“Search me, O God, and know my heart! try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
When is the last time you asked God to show you hidden sin in your life so that you can repent? I think its normal to assume that if we are sinning we will recognize it easily and change it. The problem with this mindset is that, although sometimes true, we often are either unable or unwilling to see our sin. It takes intentionality and a strong desire for change to willfully ask God to make known to us the error in our ways so that we can repent and move forward with freedom. This is not a one time deal either. I want to share of a recent experience where things got bad enough for me that I finally decided to ask God to show me what I, let me say that again, what I was doing to contribute to my problem. You see, I was struggling and I was looking outside of myself to find the cause and fix it. sometimes our spiritual struggles are related to things outside of our control, but often they are a result of something wrong or sinful within ourselves. If we arent willing to look there we can end up stuck and, eventually, in despair. Often things wrong within ourselves are not easily seen, are covert, overlooked, and give the devil place and permission to further harass us without our knowing.
Let me first explain what had been going on for me. I started to notice that I wasn’t feeling as gentle and kind as I normally would have been. There didn’t seem to be a lot of warmth in my marriage, which was really out of the ordinary, and I was getting angry more easily. As a trauma therapist it was normal for me to wonder if I was being triggered by something, or if maybe I was just in some kind of spiritual trial I would eventually fight my way out of. Of course I approached things clinically, but my difficulties remained. I also approached things spiritually, putting on my armor every day, fighting my enemy the way I always had. Things would let up, but the difficulties would return soon after. Things in my home just didn’t quite feel right, nor did things feel right for me internally. I lacked peace. I started to wonder if maybe there was something wrong in me that was allowing these frequent spiritual attacks and also seriously wrecking my joy and peace. I was working really hard and getting really tired of it. I decided to get on my knees before God and I asked him to show me if there was something in me that wasn’t right.
The day I really prayed and asked God to show me what I was doing to contribute to these struggles I started thinking about the fruits of the spirit. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, faithfulness, goodness, Gentleness, self-control. I realized one of the big things I was lacking was gentleness. After that thought came to my mind I grabbed my Bible and opened it up to Ephesians chapter 4 and started to read. I read verses 26 and 27 and immediately knew what was wrong. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” I continued reading through the chapter. Verses 31-32 sealed the deal for me. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
here’s the thing, I’ve read this chapter many times, in fact, I have most of it memorized. Sometimes it takes being in a state of humility and repentance for God’s Word to really speak to us in a real and powerful way. I needed to see those words in front of me in order to clearly hear God speak and tell me exactly what I needed and desperately wanted to know.
I knew I was holding onto anger and bitterness, giving the devil opportunity, but I wasn’t even totally sure who my anger and bitterness was directed at. I knew for sure it wasn’t my husband, despite the fact that he was the one I had taken some of it out on. (This is what often happens). I went back to my room, got on my knees, and asked God to show me. It was almost immediate that God brought the exact people and situation to my mind. Here’s the thing though, as soon as he did I felt that anger and bitterness in a strong way. The thing I had been holding onto to anger over was something very wrong, something my anger was justified over. The problem with anger isn’t anger itself, it’s what we choose to do with it. Anger that isn’t resolved leads to bitterness and sin, and gives opportunity to the devil in a big way. I had unintentionally given my enemy permission to bother me because I was choosing to hold onto my anger and bitterness, rather than deal with it and choose to forgive.
Dealing with anger does not mean we simply let it go and pretend that what happened didn’t happen. I had already talked through the situation and processed my anger and other feelings about it, I just hadn’t been able to forgive and had allowed bitterness to take root. To be honest, I knew that forgiveness in this situation would be a challenge. I decided to once again ask God to help me do something I couldn’t do on my own. I told him about my anger and bitterness, asked him to forgive me for holding onto it and for my lack of forgiveness. I asked him to help me forgive and let go. Afterward I prayed for the people who I had been angry and bitter toward, asking God to help them as well, and I told Satan he no longer had a place and to get out of my house in the name of Jesus Christ. The relief and freedom I felt was incredible. Not only that, I could feel the change, not only in myself, but also in my home. I am so thankful that God doesn’t leave me the way I am and that he always helps me when I choose to humble myself, go to him for help, and admit when I’m wrong.
Galatians 5:1 reminds us of the sobering fact that as believers we can momentarily lose our freedom if we allow it. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” When we give into our flesh and weakness our lives are impacted. The same chapter tells us, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (5:16-17).
How do we know if we are walking by the Spirit? For me, I noticed that I was lacking gentleness, it was becoming a pattern and I did not like it at all. I wanted to be gentle, but for some reason I wasn’t quite able to be. Why? I wasn’t in the spirit because of the bitterness in me. Read Galatians 5:19-24 below and ask yourself these questions. 1)Am I practicing any of the sins mentioned, or any other behaviors and attitudes we are warned against in God’s Word? And 2)Am I struggling to see any of the fruits of the spirit active in my life? If so, identify which it is, get in God’s presence in prayer, and ask him to reveal whats going on.
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Not all of our spiritual struggles are because of our weakness or sin. Sometimes the struggles we are facing are sufferings and trials outside of our control allowed by God to test us. We have to remember though, that even in those times our enemy is seeking to devour us and looking for an open door and a place in our lives. I believe bitterness during these times is an easy way for him to gain access. I encourage you to ask God to search your heart and show you if there is anything in your heart or behaviors that are giving the devil opportunities to attack you. I thank God for this reminder and my need to make this a regular practice so I can remain in the Spirit and not in my flesh, and so that I can remain victorious over my very real enemy.
The past four months have been some of the most difficult months I have faced in years. My little brother has been in a coma since the beginning of May, and although he is making some progress, there is no telling when or if he will wake up and what things will be like for him If he does. In addition to the horrible pain and agony over my brother’s suffering, this situation brought up a lot of difficult family conflicts as well as painful reminders of past family brokenness and trauma. Before I was even able to grieve what was happening to my brother I had to face the anger and intense pain I was feeling over the past. I had to grieve, not act on my anger, and forgive all over again. For months I was isolated from everyone but my husband and kids, broken, angry, unable to do any of the things I enjoyed, and angry at God. Add to all of this the ever present Covid-19 situation, fights about vaccines, political disarray and feuding, racism and hatred. Not to mention the many responsibilities of a wife, mother, and therapist specializing in trauma. Much like many Christians right now, I was overwhelmed, confused, and a prime target for Satan’s attack. Why do I share this? Because I believe it’s important right now that we not pretend that as Christians life is easy. That our faith is never shaken. That we are never overtaken by anger and emotion. That there isn’t a spiritual war raging against us. That we don’t have to fight hard. We need to be real with each other so that we can encourage and strengthen one another in love and truth.
Satan, as we know, is like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), with the goal of bringing utter destruction to his targets and the world as a whole. Satan has a way of saying exactly what he needs to say to us to discourage us and make us believe God isn’t as good as we thought. The more we question God’s goodness the less we desire to be in his presence and to please him. Why would I want to surrender every day to please God when it seems like he is against me? Satan will tailor his lies and attacks specifically to fit the deepest sufferings, insecurities, failures, and fears of his prey. This is exactly what he was doing to me. I had some of the closest most beautiful moments with God these past 4 months and some of the most discouraging hopeless moments as well. What I’ve realized in my spirit is that Satan is fighting hard against me lately, perhaps harder than he has in many years. Maybe he is doing the same to you. Many Christians are allowing the enemy to have temporary victory, as I have on and off for the last four months, mostly unknowingly. I had been fighting and overcoming only to be met with yet another attack. I believe he is fighting hard not just against me, but against all followers of Jesus right now.
What is resulting from these immense attacks on the children of God? Satan’s goal is to get us Christians to do the opposite of what pleases God. To hate instead of love. To deceive instead of live in the truth. To allow bitterness and anger to evolve rather than overcome them with goodness and prayer to and for our enemies and those we disagree with. To give into our sinful pleasures instead of walk in the spirit in faithfulness to God. To replace the power of the Holy Spirit with a bland religiosity. The only way this will change is for the children of God to recognize these attacks and fight the enemy with continual prayer, truth, obedience, and the power of the Holy Spirit. We have to get real with ourselves and start fighting the spiritual battle we are entangled in. We will win, but this must begin on an individual level. Each one of us has to start standing up against Satan, firm in the freedom we have been given by the blood of Jesus Christ. We have to stop following the Christian masses and start following Jesus and what he said. This is truly all that matters.
Perhaps it is our familiarity with the words of Jesus that is our downfall. Have we heard them too many times and they have lost their power? We memorize, study, learn, study some more, and yet sometimes we never take the next step of actually doing the things we are studying and learning to do. One of my favorite quotes spoken by Alfred to Batman is this “what’s the point of all those push ups if you can’t even lift a bloody log?” What is the point of all of our studying and memorizing if we can’t even do what we are supposed to do? There is none. Too many times I have allowed fear, discomfort, anger and selfishness to hold me back from doing what Jesus wants me to do. If we stay on this path Satan will continue to gain a foothold.
Peter literally saw his friend and savior crucified before his very eyes. His friend was stoned to death for preaching the gospel, yet he was still called to be at peace with and love those who did not believe. The very people who killed his friends. Somehow we believe that things are different for us. That somehow a world that is lost and following satan demands we fight with aggression and anger, rather than approach that world the way we are told to by Jesus himself, with peace, love, and truth. This might seem an impossibility, but so do all things Jesus asks us to do. We cannot do this without the power of the Holy Spirit supernaturally working through us. We have ignored him for too long and the effects are evident. Your hatred and disgust toward your enemies (and those you might think are your enemies) is not of God and is putting out your light. Sadly this has happened to me, and I’m sure it will again. It is possible to love people while standing firm on truth, Jesus did it and so did the apostles, and we must do the same.
Read this passage aloud and carefully listen to these words spoken by Jesus himself
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 3-12
Jesus also said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus spoke these words during a time when people were being persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, even murdered for going against the system. A time when women had no rights at all, and children were sent away even by his own disciples. He was speaking to us when he said those words, knowing exactly what it would be that we would be living through, and we need to start taking him seriously. If we don’t, we give Satan a stronghold in our lives and our salt loses its flavor.
I have seen myself question the love and goodness of God, I have seen children of God hate those who think and believe differently than them, cling to a person rather than to Jesus, bully and shame others over a vaccine (whether vaccinated or unvaccinated), spread lies about the power of the Holy Spirit of God, distort and pervert what the church should actually be, lie and cheat, abuse and cover up, all while acting as if we are somehow close to God and honoring him. Things have to change. Shame on all of us. We are called to be at peace with all people yet peace between Christians and other Christians, and Christians and the world, is often the last thing I see right now.
So many people speak truth to an unbelieving world with no love at all, sometimes while not even obeying that truth, causing division and destruction. So often we argue with other christians about unimportant things. We focus on a few examples where Jesus got angry, using that as our excuse, rather than focusing on everything he told us and desires for us to do. Read this next passage aloud and let these truths permeate your soul.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:22-26
Kind to everyone. Able to teach. Patiently enduring evil. Correcting with gentleness. I’m sad to think of how many times I have failed to do what pleases God, giving into my emotions and sin instead. Think of the person who makes you the most angry, who has hurt you or someone you love, who disagrees with something that you feel strongly about. Pray for that person and ask God to heal and bless him. He is not your enemy, he is either a lost soul who needs rescuing from the power of Satan, a brother or sister in Christ acting on their sin, or someone who is just doing something you disagree with. We need to have healthy boundaries and sometimes it’s best to stay away from unhealthy and unsafe people, but that doesn’t mean we cannot show love and kindness from a distance. Years ago my mentor told me that he was suddenly having bad dreams about people from his past and he was really upset by it. He asked me what I thought he should do. I don’t think the answer I gave was from me, but from the Spirit. I told him to pray for those people, that God would bless them. A few days later he told me that he did it and the dreams stopped and he had peace.
Satan wants to torment us with lies and hatred. As soon as we give in and go against what Jesus tells us to do we are giving into the enemy and allowing our spirit to weaken. Recently out of nowhere I had a sudden desire for vengeance on someone who had harmed me and others I love. Sounds bad I’m sure, but I’m being honest. I felt sick and horrible about this. I got on my knees and confessed to God what was in my heart and begged him to forgive me. Then I prayed for that person and all those feelings left. I want to encourage you, and myself, to read those passages again to see which of Jesus’ commands we are ignoring or doing the opposite of. Even if it is just one we are giving Satan an advantage over us and quenching the power of the Spirit in us. I am not talking about perfection and this is not a one time deal. Trust me, I would give anything for that. This is a daily battle against the dark powers in spiritual realms that we must fight. I personally have come against demonic spirits oppressing Christians multiple times in recent months, and with prayer, they left. This is very real. If demons can remain subtle and keep us believers from recognizing them, we won’t fight as we should. Sometimes Satan fights harder than usual and trust me, he always has a reason. We have to fight back with truth, obedience, prayer, worship, and love with the power of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t, we will find ourselves spiritually asleep, incapable of discernment and hearing God’s voice, ineffective in our ministries, and open to demonic oppression.
Jesus spoke the truth directly, yes, but he only spoke exactly what the father wanted him to. Do you? Do I? How did Jesus know? Because he had perfect fellowship with the father. We have fellowship with God almighty through the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit living in us, and our active daily decision to enter into Gods presence, die to our flesh, be obedient, and walk in the spirit. What does this mean? As we draw closer to God and his presence and we are able to discern what it is that he, not our emotions, wants us to do and we do it. It is then that we are being like Christ.
If you are speaking harsh truths to people who do not yet know Christ out of self righteousness or anger you are not doing what the father wants you to do. If you are speaking hateful angry things to people you disagree with, regardless of your suffering, this is not what the father wants you to do. Our painful experiences do not justify hate and unkindness. This only gives Satan power over us. Trust me, I know. Hebrews 12:14-15 says “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Bitterness will defile you. When I allow bitterness to grow I lose my joy and my connection with the Holy Spirit is diminished. Praise God he is faithful and will reveal this sin to us so we can repent and replace our bitterness with love, forgiveness, and kindness. This is a battle we will face and one that we cannot allow Satan to win.
Yes, Jesus got angry in the temple, because that it was the father wanted him to do, and his perfect fellowship and oneness with the father allowed him to know that. His disciples recognized this as a fulfillment of Psalm 69:8-9. Scripture tells us, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” Colossians 4:5. These aren’t just nice sayings. They are the very commands and desires of God for his children. When we do not obey his words there are spiritual consequences. This does not impact our eternity, but it severely impacts our time here on earth, and that does matter.
What does Jesus tell us to do? We are told to stand firm and grounded in our faith, to obey, to live holy and set apart, to speak the truth in love, to care for the broken and hurting, to love each other, to be examples to outsiders because of our love, to love and pray for our enemies. This is not what I see right now when I look at Christianity. This is not always how I respond and I’m ashamed to say that. The difficulty is that following Jesus and doing the things that please God requires supernatural strength and can’t be done in the flesh. Satan is counting on us to ignore the Holy Spirit, hate rather than love those who disagree with us and look and act differently than us, ignore the broken and hurting, and to be a church divided. We have to unite as the church of God almighty and start loving and living like Jesus.
Times today are just as evil and wicked as they were before. People are just as against Jesus Christ and against us. What we were told to do then still applies today just the same. If Satan can get us angry and hateful enough he has victory over us and will successfully keep us from obeying Jesus and shining our lights to the world around us. Let’s start obeying Jesus and stop allowing him to do so.
Last week I was so discouraged and beat down, believing God did not love me very much and did not really care. The craziest part? These lies came after reading scripture of all things. Just as Satan twisted scripture in the wilderness when he tempted Jesus, he had done the same to me. I have to tell you honestly, I have never in my life as a child of God believed these specific lies and struggled in this way until now. Yes in other ways, but not to the level of questioning God’s love and goodness, despite a horribly traumatic childhood and countless pain I have endured. Finally I recognized the discouragement and lies were an attack from Satan, I fought back in the right way, and the darkness lifted. I got angry and commanded the enemy to leave and I spoke the truth to those lies. I begged the Holy Spirit to give me strength and help me overcome. I was honest with him about where I was at and confessed the things that were in my mind. The next day I couldn’t even believe what had been going on for me and how I was unable at first to recognize it was Satan. He is cunning and deceptive, and without faith we cannot overcome.
If you are feeling anger and hatred right now take it to the Lord in prayer. No matter how justified you feel in acting on that hatred I am telling you that you are not. Do not give Satan that victory. Ask God to heal your hatred and anger and to give you a heart of love and kindness, even toward those who you are angry at. If you are feeling defeated and discouraged, believing negative and evil things, acknowledge that it could be a spiritual attack. Tell Satan and his demonic spirits to leave in the name of Jesus. If you have the Holy Spirit living in you they will. Fight back, submit to God resist the devil and he WILL flee. He is not allowed to stay when we choose to resist him with the authority given to us from God through Jesus Christ. I promise God will help you through and give you peace and victory if you do. I know what it’s like to act on my anger and hate and to allow Satan’s lies to take root in my mind and what it’s like to obey Jesus Christ, take my thoughts captive, and love and pray for my enemies. Trust me, obeying Jesus brings freedom and there is nothing like it.
It’s easy to acknowledge and expect that as a Christian, non-Christians will potentially label you as a crazy Jesus follower. But what about when other Christians do the same? Is it possibly to be “too much” when it comes to Jesus? It partly depends on your definition of “too much”. If we’re talking about being self-righteous, legalistic, and judgmental, then I can get behind that too. But what about being a Christian who is literally obsessed with loving and knowing God, and being known and loved by God? The person who, although they stumble often in sin, despises their sin and are broken over it. The person who is passionately overwhelmed with desperate need to love and please God. So much so that it’s the entire focus of their lives. This is who I am and who I always want to be. And I am not ashamed of this. Every single day of my life I want to live in a way that pleases God. There are days I fail horribly, but this desire remains.(At the end of this post I share a personal story of a recent low point in my faith and how I got through it.) I want to love and worship God with my whole heart and soul. I want to be His vessel that is filled with His Holy Spirit doing whatever He wants me to do. I want to love people the way that Jesus did, not by overlooking their sin or excusing it, but by loving them in spite of it (as I want others to do for me). Not by staying silent, but by speaking truth, even if it makes me uncomfortable or less liked by others. If this makes me weird among Christians I truly don’t care. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10. Do I believe this is too much? I believe this is all there is.
I have suffered tremendously in my life. The trauma I have endured is immense. Jesus is the reason this pain and suffering did not destroy me, and I owe Him everything for that. I’m not sure I would be here if it were not for my choice to cling to Him through it all. It is not just a belief that I have, God is active and powerful in my life through Jesus Christ. I share all this to say that I have not had a privileged and easy life. It has been the opposite of easy and Jesus Christ is the only reason I’ve survived. (With His strength and very hard work.) Don’t believe that devotion to following Jesus is only for those who have had it easy. It is because of God that I am thriving in my life today and get to comfort and help others in their pain and trauma. During Jesus’ ministry he said “He who does not pick up his cross daily to follow me is not worthy of me.” What does it mean to pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus? Try to answer that question for yourself and see what you come up with. Once you’ve figured it out ask yourself if you are doing it. This is my challenge to myself.
The Bible paints a perfect picture of God and His beautiful plan and design (to the degree He wants us to know it). Throughout the Bible we are shown the story of Jesus Christ. Following Jesus did not start with the New Testament. Old Testament followers were looking ahead to the promised Messiah. It’s easy to think of these people as extreme examples, after all, they were those who God chose to highlight in His Word. These individuals were actually nothing special, no exceptional talents or abilities, no supernatural powers of their own, no perfect wisdom or knowledge. The thing that was unique about all of these individuals is this. They all heard God call and chose to answer. It wasn’t because they were so righteous and good that they responded, as if they had any credit to take. In fact I personally believe that it is when we see our total inability and wretchedness that we choose God. Because God has shown us His eternal power and divine nature we have no excuse to not see our own unrighteousness and absolute need for Him. Scripture says “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20.
I believe that those who do not answer God when He calls have blinded themselves, not only to God’s holiness and perfection, but to their own evil and emptiness. I praise God I have been able to see mine. Our Biblical examples are those who were willing, with God’s help in showing His power and nature and through the light of Jesus Christ, to look at their absolute need and sinfulness and respond. Why do I go into so much detail about this? In my experience I have seen that some people view these crazy Jesus followers as anomalies. This is faulty thinking. These are not anomalies, in fact scripture is clear that these people are examples of children of God. We should be no different.
Every single one of us who follow Jesus Christ have become children of God. We are no longer slaves to Satan and the world of darkness. This is not just a new title to attach to our names. This is a completely new way of being and living on a daily basis. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Merriam Webster defines an imitator as a person who adopts the appearance and behavior of another especially in an obvious way. It should be obvious to the people around us that we live to imitate Christ. If we are concerned with what other people think, whether they are Christians or not, we will not be fully focused on imitating Jesus Christ and living and loving the way that He did. Why? Because Jesus was hated for his love and life. We have to be willing to do the same if we truly want to please God. Are you willing to be hated and rejected for God?
The book of Thessalonians gives an account of what happened when Paul brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Thessalonica. Let me first point out that when Paul arrived these people were not serving Jesus, they were serving idols and living against God. Despite their extreme differences, Paul went to these people in a state of love and gentleness. In fact, he described it like this, “but we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. When is the last time you treated people who were so different than you like this? We are to imitate this same love to those we are serving, even while they are living against God. We need to stop being harsh and unloving to hurting people who do not yet know God, and soft and accommodating to the sin and apathy of people who claim to know God. This was Jesus’ example.
How did these people respond to the gospel?
In chapter 1 we see that they received the gospel of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and became followers of the Lord. To become is to grow, evolve, and change. You cannot become a follower of Jesus Christ and stay the same. How did they change? These people became examples to others. Why? Verse 8 of chapter 1 tells us “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” Is this not incredible? The Thessalonians heard the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit, believed, became followers of the Lord, and became examples of true faith in action everywhere they went. Later in the book it is pointed out how deeply they loved each other, and how this love was an example to those who did not yet know Christ.
Chapter 1 verse 9 tells us that they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” To serve means to perform a role or function. Every believer has a role and function in service to the Lord God. This requires change. It’s not just about doing service oriented things. It’s about turning from the idols we serve to serve the living God. You cannot keep your idols and serve God at the same time. Plenty of people begin “ministry” or “become” Christians, while continuing to serve their idols. You cannot do this and call yourself a follower of Jesus. And for the people that do this, the “good things” they are doing are not anointed of God and are not being done with the power of the Holy Spirit. Can God still use these things for good? Of course He can, He can do anything. Truly serving requires a turning from evil idols to serve the living God. Total surrender and sacrifice to Jesus Christ. Letting your old self and your old ways die. This is when you begin to follow and serve God as you should, as His vessel. This kind of true service to God comes from a heart that longs to please God, not themselves, and not other people. It doesn’t matter if you go on mission trips, give away lots of money, work at a church, sing in the worship band, if you have not turned away from your old ways to serve God with a true heart NONE of that matters. Good deeds do not overshadow the wickedness of a person’s heart. Just as was true with the Pharisees. Do not ignore and excuse wicked behavior because someone who claims to believe in Jesus does “good” stuff. No matter what their title or stature as a Christian.
Frankly I am burdened and tired of hearing people tell me that they are not Christians because the Christians they know are terrible ungodly wicked people who look nothing like Jesus. I am sickened by the constant flow of reports of sexual abuse at the hands of “pastors and leaders” and the disregard for their victims. This is NOT Jesus! If the only difference in someone is a belief, and not a complete turning of themselves and their lives to serve God, this is NOT a Christian. For those who struggle to believe because of hurts caused by people like this, please hear me when I say that this is not a true representation of God or His true followers. Please give the actual living God a chance to change your heart and life. Please believe that true followers of Jesus seek to be like Jesus was. To love, to serve, to show kindness and mercy, especially to those who are different than they are, and to not abuse others. Of course we are not perfect and we fail constantly, but the Holy Spirit within us continues to transform us and mold us into the image of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that more followers of Jesus become what they are supposed to be so that the world can see the light of Jesus shining in the darkness.
It is normal for true followers of Jesus to fluctuate between these two places;
A desperate and daily desire to please God, to be in His presence, to study His Word, not because you have to, but because you are longing to know and understand more, to desire more than anything to be The Holy Spirit’s vessel and to see Him working incredible supernatural works through you,
Apathy, a lack of passion and desire for God and being in His presence, a feeling of disregard when it comes to pleasing Him, a selfishness over serving others, a lack of interest in the Bible and prayer.
I promise you that I have experienced the shift several times in my life with God. What I can say is this, when I am in the place of apathy and I have little desire to please God and be close to Him, it is a sign to me that something in me is not right. It is normal for this to happen, but it is not okay. Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s okay. God doesn’t tell us it’s okay and we can’t get stuck telling others it’s okay either. We need to be gentle and empathetic, but not at the cost of what is true. Although it might take time to get things back on track, it should be our desire and focus.
Prior to January of 2020 I had been struggling for about a year and a half. A few years before that time God had been showing my husband and I some things, difficult truths about our faith and God’s plan for us. These things being revealed to us meant things were going to have to change and it wasn’t going to be easy. It felt as though my faith were being beat down and built back up, and it was frustrating. This was a three year process, with the second half of that time being sad and discouraging for me. It felt as though my passion had been quieted, my fire had almost been put out. (Not only that, the Holy Spirit in me had been somewhat quenched for many years, unbeknownst to me) I wasn’t rejecting God, but I didn’t really feel like being close to Him. Of course during that time I wasn’t truly aware of it and I certainly didn’t admit it. Occasionally my husband would mention that I didn’t seem like my normal self with God, that it seemed like I didn’t care as much. Of course I defended myself and convinced myself this wasn’t true. During that time I couldn’t even write. Not because I didn’t want to or didn’t try. I would ask God to give me something to say and nothing came. I started blogs and none of them were any good so I would stop writing.
A year and a half into this dry discouraged place I finally got the courage to confess what was going on with me. I shared with a small group of people that I wasn’t in a good place spiritually. That I didn’t have a desire to read the Bible or pray very much and that I felt apathetic toward God. This was a powerful moment for me. The moment the confession left my mouth I knew I did not want to go on like that. I was devastated by the truth I had spoken. The advice I got was kind, but it wasn’t truth. I was told to just take a break from God and the Bible and that it was okay for me to do that. I knew that wasn’t the answer. Later on when we were alone my husband encouraged me to take my struggle to God, he was pretty frustrated about the advice I had been given. A few days later everything changed. I got alone, got on my knees before God in desperation. I confessed my lack of desire and frustration with Him and begged Him to help me. I have to tell you, I have been a follower of Jesus for a very long time. I have loved Him with all my heart for a very long time. I have been passionate and fired up about serving Him and living for Him for most of my life. That day was one of the most miraculous moments with my savior that I had ever experienced. I get emotional and somewhat uncomfortable sharing this because it was such an intimate and powerful experience. When I got on my knees and cried out in desperation I literally felt the presence of God around me like I had never felt before. I felt the depth and power of God’s love in a way that I cannot express with words. In Philippians 3:7-8 Paul said “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” In that moment in God’s presence, for the first time in my life I truly could have written those very words myself and meant it with my whole heart. I was overwhelmed with God’s miraculous love and presence. The best part? After that day I was reawakened. My fire and passion returned with a vengeance, stronger than it ever was. Why do I share such a personal thing when it’s so uncomfortable for me to do so? Because I believe that it is hard to know how to put Biblical things into practice and we could all benefit from more raw authenticity. I share this with the hope that it encourages someone reading this who felt or feels like I did to get on your face before God and confess what is wrong in your heart so that He can surround you with his love and presence as He did me and bring healing. Hebrews 4:16 says “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” This is exactly what I did in that moment and It was truly a miracle. I had access to His presence and He was there. Loving me and giving me grace and mercy. This was about a year and a half ago and I have never been closer and more passionate about Jesus than now. I needed those months of discouragement and despair to remind me of who I truly am. A worrier for Jesus Christ who is not concerned with what people think, but who is concerned with pleasing my God.
Listen, if you aren’t interesting in dedicating your life to loving and pleasing God but you call yourself a Christian, something is not right. It doesn’t mean you are not normal, but it does mean something is wrong. You need to get on your face before His throne and ask Him for help. Are you willing to do that? I encourage you to get into God’s Word with an open heart to learn about what it actually means to follow Jesus and to be a Christian and start making some changes. Don’t just go to church and listen to a message. Get before God, ask Him to help You, and let Him transform you in every way. This will literally be the most miraculous and powerful experience of your life and will lead to a depth of closeness and service to God you’ve never experienced. You will truly know that everything else in this world can be counted as a loss compared to knowing, loving, and being known and loved by Jesus Christ.
My husband went to a Christian college. For one of his business class projects he created a coffee mug designed to show words when heated. When hot coffee filled the mug quotes from school professors and special speakers from chapel meetings appeared. As I started reading the quotes I was very disturbed by one I came across. It said “the question isn’t is it true, but does it work?” Why was I so disturbed by this quote? Well, it is completely backwards and the opposite of truth. Frankly all we should be concerned with is whether or not something is obedient to the truth. If something produces results, but only through disobedient means, in my opinion, and I know God agrees, it’s worthless. In fact, deception comes from Satan, not God. ALL we need to focus on is whether what we are doing is obedient or not. The results are up to God and God alone. Not only that, sometimes we don’t see the results of our obedience. Often the results are not easily recognized by us, and are simply within our own or another’s heart. Sometimes we are planting for another to water, and another to reap. Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments.” We don’t show Jesus we love him by doing things that we think work. We show him we love him through our obedience. Later in that same chapter He said “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (Vs 21) Jesus told us in His Word that if we keep His commands He will show himself to us. What an amazing truth. Is disobedience worth missing out on this? I have so much work to do in this area. I am incapable of living in perfect obedience to God, which is why Jesus paid the price for my disobedience. All I, or any of us, can do is strive to obey and please God.
We cannot focus on results while ignoring the means in which we accomplished them. The only question to answer? Did I obey God? God can bring forth results from our disobedience. Does this negate our choice to disobey? Absolutely not. We will suffer for it. Let’s look at what happened when Moses disobeyed God.
“Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” Numbers 20:6-8
Moses was off to a great start! He got on his face before God, desperate for his help and leading. Stepnumberone: Always ask God his opinion before action. He has one, and it’s really all that counts. Do you do this about everything? God’s Word tells us to pray about all things. God responded so faithfully to Moses and He will respond faithfully to you. God told Moses exactly what He wanted him to do. So what happened next that resulted in Moses no longer being allowed to lead the people to the promised land?
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy. Numbers 20: 10-13
God told Moses what to do. Moses disobeyed. Step number two: When God responds and tells you what He wants you to do, you do it. There were still results, water came out abundantly. So wait, Moses disobeyed God but still saw abundant results? Why then was God so displeased with Moses? God was going to give the people water whether or not Moses chose to obey Him. God wanted to use Moses as His vessel to deliver the blessing. Moses failed. He did not do what God told him to do. Simple as that. It does not matter what resulted after his disobedience.
-God doesn’t need us to accomplish His will. If we choose to disobey He will still get He job done. I heard someone describe God as the master chef and us as His little children He allows to help out in the kitchen. I could bake cookies on my own a lot more quickly than when I let my 3 and 6 year old help. I certainly don’t need them to do it with me, I want them to. This is the same with God and His children.
-“Results” (or what we believe results are) do not automatically mean we have been obedient, and a lack of “results” doesn’t mean me haven’t been.
-“Results” do not negate disobedience. Moses disobeyed, the water flowed. Moses suffered consequences.
-Obedience is all that matters. Literally this is all that matters. If we are obeying Scripture and the voice of the Holy Spirit, God is pleased. “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22. Scripture makes it very clear that what God wants most from us is our obedience. As soon as we realize this we will stop focusing on results and will start focusing on loving Jesus through our obedience. We need to stop obsessing about “what works” in our own minds, and trust and obey God. God is looking for His followers to be radically obedient. You will face rejection for this, by non-Christians and Christians. We all have to choose who we want to please, people or God? “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10. Paul made it clear that if we are living to please people we are not servants of Christ.
-God will speak to those who ask him to. He will continue to speak to those who obey when he does. In my opinion, if you hear God clearly and choose to disobey He will pick someone else who will obey. Aka Joshua. God still loved Moses but He no longer used Moses to lead the people into the promised land. Moses was forced to pass the torch to Joshua because of his disobedience. God is a God of grace and if we repent of our disobedience and ask His forgiveness He gives it. In this case things could go differently than they did with Moses, but maybe not. That’s all up to God. Either way we need to repent when we disobey and seek restoration with God.
-The Holy Spirit will never contradict or add to Sctipture. You will only recognize His voice if you know sctipture. You cannot obey Him if you do not know Him. I personally believe from studying scripture that God still speaks to us today as He always has. For example, there are things God has spoken to my heart and told me to do. I know it was God speaking because I am in fellowship with Him through His Holy Spirit in me. I do not only hear Him when I read scripture, but what He says to me always lines up with the truth of scripture. How are we supposed to recognize His voice if we do not know Him? When Samuel first heard God speak to him he did not recognize His voice. Eli did, and he told Samuel it was God speaking to him. Eli recognized God’s voice because he knew scripture and He walked with God. If you aren’t doing this and you don’t know scripture it’s likely you won’t hear God or recognize His voice.
-God wants to speak to us, and wants us to listen and obey when He does. I believe that if you are in a place of ministry (actively teaching, discipling, or ministering Christ to others, something we should all be doing) you are obligated to be connected with God, seeking His will, meditating on His Word, hearing Him when He speaks, and obeying what He says. Jesus said He only did the will of the Father. If we are ministering Christ and our goal is not to only do the will of The Father in our ministry, we are way off track.
-If you had to disobey God to produce “positive” results you are dishonoring God. He is not pleased with this, he hates this. “lying lips are an abomination to The Lord, but those who act faithfully are His delight.” Proverbs 12:22. I once heard a story of a youth pastor telling students to lie to their friends from school to get them to come to youth group. He told them to tell them it was a hangout instead of church so they would show up. This pastor believed that lying was okay in this situation because it would result in kids hearing the gospel. What he asked those kids to do was literally an abomination to God, and the opposite of what Jesus Christ did and would have ever done. In fact, many times the things Jesus said drove people away. Why? Because He came to tell the truth. The truth will set people free, but it will also push away a lot of people. If we have to lie to draw a crowd, whether personally or in our churches, we are disobeying and dishonoring God. Guess what? If a kid showed up to youth group based on a lie and received salvation through Christ that’s all because of God, and does not justify this pastor’s disobedient and sinful shepherding. That youth pastor is very accountable. Just like Moses was. Satan’s lie that we have to produce results, no matter the cost, to be good enough and to please God, has brought such destruction.
A few years ago I was driving to physical therapy and was crying out to God to hear Him speak to me. I felt an intense desperation for his guiding that particular day. I wanted to have a supernatural experience with God and I begged him for it through tears. When I got to my apt. I got myself together and went inside, expecting some divine encounter. Nothing happened. I left and headed for Walgreens to pick up a prescription. While I was there I suddenly felt an indescribable supernatural urge to go outside to the bench where a homeless man was sitting and talk to him. I had actually seen this man sitting on that bench every day for a year and had never spoken to him. This feeling was so overwhelming and out of the ordinary for me. I knew the Holy Spirit was literally leading me to this man. I was terrified! I got in my car and drove over to the spot next to the bench on the very busy road. I prayed for peace and the words to say, got out of my car and approached the bench. I asked if I could sit down, introduced myself and asked for his name. Let me stop for a minute, I was expecting I would be sharing Jesus with this man and he would receive Christ and I would have an awesome divine encounter story to share! What I saw when I sat down alarmed me. This man, Bobby, was reading a bible. He then proceeded to witness to me! I was shocked. I sat talking with him for a while about Jesus, letting him know I did indeed believe. He told me God had him there for now and he wasn’t sure for how much longer. I then offered him money and guess what he said? “Oh no, I have everything I need”, as he patted his Bible. I was again in shock. This homeless man witnessed to me and turned down my money. What in the world? I practically forced him to take the money, I suppose that made me feel good. He smiled and finally agreed.
After we talked for a while I got in my car in absolute shock. Do you know what I thought? Let me confess this to you. I was somewhat disappointed. I thought the Spirit was leading me to witness to a homeless man and give him money. I was expecting results. It wasn’t until years later (just recently actually) that I realized this was a divine encounter. With the Holy Spirit and me. the miracle of this story is that I heard the Holy Spirit telling me to do something that terrified me, and I obeyed Him. God was working on my heart. This is what matters! Not whether or not I had some cool story to tell about the results. sometimes God tells us to do something just to see if we will obey Him, no matter what. In my experience, the more we obey the more God will speak to us. When we obey we start to realize He is with us and His spirit enables us to do things that terrify us. The next time He speaks it doesn’t seem quite so impossible to obey.
My goal should be to hear and obey. Simple as that. The fruit God allows me to see from my obedience is irrelevant. After all, He is the one who brings forth the increase. God can bring forth fruit even from my disobedience. This is how much he doesn’t need me. He simply wants me, and He wants you, to join Him in the amazing work of His kingdom.
Jesus had one goal. To do only what the Father told him to do. He was a display of perfect obedience and our goal must be to be like him.
If you received Jesus as savior and aren’t sure why all your pain, weaknesses, and burdens haven’t disappeared overnight it could be that you’ve been misled. Maybe you’re wondering why your life isn’t automatically easier, why you don’t have all the answers to life’s toughest questions. Maybe someone told you that all you had to do was get saved and your life would change. This is true, but it doesn’t happen in the way we might think. During His ministry Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). I don’t know about you, but this verse offers me so much encouragement and hope. Jesus offered to take our painful, often unbearable, burdens and give us rest. Maybe rest is something you have been desperate for for so long and you’re wondering why it hasn’t come.
If Jesus offers this why hasn’t it happened yet? Re-read the verse again and you will notice that Jesus is offering something but He is also asking us to do something as well. He asks us to come and says take my yoke and learn from me. Maybe you’ve come but you have yet to learn from Jesus. Could this be why you are still suffering as you were before? Learning from Jesus is an incredible process that will completely transform you from the inside out, but it takes time. Yes, when you responded to John 1:12 and became a child of God your life forever changed. You went from being an orphan to being adopted into the kingdom of God and God’s spirit is living in you (Romans 8:11). You probably instantly felt a lesser desire to continue in sin, a desire for repentance and forgiveness, a longing to be closer to God, but this is where the journey starts, not where it ends. This journey begins with making a choice to accept Jesus as savior and is followed by acting on Jesus’ command to learn from Him.Jesus is telling us that we have to learn a new way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. He is asking you, and me, with the power of His spirit living in us, the same spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead (how incredible!), to learn a new way.
Consider the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10. I just love this story because it speaks to me on so many personal levels. Go read it before continuing on. Jesus came one day to visit and Martha was busy and distracted serving, stressed to no end. she was angry! Where was her sister Mary? She was sitting at the feet of Jesus learning from Him. Mary knew that this was the most important thing she could ever do. When Martha complained to Jesus his response was simply amazing. He said to her “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Have you chosen as Mary did? To lay your troubles and worries down and sit at Jesus’ feet to hear and learn His Word? Martha clung to her troubles and often times this is just what we do. This is why people sometimes wonder why Jesus isn’t “working”. Mary knew hearing and learning from Jesus was the only hope she had. Jesus basically told Martha that she chose her troubles over the better option. Do I do this? Do you? When we choose not to learn a new way from Jesus we are choosing to remain in bondage. In 2 Corinthians 12 we learn that rather than eliminating our weaknesses, God offers us grace and strength to overcome them.
So how do you learn from Jesus? You have to start reading His Word, the Bible, and living by what it says. You have to throw out anything that doesn’t line up. You will never learn a new way if you don’t, and nothing will ever change. To be honest, I don’t know how I would get through a day without the Bible. I don’t even want to think about what my life would be without it! It’s not just about using scripture to help us in our struggles, it’s about knowing the full story and living based on that understanding. Who is God? How can I live to please Him? In order to answer these questions we have to meditate on scripture, allow it to transform us, and live in light of that truth. I also believe knowing God’s Word is our weapon against the enemy. Jesus used scripture when Satan temped him. We can’t fight the enemy if we don’t know scripture. The key is first, understanding God’s Word as a whole, and then applying it to our lives. Some people try to use verses to feel better, but without really knowing who God these verses are often taken out of context. Approach God’s Word first to learn the story and to learn who God is and His ways. I believe Jesus example also teaches us to meditate on scripture and apply it to our circumstances. Just don’t try to do this before seeking to understand it as a whole.
I’ve mentioned it before in another blog, but I have always struggled with fear, especially at night. This burden has weighed on me heavy so many times. When I finally chose to search Gods Word and learn and memorize every verse on fear, rest and peace finally came! (Again, I did not do this without a deep understanding of God’s Word and its fullness). Looking back I can’t believe how much of a struggle it had been for me. I’m still extremely susceptible and prone to letting fear take hold but I have learned a new way to face it. I turn immediately to Jesus and his truth to overcome and it works every time. I write those verses down, say them aloud, and pray them over and over until the fear is gone. If I hadn’t learned how would I have known? This is just one single example, there are countless others, of how learning from Jesus has lightened my load and given me rest. Not to mention, when you choose to follow someone how in the world could you do it without learning their way? If studying the Bible isn’t part of your life as a Christian it’s imperative that you change that.
what burdens are weighing you down and how can learning from Jesus change that?
Your burden says I’m afraid.. Jesus says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Your burden says I’m anxious.. Jesus says “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-8
your burden says I’ll never be enough.. Jesus says “You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:10
your burden says my pain will never go away.. Jesus says “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3
your burden says I need more stuff to be happy.. Jesus says “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
your burden says I can’t do what God is asking me to do.. Jesus says, “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
your burden says I can’t overcome my temptations.. Jesus says “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
your burden says I am unlovable.. Jesus says “neither height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:39
your burden says I have no purpose.. Jesus says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
God’s strength is waiting to be made perfect in your weakness. He is waiting for you to come to Him, learn from Him, and trade your heavy burden for his light and easy load. This is a daily journey filled with ups and downs, but it is also filled with hope. Something you didn’t have before you accepted Jesus. Don’t forget, the Holy Spirit of God is dwelling in you and will teach you all things. Start getting discipled and gathering with other Christians to add to your learning and develop friendships with other Jesus followers. Messages my pastor has preached have helped me learn and grow so much and God has used godly mentors in my life to teach me as well. This is so important! Just be sure to never allow learning from others to take the place of the Bible in your life. Studying and learning on your own is critical. Read as often as you can, write down verses in a journal and keep it close to read through whenever you can. This is something I have always done and it has helped me learn and remember so much. You will begin to notice your mindset changing as you hide scripture in your heart. You will start responding to life’s troubles differently when you allow scripture and your deepened love for Jesus to guide you, rather than your old worldview. The load will begin to lighten and you will find the rest you’ve been seeking.
Our society is set up in a way that people cannot do whatever they would like and they are willing to accept these parameters. If you don’t pay your taxes, you commit burglary, or assault someone and get caught you will be held accountable for it. Most people would agree consequences should be faced in these kinds of situations. Somehow we are willing to accept this, yet unwilling to accept the parameters placed on us by our own creator. Why is this? Many believe that a good God would never send someone to hell, and because of this reject Him altogether. This is by far one of the most difficult arguments for a Christian to face when talking with someone who doesn’t follow Jesus Christ. Let’s consider this argument in the form of an illustration.
Consider you and a friend have committed murder and are on trial with a likely outcome of a death sentence. One day the judge tells you that another man has come forward and has offered to take on your death sentence. All you have to do to go free is admit your fault, accept his sacrifice, and choose to follow a new way after you get released. The judge tells you that regardless of your decision this man is going to take that death sentence on your behalf. You ask why would he do such a thing for us? Doesn’t he know what We’ve done? The thought of admitting your guilt and accepting this man’s sacrifice, and not only that, but surrendering to a new way of living, is too much for your pride to allow. You reject the offer. Your friend on the other hand, astounded by such a loving and undeserved sacrifice, is willing to do whatever she has to do to accept this gift. Including admitting her guilt and making the decision to live a different way from that point on. She knows it will be tough, but that accepting this man’s sacrifice will change her forever. The Judge declares her not guilty and she walks undeservedly free, while you receive your earned death sentence.
This is what God offers everyone through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. A not guilty verdict. Freedom from our earned sentence. If a person ends up in hell its not because God sent him there. It is because he rejected the free gift of justification and salvation. Christ suffered death so we don’t have to suffer eternal punishment in hell for our wrongs. He took all of our sins on himself. 1 John 2:2 tells us “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” He wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us and nailed it to the cross! (Colossians 2:14) Do you understand how amazing this is? Maybe you would say, well I’m not a murderer, I’m a pretty good person. The truth is, nobody is good (Mark 10:18), we are all evil inside and need to be transformed from the inside out (Romans 12:2). Deep down you know you are guilty and you’ve been living with guilt for a long time. But you don’t have to! Accept the gift Jesus offers you and walk free from your sentence.
Another of Satan’s greatest deceptions is that following Jesus is bondage and not following Jesus is freedom. The opposite is actually true. Because I follow Jesus I am no longer a slave to the sin and darkness in this world and the Holy Spirit of God himself lives in me, providing all that I need (Galatians 4:6-7). I get to experience peace during turmoil (Isaiah 26:3), comfort in pain (2 Corinthians 1:4), strength in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), wisdom in decision making (James 1:5), forgiveness from my wrongs (1 John 1:9), calmness in fear (Romans 8:15), and the list goes on. I don’t just say this because it’s what the Bible says. I literally experience these things daily in my life. Do you experience the same through rejecting him? When you reject Jesus you are accepting the fact that you are a slave to someone or something else. You can call it what you want but deep down you know you are not free.
Jesus offers the same freedom to every single person. All you have to do is believe and receive Him (John 1:12). You will no longer suffer the punishment you deserve for your sin because he already paid that price for you when he surrendered to death and punishment on the cross. He loves you that much! Reject the lies of Satan and choose to believe and receive Christ so you can walk free in all that God created you for. My prayer is that this post changes even just one person’s mind about Jesus, because when even one turns from sin the angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:10). That’s how much you matter to God, your creator. I hope and pray that those angels are rejoicing even now because of your changed heart.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
Someone close to me recently told me that during a dark time in her life she tried to go to God. She begged him to heal her and rescue her from the pain she was feeling. But He didn’t. She never claimed to believe what the Bible teaches about who God is. From her perspective she tried God and that didn’t work. I wonder how many people would say the same. This breaks my heart, and there was a time in my life this would have left me rather upset with God. Thinking, God, why would you not heal someone who cried out to you and begged for healing. Especially someone I care so much about. To expect this of God is to expect him to force himself on those who do not really believe in who He is. I personally don’t believe he does this.
The person who truly believes, will go to God for redemption, not relief. Why? Beause she believes in Who God is and she understands her desperate condition and need for a savior. She is a sinner in need of saving grace, not a victim in need of help in a troubling circumstance. The reality of an eternity without salvation and life in Christ is far more significant than a current struggle, no matter how challenging. God wants to transform your heart and mind, not fix your problems. Does God care about helping us through tragedy and pain we face while on earth? Of course! But this only comes once you have believed in your heart in who God is and have received Jesus Christ as your savior. You can’t go to God expecting his reward without believing who He is.
“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Romans 10:10 NKJV
When we believe who God is we will naturally want to diligently seek Him. Webster defines diligent as being characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort, and to seek, as going in search of or trying to discover. So we are to seek to discover God steadily, earnestly, and with great effort. Would you do this without believing who He is? Possibly, if you were set on gaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge. But I think for the most part, you wouldn’t. I don’t diligently seek God because I hope He is real, I do it because I know and believe what the Bible teaches me about God, along with what creation shows of Him. Add to this the personal relationship I gained when I answered His call, believed and received Jesus as savior, and the incredible and amazing things He has done in my life since.
Maybe you are that person who “tried” God when times were tough, nothing miraculous happened, and so you determined that He must not be real or at least must not care about you. This just isn’t truth.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Did I seek God for relief from a difficult circumstance rather than for redemption? Relief from struggle is appealing, but it doesn’t compare to redemption in Christ. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” Ephesians 1:7 NKJV
2. Did I acknowledge my sin, my need for a savior first, and the reality of not accepting the gospel of Christ? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9 NKJV, “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” II Thessalonians 1:8-9 NKJV (not trying to be all fire and brimstone, but this truth shouldn’t be avoided simply because it is unpleasant)
3. Did I really believe who God is? That He is the God and creator of the universe and everything in it, “I have made the earth, And created man on it. I—My hands—stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded.” Isaiah 45:12, NKJV), that lack of belief condemns me, (“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” John 3:18 NKJV), that He sent His son Jesus Christ to live a sinless life and die on the cross to pay the price for my sin, offering me the free gift of salvation? (“Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” Romans 5:18 NKJV).
If you answered no to these questions it could be that you went to God for relief, rather than for redemption, because you didn’t really believe that He is. So what’s the good news? It’s not too late to believe and receive the reward that God has to offer you, eternal salvation in Christ and spiritual blessings that blow worldly comfort out of the water. God doesn’t offer bandaids, he offers complete redemption through His son Jesus Christ to those who believe in their hearts and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. Once you have gone to Him believing who He is, your life can never be the same.
Maybe you just don’t know who God is because you have never sought out the truth. Go get a Bible, pray with belief in your heart, ask a Jesus follower you know. If you diligently seek, believing who God is, you will absolutely never be the same. How do I know this is true? Because He told us in His Word!
There are so many stories in the Bible about weak and incapable people doing incredible things for God. Reading these accounts encourages me and reminds me that no matter my weaknesses and failures God can still use me to do His work. Consider Gideon, He was the lowest in his entire family and God used him to take down an army with only 300 men (Judges 6-7). Gideon completely doubted himself. So how was he able to accomplish all that God asked? Gideon obeyed and the Lord filled his gaps. It had nothing to do with his special gifts or talents. I urge you to read the story, it’s a truly incredible show of God’s power! All we have to do is obey and the Lord will be with us to give us victory. Obviously this only applies if God is actually calling you to something… not to our own selfish ambitions or desires.
If you need even more encouragement just read about king David. God described him as “a man after His own heart, who would do all His will” (Acts 13:22). God wasn’t concerned with outward appearance and physical strength, He was focused on David’s heart. “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). What a relief! God is concrerned about our hearts, not our talents and physical capabilities. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t have a heart for God it is truly wasted. The Bible tells us that David was only a youth when he killed the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:33). This is incredible to me! There is no excuse that excuses us from doing God’s will.
Start obeying Gods commands that are clearly laid out in His Word and you will quickly see that He will be with you and will enable you. Start loving more, giving more, serving more, all those things you don’t think you can do. Obey and watch God show himself faithful. After all, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). As Jesus followers we have been called to daily follow, and in order to do this we have to know what Jesus desires from us. We have to read the Bible as if our life depended on it. Because it does! This is the only way to know God’s will and do it.
Maybe you feel discouraged because you don’t feel very capable of doing God’s will. Maybe you see all these people around you doing so much for God and you truly believe they have something you don’t. Some special talent that you don’t seem to possess. You wonder if you are truly capable of doing anything good for God. What I’ve learned about Satan over the years is that he can’t see into the future, but what he can see is a tender and loving heart toward God, the kind of heart that, if freed up from fear and doubt, will do the will of God. He will do whatever he can to keep that person believing lies that he isn’t capable. I have always struggled with insecurities about many different things. I questioned my ability to be a wife, a mother, a friend, a counselor, basically everything God has called me to. What I have found is that If your heart is for The Lord and your desire is for His will He will meet you where you are at and will enable you to accomplish all He has planned for you.
please, I beg you to stop believing Satan’s lies that you have nothing to offer. Jesus gave His life for you because you are valuable to Him. If you accept that free gift He will enter your life and transform you from the inside out. Nothing in this world can even come close to the beauty that comes through being reconciled to your creator and spending the rest of your life doing His Will and not your own.
I’ve been surprised many times by people thinking that faith means not knowing but believing anyway. They seem to think that my belief in Jesus goes something like this:
I believe in Jesus but I’m not totally sure it’s true, I have to just have faith. but I sure hope I’m right and get to go to heaven.
Maybe I’m to blame for this impression people have of faith and following Jesus. Do we make the mistake of not sharing all that God has done in our lives? Leading people to believe it’s a life of hoping rather than fully knowing with confidence? The definition of faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something. My faith is much much more than simply hoping I’m right. You see when I made the choice to follow and accept Jesus Christ I became a child of God. In a literal sense. God has revealed himself and moved in my life in such incredible and amazing ways I could write all day long telling you about it. It would blow your mind. It starts with choosing to believe but this isn’t the end of the journey. This is where the journey starts. After this point God makes you his own. After this point you know God on a deeper level, as your father. There is no more questioning whether or not He is real and whether or not the Bible is truth. (By the way, the Bible is a historical document, not just stories. Don’t believe me? Look it up!) A person who has never made this choice will never be able to comprehend this fact. But maybe, just maybe if I were more vocal about all that God has done and is doing in my life I would clear up some of the misconceptions people have regarding my faith in Jesus Christ.
I’m not a Christian because I don’t want to go to hell. I choose to be a Christian because I am so beautifully loved by God. Not just because the Bible tells me I am but because He shows me daily and I feel it. Every single time I pray, read my bible, worship God, I walk away full. Full of strength, joy, peace, courage, love, excitement. Does what you believe offer you that? If you aren’t fully confident in what you believe I would question it. God has done beyond more for me than I could ever say. He has loved me, protected me, guided me, rescued me, and healed me. He wants to do the same for you. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Him. It wouldn’t be worth living, not even for a moment. You can say I’m extreme but it’s true. This is what I want you to know about my faith in Jesus. It’s not a religion that simply guarantees me eternal life, it is my life. Every. Single. Day. And it is a beautiful and full life to say the least.
You see the amazing thing about choosing to follow God is that He is constant. Things in life are always changing. God never changes. My happiness and Joy isn’t dependent on things in my life always going right, it’s dependent on my choice to seek God and spend time close to Him in His presence. If you haven’t made this choice then this is foolishness to you and I can’t expect you to think otherwise. All I’m saying is don’t think I’m just like you apart from having a contingency plan. My life with God is beyond more than that. you could have the same thing if you would take a chance and choose to believe. This will transform your life forever and fill you like you never could have dreamed. Don’t waste your life on the temporal or choose to live with less than God planned for you. Don’t think you know what it means to follow Jesus based on what the media tells you or based on the hypocrites who claim it to get into heaven and nothing more.
Don’t think I’m a stupid person who simply wants something to believe so I can feel better about life. This honestly makes me want to laugh. I believe what I do because God has filled my life beyond comprehension and has transformed every single aspect of it. What gives you fulfillment in life? Is it constant and unchanging? It surely is for me and I wish more than anything that everyone could experience what I do on a daily basis. The ability to trust in a God who is present and faithful, who can always be trusted in.
I have total confidence and belief in God and the fact that Jesus died for me and rescued me from sin. I also have total confidence and belief in the Bible to be accurate and truth (which can be backed up as reliable and valid in the same way that other historical documents are, if you would take the time to look into it). If you can say that you feel this way about what you believe great! If not, then I ask you to take a chance on God. Take a chance to find out for yourself rather than listen to what others tell you about Jesus. When CS Lewis was an atheist and struggling with his beliefs he did this very thing. It changed his life forever. This is the case for countless other people who struggled to place confidence in their beliefs and decided to find out the truth about God. As I said before, if you choose to go on this journey you will not be disappointed. I pray that you make that choice.
Did you know that Jesus came down to the earth, willing to give his life, to rescue you? He loves you that much! It’s easy, especially around Easter, to think about Christ’s death as a “religious story” but the truth is Jesus died for you whether you call yourself a Christian or not. You have a choice to either accept or reject him. I once heard Loui Giglio say that “we all have a common end at the end, the face of the son of God.” Whether you have accepted that Christ Jesus died for you to rescue you from a life of sin or not, you will face Him in the end.
When you see Jesus what do you want that to be like? Do you want to suffer the regret of rejecting Him or experience the joy of accepting Him as your savior? Easter isn’t a Christian holiday. It’s a story of how Jesus Christ laid down His life and rose again to save you from the power of death. What choice will you make? Maybe you never knew you had one. The bottom line is we all make that choice. You will meet Jesus, either now or at the end. Choose now. What’s in it for you? A life of freedom. Freedom from pain, regret, sin. A life full of healing grace, redemption, and love. Jesus already died for you, it’s up to you to accept Him.
You will believe in Jesus at some point. It will either be now or when you stand before him at the end. I urge you to make it now so that you can experience, not just eternal life, but a life on earth that is full of the promises God has for you. I beg you not to wait until it’s too late.
If you have any questions about Jesus and what he’s done for you please don’t hesitate to ask me! When you seek God I promise you will surely find Him as He is always waiting to receive you as His child.