to remember is that God made the plan of salvation very simple for a reason. It is not a burden to bear, it is easy to understand and for us, it is free, even though, it cost God His only Son. Anyone can do it.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.–John 3:16 NIV
Is there more to the story? Yes, but just believing and repenting is all there is to salvation. Knowing the rest of the story will help you enjoy the journey.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.–Gal. 5:16-18 (NIV)
What does Paul mean when he says “walk by the Spirit”? To understand what Paul is talking about, we have to understand that every word we say and every conscious action we take is a direct result of a decision we have made. The decisions we make are a direct result of our thought patterns. Our thought patterns are controlled by what we spend the most time thinking about. We spend the most time thinking about what we feel is most important to us. The more we think about one thing, the more important it becomes to us. It becomes a cycle of our thoughts producing actions that produce more thoughts about the same thing. We are born in sin into a world that is saturated in sin. so we are going to have sinful thoughts. More and more of the things we hear and see are designed to tempt us to satisfy the flesh. But the flesh wants the things that are contrary to what the Holy Spirit knows that we need. The indwelling Spirit is there to guide us and help us break the sinful thought pattern. Does the Holy Spirit audibly speak to us? Yes, sometimes He does. But most of the time, He just nudges us with a whisper that we sometimes think is our own thought. Sometimes He has other Christians speak to us. Sometimes, He speaks to us through God’s Word. When we have humbled ourselves and seek His guidance, He will get the message to us. If we listen to, hear and obey the message, we are being led by or “walking by the Spirit”.