Watch Out When Wants Become “Needs”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

There is a mistaken belief that urges or yearnings or cravings that humans have are sinful and must be quickly squelched. To that end, many will deny themselves absolutely anything that brings them pleasure. 

But what God creates, He calls “good” and even “very good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). In one part of the Creation account, we read that God created “trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (2:9). Things used in the way God created them are both good and good for us. The Creator knows the best uses, and He shares these with us. He also knows the harmful misuses, and He warns us of these. 

Even Lucifer was created “perfect in beauty” until his craving for more than God had given him corrupted his goodness and turned him into satan (Ezekiel 28:12-19). satan’s craving perverted his heart because he craved more than what the Creator had given him. 

He still uses the same tactic today: he attempts to turn a craving for a legitimate good into an irresistible, entitled pursuit for more. This is what he did with Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, trying to get them to doubt God’s wisdom in forbidding them from eating that one tree (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6). 

Adam and Eve needed food, and God gave them a craving for good food. But they didn’t need the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—they just wanted that forbidden fruit. 

When wants become “needs,” “needs” become idols. 

Once again, satan tried the same strategy with Jesus. Jesus had a craving for food after 40 days of fasting, but His Father said, “Not yet.” Notice how satan again tried to get Jesus to question God’s wisdom with his “if” questions at each temptation. He even quotes a Scripture out of context to try to legitimize turning a want into a need (Luke 4:3, 7, 9). 

These longings may seem irresistible, but John counsels us: For every child of God can obey Him, defeating sin and evil pleasure by trusting Christ to help him (1 John 5:4 TLB). Jesus defeated the craving for wants-turned-to-“needs” by using the Word of God, and we would be wise to do the same (Luke 4:4, 8, 12). 

When wants become “needs,” “needs” become idols. And when “needs” become idols, our unfulfilled cravings create anxiety. And when anxiety persists, sin is usually not too far behind. 

So any anxiety in our hearts should alert us to the idols of wants-turned-to-“needs.” In other words, make sure what you are calling “needs” aren’t just wants in disguise. 

How can you do this? By asking yourself these four questions: 

  1. Is this an earthly craving or an eternal craving? Cravings for earthly things will ultimately fail because this world is temporary (1 John 2:17).  
  2. If I don’t get this thing, will I die? If I answer “no,” it’s probably a want. 
  3. Will this craving bring me closer to God? Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). So let’s ask ourselves, “If this longing is fulfilled, will it make me more dependent on God?” If the answer is “no,” then it’s probably a want. 
  4. Will this craving glorify God’s name? Jesus taught us to begin our prayer with an attitude of longing for God’s name to be glorified (Matthew 6:9-10). We can definitely spot wants we’ve turned into “needs” when we are looking for personal gain. Check out this verse from the prophet Isaiah— 

And therefore the Lord earnestly waits, expecting, looking, and longing to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed—happy, fortunate, to be envied—are all those who earnestly wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him—for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship! (Isaiah 30:18 AMP) 

God longs to be gracious to you, so He puts cravings in your heart that can only be satisfied by His presence. Lucifer and Adam and Eve all lost God’s “matchless, unbroken companionship” when they tried to appease the wants-turned-to-“needs” idol. It doesn’t have to be like that for us! Ask the Holy Spirit to help you spot those wrong cravings and turn them into cravings that only God can satisfy. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called Craving, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Aids Of Self-Judgment

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Aids Of Self-Judgment

My soul is consumed with longing for Your laws at all times. (Psalm 119:20) 

     Spiritual desires are the shadows of coming blessings. What God intends to give us, He first sets us longing for. Therefore, prayer is wonderfully effective because it is the embodiment of a longing that is inspired by God because He intends to bestow the blessing prayed for! What are your longings, then, my hearer? Do you long to be holy? The Lord will make you holy! Do you long to conquer sin? You will overcome it by faith in Jesus! Are you pining after fellowship with Christ? He will come and make His abode with you! Does your soul thirst, yes, even pant after God as the hart for the water brooks? Then you will be filled with all His fulness…. 

     I say not that it is so with all human wishes, for ‘the sluggard desires and has nothing’ [Proverbs 13:4] and many a man has such evil cravings within his heart that it were contrary to the purity of God for Him to grant them. But where there are intense, heartbreaking earnings of a holy order, depend upon it, they are tokens of good things to come! 

     Where the grace of God reigns in the soul, it makes a man become a stranger among his fellows…. Worldly men care nothing for the judgments of God. No, they care nothing for God Himself! But when a man becomes born anew, a citizen of heaven, there grows up within his spirit a spiritual appetite of which he had felt nothing before—and he longs after God and His Holy Word. See to it, brothers and sisters, whether your souls cry out for God, for the living God, for again I say, by your longings you may test yourselves—by your heart’s desires you may forecast the future—and by your hungering and thirsting you may judge whether you are men of this world or citizens of the world to come. With such aids to self-judgment, no man ought to remain in doubt as to his spiritual condition and eternal prospects.

From Holy Longings

I am currently teaching a series of lessons called Craving. We are learning in these sermons that God created our souls to long intensely, to have cravings. But we go astray when what we crave are things that will merely last during this world. 

John told us, “This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” (1 John 2:17 NLT). So by its very definition, worldly things will never satisfy our cravings because the world is temporary. Only an eternal God can give us eternal satisfaction. 

As Spurgeon teaches us here, examining our longings is the best aid of self-judgment and will help us determine our future. Craving God’s presence will bring God’s blessing and His eternal fulfillment of our cravings. Craving anything else will lead to frustration and eternal disappointment. 

God longs to bless us (Isaiah 30:18) as long as we are craving Him!

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Created To Crave God

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I was playing golf with a pastor and a missionary when the starter asked if a single player could join us to make a foursome. We happily agreed. About 4-5 holes into our game, our guest asked what we did. My pastor friend started out, “I’m a pastor, and this guy is a missionary, and—” 

Our guest interrupted and blurted out, “You guys are Christians?! I’ve never had so much fun! I always heard Christians were boring.” 

When did it come about that people thought of Christians as boring—or even worse, as sourpusses and killjoys? Sadly, too many Christians have helped cement this idea in people’s minds. I think this is largely because those Christians are misinformed and frustrated. This frustration, I believe, comes from the mistaken idea that Christians are supposed to squelch any urges or cravings that we have.  

But check out this Q&A from the Westminster Catechism—

Q: What is the chief end of man? 

A: To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. 

Glorifying God is supposed to result in enjoyment—enjoying both God’s presence and the life He has given us. We are created to crave the fuel of His Spirit that satisfies and energizes us. 

Just as your car would at best under-perform if you attempted to run it with anything else but gasoline, so our lives will under-perform and feel like drudgery if we are trying to fuel our cravings with anything other than God. 

The dictionary defines “craving” as a great or eager desire, or a yearning. But I believe the Bible defines God-honoring craving as the longing for an intimate relationship with God that is implanted by God Himself. 

The people of Judah had gone astray from God and were trying to satisfy their urges with foreign gods and pagan idolatry. When King Asa called these backsliders back to God, here’s how he did it—

[Asa] commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers—to inquire of and for Him and crave Him as a vital necessity—and to obey the law and the commandment. (2 Chronicles 14:4 AMP) 

Contrast this with the temporary cravings of earth—

But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish, useless, godless, and hurtful desires… (1 Timothy 6:9 AMP) 

This world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever (1 John 2:17 NLT). 

Nowhere are godly cravings and earthly cravings better contrasted than in James 4:1-6. 

In this passage, the Greek word for desires (v. 1) and pleasures (v. 3) is hedone. This is where we get our English word “hedonism.” There is nothing wrong with pleasure—for God Himself takes pleasure—but it’s what pleasures we are craving that can make them ungodly. James rightly points out that the wrong hedonism is a craving to fulfill “your desires,” “your pleasures,” and to desire “friendship with the world” (v. 1, 3, 4)

Jesus talked about worldly cravings—using the same word hedone—when He said, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures [hedone], and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14). 

Notice the same thing in Isaiah 58:2 where God declares that people “seem eager” to delight in God, but it’s only a show for them to satisfy fleshly cravings. John Piper noted, “God means they are delighting in their business and not in the beauty of their God. He does not rebuke their hedonism. He rebukes the weakness of it. They have settled for secular interests and thus honor them above the Lord.” 

Instead, notice the fulfilled cravings when we seek God: “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on My holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13-14). 

I like that reminder that “the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” The origin of the word craving is the Old Norse word krefja, which means to lay claim on something because of a promise. God has promised, and so we can claim it. 

James assures us that the spirit God implanted in us envies intensely (James 4:5). We were made to crave God’s presence, we were made to find ultimate satisfaction in His presence, we were made to find eternal delight in knowing Him more intimately! 

The proud person says, “God, I know what I want. Give it to me.” The humble person says, “God, I know Your presence is the only thing that will satisfy me. Give it to me.” 

The craving in our spirit can be redirected from earthly yearnings to God-honoring yearnings by yielding to the Holy Spirit. I would humbly suggest that our prayer should be something like this—

“Father, grant that my cravings are for Your name to be hallowed, Your kingdom to be made visible, and Your will to be done. Let the enjoyment I have in Your presence shine out of me in a way that invites others to be dissatisfied with their earthly cravings and find their ultimate satisfaction in a personal relationship with You through Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, continue to refine and redirect all of my cravings away from earthly things to eternal pleasures. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” 

If you would like to follow along with all of the messages in this series called Craving, you can find all of the sermons by clicking here. 

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In-ness

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We said that when it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On. For instance, in our learning we don’t have to go to a tutor or attend classes only at set times, but we have The Tutor IN us. Or when need wisdom for decisions we don’t have to seek out the right advisors and try to coordinate their schedule with ours, but we have The Counselor IN us. 

As we saw with Samson, many times in the Old Testament we read of the Holy Spirit coming ON someone. But throughout that First Testament we also see people longing for the Spirit to be IN them. David, especially, recognized the value of the “in-ness” of the Holy Spirit in both his prayer of repentance (Psalm 51, especially vv. 10-11) and again in his beautiful prayer in Psalm 25. 

Let me point out the in-ness that permeates this 25th Psalm and then show you its fulfillment when the Holy Spirit comes to baptize believers in the New Testament. 

(1) “IN You I trust” (v. 2). Not in human abilities or personal pedigree or earthly riches, but IN the in-ness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “He who believes IN Me—who cleaves to and trusts IN and relies on Me—as the Scripture has said, ‘From his INNERmost being shall flow continuously springs and rivers of living water.’ But He was speaking here of the Spirit, Whom those who believed (trusted, had faith) IN Him were afterward to receive…” (John 7:38-39 AMP). 

(2) “my hope is IN You” (vv. 3, 5, 21). A natural fruit of trusting IN the Holy Spirit’s empowerment is the hope that only that relationship brings. Paul talks abut this twice in his letter to the Romans. First, even in the midst of trials, Paul says we have this hope: “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out INto our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). And then Paul prays for his friends to experience this same in-ness of hope: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust IN Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). 

(3) “guide me IN Your truth … guide me IN what is right” (v. 5, 9). Jesus identified the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth Who guides us INto truth (John 14:17, 16:13). This is how Jesus lived (Matthew 4:1) and it’s how we can live too: “But I say, walk and live habitually IN the Holy Spirit—responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit—then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh…” (Galatians 5:16 AMP). 

(4) “He instructs sinners IN His ways” (v. 8, 12). The Hebrew word David uses for “teach” in vv. 4, 5, 9 is “lamad.” It means being taught in a way that equips us to teach others. Jesus “gave instructions through the Spirit” to His disciples, and then He commanded them to teach others the same way (Acts 1:2; Matthew 28:20). The Spirit of Truth that inspired the Word of God can illuminate it to our hearts as He instructs us (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17). 

(5) “the Lord confides IN those who fear Him” (v. 14). The KJV says, “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him.” Isaiah said, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’” (Isaiah 30:21). And Jesus said that every word He spoke was directed by the Holy Spirit IN Him (John 12:49). 

(6) “I take refuge IN You (v. 20). We can take refuge IN the One whom we trust and hope, the One who leads us INto truth and instructs us, the One who confides IN us. This in-ness helps us thwart the enemy’s attacks against us. As John wrote, “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives IN you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (1 John 4:4 NLT). 

Don’t stop at salvation, but allow the Holy Spirit to baptize you and fill you. Don’t be satisfied with merely experiencing God’s presence ON you, but let His Spirit come IN you. 

This in-ness keeps us trustful of God, victorious over the devil, hopeful of our future, righteous in a wicked world, informed of God’s ways, peaceful in trials, and fully protected from the enemy of our souls. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series called We Are: Pentecostal, you can check out all of the messages by clicking here. 

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New Inside

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character (Phil) is stuck in a small town where February 2 keeps repeating. Phil tries desperately to get out of this town and out of this day, but nothing he seems to do gets him out of the endless loop. He becomes smarter and richer each day, but at the end of the day, everything resets to the beginning. 

It’s frustrating! 

God’s people of the Old Testament had their own “Groundhog Day”—the Day of Atonement that came every single year. This was the day their sins were confessed, forgiven, and atoned for, and had a very specific set of sacrifices and rituals. Much like Phil in the movie, they began to go through these motions almost entirely without thinking. 

Year after year, millennia after millennia “the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, [couldn’t] make perfect those who draw near to worship” (see Hebrews 10:1-4). 

Even those who were God-fearing and tried their best to live perfectly righteous lives could find in the law provision for those who “sin unintentionally” (Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27; 5:15, 18, 22, 24, 27-29). It was just another reminder that the loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement was never ending. 

And as if all the requirements of the Torah weren’t enough, Jesus came on the scene and seemed to raise the bar, telling us even though our outward actions might look righteous, our inward thoughts and attitudes made us just as sinful (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28). And then Jesus even dropped this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)! 

Perfect?! As perfect as God?! This could easily make people throw their hands up in resignation, “I give up! Why even try?” 

Through Ezekiel, God prophesied an internal change. This wasn’t something I must do, but something GOD will do—

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. (Ezekiel 36:26-27) 

The solution to our endless loop of sin-confession-repentance-forgiveness-atonement must become internal. It’s no use trying to correct the fruit if the root is still evil! That requires an inside job. 

On Good Friday, the last words Jesus spoke before His death were, “It is finished” (John 19:30). 

What was finished? Our struggle to get ourselves out of this endless loop. The writer of Hebrews had this to say about Jesus: 

But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. … For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (Hebrews 10:12, 14) 

Remember Jesus told us we had to be perfect like God? The root word for “perfect” in that verse is telos. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished,” He said one word in Greek: tetelestai. This also comes from the root word telos. Jesus perfectly finished all that was necessary for us to become perfect in God’s sight. 

Christians often use the the phrase “I invited Jesus into my heart” as an expression of their faith in what Jesus did for them on the Cross. That word “IN” is a good reminder. 

Jesus comes IN and the fear of punishment—the fear of being eternally stuck in the endless loop—has to go out. “There is no fear IN love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect IN love” (1 John 4:18). 

The word “perfect” in that verse is also from the same root word telos. 

Not only does Jesus come IN to our hearts to make them new, but He also takes us IN to His perfection. “Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith—giving the first incentive for our belief—and is also its Finisher—bringing it to maturity and perfection…” (Hebrews 12:2 AMP). 

Jesus shared a last supper with His disciples. His last supper was the first Communion. At this time Jesus told them He was establishing a “new covenant.” How do we square this with His previous statement that He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it? 

Jesus said this new covenant was IN His blood. His blood doesn’t abolish the law, but it perfects the law. His perfect blood makes out hearts new and takes us out of the external loop and IN to His prefect righteousness. 

Jesus accomplished all that was needed to make us perfect inside, and then to perfectly take us into God’s presence. As the hymn The Old Rugged Cross reminds us, “In that old rugged Cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see. For ’twas on that old Cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me!” 

May we always cherish the perfection that was purchased for us on that Cross. 

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The Gift Unmistakably Seen

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We saw last week that John 3:16 tells us of God’s greatest Gift—Jesus! 

This Gift was not an after-thought. God didn’t say, “I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked so I guess I have to send My Son.” NO! The Gift was foretold right from the very moment Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15, 21). In fact, we can even say it was planned before the beginning of Time, as John describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8). 

John also writes for us one of the most beautiful and succinct statements of God: God IS Love (1 John 4:8). 

Paul wrote an inspired definition of love. Check out what happens when we put “God” in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres. God’s love never fails. 

This description of God means that He wasn’t forced to send Jesus as the ransom for our sins, but rather that His love foreknew the perfect moment to send this Gift for us. 

Neither did Jesus feel trapped by this plan His Father made. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but Jesus came to make Calvary happen (John 17:24; Hebrews 12:2; John 10:17-18). 

Jesus made His Gift unmistakable:

  • He predicted the unmistakable events leading up to Calvary—Matthew 20:17-19, 26:2; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; John 13:19 
  • He predicted the unmistakable way He would die—John 3:14, 12:32-33 
  • And His Father unmistakably confirmed all of this—John 12:27-28

(check out all of the above verses by clicking here) 

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His followers an unmistakable example of love to follow. He said that His love radiating out of His followers would show the world an unmistakable picture of His love (see John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35). 

I may say, “Thank you so much” when I open someone’s gift, but my true gratitude is seen in what I do with their gift after that. Do I put it on a shelf and forget about it? Or do I cherish it, use it, and tell others all about the one who gave the gift to me? This is just as true with how I treat the Love Gift that I was given in Jesus. 

Q: How unmistakable is my gratitude for the Gift of Jesus? 

A: It is unmistakably seen in how I love others. 

Here’s the test: Can I put my name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8—

Craig is patient, Craig is kind. Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs. Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Craig always protects, Craig always trusts, Craig always hopes, Craig always perseveres. Craig’s love never fails.

The Holy Spirit wants all Christians to be able to truthfully insert their names in that statement. He wants to help us make necessary changes that will allow the amazing Gift of Jesus to be unmistakably seen by everyone. 

God’s plan is unmistakable. The death of Jesus is unmistakable proof of God’s love. Now, let’s make sure that our love is also empowered by the love of God shining unmistakably out of everything we say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Forgiven And Forgiving

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Forgiven And Forgiving  

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32) 

     Now observe how the apostle puts it. Does he say, ‘forgiving another’? No, that is not the text. If you look at it, it is ‘forgiving one another.’ One another! Ah, then that means that if you have to forgive today, it is very likely that you will, yourself, need to be forgiven tomorrow, for it is ‘forgiving one another.’ … Let us begin our Christian career with the full assurance that we will have a great deal to forgive in other people, but that there will be a great deal more to be forgiven in ourselves! … 

     Note again: When we forgive, it is a poor and humble business compared with God’s forgiving us, because we are only forgiving one another—that is, forgiving fellow servants. But when God forgives us, the Judge of all the earth is forgiving, not His fellows, but His rebel subjects, guilty of treason against His majesty! For God to forgive is something great—for us to forgive, though some think it great—should be regarded as a very small matter. … What we owe to God is infinite, but what our fellow creature owes to us is a very small sum. …  

     If anyone here who is a Christian finds a difficulty in forgiveness, I am going to give him three words that will help him wonderfully… Here they are again: ‘For Christ’s sake.’ … 

     I do not know how to put this next word I am going to say. It is a paradox. You must forgive or you cannot be saved. But at the same time, you must not do it from compulsion, you must do it freely. … Remember, it is of no use for you to put your money into that offering box as you go out unless you remember, first, to forgive your brother. God will not accept the gifts, prayers, or praises of an unrelenting heart. … The very prayer that teaches you to ask for mercy bids you say, ‘And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’ (Matthew 6:12). Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer!

From Forgiveness Made Easy 

We honor the forgiveness that God has extended to us by liberally forgiving others. And our forgiveness of others shows them just how loving and forgiving our God is too! 

Make no mistake, it’s hard work to forgive. As C.S. Lewis said, “We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offenses but for one offense.” But that hard work develops our maturity as Christians. In fact, a mark of a maturing saint is one who is closing the gap between being injured and forgiving the offender. 

I add my prayer to Charles Spurgeon’s that you would grasp the truth that we can forgive one another for Christ’s sake because God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake. Let’s all grow in this Christian maturity!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Assurance Of God’s Love

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

The Assurance Of God’s Love

Tell me, O you whom I love, where you feed your flock, where you make it rest at noon. For why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of your companions? (Song of Solomon 1:7)

     It is well to be able to call the Lord Jesus Christ by this name without an ‘if’ or a ‘but.’ A very large proportion of Christian people can only say of Christ that they hope they love Him. They trust they love Him, but this is a very poor and shallow experience to be content to stay here. It seems to me that no one ought to give any rest to his spirit till he feels quite sure about a matter of such a vital importance. We are not content to have a hope of the love of our parents, or of our spouse, or of our children! We feel we must be certain there. And we are not to be satisfied with a hope that Christ loves us and with a bare trust that we love Him. … 

     ‘I know whom I have believed,’ says Paul (2 Timothy 1:12). ‘I know that my Redeemer lives,’ says Job (Job 19:25). ‘You whom I love,’ says Solomon in the Song as we have it here. Learn, dear friends, to get that positive knowledge of your love to Jesus, and be not satisfied till you can talk about your interest in Him as a reality that you have made infallibly sure by having received the witness of the Holy Spirit and His seal upon your soul by faith that you are born of God and belong to Christ. …  

     Why do we love Jesus? We have the best of answers: because He first loved us! … Why do we love Him? Because before this round earth was fashioned between the palms of the great Creator, before He had painted the rainbow or hung out the lights of the sun and moon, Christ’s delights were with us. He foresaw us through the glass of His prescience. He knew what we should be….

From The Church’s Love To Her Loving Lord

God wants you to know how much He loves you. He went first because we didn’t have any way to approach Him. But Jesus made it possible for us to come close to God through His substitutionary death on the Cross for our sins. And now the Holy Spirit is speaking clearly to your heart to trust that this is absolutely, irrevocably true: GOD LOVES YOU! 

As Spurgeon said, don’t be content with merely thinking this is true, but ask the Holy Spirit to help you know this is true! 

Listen to these words—This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. … This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. … We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:9, 13-14, 19)

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Context Is King

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Context Is King

And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (Jesus in John 17:22-23)

     Some words serve many uses and have many meanings. We are very apt to make mistakes if we give the same sense in all places to the same word. The word world throughout Scripture is used with a very remarkable variety of meaning, and one had need to have his wits about him and to read carefully in order to know what is the precise source of the term in each place where it occurs. …  

     I say again, the word world, therefore, has many shades of meaning ranging from that jet black meaning in which the world lies in the wicked one—‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world’ (1 John 2:15)—upward to the milder sense in John 1:10, ‘He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.’ And yet higher to the bright meaning, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ’ (Revelation 11:15). It is not in the worst sense that our text speaks of the world, but in the same manner as we find it used in such passages as these: ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29). ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). And again in 1 John 2:2, ‘And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.’ 

     It is certain that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16), and we cannot suppose that the great Redeemer would refuse to pray for those whom He was given. I understand in this particular place by the word world the whole mass of mankind upon the face of the earth who are not as yet converted. … 

     For the sake of the world, He would have the church in a high state of holy beauty and strength. May His gracious prayer be answered in all of us by the working of the Holy Spirit! … Our wish is to bring multitudes to the Savior and to conquer province after province of this revolted world for King Jesus. ‘Let the whole earth be filled with His glory’ (Psalm 72:19) is a prayer that we cannot, we dare not, we would not fail to pray! 

From The Glory, Unity, And Triumph Of The Church

When we are studying our Bibles, we must remember that context is so vital. We have to read each inspired word in its proper context so that we know how to believe, think, live, and pray. I urge you to slow down in your Bible reading—aim for better and richer comprehension than to just try to read a lot in one sitting. Sometimes in my own personal Bible study time, I may spend several minutes just thinking about one phrase, and that may be the only part that I read on that particular morning. 

I would also counsel you to use some trustworthy Bible study tools. I have a list here of 8 must-have Bible study tools, and you can find some new ways to use these tools in this post about three types of Bible studies you may not have considered before. 

However you read your Bible, make sure you are reading each part in its proper context. Pray before you begin reading and ask the Holy Spirit—Who inspired the Scriptures—to illuminate them to your heart and mind. These thoughtful Bible studies will do more to grow your spiritual maturity than simply rushing through your reading time.

The Spirit Of Truth

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

When I was 4 years old, I heard my echo for the first time as I yelled “Hello!” to a barn on the other side of a pasture. I was totally convinced that I had a friend in that barn yelling back to me, and I ended up being a bit disappointed later when I discovered that it was just my own sound waves bouncing back to me. 

To my 4-year-old brain, a little friend yelling back from the barn was absolutely true. It was maturity and new information that taught me differently. Isn’t this an ongoing story for all of us? Many things seem true from our current perspective, but then as we get older or smarter we realize that our original belief—what we really believed to be true—is now invalidated. 

Rarely does anyone admit, “I was immature back then,” but we usually try to justify ourselves by saying, “If I would have known back then what I know now….” But the fact is it will always be an impossibility for you to know then what you know now. 

In 1880, Edwin A. Abbott wrote Flatland, a favorite book of Albert Einstein. Abbott was a college-trained mathematician and theologian; in fact, he was actually better known for his theological writings than for this book. In this fabulous little book, Square, who lives in two-dimensional Flatland, cannot perceive height or depth. So what appears to him to be a wall, would merely be a line to you and me. One day Sphere from three-dimensional Spaceland visits Flatland, trying to explain to Square what his world was really like, but Square and his other Flatlanders could never fully grasp the idea. 

When Jesus was interviewed by Pilate, it sounds as though Pilate is missing a “dimension.” Pilate tries to state things the way that he understands them, but Jesus is revealing to him a whole new dimension (see John 18:33-38). The word Jesus uses for “truth” in this conversation means objective truth: something that is always true, regardless of where or when we live. Jesus explained that He as God IS objective truth. Any of our truth statements that aren’t grounded in God are subjective truth statements at best. 

Listen to how John describes Jesus: In the beginning—before all time—was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was continually existing in the beginning co-eternally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being. In Him was life and the power to bestow life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it and is unreceptive to it. (John 1:1-5 AMP) 

Here’s the absolutely amazing thing: Jesus wants us to have this same insight into heavenly dimensions! Jesus said He would ask the Father to send us the Holy Spirit, Whom He called “the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:6, 16-17; 15:26; 16:12-13).

The Spirit of Truth…

  • …reminds us of the words of Jesus—John 14:26 
  • …helps us testify to others about the Truth—John 15:26-27 
  • …continually reveals objective truth to us—John 16:12-13 
  • …gives us truthful words to share with other “Flatlanders” who doubt the words of God—Matthew 10:16-20 
  • …and helps us spot and refute the falsehoods of the antichrist—1 John 2:18-27  

[Check out all of these Scriptures by clicking here.]

I love the King James Version of 1 John 2:20—But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. Being baptized in the Spirit of Truth means that you have access to an eternal perspective. You are no longer bound by the dimensions and paradigms of this “Flatland” but you are seeing things from God’s transcendent perspective. 

The unction of the Holy Spirit will allow you to speak THE Truth to a world blinded by the spirit of the antichrist. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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