Tag Archives: anger

The Seven Trumpets (Part 1)

Today’s message summary of January 3, 2016 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Most people today will continue to fail to acknowledge God. Even though Scripture notes this, we are reminded by Scripture to continue to proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ. It is for this reason: God is not in a hurry to do away with those who don’t acknowledge Him. He desires for all men to be saved. But make no mistake about this…there is a day that is coming when there will be the end.

God is merciful. God is putting off the death sentence for those who don’t know Him until the time that they repent and accept Christ as Savior.

God holds back His judgment until that time when there will no longer a restraint on His grace and mercy. And there will be no mistake about the presence of God and His wrath in that day.

Revelation 6:16-17

And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of Their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?”

Some people will decide that they do not want to have anything to do with God; however, there will be a time when God will have something to do with them.

When you examine, in Revelation, the seals, trumpets and bowls, the judgments become worse and worse over time. God’s wrath, soon after this, will be poured out. Satan uses man, at that time, to create destruction and devastation. Satan deceives the people to carry out these acts, and God, of course, allows it. It is part of His plan.

Man will use reasoning to refuse to acknowledge God. They will avoid any situation or circumstance that moves one to conclude that Satan was present; for example, we try to explain why Hitler did what he did without mentioning that Satan was involved. We do this because of fear in that we do not want to acknowledge that God and Satan are present. The reasoning of man is to give an explanation of why something happened in order to remove fear and maintain control of the situation. People are not afraid because reasoning something into natural causes or occurrences removes fear.

Note that as we move into Revelation, Chapter 8, God will move in such a way that no one will be able to explain Him away.

In Chapter 8, the angels of heaven see the real terror that is to come. People on earth have not yet seen it or know what to expect.

Hebrews 10:26-27, 30-31

For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries.

For we know the One who has said, Vengeance belongs to Me, I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge His people. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!

 

Psalm 76:7

And You–You are to be feared. When You are angry, who can stand before You?

 

Psalm 7:11

God is a righteous judge and a God who shows His wrath every day.

Note that society today has tried to remove God from everything in order to make Him invisible, because of the logic that if we cannot see Him, there is no reason to be fearful of Him. If He is unseen or invisible, it gives justification for living any way one chooses.

Back to Revelation 8, there is silence in heaven once the angels see what is going to happen. There is no choir singing or praises taking place. It is the quiet before the storm.

Revelation 8:1

When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Note that God is angry with the wicked every day. What holds back God from expressing His wrath? It is His mercy.

 

Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!

 

Psalm 103:8-9

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and rich in faithful love. He will not always accuse us or be angry forever.

 

The angels, in Revelation 8, see the actions of God pouring out His anger. Note that, out of the Seventh Seal come the seven trumpets.

John says that he saw seven angels:

Revelation 8:2-4

Then I saw the seven angels who stand in the presence of God; seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel, with a gold incense burner, came and stood at the altar. He was given a large amount of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up in the presence of God from the angel’s hand.

The angels are carrying out the message as direct servants of God. The message is that God will now being carrying out the judgment Himself. He will be carrying out what was already noted in Revelation 6:

Revelation 6:9-11

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the people slaughtered because of God’s word and the testimony they had. They cried out with a loud voice: “Lord, the One who is holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on earth?” So a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer until the number would be completed of their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed just as they had been.

Revelation 8:5-6

The angel took the incense burner, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth; there were rumblings of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake. And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared to blow them.

Now come the trumpets being blown by the angels, with God carrying out His wrath:

Revelation 8:7 (The First Trumpet)

The first angel blew his trumpet, and hail and fire, mixed with blood, were hurled to the earth. So a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up.

Revelation 8:8-9 (The Second Trumpet)

The second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain ablaze with fire was hurled into the sea. So a third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures of the sea dies, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

Revelation 8:10 (The Third Trumpet)

The third angel blew his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from heaven. It fell on a third of the rivers and springs of water. The name of the star is Wormwood, and a third of the waters became wormwood. So, many of the people died from the waters, because they had been made bitter.

God is saying to those who do not trust in Him that there will be an account. There is nothing to fear as long as you trust Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. He will keep you in fellowship with Him, but while he is merciful and compassionate, He will judge the wicked of this world.

Romans 3:23-24

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

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It’s Already Fixed

Today’s message summary of December 6, 2015 from Pastor Gus Brown:

In the wake of the headline of a recent shooting incident, the newspaper headline stated “God Can’t Fix This.” The reality is that God has already fixed it. It’s already fixed.

God is already involved. The solution is already there. It is in Jesus Christ. It is our choice to follow through with what God has already ordained.

God wants you to understand that it is already fixed. He wants you to walk in His ways. You will recognize it is fixed when you acknowledge the presence of Jesus Christ.

This is not the first time that God has been mentioned in the headline of a newspaper. It has been done over and over, and it has occurred throughout history thousands of years ago.

God has given His answer to man’s problems in two names: Jesus and Immanuel.

There is meaning in the names.

  • The name Jesus

Jesus is the Greek form of the name Joshua. It means Yahweh or Jehovah, which is “salvation.”

Jesus saves.

Jesus delivers.

Jesus rescues.

Matthew 1:21

She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.

Jesus had a divine purpose…a heavenly purpose. It was to save His people.

What was He saving the people from? Their sins.

Does this apply to you? Do you see yourself as righteous in your own eyes?

We need to believe this about ourselves…we are sinful people, and we need a Savior.

Jesus is the clearest view that we will ever have of God on this side of heaven.

John 14:8-11

“Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.

John 5:39

You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me.

God wants to fulfill His will through us. He is working in our lives to do just that–to be like Christ.

Acts 4:12

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people, and we must be saved by it.

People are free to choose. You are not free not to choose. You are not free to choose the consequences after your choices. Your choices will ultimate choose for you.

You are free to push Jesus out of life, but you will need to bear the consequences from such a choice.

Salvation is not just getting people into heaven–it’s God desiring to be in the lives of people. He wants to be in a personal relationship with you.

It’s your choice to live for Christ.

Psalm 31:14-15

But I trust in You, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” The course of my life is in Your power; deliver me from the power of my enemies and from my persecutors.

A man or woman will go to hell unsaved, but not unloved by God. It’s your choice to receive God’s love (John 3:16-17).

1 John 4:19

We love because He first loved us.

We cannot change the lives of other people. God has to do that Himself. We can live for Christ before others and love them as Christ loves them.

Without a relationship, there is no way to work out of your problems. Jesus Christ’s purpose was to deal with your sins–that is a relationship that He wants to have with you (Matthew 1:21).

Jesus has come to give us knowledge and understanding through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus fulfills His Name. Jehovah is salvation.

Salvation is a benefit for man, not God. All that takes place is for you–for us. God is the only One who can accomplish all of this.

What are the sins?

  1. The sin of unbelief
  2. The sin of worry
  3. The sin of debt (material things)
  4. The sin of anger (unable to forgive another person)
  5. Freedom from our past
  6. Deliverance from bad habits.
  7. Dealing with self

People will not acknowledge their personal issue with sin because they see themselves as righteous.

Proverbs 14:12

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

  • Immanuel – God with us.

Isaiah 7-8 – Assyrian army would flood the land with trouble until they cried out “O Immanuel!”

Hebrews 13:5-6

Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Philippians 1:6

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 1:4

He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves.


Spring Break 2015 Relationship Seminar Text

Text from this year’s Spring Break 2015 Relationship Conference presented at the Hampton Inn, Stow OH, April 17-18, 2015:

 

Thank you for attending this year’s Spring Break 2015 Relationship Conference presented by Akron Alliance Fellowship Church.  We sincerely hope that you have a great time here this weekend, and that you are inspired and encouraged by what God has to say to you!  A special thanks to the staff at the Hampton Inn for hosting this event.

If you were with us last year, the goal of the seminar, Using your IMAGE to Be A Change Agent for Christ, was to help its participants begin and continue the process of developing a closer, healthier and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ.  In order for a believer in Christ to grow in faith, he has to do more than just go beyond the basics.  The seminar provided practical methods for a present believer, and even a potential believer, to reach one’s fullest potential as a child of God living in a manner that brings praise to Jesus Christ!

Our annual Spring Break weekend seminars are devoted to addressing relationships in your life, and this year is no different.  We will take a closer look at an area that is a hindrance to any relationship.  A lack of forgiveness—either for the person who is holding a grudge against someone or for the person who is awaiting some sort of reconciliation that never comes—is a devastating force that destroys relationships.  A lack of forgiveness not only ruins family and interpersonal relationships, but it also hinders, and even damages a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ.

We will be presenting this information this weekend with frequent references to your IMAGE, which we presented last year to the group to show how you can develop as a believer who is consistent in obedience to God’s Word and His will for your life.  In maintaining your true IMAGE in Jesus Christ, this will help a person to overcome the lack of forgiveness in one’s life, and even help others who may struggle with this issue.

A lack of forgiveness or receiving forgiveness, as we noted earlier, destroys relationships.  Can a believer in Jesus Christ be effective in Christ as long as a lack of forgiveness is unresolved?  My emphatic answer is “absolutely not.” Why?  There are several reasons, but the most important one is that if forgiveness is unresolved in any way, shape or form, then that means that Jesus Christ cannot possibly be the primary focus of that person.  You may have heard the lyrics of a song that declare “nobody but Jesus,” but the person who lacks forgiveness might as well sing “anything but Jesus.”

Forgiveness, in itself, is impossible to cover in its entirety over your entire lifetime, let alone within a short weekend seminar.  With that in mind, we will focus on areas of personal development and in how we relate to other individuals to help us discover ways in which we can personally grow in our relationships with others and find ways to experience forgiveness and to forgive others.

Psalm 32

The Joy of Forgiveness

Davidic. A Maskil.

1 How joyful is the one

whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered!

2 How joyful is the man

the Lord does not charge with sin

and in whose spirit is no deceit!

3 When I kept silent, my bones became brittle

from my groaning all day long.

4 For day and night Your hand was heavy on me;

my strength was drained

as in the summer’s heat. Selah

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to You

and did not conceal my iniquity.

I said,

“I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

and You took away the guilt of my sin. Selah

6 Therefore let everyone who is faithful pray to You

at a time that You may be found.

When great floodwaters come,

they will not reach him.

7 You are my hiding place;

You protect me from trouble.

You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and show you the way to go;

with My eye on you, I will give counsel.

9 Do not be like a horse or mule,

without understanding,

that must be controlled with bit and bridle

or else it will not come near you.

10 Many pains come to the wicked,

but the one who trusts in the Lord

will have faithful love surrounding him.

11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice,

you righteous ones;

shout for joy,

all you upright in heart.

 

Segment 1

Characteristics of Your IMAGE

 

Investigate the Word of God

The development of a believer must begin with the appropriate time and effort devoted to bible reading.  Even as you are developing a routine for bible reading each day, the proper development of the image of the believer must have progression in this process—the progression must continue in the achievement of levels to where you are no longer just reading the bible, but you are investigating what scripture has to say to you.

  • Reading the bible daily
  • Scheduled time
  • Use external biblical resources to complement your study (ex. – Greek and Hebrew references and concordances)

Investigate (v.) – to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

 

Meditate on the Word of God

(Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10)

Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God.[1]  Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. [2]

Meditation is reflection, consistent prayer and practice that promotes greater understanding and wisdom in the application of God’s Word.

 

Act (Application of God’s Word)

The act portion of your IMAGE involves taking action upon what you have learned in your investigation and mediation of God’s Word.  Taking action or applying God’s Word involves four key lifestyle elements of your faith in Jesus Christ:

  1. Repentance upon acknowledgment of sin to restore immediate fellowship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19)
  2. Compliance with God’s will in your life (John 7:17)
  3. A desire to improve and please God (Colossians 3:15)
  4. Greater consistency in Christlike behaviors (Psalm 119:101-106; Romans 12:1-2)

We act upon God’s Word and His will because we are His specially chosen people, and we desire to maintain a special relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 37:23-24, 73:23-24)

 

Grow

Growing in Jesus Christ is the natural progression of a healthy, vibrant relationship with Him (Ephesians 3:17-19, 4:11-15)

Growth is measured in the following:

  1. Continuing achievement of maturity in Christ
  2. Hearing and knowing when God is speaking to you
  3. Increased sensitivity to matters of the Holy Spirit
  4. Greater focus and determination

 

Endure

Bearing all things that occur in the faith with an understanding of the big picture–the love of Christ is exhibited for all to see and that Jesus Christ is glorified (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:7; James 1:2-4).

Jesus wants you to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in your faith and retain a boldness in your faith (in words and in your demeanor before others). It is your steadfastness that makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.

2 Timothy 2:8-12a

Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead and descended from David. This is according to my gospel.  I suffer for it to the point of being bound like a criminal, but God’s message is not bound. 10 This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.  This saying is trustworthy:

For if we have died with Him,

we will also live with Him;

if we endure, we will also reign with Him.

 

 

1 Christian Meditation for Beginners by Thomas Zanzig, Marilyn Kielbasa 2000, ISBN 0-88489-361-8 page 7

2  An introduction to Christian spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2000 ISBN 81-7109-429-5 pages 76-77

 

Segment 2

Forgive and Forget?

 

Hardly. It’s difficult to get past the pain and trauma that occurs when someone hurts you. It’s something that each one of us has experienced, and it shapes our view of the world.

When we experience pain, our defense mechanisms kick in.  Everyone responds differently when they have been hurt, but most often the response is proportional to the painful experience.  It is manifested in both emotional and even physical responses, where the physical ailments are often the result of prolonged emotional difficulties.

The response in kind to the stimuli of pain and trauma experienced is similar to that of Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction. [1]  While the response may be equal to what a person has done to you, it is how you respond and manage this pain that is very important as you seek the Lord for ways to cope with your experience.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

Pain makes it hard to forget the hurts.  It’s hard to let go of the wrongs that you have experienced.  It makes it difficult to conceive the nature of “forgive and forget.”

First, we need to note that forgive and forget is not found in Scripture.  It is a term that comes out of a world view that proclaims a person can indeed forget the hurt upon forgiveness and move on.  There are many verses that discuss forgiveness, and there is a reference to how God sees our sin once a person repents of it:

Isaiah 43:25 HCSB

It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more.

 

The concept of forgive and forget means to suck it up and move on with your life.  Sure, you got hurt or you’ve been damaged, but now it’s time to let it go and face the next life challenge.  The reality of this is that we never truly forget.  We may indeed forgive, but we never forget.  In fact, remembering the hurts can help you put the healing process into perspective.

With that in mind, does God truly “remember your sins no more,” or “forget” them as if they never happened?  Well, if we consider the passage of Isaiah 43:25, we need to also note that Jesus Christ made a one-time payment that covered all of mankind’s sins–past, present and future.

Hebrews 10:14-18 ESV

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

“This is the covenant that I will make with them

after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

and write them on their minds,”

then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

God does not forget in the same way that we forget—He doesn’t forget anything.  He is omniscient.  He knows everything and forgets nothing, but, in the case of our sin, because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, He chooses to not remember our sin.  He even provides a visual measuring distance as to how far He removes sin from each of us:

Psalm 103:11-13

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is His faithful love

toward those who fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west,

so far has He removed

our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.

 

Note that God’s choice to not remember our sins reflects His love for each one of us and how he has patience and compassion for His children.  In order to experience true forgiveness, on either side, there are key elements that must be involved; they include love, compassion and humility (more on this later).

So, when we use the words forgive and forget, we must rely upon the power of God to give grace in forgiveness.  True forgiveness is to move past the pain.  While you don’t forget the sin or its behaviors, you have to choose to overlook them and extend the grace of forgiveness to the other person to move through and out of our pain.  Knowing that Christ forgives us and remembers our sins no more is a reminder that grace does not need to stop with Christ.  He gives you the ability to forgive and, not forget, but to choose to remember the other person’s sins no more.

Matthew 6:15

But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

 

This leads to the discussion about where forgiveness begins.  True forgiveness comes with the understanding that it’s time to get right with God.  It doesn’t matter if you are on the giving or receiving end of forgiveness.  Your relationship with God requires a cleansing.  In order for you to love God with all of your heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37), you need to give all of who you are and what you are to Him.

 

1 Article – Newton’s Law of Motion. (n.d.). From Wikipedia. Retrieved March 25, 2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s_laws_of_motion#Newton.27s_3rd_Law

 

Segment 3

He Forgives You

 

For the believer in Jesus Christ, it may seem to be a redundant discussion when considering God’s forgiveness.  I mean, it’s understood that he forgives you, right?  On the surface, yes, but…not so fast.

The moment that you take for granted how God has forgiven you is the very moment that you begin to take your relationship with Jesus Christ for granted, and perhaps even minimize it.  Believers will need to proceed with extreme caution here.  The act of forgiveness was certainly a one-time act when it came to our repentance of sin and acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior (Hebrews 10).  We get that.  What we also need to remember, though, is that we are always in need of His forgiveness.

Why? Even though we have the Holy Spirit as a guide that dwells within us, we still have the flesh present in our hearts and in our thoughts.  Our souls are indeed protected with our eternal salvation, but we still must actively call on the power of God to withstand living in Satan’s domain, and everything that goes with that.

God continues to forgive us if we exhibit the following:

  1. A sincere heart. You can’t fake it with God and expect to make it. Giving Him everything that you’ve got means just that…everything…nothing held back; especially your honest feelings. Come clean the way you know that you should, and don’t pretend to be close to God when you’re not. That’s rooted in the sin of pridefulness.

Matthew 6:5-8 HCSB

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.

 

1 John 1:8-10

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

 

Hebrews 10:22 HCSB

…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

  1. A willingness to repel sin. Even when you do sin, our desire to have a healthy relationship with God through Jesus Christ will drive you to make things right with Him sooner rather than later. And He absolutely loves receiving you back in fellowship with Him.  Prayer must be at the forefront of your desire to repel sin.

Psalm 119:10-12

I have sought You with all my heart;

don’t let me wander from Your commands.

I have treasured Your word in my heart

so that I may not sin against You.

Lord, may You be praised;

teach me Your statutes.

 

2 Peter 3:9 HCSB

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.

 

Leviticus 26:11-12 HCSB

I will place My residence among you, and I will not reject you.  I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.

 

Matthew 26:41 ESV

“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 

  1. Give God His due in worship and praise. If we take the time to stop and thank God for all that He has done for us, there is little time for sin to occupy our hearts.

Psalm 33:1-5

Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous ones;

praise from the upright is beautiful.

Praise the Lord with the lyre;

make music to Him with a ten-stringed harp.

Sing a new song to Him;

play skillfully on the strings, with a joyful shout.

For the word of the Lord is right,

and all His work is trustworthy.

He loves righteousness and justice;

the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love.

 

A believer who is living for Christ understands the importance of keeping a solid relationship with Him and maintaining a healthy fellowship.

He forgives you as often as you turn to Him asking for forgiveness, and He never refuses you!

We’ll discuss this further as we unpack how you can forgive others and be forgiven because of His loving example of forgiveness within His eternal promise and in how we live each day of our life!

Psalm 73:28 ESV

But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

 

Segment 4

Everyone Makes Mistakes

 

To err is human; to forgive, divine.  –Alexander Pope

We know that everyone makes mistakes.  Each of us has blown it sometime, somewhere, and in some way, shape or form.  Some mistakes are honest ones, while others come from deliberate acts of malice or intent.  That’s all part of our human nature.  We make these mistakes because of who we are.

God reminds of this with His Word…

Romans 3:23 (NIV)

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…

 

If we know we make mistakes, and we know that God is aware of this, as well, why is it that we don’t cut other people some slack when things go badly?  We need to understand how a lack of forgiveness is harmful to relationships, and the act of harboring resentment keeps people from moving forward in their lives.

When a person drives a car into a large muddy area, it can get stuck.  Unless the car can get traction, it’s not going anywhere.

Relationships can get stuck altogether because of our behavioral responses when there is a lack of forgiveness, and it will stop any progress or can even permanently damage a relationship.

What stops a healthy relationship?

 

STOP

  • Stubbornness
  • Tension
  • Obstinance
  • Pride

What will a person see in you when you are stuck in unforgiveness:

 

STUCK

  • sluggishness (unforgiveness has a debilitating effect on your mind and spirit)
  • turbulence (drama is a by-product of an unforgiving spirit–it follows you everywhere)
  • unchangeable (no one can give you any advice, let alone good advice)
  • confusion (where there is no peace, there is confusion and bewilderment)
  • killjoy (a person who deliberately spoils the enjoyment of others through resentfulness)

Hopefully you can see that you can’t keep an unforgiving spirit to yourself.  It won’t be a secret, because, sooner or later, everyone you know will see signs of it in your behavior at one time or another.  It definitely has a negative effect on others, and it certainly will have a negative effect on you.  One day, you may even find yourself all alone because no one will want to be around you.  Stubbornness, tension, obstinance and pride are all relationship-killers.  They kill human relationships, and they are absolute hindrances to any relationship that you will have with God.

 

Segment 5

The Road to Complete Forgiveness

A direct flight from Akron-Canton Regional Airport to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport takes 1 hour and 45 minutes.

If I were to drive from my house in northern Summit County to the Savannah airport, it would take just a few minutes under 11 hours.

If I wanted to take transit, I would have to walk 48 minutes to the bus stop on Highland Road and catch the 102 bus to downtown Akron, transfer to three other buses that will take me to the Alliance Amtrak station, catch the Capitol Limited to Washington DC and transfer to either the Silver Meteor or Silver Star to downtown Savannah GA.  The total time for the trip–1 day and 16 hours.

If I wanted to travel by bicycle via the Great Allegheny Passage to Savannah, which loops through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas, it would consist of 969 miles of biking through elevations as high as 2,359 feet above sea level.  If I keep going without food or water or without losing consciousness, it would take me 84 hours.  I could shave six hours off of that with a trip through the New River Trail State Park and US Route 321, but the mountains near Roanoke, Virginia cap off at 3,753 feet above sea level, and I would also have to take a ferry boat.  If I want to walk the entire distance, I would only need to walk 767 miles, but it would take 254 hours, or the equivalent of just over 10 1/2 days. Of course, it would take longer than that if you decide to eat something or get some sleep every now and then.

The same starting point and destination can take one hour and 45 minutes, 11 hours or 10 1/2 days.  The method of travel is different, and the roads are different, but they lead to the same place.  The healing process within forgiveness is much the same as this travel scenario.  Different people may have different paths to get to the same place, which is a place of rest through the healing.  The differences will lie in the amount of time it takes to heal.  Just as no persons are alike, people will heal and respond differently based upon where they have come from and where they have traveled on the journey.  It’s also important to note that healing in the process of forgiveness is seldom accomplished in the same way one can get on a plane from one place to the other.  If you were to take a poll, I’m confident that the majority of people would say it takes a long, long time.

The road to complete forgiveness is paved with opportunities for healing.  God grants us immunity when we ask for His forgiveness, and He does it right away.  Our greatest challenge is to recognize that we are guiltless before Him.  Many people struggle with this issue in that there is still a form of guilt over what has happened.  This is why people must heal from the wounds of their transgressions.  God is aware that people suffer from these feelings and emotions (Psalm 147:3), and He is aware of them because He bore all of our sins on the cross.  He relates to each and every one of us.  He is a God who is relational and wants us to cast our cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:28-30).

In the same way that God gives us grace in forgiveness, He desires that we treat others in kind with grace and mercy in forgiving others.  Easier said than done?  Most certainly, but that doesn’t change God’s will for us.  It remains the same as it always has been—to forgive others and show mercy to them.  That is the best (and only real way) for the light of Christ to shine before others.  Anything else is nothing more than a worldly approach of forgiveness with man-made conditions behind it.

The road to complete forgiveness is a message of hope.  In order to make the journey, it requires these attributes in order to experience the power of God’s healing:

H – Humility

Note that humility is acquired as we grow in God’s wisdom and understanding.  We develop humble hearts as we become Christlike in our actions.  Humility does not come naturally.  It comes from a series of learning experiences that God orchestrates in our lives.  Humility is what allows us to draw nearer to God.

2 Chronicles 7:14

…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

 

James 4:8 HCSB

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!

 

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 HCSB

Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

 

God humbles us in order for each of us to see the Lord as we need to see Him.  With this realization, we understand the importance of humbling ourselves before Him and, as a result, reflecting this same grace before others.

A humble approach involves using a kinder, gentler approach when dealing with others.

Philippians 2:3 ESV

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

 

O – Overlook shortcomings

Because we reside in the flesh, we often encounter people when they are at their best, but sometimes when they are not at their best.  In the spirit of recognizing that we are all in the human race and that everyone does fall short at one time or another (see Romans 3:23), then there are times when a person who falls short needs to be cut a break.  It is prudent to address issues as they come up, but sometimes we need to take the humble approach and overlook some transgressions for the sake of keeping the peace.  If we are being honest with ourselves, other people we have dealt with have cut us some slack even when it was undeserved.  God has cut each of us some slack–not because he is letting you off the hook for your sin, but because of His love for us.  He extends His grace to you.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Titus 3:5-7 ESV

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

P – Patience

Humility and overlooking one’s shortcomings is an exercise in patience.  You will do none of this, including forgive someone, without patience.  Patience is indeed an act of love.

Romans 12:12 ESV

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

 

Ecclesiastes 7:9 ESV

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.

 

1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

 

In order for you to exercise patience, it requires the assistance of the Holy Spirit, at times, to give you more than you believe you have the capability of doing.  How patient was Jesus Christ when He suffered on the cross for each of us?  Just when we think we’re going to lose our patience, take the time to remove the flesh from your thought process and rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to move you beyond mere fleshly responses.

 

E – Empathy

The road to forgiveness also needs a strong dose of empathy.  Empathy allows you to see people in the same way that God sees those same people.  It may well be the most challenging element of a person’s Christlike development.  Empathy allows you to go deeper than the surface elements of one’s personality and, through the Holy Spirit, gain insight into what a person is experiencing from within.  Jesus Christ shows empathy for each of us.

Ephesians 4:32 ESV

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

 

Empathy allows you to be human before other people.

Romans 12:15 ESV

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

 

Matthew 7:12 ESV

So  whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

 

Love is the root of empathy, and Christ is the example.

John 15:12 ESV

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

 

The acronym HOPE is exactly what a person needs to see from a person who is sincere in forgiveness:  Humility, overlooking shortcomings, patience and empathy.  A person should experience relief because of these steps that are being taken in forgiveness.

Now, for one to truly forgive someone there must be an attitude that what happened in the past must remain in the past.

When a governor or a head of state gives a prisoner a “full, complete and absolute pardon,” it means that the person is released from any and all previous transgressions.

Forgiveness requires extending a pardon to another individual, and that means a full, complete and absolute pardon–without conditions.

 

PARDON

pray

absolve (free from guilt)

release (free from debt)

deliver (free from captivity)

optimize (enhance, improve relationship)

no memory of wrong (nomow)

 

NOMOW

No memory of wrong is the Christlike example as God has declared He would remember your sins no more (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

There is hope for the recipient of complete forgiveness.  It restores relationships and moves the person to a place to begin to move forward in life.  Hope conveys to the other person that it is time to live in freedom, and Christ is where that freedom comes from.  A person who forgives is also free to move on from the past, get on with life and focus on what is important—obedience to Jesus Christ and a desire to live according to His will.

Is there someone in your life that needs your hope and a pardon?

  • Read, study and meditate on God’s Word
  • Get some quiet time
  • Get right before God (in order to hear Him speak to you)
  • List who you need to forgive
  • List why you need to forgive
  • Bring it all before God and let Him do the rest

He is the Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.  If you ask for His help, He is faithful to provide it to you.

God forgives you and provides the example for you to forgive someone else.

 

 

All seminar content written and presented by Melvin Gaines.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.


Your IMAGE and Forgiveness – Free Seminar Apr. 17-18, Stow OH

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Identity: Your Choice–Flesh or Spirit?

Today’s message from Pastor Gus Brown:

A person can say, “Lord, I love you,” yet the heart may be far from Him. We have the choice to walk with Him in the Spirit or walk in the flesh. The unbeliever can only walk in the flesh. Only the Christian can choose to live by the Spirit in obedience of God or in the flesh in disobedience. The war is always ongoing between the flesh and the Spirit. As you live more and more in the Spirit, you will have the power and ability to suppress and overcome the flesh.

Which one will you choose?

Galatians 5:19-21
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The list that mirrors the life of people of the world who do not have Jesus falls within four groups:
1.) Sexual sin
2.) False worship (idolatry); drug abuse
3.) Factions; in-house fighting
4.) Appetites–drunkenness; orgies

The acts of the sinful nature are seen by everyone (Galatians 5:19).

Sin changes our character to the degree that it can change how people perceive you. Your behavior will raise red flags before others around you. It is obvious when you are not walking in obedience to The Lord.

Scripture says to flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18).

How does one hurt himself? It can be psychological and also physical (there are many diseases that can occur via sexual intercourse that are incurable). These sins can hinder one’s thinking and has a negative effect all relationships unless God does a work in this area.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that there are 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases every year. Of those, half are among people between the ages of 15-24.

Ephesians 4:19
They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.

Adultery and fornication: one or both adults are married. Marriage is a contract, and it means to be legally bound to the vows taken between a man and a woman; for example, two single people cannot commit adultery.

Mark 10:7-8
7 For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
[and be joined to his wife],
8 and the two will become one flesh.
So they are no longer two, but one flesh.

Adultery not only hurts one self, but countless others who are aware of the marriage relationship (relatives, friends, etc.)

Fornication: At least one participant is not under the marriage vow contract, or neither person is married. If a relationship of this type ends, there is damage because there was never a true commitment and the emotional side is exposed.

Prostitution is also fornication. A brothel is a place where prostitution takes place. The word ‘brothel’ means ‘wretched person,’ to waste away, go to ruin.

Fornication is always about self-pleasure. It brings about broken relationships and harms the parents’ trust. This is why the unmarried people are to abstain from sex and not participate until after marriage. The relationship between the man and the woman can be irreparably harmed, as well. A woman can experience anger from the deceit that she was used in the relationship. A pregnancy that develops from the relationship also damages the child because he or she was not wanted in the first place. There are psychological consequences because the child does not see himself as wanted or needed within the relationship.

Impurity, uncleanness: dirt, dirty, soiled; ceremonially, spiritually unclean.

Romans 6:19
I am using a human analogy because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.

Ephesians 5:3
But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints.

1 Thessalonians 4:7
For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification.

Romans 1:24
Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.

Ephesians 4:19
They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.

Colossians 3:5
Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.

Those who participate in sexual immorality are not usable by God.


A Life of Humility

Today’s message text from Melvin Gaines:

There are moments when you are wrong about something and it would be wise to admit it openly.  It’s times like this that you certainly wish that you were right, but everything points to you making a mistake (and hopefully it’s not a big one).  Of course, you have a choice in this matter…you can readily acknowledge your mistake to someone, or say nothing, hide behind it and point the finger at someone or something else–in other words, play the blame game.

Have you ever been around someone who never admits when they have done something wrong?  If you have, perhaps you remember the frustration that comes in having a relationship with such a person, especially if others around the person occasionally mess up. It can be very difficult to meet a person’s expectations if perfection is the only acceptable result.  A person who readily points out that he or she is “mistake-free” will invariably do more harm in relationships than good, and it’s because human beings who make mistakes can never meet the standards of a “perfect” person.

It is rare when a person is seen taking responsibility for his or her actions, and perhaps even refreshing.  In order to take responsibility, you have to check your pride at the door and humble yourself.  This message is about the act of humility.  Humility in action is the essence of godliness and the absence of pridefulness.  Using the examples I have just provided, it takes little effort to exercise pride when claiming perfection or blaming others for your mistakes because both of these prideful actions are rooted in the flesh.  Humility is in opposition to the desires of the flesh.

Humility is a character trait that must be learned and developed over time.  It must be learned and developed because we are not, in our own nature, capable of humility. As a child, you were only capable of communicating your basic needs and desires with dependence on your parents to care for you.  As you grew up, you had to learn about right and wrong, “please” and “thank you” and how to be courteous to others.  Assuming that you have learned all of these things (chuckle), humility is something that we continued to learn as we got older, and we are still learning to master it.

There is grace in humility…both for you when you exercise it, and for the recipient who receives it.  As we learn to master acts of humility, we are to be encouraged to grow in this area as it is a godly attribute.

James 4:6

But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says:

God resists the proud,

but gives grace to the humble.

The art of mastering humility will test six key areas of your life in your quest for godliness and living a Christlike existence.  These are far from being inclusive of everything but these will say a lot about who you are and your growth in Christ:

1. Your honesty (trustworthiness)

2. Your kindness (generosity, compassion and forgiveness)

3. Your patience

4. Your perseverance

5. Your respect (for others, your self-respect, self-esteem)

6. Your self control (contentment, temper)

You may have picked up that these virtues make up a number of the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-26

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Living a life of humility requires a believer crucifying the flesh.  It is an ongoing struggle, but the Holy Spirit enables every single believer with the capability to overcome any fleshly influence or desires.  By yielding to the Spirit, you will best be able to do the following:

  • Rely less on your reasoning and rely more on your heart

Humility has a positive effect on your thought process.  You will invariably take the approach that extends beyond your own reasoning, logic and understanding, and extend beyond the inherent barriers associated with human thoughts to those thoughts that can only come from the wisdom and knowledge of the Spirit:

Isaiah 55:8-9

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

and your ways are not My ways.”

This is the Lord’s declaration.

9 “For as heaven is higher than earth,

so My ways are higher than your ways,

and My thoughts than your thoughts.

1 Samuel 16:7

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the Lord sees, for man sees what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.”

  • Trend less towards anger and more towards peace

In order to understand the nature of peace, you need to go beyond the obvious (for example: no war, no yelling or screaming, a quiet room — these are all correct but you must consider the influence of Christ in your efforts of humility).  Jesus Christ’s influence on you in your efforts of humility will remind you of God’s grace to you and how that grace is extended to others.  When you recognize God’s grace in your life, you will readily extend that grace to others–even during those times when you have every right to be angry.

Ezra 9:7-9

7 Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our fathers until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today. 8 But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from Yahweh our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in His holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us new life and light to our eyes. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us new life, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

This is especially true in areas where forgiveness is necessary.  True forgiveness is not on our own strength and ability.  It comes only from God Himself through the Spirit.  As God has forgiven our sins through grace and granted us an eternity of fellowship with Him, we are to extend the same grace to others and put aside our anger.

1 John 3:16-22

Love in Action

16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?

18 Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. 19 This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, 20 even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.

21 Dear friends, if our conscience doesn’t condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight.

Luke 17:3-4

3 Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Matthew 6:14-15

14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

Don’t let your harshness that comes from an unforgiving spirit ruin your testimony before Jesus Christ and others.  This is an area that is a stumbling block to many believers because they are failing to grasp the immeasurable grace that God has bestowed upon them in forgiveness for their own sin.  As you grow and learn more about God and this grace, you will be less resentful, less angry, and be more ready and willing to extend grace and forgiveness to others.  It’s an area that all of us need to work on, and it starts with humbling yourself before God and before others.

This also applies to how well you esteem yourself before God. Satan will trick believers into thinking that they are forever inadequate before God, when God assures us that we are made righteous before Him when we confess our sin and trust that He is true to His Word:

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Romans 8:1-2

1 Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, 2 because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

  • Know that it is not about you and that it is more about Jesus

Your relationship with Jesus Christ should be far more important than those things that would keep you from living a life of humility: your ego, your reputation, your adversarial relationships, your finances or anything that has an adverse effect on your relationship with Jesus.  A humble person is a godly person who is secure and content in himself, in his relationships and acknowledges a dependence on Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 8:5-6

5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”—

6 yet for us there is one God, the Father.

All things are from Him,

and we exist for Him.

And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.

All things are through Him,

and we exist through Him.

Philippians 4:12-13

12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

1 Peter 5:6

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Above all, humility is necessary for a person to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Acts 2:38

“Repent,” Peter said to them, “and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 149:4

For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation.

Romans 10:9-12

9 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. 11 Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, 12 for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him.

James 4:7-10

7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people! 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep. Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines


Listen to His Voice

The following is a summary and commentary of a sermon that I presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in 2006.

Last week we were in Hebrews Chapter 3 learning about the relationship between Jesus Christ and us.  We learned that Jesus Christ was appointed by God to be in charge of His household, which refers to all of us within the body of Christ, and His church.  God created all of us, and Jesus was put in charge of us by His divine appointment.

Hebrews 3:3-6

Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession; He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household. For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house. Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said [in the future].  But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.

There is a role for all of us within God’s household that we must be mindful of, however, and that important piece of our relationship within Jesus Christ is revealed here beginning in Hebrews 3:6 where it states “But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are IF WE HOLD ON TO THE COURAGE AND THE CONFIDENCE OF OUR HOPE.”  Some manuscripts add the words “Hope in Christ” or “firm to the end.”  So it is our responsibility, as members of God’s family, in the body of Christ, within our church and in our Christian community, for us to hold onto the courage and confidence of our hope for the rest of our lives in Christ Jesus.  It is by doing this that we remain as members in “good standing” within His household.  What do I mean by members in “good standing”?  Well, you can be a member of an organization, but as a member there are certain things (at the very least minimum requirements must be met) that must be done within the organization in order to fulfill the terms and conditions of your membership.  Members that do these things are regarded as members in “good standing.”  If one fails to meet these requirements, it does not mean that your membership is automatically cancelled or that you were being kicked out of the group, but it does mean that you may be a member “not in good standing.”  You can also be a member of the body of Christ, God’s family, and yet you are not doing the things that God would have you to do.  Here is where your relationship with God may be tenuous.  God has one standard for all of us to meet, and if we fail to meet that standard, our membership is classified as “not in good standing.”  God does not cancel our salvation or break His promises to us.  If we are not in good standing it is because we have failed Him or broken our promises to Him when we accepted Christ.

We fail God, and yet He does not fail us.  We fail Him because all too often we succumb to the temptations of the flesh, the world we live in, and we put God in a place far removed from first place in our lives.  We fail to obey His laws and precepts and we fall victim to our own selfish desires…pridefulness, jealousy, envy, anger with sinful behavior.  No, we don’t lose our membership in God’s family, but we systematically remove ourselves from God’s fellowship because we find the ways of the devil as more attractive.  All of this occurs because we fail to listen to what He has to say to us.

In Hebrews 3:7, this is exactly why the voice that we are to listen to, in the form of the Holy Spirit, makes a strong and firm declaration.

Hebrews 3:7-11

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested Me, tried [Me], and saw My works for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore in My anger, “They will not enter My rest.”

We need to listen to His voice, and not just listen, but also trust in His voice.  We get ourselves in trouble because of our inconsistency in trusting in Him and our failure to truly believe in Him.  We are distracted all too easily by the flesh.

Why do we fail to believe in Him?  We show a lack of courage versus the world.

Courage is the ability to act on what we know is right and good, and to dare to do what we should or must.  While fear paralyzes, it is courage that helps us move ahead.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom should I be afraid?

Isaiah 41:10

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

We lack confidence in God and who He is in our lives.  Confidence has many meanings.  It also can imply our level of faith, our level of hope, and our level of trust in Him.  Note that I refer to having confidence in Jesus Christ and not just confidence in us, which is completely different.

The other reason why we don’t listen to His voice is that we listen to other voices.  We have been studying in Sunday school about our first enemy who is all-powerful…the flesh.  We can never allow the flesh to get the upper hand.

Romans 6:12-14

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

Pride creates an adversarial relationship with God.

Psalm 95:6-11

Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. Today, if you hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. For 40 years I was disgusted with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My anger, ‘They will not enter My rest.’ ”

Anger must be subdued.

Genesis 4:3-7

In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented [an offering]—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why are you downcast? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

We are to avoid these failures and heed the warnings in Hebrews 3 and 4.  Notice the emphasis–in triplicate–within these Scriptures to bring the point home:

Hebrews 3:7-8, 14-15, 4:7

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert…For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…again, He specifies a certain day—today—speaking through David after such a long time, as previously stated: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

In Hebrews 4:7, the emphasis is not to put off listening tomorrow (which is the response that the flesh will always present to you when it is time to make a decision).  The importance of doing it today as referenced means “DO IT NOW!”  Today is the day, not tomorrow, not next week, not when you get older and more settled in…today!!!

We run away from God when our life is not right.  Look at the evidence of this in Genesis 3:8-11:

Genesis 3:8-11

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I had commanded you not to eat from?”

God ignores no one.  He knows each and every one of us, and we cannot and will not escape His judgment.

Hebrews 4:12-13

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.

Psalm 139:1-4

Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.

Watch your thoughts and heed your actions.

You can fool others with your false sincerity.

You can even try to fool yourself.

God will not be fooled.

Turn your heart to Him, and give it all that you’ve got!

Deuteronomy 4:29

But from there, you will search for the Lord your God, and you will find [Him] when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.

What about overcoming a lack of courage or the lack of confidence?

Joshua 1:9

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We are commanded by God to do this.  Listen to His command.  Remain faithful to the end.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For additional content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.