God had just told Jeremiah to go and tell the rulers and the people of Jerusalem that the city would soon be overrun with armies from the north. Once the disaster started, it would be over quickly, like water pouring from a pot that has been tipped over. It is understandable that Jeremiah probably was not too excited about delivering that message to the kings and their armies. Jeremiah would soon learn the lesson that we need to learn. God never sends us on a mission that He has not prepared us to go on. He never sends us alone, He is always with us. If He says we will not be defeated, then we can be assured that He will prevail for us. It is our weakest moments that God uses for His glory. He wants the odds against us winning to be so great that when we do win and the world sees it, they have no choice but to say that our God is the Great Almighty God. Jeremiah was told to “gird up his loins” (KJV) to prepare himself physically for the battle since he would be facing people. Since our warfare now is not against people but against spiritual rulers and demons, we are told to “gird up the loins of our minds”. (KJV).
13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. — 1 Peter 1:13 NLT
Whether the battle is physical or spiritual, the battle is not ours, it belongs to the Lord. He will overcome and we will not be defeated. But, just as Jeremiah was directed to stand up and deliver the message to the people, our instructions are the same. So, we need to prepare ourselves and our minds for the tricks of the devil and be ready to stand up and tell the world everything that God will give us to say.“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.— 2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV
We have accepted Christ as our Savior, what now? We are now new creatures in Christ Jesus and the new creature needs different food. Our fleshly desires will want us to continue in the old ways consuming the same old garbage, but these ways will not satisfy the new spiritual man. There will be a hunger and a thirst that we have not known before and that hunger and thirst can only be satisfied by the goodness of the Word of God. We need to add some spiritual food to our daily diet. Here in these verses, Peter has made us a short list of what is to be included. The list ends with love, which holds all the others together and without love, the diet would be incomplete and ineffective. We have been saved by grace through faith, now we need to add goodness and the knowledge of God. This is done by studying and meditating on the Word of God. It also includes prayer and conversations with other Christians. God has called each of us to a work that He planned for us long ago. But, first we need some training because God will never send us where He has not prepared us to go. We are sent to make disciples, but first, we must become disciples.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. — Romans 1:16 NIV
This verse must become alive in us and be the force that drives us to be a disciple. It can only be accomplished through “the power of God”.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
Since we don’t know the exact questions that the Corinthians had asked Paul, it makes it harder to understand his answer. There are two things we can know from the history of the church at that date. One thing is that some of the Corinthians had taken Paul’s teaching on sexual immorality to the extremes. Husbands and wives were using the teachings to completely deny each other. Some were even using it as an excuse to divorce unbelieving mates. The second thing is that about this time in history, Stoics were teaching complete celibacy for everyone. But, either way, Paul says that because this was causing a great deal of sexual immorality, it was better for a couple to stay married and fulfill their conjugal duties to each other rather than commit sin by having sex outside of marriage. Inside the marriage, each spouse should always consider the needs and desires of the other spouse to be more important than their own desires. Everything concerning the sexual relations of a married couple should be by common consent with no pressures or demands made by either. It’s not about the husband nor the wife, it’s about the couple being obedient to God.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
How can we know if we are being led by God’s Spirit or by our flesh? If we are giving in to the flesh, we will be prideful, we will harbor hate, anger, resentment and bitterness. The acts that our flesh produces are illicit sex, perversion, promiscuity, idolatry, drug use, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambition, conflict, factions, envy, drunkenness, wild partying, and similar things. If we are Spirit led, we will show others love and respect. God’s Spirit produces (in us) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We should all take a few moments alone with God and examine our actions for the last few days. What voice are listening to? Who are we following? Flesh? or Spirit?
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.—Gal. 5:22-26 (NIV)
Once Jesus had finished the work on the Cross and was resurrected, He was given all authority in heaven and earth. Because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we have access to that the same power and authority as Jesus. 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?–Romans 8:32 (NIV)
So, we should all exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in our lifestyles. (Note: fruit is singular, we don’t just get a little at a time, we get access to all of it immediately) A living God, a resurrected Jesus and an indwelling Holy Spirit is what separates Christianity from all the religions in the world. But, for the world to know that, we have to let them know that we have access to all the fruit of the Spirit. If we don’t have peace in the middle of the storm, show love even when we are misunderstand and have joy in our hearts at all times, are people going to believe that what we have is any different than what they have? We must crucify the flesh if we are going to stay in step with the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit does not give us a haughty, holier-than-thou attitude, so we must speak and walk in humbleness. 1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.—Eph. 4:1-3 (NIV)
13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 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 1:13-16 (NLT)
When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we become a new Creation. Before that change, we were controlled by fleshly lusts. We did what “self” wanted to do without exercising self-control. Now that we are a new creation, we walk in the Spirit and do those things that are in obedience to Christ. Are we now perfect? No! But we are striving toward that mark. Will we fall short? Yes, but the blood of Jesus has covered those sins. Now that we know the right things to do, we must pursue them and not go back to our old ways. Our lifestyle should reflect our new destination. People who have known us should be able to see a difference in the way we walk and talk. The things that used to occupy the highest priorities in our lives should be further down the list. There are some things we should want to give up immediately and others need to be moved way down our list of priorities. We need to take an inventory and honestly find out where Jesus is on our list of priorities. Jesus is not in a contest with other “gods”. He will accept nothing less than the top shelf, He is either “Lord of all” or He is not “Lord at all” in our lives.
11 After all, God’s saving kindness has appeared for the benefit of all people. 12 It trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world. 13 At the same time we can expect what we hope for—the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things. 15 Tell these things to the believers. Encourage and correct them, using your full authority. Don’t let anyone ignore you.—Titus 2:11-15 (GW)
The very moment that we repent and turn to Jesus for salvation, we are saved. Don’t let anyone deceive you, if you died the very moment you accepted Jesus, you would go to heaven. But for us who live, we are continually being saved as long as we walk on this earth in these tents of flesh. We are looking for the day when we will be completely saved. That is our hope and His appearance is what we are waiting for. God has given us His Spirit to train us to live godly lives so we can live self-controlled, moral lives today. Jesus died to cleanse us from all sin and make us a special people for His glory. However, you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, people who belong to God. You were chosen to tell about the excellent qualities of God, who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.– 1 Peter 2:9 (GW)
This is our belief and our hope. We are called to stand firm, encourage and correct others. If they choose to ignore our words, they are ignoring God’s words and they do so at their own peril.
1 This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.”2 So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. 3 He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. 4 He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. 5 For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?–1 Timothy 3:1-5 (NLT)
Although Paul specifically gives these characteristics for the elders (deacons, Church board members), they could just as well apply to any position of leadership or authority in the church, home or workplace. We each must pursue a lifestyle that is pleasing to the Lord. Unbelievers are watching us daily to see how we respond to situations. Are we controlling our emotions and desires? Are we showing love to God and to our neighbors? Are we teaching our families the value of living a Christian lifestyle? Jesus said that if we are faithful in the little things, He will promote us to be in charge of greater things. How are we measuring up?
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.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.–Galatians 5:22-26 (NLT)
If we are obedient to the leading of God’s Spirit in our lives, people will know that we are different from the world. They should be able to see that our focus and our desires are not on pleasing ourselves, but on pleasing God. If they can see that in our daily lifestyle, then they will be attracted to Christ because they, too, are looking for love, joy, and peace. If our lifestyles are not producing these fruits, then perhaps, we need to spend more time with the Keeper of the vineyard. He alone can produce this kind of fruit. But He won’t force us to produce it, even though He could. We must be willing to allow Him to work in us pruning the dead limbs and giving new life to the rest. Pruning is not pleasant to the plant, yet, it is necessary for growth. I once owned an arbor of Golden Muscadines. Each year, the vines produced smaller and less fruit. I pruned the vines back to about 18 inches high and fertilized them. It took 2 years but when the vines came back, they were full of life and produced much larger fruit. The fruit was so abundant that I gave muscadines to the whole neighborhood. The fruit was also much sweeter. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to do the work inside you and you will love the end result.