Tag Archives: communication

The Church and its Priesthood (Part 4)

Today’s message summary of September 3, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

The people of the church are the priesthood of the church.  The people hear the voice of the Spirit and are the teachers and disciples of the church.  These are the people that are moved to live for Christ even outside the walls of the church.  The priesthood leans on Jesus Christ and believes that He is the one who accomplishes what they set out to do.

The priesthood is comprised of teachers.  They teach the people of God and to those who are willing to listen to the words and teaching of Jesus Christ.

Revelation 5:9-10

And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.

God gives His people a reason and purpose to live as His priests.  The reason and purpose is to serve Him.

The author of the cause:  to produce, to construct, to form and fashion.

Revelation 20:6

Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection!  The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years.

The purpose of the priest is to teach God’s people.

The priests of the Old Testament were expected to live out their lives in the same way that they gave instruction.  This remains true today.  A priest is to have a sober mind and be sharp.

Leviticus 10:8-11

The Lord spoke to Aaron: You and your sons are not to drink wine or beer when you enter the tent of meeting, or else you will die; this is a permanent statute throughout your generations.  You must distinguish between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean, and teach the Israelites all the statutes that the Lord has given to them through Moses.

Priests are not only to teach but to live according to what is being taught.

Ezekiel 44:23

They must teach My people the difference between the holy and the common, and explain to them the difference between the clean and the unclean.

Teaching must have an element of demonstrating its truth (The KJV refers to discernment, while the NIV version is to show, or to make known.).

Hosea 4:6-9

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from serving as My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your sons.  The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me.  I will change their honor into disgrace.  They feed on the sin of My people; they have an appetite for their transgressions.  The same judgment will happen to both people and priests.  I will punish them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.

Some people will have knowledge, but it will be the wrong knowledge.  Do you have knowledge based upon your own understanding, or the knowledge that comes from godly wisdom?

James 1:5

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.



The Church and its Priesthood (Part 3)

Today’s message summary of August 27, 2017 from Pastor Gus Brown:

Why, as a church, do we not witness as we should?  There should be more teaching within the church that will provide us with the truth, because there is so much teaching outside of the church that is available.

It is very important for people in the church to experience good, sound biblical teaching.

What is seen in the student is what the teacher has presented and perfected.

The root of successful witnessing to others is effective biblical teaching.  The teaching comes from a desire to know more about Jesus Christ through His Word, and to also be taught by others with experience.

In order to be able to teach, you will need to study.  The student who desires to learn will put in the effort.

As a priest in the church, one of your functions, wherever you go, is to teach others.  Priests are teachers to the people of God, and to all of those who are willing to hear the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The church should be a place where there is ongoing teaching.

One of the reasons we fail to witness is because we think we are not able to teach others.  Witnessing is a form of teaching.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him to do his will.

In teaching, you are to remain gentle in your instruction.  When you are teaching, this instruction is to be sound.  It is provided to have a positive effect in a person’s life.

God is one who is going to provide the knowledge within the instruction.  He does it through the power of the Holy Spirit.

A lot of teaching about matters of faith often require a demonstration by the teacher of living a life of faith and trusting in God.  Others, who are watching, will see what it is to live in this way.

Only God can anchor the truth within the hearts and minds of people.  God continues to renew our minds through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Note that Satan desires that you would follow him based upon his own teaching.

A priest is a learner and a teacher.  A teacher is always a learner.  A teacher never stops learning.

A teacher must have the desire to teach:

  • having knowledge of the subject
  • having the ability to communicate the knowledge
  • having patience with those who learn at different paces

Many of us are “slow” learners.  We don’t get it right away.  When they change their behavior, they have finally bought in to the teaching.

The priest’s work was changed from the Tabernacle to the Temple, and then to a New Testament priest.  Even with these changes, some things remained the same.  As God educates his people, He provides more knowledge time and again.  They all were learners and also had to teach others.  New Testament priests did not have to teach about sacrifices of animals, but they do teach about the Lamb of God, our ultimate sacrifice that deals with our sin.

The priest had the responsibility to take care of all the things of God.

Numbers 1:47-51, 53

But the Levites were not registered with them by their ancestral tribe. For the Lord had told Moses: Do not register or take a census of the tribe of Levi with the other Israelites.  Appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, all its furnishings, and everything in it. They are to transport the tabernacle and all its articles, take care of it, and camp around it.  Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever it is to stop at a campsite, the Levites are to set it up. Any unauthorized person who comes near it is to be put to death.

The Levites are to camp around the tabernacle of the testimony and watch over it, so that no wrath will fall on the Israelite community.

No person would intrude through ignorance or presumption upon the sacredness of the tabernacle, and bring death on himself.  The Levites were there to protect the people with teaching and instruction.

Note that God may have you in a person’s life to lead and instruct them in order to keep that person safe from the harm of the opposition in your witness.

Leviticus 10:8-11

The Lord spoke to Aaron: You and your sons are not to drink wine or beer when you enter the tent of meeting, or else you will die; this is a permanent statute throughout your generations.  You must distinguish between the holy and the common, and the clean and the unclean, and teach the Israelites all the statutes that the Lord has given to them through Moses.

This teaching of the Israelites helped to distinguish the clean and the unclean.

Ezekiel 44:23

They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and explain to them the difference between the clean and the unclean.

Teaching shows how life is to be lived and provides elements of demonstrating truth.  People need to be shown how to live in a Christlike manner.

The Ministry of Communication

Today’s message text from Melvin Gaines:

My wife and I presently go twice a week to the place where she had to go through physical therapy after injuring her back last year.  Thankfully, she’s healed from the injury, and we go there to exercise and stay loose through what is termed a “wellness” program.  Along with both of us at these workout sessions using the treadmill, sit steppers, weight machine and stationary bike are other people presently in therapy from recent injuries.  The difference between wellness and physical therapy is that wellness means you work out on your own, while a certified instructor closely monitors those under physical therapy.

Physical therapy requires a close monitoring of the person who is in rehabilitation by the instructor.  There has to be a clear communication of what exercises need to be done in order for the injured person to heal as quickly as possible, and especially because there are a fixed number of weeks that the person can receive treatment under a doctor’s care.  The instructor must give instructions that are easy to follow and understand, and the patient also needs to be clear as to the limits of what they can do in their recovery.  Both persons need to communicate well with each other in order to ensure that the recovery is timely and effective.

When we look at this type of communication, we see that there are positive results when both persons are cooperating and responding to questions and comments.  This is the optimal level of communication that each one of us would like to have in our personal and work relationships.  With this in mind, we readily acknowledge that this is sometimes more of a goal than reality.  The art of communication is a skill that needs to be developed over time.  It requires not just the ability to speak clearly, but also the ability to listen to the other person or persons, interpret the comments, and make a response.

I mention all of this because we need to keep in mind that our best opportunities for relating the gospel of Jesus Christ to others is in how we develop our interpersonal relationships.  The development of these relationships starts with effective interpersonal communication.  As we are each called by Jesus Christ to preach the gospel, we will explore the science of interpersonal communication.  This review of the process will help promote consistency in the ongoing development of relationships, and will hopefully provide a spark for those of us who believe they aren’t the best at communication.  For those who make that statement, I must present you with the challenge that your perceived lack of skills in communication is no excuse for not going out and speaking the gospel at the appropriate time.  Remember, this is Jesus Christ’s command to each of His followers.

Matthew 28:18-20 (HCSB)

18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Here is Moses’ conversation with the Lord about going to speak to Pharaoh on behalf of the Israelites.  Moses was not confident of his ability to speak at all.  Many of us may feel the same way, but God wants us to see where He works in your communication.

Exodus 4:10-15

10 But Moses replied to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent—either in the past or recently or since You have been speaking to Your servant—because I am slow and hesitant in speech.”

11 Yahweh said to him, “Who made the human mouth? Who makes him mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, Yahweh? 12 Now go! I will help you speak and I will teach you what to say.”

13 Moses said, “Please, Lord, send someone else.”

14 Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses, and He said, “Isn’t Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, he is on his way now to meet you. He will rejoice when he sees you. 15 You will speak with him and tell him what to say. I will help both you and him to speak and will teach you both what to do.

With this information, we can’t use our lack of ability in speech as an excuse, and let’s not exclude those persons who are young believers.  With the proper focus on God in the process, young believers can proclaim the gospel just as well as seasoned believers, and to some younger demographics, perhaps even better.

Your effective ministry, in general, requires preparation and the repetition of good habits to show yourself to be a qualified servant of Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 4:11-16

11Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Whether young or old, a believer will grow in his or her ability to minister to others with practical experience and consistency.  This review will look at five different areas that will promote effective interpersonal communication of the gospel to others.  The first area starts with something very important in the model of effective communication…your approach, which is reinforced by your attitude.

1.  Attitude

Your attitude each day is your daily perspective on the importance of the day.  Your attitude impacts your outlook on life, and it certainly has a profound effect on your ministry of communication.  Do you wake up each morning ready to take on the day with a fervor, or do you approach the day with dread and trepidation?  Let’s not gloss over your approach when you wake up each day…this is important.  Your day should start with a “thank you” with the understanding that God gives us each day that we wake up.  To be thankful has everything to do with your perspective about life itself.  Everything that you do each day, including your communication with others in a work or non-work environment, centers on your attitude.  Having a great outlook promotes a healthy interaction with others, while a negative outlook tends to keep you from interacting with others, if not outright repelling others away from you.  The only ministry that can take place here is a negative testimony about believers.

Your attitude is on display each day.  You don’t need to be perfect (that’s unrealistic).  You need to be a human being, but also be different in how people see your smile often, and your positive perspective even more often.

Ephesians 6:6-8

6 Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. 7 Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord.

Selfish attitudes and behaviors are commonplace today.  While others are out for themselves, to be selfless and concerned for others is refreshing and seldom seen.  You can draw others near to you when you show yourself to be selfless and caring for others.

Philippians 2:4-6

4 Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

5 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,

6 who, existing in the form of God,

did not consider equality with God

as something to be used for His own advantage.

Your attitude each day is just the beginning of your ministry of communication.  Your next area for consideration requires a measure of focus on others:

2.  Attentiveness

Believers who are in service for Jesus are participants in the ministry of reaching people just like themselves.  While no one is created alike, the people that we encounter each day have similar hopes, dreams, fears, concerns, tragedies and triumphs.  It is the things that we have in common that help us to be able to reach others for Jesus Christ.  When people see your genuineness and your ability to relate to who they are, where they’ve come from, and where they want to go, you have immediate credibility where you can share the gospel message at the appropriate time…but let’s also consider some important parts of communication that require attention.

Your interpersonal interaction.  Your credibility in communication begins with your body, your posture and your method of addressing the other person with the appropriate tone.  For example, if you are turned away from a person when he or she approaches you, do you take the time to turn and face the person, or only make a partial turn?  Is your posture erect or are you slouching?  Are you speaking in soft and reassuring tones, or do you come across as if you are being bothered with the interruption?  Consider how you would feel if you received this type of negative feedback when you approach someone.  It is also important to note that many people are often hesitant to approach others with personal questions or issues because of the perception that those questions are an imposition on the other person.  A response of poor body language or a discouraging tone reinforces that same conclusion and will likely discourage any other opportunities for discussion.  Your body language and conversation should always be inviting to the other person–no matter how busy you may be.  It is very, very seldom that a person who approaches you will be completely sensitive to your sense of timing, but keep in mind that your ministry for Jesus Christ is not about your timing.  It’s about His timing.

Your eye contact.  This one is huge, everyone.  Have you ever spoken to someone who cannot look you in the eye?  The person is looking somewhere on your person other than into your eyes.  Somewhere on your forehead?  Your shoulder?  Your chin?  How did you respond?  Don’t underestimate the power of eye contact in communication.  Eye contact in communication reinforces your words with confidence in what you are saying.  A lack of eye contact, no matter how sincere the words are, tends to diminish their impact.  To be fair, successful eye contact is only making glances into another person’s eyes and holding it in place for a few seconds.  It is not about staring the other person to a point of creepiness.  If you believe you struggle with eye contact, you should consider practicing reading an article from a newspaper or a magazine to yourself in the mirror, and take your eyes off the material long enough to look into the mirror at yourself.  This will help you to do a couple of things—practice your focus on the person you are speaking to, and also develop good habits of making eye contact that will build your communication credibility.

Proverbs 4:25-26

25 Let your eyes look forward;

fix your gaze straight ahead.

26 Carefully consider the path for your feet,

and all your ways will be established.

3.  Allowing the Spirit to Speak Through You

This is not as obvious or as practical as it seems to be.  Many people may get the first two areas correct but fail to impart the wisdom or information that God would have the person provide because of one thing getting in the way, and that’s pride.  Before you get all puffed up about someone coming to you for advise or for being that go-to person, remember who put you in that position to reach others.

Galatians 5:16

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit to be a helper for each of us to reach people.  We reach others through the power and wonder of the Spirit who enables us to speak His words.  He does His best work through us when we get out of His way.  If we allow Him to work through us, we receive the additional benefit from His instruction and guidance in how we conduct ourselves each day.

John 14:25-26

25 “I have spoken these things to you while I remain with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit—the Father will send Him in My name—will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.

4.  Anticipate the Possibilities

To anticipate is to be prepared for the eventualities of a situation or circumstance and being prepared to take action when the time is right.  The application in your ministry of communication is to be ready for anything.  The first question that you may ask is “How can you be ready for anything?”  The smart-aleck answer is, “You can’t really be ready for anything.”  What you can do in anticipating the possibilities is to lay the groundwork for friendship first.  Your ministry of communication includes a considerable amount of discussion about those things that show you to be a genuine person, and it’s not exclusively discussions about faith or church; in fact, it’s about everything else.  Your anticipation is in the development of your relationship and ongoing prayer to God in allowing the Spirit to work as you learn more about the person you are interacting with.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Your ongoing prayers will give you the ability to see God working in the situation, and to be able to anticipate every question and comment that will lead you to our final point…

5.  Act in God’s Timing

There will be opportunities to speak the gospel message to others, but you need to be prepared for them and be ready to act according to the direction of the Holy Spirit.  Even with your anticipation of the possibility of such a conversation, it can still occur very quickly when you may not expect it to.  If you are in prayer continually and earnestly seeking God’s help in this area, He will always provide it and never let you down.  When God selects the time, He will give you the words to say that will lead a person to make a decision for Jesus Christ.

Philippians 4:13

I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

A quick recap of your ministry of communication reveals five components that help one to fulfill their abilities as a believer in Jesus Christ:

1. Attitude

2. Attentiveness

3. Allowing the Spirit

4. Anticipate the Possibilities

5. Action in God’s Timing

You don’t need to be the best communicator for Jesus…you just need to be your best to allow the Holy Spirit to use you in your new and ongoing relationships.  Your ministry of communication is rooted in your kindness, thoughtfulness and a humble heart for others.  Pray about how God will use you this week in your role of carrying out His Great Commission.

Matthew 9:35-38

35 Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Measuring Progress in the Quality of Your Christian Life

The following is a summary and commentary of a sermon that I presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in 2005. It features a review of the blind man who was healed by Jesus Christ as narrated in the book of John, Chapter 9.

As our church is embarking upon a revival this coming week, is participating in an extended book study in Sunday school on The Purpose-Driven® Life, and has adopted the “Growing a Healthy Church” motto, it only makes sense that each of us who attends our church on a regular basis who is concerned with the scope and direction of our church will have a natural concern with where he or she is in their own relationship with Jesus Christ.

It also makes sense for the person to look at their own relationship with Christ as a natural way to measure your progress in your faith in Christ, and in your relationships and daily interactions as a believer in Jesus Christ. Have you recently reflected as to where you are right now in your relationship with Christ? Scripture strongly implies that it is a natural progression if you are growing in your relationship with Christ according to Hebrews 5:12-14:

Hebrews 5:12-14
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food. Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

Here are questions that you should honestly ask yourself…

Can you honestly say to yourself that you are making progress in your relationship with Jesus Christ?

If others were to observe your behavior, or even comment on it, would they see a progression in your relationship with Christ?

If you have not reflected on either of these questions, then how do you know where you are? As a member of the body of Christ and Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, there is a natural hindrance to getting anything meaningful out of bible studies, or being an effective part of a fellowship if you are having a prolonged personal struggle with who you are in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

As our church is moving forward, our ministry is taking shape in different areas, and as change occurs, you must prepare yourself for what your defining role is as a member of the body of Christ. In determining your defining role, it is not enough to ask yourself if you are merely a participant. Some believers may go their entire lives trying to determine what their role is, and even what their spiritual gifts are. If you do not know what your role is and what your gifts are, then how can you possibly know who you are in your relationship with a church, with other members in the body of Christ, and as to how much you have progressed as a believer?

It is time to start asking ourselves the questions that maybe we have avoided until now. Fear of the unknown will sometimes keep us in a paralysis of not looking at where we are and how we can improve ourselves. Perhaps we are fearful of what others will say about us…who knows? I do know that Satan would prefer that each of us never reach our full potential as believers. I also know that Satan is the greatest liar of all time (John 8:44). Is it easier for us to believe Satan’s lies, or to trust in the Lord?

If we are to accurately assess where we are in our fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, we need to be able to measure our progress in the quality of our Christian life. It is not a difficult process to measure where we are, as there are basic tenets that we must use in determining where we are in this area. You may add some points within these basic doctrines, but I have examined three particular areas that should be at the forefront of any measurement of our assessment.

1. Your level of obedience to God through His Word
2. Growing with the knowledge of God through His Word
3. Peaking with understanding of God and His Word

Notice that all of these points refer very specifically to God’s Word in your life. How do we know about God, and how did we learn about God in the first place? We had to have some sort of exposure to God’s Word. How did we come to know Jesus Christ as personal savior? We learned about the Good News through exposure and reflection upon God’s Word. How do we learn more about what God’s Word has to say to us? By reading and studying God’s Word on a regular basis. This is how God communicates with us…through His Word. We reciprocate to God by communicating with Him in prayer.

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.

How does this correlate with the quality of your Christian life, or as some would say, the abundant life? The answer may seem overly simple to you, but think about this regarding point number 1…all that God wants from us is our obedience to His Word. The only way that we can love God is to be obedient to His Word (Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, Psalm 1:1-2, Psalm 25:10, Psalm 112:1).

If you are regularly practicing obedience to God’s Word, it stands to reason that God will respond to you with blessings as a result of your obedience. The bottom line is that your obedience to His Word assures you that you are in fellowship with Him. Your prayers are likely to be heard by him and answered by Him. The residual effect of this obedience and the resulting ongoing fellowship with God is that God’s love for you, which has already been declared in his creation of you and His love for you in Jesus Christ in His plan of salvation for you will become more and more visible in your daily walk in faith. You will, as a result of His love, love Him in return and have a greater desire to want to be obedient to Him. It is a love relationship that can grow, as long as we do not inhibit it with sin or other forms of disobedience, beyond any sort of words or description that we can possibly come up with.

God’s desire for us is to be obedient to His Word. That is where the process of beginning to measure progress in the quality of your Christian life begins. Let’s examine the process take place in Scripture by looking at the man who was born blind. The points mentioned before are demonstrated in Scripture in John 9:1-41.

John 9:1-5
As He was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples questioned Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him. We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Please note that God uses situations involving His people specifically for His glory and fulfillment of his purpose; a matter of His sovereignty.

John 9:6-7
After He said these things He spit on the ground, made some mud from the saliva, and spread the mud on his eyes. “Go,” He told him, “wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he left, washed, and came back seeing.

Here is a demonstration of an act of obedience…a simple act and yet here is how God began the process of using the situation for His glory. It starts with our obedience to His Word, and our growth in fellowship with Him cannot help but grow accordingly.

John 9:8-12
His neighbors and those who formerly had seen him as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the man who sat begging?” Some said, “He’s the one.” “No,” others were saying, “but he looks like him.” He kept saying, “I’m the one!” Therefore they asked him, “Then how were your eyes opened?” He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes, and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So when I went and washed I received my sight.” “Where is He?” they asked. “I don’t know,” he said.

Note from this text – here are the man’s neighbors asking questions about what really happened, and it appears that some of them were ready to report the matter to the Pharisees because of Jesus’ performing the healing on a Sabbath.

John 9:13-16
They brought the man who used to be blind to the Pharisees. The day that Jesus made the mud and opened his eyes was a Sabbath. So again the Pharisees asked him how he received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” he told them. “I washed and I can see.” Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for He doesn’t keep the Sabbath!” But others were saying, “How can a sinful man perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.

This leads to our second point – Growing with knowledge (2 Peter 1:5-11 — contrast with Hosea 4:6, Romans 1:28-32).

Note the number of questions about Jesus’ legitimacy after the man described again what had happened. Where is the confusion and division coming from here? Satan wants to distract us from being obedient to God and getting us off track when others around us start shouting loud and long about the legitimacy of Jesus Christ. A word to the wise – do not listen to those voices and stay focused, just as the man does in this text. Only by staying focused can you continue on in the next step, growing with knowledge.

John 9:24-34
So a second time they summoned the man who had been blind and told him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner!” He answered, “Whether or not He’s a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I can see!” Then they asked him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” “I already told you,” he said, “and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?” They ridiculed him: “You’re that man’s disciple, but we’re Moses’ disciples. We know that God has spoken to Moses. But this man—we don’t know where He’s from!” “This is an amazing thing,” the man told them. “You don’t know where He is from, yet He opened my eyes! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He listens to him. Throughout history no one has ever heard of someone opening the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He wouldn’t be able to do anything.” “You were born entirely in sin,” they replied, “and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

The man was now speaking based upon his own experience and the knowledge and logic that he has about who Jesus is, and how he stood his ground in the face of the Pharisees, even though his parents were fearful (refer to verses 17-23). God will give us the ability to stand our ground if we remain confident in Him and in the knowledge that he gives to us when we speak the truth about Him. How confident are you in speaking up about Christ when you have the opportunity?

Acts 28:31
…proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance.

Hebrews 3:6
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.

With knowledge comes power.

John 9:35-38
When Jesus heard that they had thrown the man out, He found him and asked, “Do you believe in the • Son of Man?” “Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?” he asked. Jesus answered, “You have seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.” “I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped Him.

Notice how Jesus finds the man and reaffirms him by asking him if he believes in Him. This is much the same as how Jesus proclaims that he will never leave us nor forsake us.

Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The man now worships Jesus once he realizes who he is speaking to and who he is. He now has greater understanding after being obedient and growing in knowledge through the experience.

Now comes point number 3 – Progress is made through greater understanding of who He is. As you read God’s Word, you become stronger in your faith, and you begin to see God’s glory in all things. The greater understanding now leads to growth and progress in your spiritual walk. It is a natural progression of your faith if you will only act with obedience and gain knowledge. With this progression in faith comes a peace and feeling of joy that is indescribable.

Psalm 29:11
The Lord gives His people strength; the Lord blesses His people with peace.

Psalm 32:7
You are my hiding place; You protect me from trouble. You surround me with joyful shouts of deliverance.

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This gradual progression in measuring progress can be hindered if points 1 through 3 are not followed. You cannot effectively get to the 3rd point if you are struggling with the 2nd point, and so forth. Ask yourself about this three step process and determine if the quality of your Christian life can be improved.

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

The Gift of Christ for Christmas

Today’s message summary from Pastor Gus Brown:
Many of us will wake up Christmas morning in anticipation of what we will find as gifts under the Christmas tree, but consider that we already have a wonderful gift that we have in Jesus Christ!At the time of Christ’s birth, there was not much stated about it publicly…note that it was a message of good news that was carried forth by the angels.Matthew 1:18-21

18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

The angels proclaimed the message but even they did not have a complete understanding of what God was doing.

Hebrews 2:6-7
6 But one has somewhere testified:

What is man that You remember him,
or the son of man that You care for him?
7 You made him lower than the angels
for a short time;
You crowned him with glory and honor.

The angels asked of God why He cared so much for them:

Psalm 144:3
Lord, what is man, that You care for him,
the son of man, that You think of him?

The angels understood the power of God and how he could eliminate those who did not regard who He was.

1 Peter 1:12
It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Angels desire to look into these things.

Why is it that the angels wondered about these things and yet we, human beings, are less concerned about God, His presence, and His second coming?
If the angels were questioning how God gave favor to man, why don’t we? Note that angels were not redeemed or any means of salvation. They saw evidence of God working in the lives of people, and yet, after 400 years of silence, God used the angels to bring forth His message. Perhaps the angels were busy doing this because man had forgotten the God that they were to serve because we were occupied with other things.

Matthew 2:1-6
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

3 When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born.

5 “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet:

6 And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the leaders of Judah:
because out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd My people Israel.”

Note that Herod was not a Jew. The religious people were not the ones initiating the search for the Christ child. Herod was the one who called for information about the Messiah. He asked if this child was the “King of the Jews.” The three wise men were also not Jews. They came from different lands to seek Jesus. The ones that had the information were apparently not seeking Him.

Note that we have the information available to us as believers in Christ. Do we believe the information in Scripture about Christ’s presence and act upon it?

Micah 5:2
Bethlehem Ephrathah,
you are small among the clans of Judah;
One will come from you
to be ruler over Israel for Me.
His origin is from antiquity,
from eternity.

The birth of Jesus caused some men to seek Him out, while others were troubled by it (Matthew 2:3). Many religious people had the knowledge but were not even looking or acting upon it (Matthew 2:4-5) and were even fighting amongst themselves. The priests saw the same information over and over and yet did not seem to believe what they already knew. They were not looking for the sign that The Lord gave to them in Isaiah 7:14:

Isaiah 7:14
Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.

The birth of Christ was not hidden from us. Isaiah 7:14 was a sign of what would come. Are we conscious of when God is speaking to us? Some of us spend more time trying to disprove Jesus’ existence instead of choosing to believe in Him.

The angels were providing the messages. They can’t see the future, though.

Luke 1:10-17
10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear. 13 But the angel said to him:

Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you will name him John.
14 There will be joy and delight for you,
and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord
and will never drink wine or beer.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
while still in his mother’s womb.
16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel
to the Lord their God.
17 And he will go before Him
in the spirit and power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of fathers
to their children,
and the disobedient
to the understanding of the righteous,
to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

The angel spoke to Zechariah that the person to prepare for Jesus through Elizabeth would be John. Elizabeth was well beyond child-bearing years, but this was to be a testimony to others.

Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her:

Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
31 Now listen:
You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you will call His name Jesus.
32 He will be great
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give Him
the throne of His father David.
33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,
and His kingdom will have no end.
34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”

35 The angel replied to her:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore, the holy One to be born
will be called the Son of God.
36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

Do you see how God is working in this matter? The people that were chosen were all to provide the testimony of Jesus Christ as Savior. Joseph’s role was very important, too:

Matthew 1:18-24
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.

20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”

24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

Finally, the angels provided a message to the shepherds.

Luke 2:8-20
8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people He favors!
15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

We need to keep in mind that God had been silent for quite some time before this moment because the people were enemies of God. They were not paying attention to Him or regarding His presence. It is to the wonderment of the angels that God paid so much attention to His creation, yet they were rejoicing over what God had done.

The message had been passed on from the angels to the people. The shepherds proclaimed the message and praised God while doing so, and the people who heard it were amazed! The people are proclaiming the gospel message to everyone who hears it to this day.

God will show Himself to you if you truly want to see Him. He will make Himself known to you if you truly want to know Him. God wants each of us to know that Jesus Christ is your Savior and He is ready to make Himself known to you. All it takes is believing that He is your Lord and Savior with all of your heart.

There’s no pastor that can save you. There’s no deacon or elder that can save you. There’s no church denomination that can save you. There’s only one name under heaven and earth that can save you…Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17, 14:6). You can come to Jesus Christ just as you are, but you will not stay as you are.

This Christmas, do not allow yourself to be troubled or uncaring about Jesus Christ and the gospel of His saving message. If there is any time that we need to be telling the truth about Christ, this is the time. Leave the results to Him.

Spring Break 2012: God’s Love Languages This Weekend

Spring Break 2012

Our Annual Relationship Conference Series continues with discussion about how God speaks in His special way to you:

Hosted by Melvin Gaines

God’s Love Languages for Your Life

A special weekend retreat for everyone where you can rest, relax, renew and recharge!

Everyone has at least one love language. Do you know yours? Marriage counselor Dr. Gary Chapman first introduced The Five Love Languages almost 20 years ago.  Today, love languages are not just for married couples…they are also relevant to you and your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ!  Knowing how you can best hear God speaking to you will only help you to grow and understand more about your relationship!  Our seminar will explore all of these languages and give you insight into your communication with God that you may not have realized before!  With your participation, this relationship seminar promises to be a fun, relaxing and fulfilling experience!  Singles and married couples are welcome!

Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21, 2012

Hampton Inn, Stow OH

4331 Lakepointe Corporate Drive   •  330.945.4160

Special room rate for overnight stay only $79.00 plus tax.  When booking your room ask for the Akron Alliance Fellowship Church special rate.  Please book your room reservation today (maximum of 4 guests per room).  A free hot breakfast is available for hotel guests.  Free internet  •  pool  •  fitness center  •  comfortable amenities  •  newly remodeled  •  restaurants nearby

For start times and additional information, call 234.206.0345.

“No One Can Judge Me” – A Christian Cop Out

Living the Christian lifestyle is hardly an easy task—in fact, it is very difficult to get it right some of the time, and it is almost impossible to go from day to day without stumbling under a transgression or two.  That being said, it is easy to overcome these difficulties as God has made the permanent provision for forgiveness of sin through a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  As we exercise our free will, our declaration of faith keeps us in a healthy fellowship with God.

We also, in contrast, can make the conscious decision to live a life that dances on the edge of fellowship with God—somewhere between sincere repentance on an occasional basis (most likely when things are not going well in life) and going from ride to ride in the Carnal Carnival.  If that seems like a wide swath between borderline to very bad behavior, you’re correct—it is.  A very good analogy to this can be seen as a comparative to the intent found in Scripture in Matthew 7:13-14.

Matthew 7:13-14

“Enter through the narrow gate.  For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it.  How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

Note that this verse, which is referring to the pathway to the entrance to the Kingdom of God, has a consistent correlation with a person’s life decisions.  Is it fair to conclude that those who choose to live for Christ are willing to do so with the reverence as to whom Jesus Christ are the few, and others that choose not to follow Christ and make decisions to go their own way are the many?

Speaking of the few and the many, there are many Christians, people who proclaimed that they are saved by grace, who are living a dangerous existence.  These so called believers are bent on living on the edge—living in the world and also of the world—proclaiming Jesus during the day and creeping around at night.  This is not a criticism or characterization to the few believers that have moments of weakness, repent, and maintain a regular fellowship with God because their attitudes are based in the sincere desire to seek Jesus and please Him with obedience.  Well, what about those who are either part-time church attendees or outside of this fellowship?  I am speaking, in fact, calling out the double-minded persons who profess Christ and, at the same time, summarize their overall behavior with the infamous comments, “Well, God made me that way!” or, “Nobody’s perfect!” or, “No one can judge me!”  Really?

The distinction needs to be made about this behavior to encourage those who are seeking God with sincerity of heart and those who are play-acting their Christianity, because it is very important for each of us to remain focused on the commands of Christ, and to admonish those who are clearly not doing so.  Scripture addresses this very clearly with stipulations if the person involved is in the body of fellowship, and your conclusion of the matter will have the endorsement of Christ Himself:

Matthew 18:15-18

“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people.  I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world.  But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler.  Do not even eat with such a person.  For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside?  But God judges outsiders.  Put away the evil person from among yourselves.

More about judging within the body later.  One more verse:

2 Thessalonians 3:6

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother who walks irresponsibly and not according to the tradition received from us.

The believer who utters the defensive comment “God made me that way!” or, “Nobody’s perfect!” or, “No one can judge me!” is what I refer to as a “Christian cop out.”  With the basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian, note the reason for using the “cop out” term.  A simple definition of “cop out” is to avoid taking responsibility for an action, avoid fulfilling a duty or responsibility, or to fail to live up to expectations (Wikipedia).  It is to perform in an insufficient, negligent, or superficial manner (Wiktionary).

A cop out, in this application, does not apply in philosophy to the non-believer.  1 Corinthians 5:9-13 affirms this.  A non-believer is only going to behave according to where he or she is accustomed; therefore, it is expected that a non-believer will behave in a worldly manner.  A Christian, on the other hand, takes on the additional responsibility of living in obedience and reverence for Jesus Christ.  The expectations are vastly different for a believer’s behavior over a non-believer’s behavior.  Interestingly, even non-believers have that same expectation of believers.  They can tell the difference, and they know the difference between believers and non-believers, and it is the differences in behavior that can eventually lead non-believers to become believers.

Why am I picking on believers that are Christian Cop Outs?  For three reasons…

  • To identify these persons and their behavior for what it is—inconsistent in fellowship with Jesus Christ and a poor testimony to believers and non-believers alike.
  • Their philosophical views will invariably allow for worldly viewpoints and philosophies to filter into the church and the body of Christ.
  • To denounce this philosophy as a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with one’s Christian faith and with others who could be won for Christ.

First, let’s address one of the comments that may come forth as a Christian cop out—for example, “No one can judge me,” or “You can’t judge me.”

The comments are born out of a scriptural reference, and of course, it is taken out of context for the purpose of justification of one’s behavior (a cop out).

Matthew 7:1-5

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye?  Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Be mindful, however, on what prompts the first 5 verses…look at verse 6:

Matthew 7:6

“Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.”

Also, remember the narrow gate in verses 13 and 14, and look at verses 15 and 16 of Matthew, Chapter 7:

Matthew 7:15-16

“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruit.”

It is clear that in order for us to make a conclusion about someone or something, we have to make a judgment.  Scripture is providing us examples of persons to be wary of, especially the false teacher or prophet that intentionally deceive others to accomplish his or her goals.  In this context, the verses in Matthew Chapter 7 warn against hypocrisy, but there is nothing in scripture that claims we should never judge someone.  In reality, we do it all of the time as we make our best efforts to live our lives in righteousness:

Proverbs 31:9

Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.

Luke 17:3

“Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  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.”

John 7:24

“Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather, judge according to righteous judgment.”

One may argue that to judge someone means to condemn him or her as if you were God.  Your response would be that it is true that God sets the standard and will pass judgment at the appropriate time.  You are the bearer of the information on behalf of God.  If the Spirit moves you to speak and provide this information, let it flow.

Psalm 119:11-13

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. With my lips I proclaim all the judgments from Your mouth.

Therefore, with this evidence, the believer’s comment, “You can’t judge me” is defiant in nature and is in direct contrast to the very nature of a believer dying to self and living for Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

Which brings me to our first reason for identifying this philosophical cop out for what it is—an inconsistent walk with Christ and a poor testimony for all to observe.  It is easy to see that the lifestyle will not match the spoken words of a person in spiritual conflict.  There is no sincere effort to take God’s Word to heart and to break free from the ways of the world.  No one can take what you say seriously because it can’t be supported by where you go, who you choose to hang out with, or how you dress.

Inconsistency in your life comes from instability in your thought process.  It comes from failure to seek God’s wisdom through prayer and study of His Word.

James 1:5-8

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith without doubting.  For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect anything from the Lord.  An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

Next point—Christian cop out behavior encourages compromise of the faith by allowing sinful behavior to be the norm rather than the exception.  There is division within the body of Christ because of the foothold gained, for example, by advocates of the homosexual lifestyle.  Rather than stand up for what God’s Word proclaims, many believers “cop out” and remain silent on areas where God has been clear with scriptural doctrine on this and similar subjects.  While proponents of the homosexual lifestyle advocate tolerance, God declares that He loves the person but hates the sin.  Many in the body of Christ fear derisive comments and reprisal from those who support alternate lifestyles, and, as a result, claim that it is OK to allow such doctrine in our churches.  The backlash from a lack of acceptance comes from the deception of Satan himself.  To cop out is to shrink from your responsibility as a believer in Jesus Christ.  God has declared that we have a responsibility that must be fulfilled:

2 Timothy 2:19

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness.

As in any area where sin is present, God wants us to remain in the world but not of the world, and to be prayerful to Him to give the proper response, when called upon, at the appropriate time.  God’s Word is never to be compromised by His people—it is to be communicated, corroborated (supported with evidence or authority, and clarified (made as easy to understand as possible).

Which leads to our third point with a cautionary verse:

Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My father in heaven.  On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’”

What does this mean?  Just because someone is giving the appearance to serve the Lord and acting on His behalf does NOT mean that this person has been saved by grace and will inherit eternal life.  To live as a Christian cop out artist is to play a dangerous game with your soul and with the lives of others within your sphere of influence.  Why?  If your life as a believer is so easily thwarted by the desires of the flesh and worldly behavior, it is a clear indication that there is a lack of confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit through the presence of Christ in your life.  Please understand that the comment about your soul is not implying that you would lose your salvation.  It does refer, however, to how you are testing to see how far you can go outside of God’s will for your life before you become an apostate, which is one who ultimately denies Jesus Christ and faith in Him as your Lord and Savior.  If your behavior cannot be distinguished from that of an unbeliever, you are on what I would characterize as “spiritual life support.”  While you may think you are doing just fine, in reality, your spiritual heart is barely beating and is likely being kept alive by the prayers and petitions of others who are concerned for your well-being.  The more that one practices sin, and becomes comfortable with it, the less likely that the same person will seek the Lord in repentance.  One dire excuse that can be seen as a cop out is that one’s sin is the result of “bad breaks” or “God coming down on me.”  This is another great deception and another game that one will play to see how far one can go in their so-called fellowship with Christ.  God will not be mocked by such foolishness.

James 1:13-15

No one undergoing a trial should say “I’m being tempted by God,” for God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.  But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

It also stands to reason that a person who declares they know the Lord and yet continues to abide in sinful behavior may very well not be saved to begin with.  Consider this scriptural litmus test:

1 John 2:3-4

This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him (Jesus): by keeping His commands.  The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” without keeping His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected.  This is how we know we are in Him:  the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.

A Christian can never cop out when he or she is faithful and obedient to God’s Word…while it is true to say that none of us are perfect, it is not an excuse to sin and remain into sin.  We have the ability to make the decision to turn from sin and focus on the best that God has in store for us because the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to succeed in Christ and overcome any temptation that we face.  We must be our own advocates of remaining faithful to Jesus Christ and not make any excuses for our behavior.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is:  fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity.  For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.

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