Thursdays With Spurgeon—Be Careful

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. 

Be Careful

Having a form of godliness but denying its power…. (2 Timothy 3:5)

     Time was when to be a Christian was to be reviled, if not to be imprisoned and perhaps burned at the stake. Hypocrites were fewer in those days, for a profession cost too much. …  Today religion walks forth in her velvet slippers. And in certain classes and ranks, if men did not make some profession of religion, they would be looked upon with suspicion. Therefore men will take the name of Christian upon them and wear religion as a part of full dress. …

     I do not doubt that a form of godliness has come to many because it brings them ease of conscience and they are able, like the Pharisee, to thank God that they are not as other men are. … 

     Many who have the form of godliness are strangers to its power and so are in religion worldly, in prayer mechanical, in public one thing, and in private another. True godliness lies in spiritual power, and they who are without this are dead while they live. … 

     In the depths of winter, can you warm yourself before a painted fire? Could you dine off the picture of a feast when you are hungry? There must be vitality and substantiality—or else the form is utterly worthless and worse than worthless, for it may flatter you into deadly self-conceit. Moreover, there is no comfort in it. The form without the power has nothing in it to warm the heart, to raise the spirits, or to strengthen the mind against the day of sickness or the hour of death. … 

     If you tremble at God’s Word, you have one of the surest marks of God’s elect. Those who fear that they are mistaken are seldom mistaken. If you search yourselves and allow the Word of God to search you, it is well with you. … 

     If the Spirit of God leads you to weep in secret for sin and to pray in secret for divine grace, if He leads you to seek after holiness, if He leads you to trust alone in Jesus, then you know the power of godliness, and you have never denied it.

From The Form Of Godliness Without The Power

Spurgeon mentioned the Pharisee that said, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people. Especially like that tax collector over there.” Jesus said that the tax collector who humbly said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” is the one who went home justified by God (see Luke 18:9-14). 

That’s where the warning comes in. When we begin to compare ourselves to others, when we begin to say, “I’m better than him” or “At least I don’t mess up as bad as she does,” instead of judging ourselves by God’s standard, we are in real danger of having merely a form of godliness without any real power. 

Paul said, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall,” and challenged each of us to “test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (1 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:4). 

I would challenge everyone that calls themself a Christian to be careful! Don’t fool yourself by saying, “I do all of the things a Christian is supposed to do, so I must be standing firm.” But ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you even your hidden sins, and then just as the tax collector who experienced God’s reassurance in his heart did, pray: “God, be merciful to me. Help me to correct what’s wrong. May my life be godly not just in outward performance, but in the power that can only come from a vibrant, growing relationship with You!” 

Let’s all strive to not only have the form of godliness, but to have the real energizing power of godliness on full display in our daily lives.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Do Your Own Growing

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. 

Do Your Own Growing

Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:5) 

     But now, as these people had not got the power of godliness, how did they come to hold the form of it? This needs several answers. Some come by the form of godliness in a hereditary way. Their ancestors were always godly people, and they almost naturally take up with the profession of their fathers. … 

     Not generation but regeneration makes the Christian. You are not Christians because you can trace the line of fleshly descent throughout twenty generations of children of God. … Grace does not run in the blood. If you have no better foundation for your religion than your earthly parentage, you are in a wretched case. … 

     I have seen the form of godliness taken up on account of friendships. Many a time courtship and marriage have led to a formal religiousness but a lacking heart. … Godliness should never be put on in order that we may put a wedding ring upon the finger. This is a sad abuse of religious profession. …  

     I put these things to you that there may be a great searching of hearts among us all and that we may candidly consider how we have come by our form of godliness. … 

     Let me remind you of the questionable value of that which springs out of fallen human nature. Assuredly, it brings no one into the spiritual kingdom, for ‘that which is born of the flesh is flesh.’ Only ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’ (John 3:6). ‘You must be born again’ (3:7). Beware of everything that springs up in the field without the sowing of the Husbandman, for it will turn out to be a weed.

From The Form Of Godliness Without The Power

There’s an old Irish proverb that says, “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather is.” This is equally true for Christians! 

I’m a fourth-generation Pentecostal Christian, which means I was practically raised in a church building. But still I had to come to a point in my life where I had to decide: Do I believe that Jesus is my Savior just because my parents and grandparents believed this, or because I truly believed it for myself. All of us, regardless of our parentage, have to make this choice. 

Those who simply call themselves Christian without ever examining the root of their faith are those the apostle Paul described as having a form of godliness without the power, or what Spurgeon describes as a weed. But most sobering of all are those Christians-in-name-only to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” 

Please, my friend, make the choice to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior because you have personally put your faith in Him.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—No Fear Of Inspection

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. 

No Fear Of Inspection

Having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:5) 

     Paul warns us of certain characters that will appear in the last times. It is a terrible list. The like have appeared in other days, but we are led by his warning to apprehend that they will appear in greater numbers in the last days than in any previous age. ‘People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (2 Timothy 3:2-4). … 

     The raw material of a devil was an angel bereft of holiness. You cannot make a Judas except out of an apostle. The eminently good in outward form, when without inward life, decays into the foulest thing under heaven. You cannot wonder that these are called perilous times, in which such characters abound. … 

     Those who constantly associate in worship, unite in church fellowship, and work together for sacred purposes have a form of godliness, and a very useful and proper form it is. Alas, it is of no value without the power of the Holy Spirit. 

     Some go farther than public worship. They use a great deal of religious talk. They freely speak of the things of God in Christian company. They can defend the doctrines of Scripture, they can plead for its precepts, and they can narrate the experience of a believer. …

     That religion that comes from the lips outward but does not well up from the deep fountains of the heart is not that living water that will spring up to eternal life. Tongue godliness is an abomination if the heart is destitute of divine grace.  

     When we have done all the work our position requires of us, we may only have displayed the form of godliness. Unless we harken to our Lord and from His presence derive power, we will be as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Brethren, I speak to myself and to each one of you in solemn earnestness. If much speaking, generous giving, and constant occupation could win heaven, we might easily make sure of it. But more than these are needed. … 

     O my active and energetic brother, remember the word, ‘Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall’ (1 Corinthians 10:12). If any of you dislikes this searching sermon, your dislike proves how much you need it. He that is not willing to search himself should stand self-incriminated by that unwillingness to look at his affairs. If you are right, you will not object to being weighed in the balances. If you are indeed pure gold, you may still feel anxiety at the sight of the furnace, but you will not be driven to anger at the prospect of the fire. Your prayer will always be, ‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’ (Psalm 139:23-24).

From The Form Of Godliness Without The Power

Those who are in right standing with God—in other words, those who are not merely godly in outward appearance only—should have no fear of their lives being inspected. Accountability among fellow Christians is a liberating thing because it keeps us in a place of safety. But even better is when we pray, “Search me, Lord” and then we quickly, and without offering any excuses, correct whatever the Holy Spirit reveals to our hearts. 

In these last days, let us be even more attentive to this!

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The Sovereign King

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

What people were saying about Jesus right from His birth—before He preached a sermon, performed a miracle, or stepped on the toes of religious or political leaders—was revealing the truth. 

As the Gospel of Matthew’s account of Christ’s birth begins, Persian Magi came from Babylon, having been keepers of the Truth handed down to them for over 500 years from Belteshazzar the Chief of Magician. This was the Babylonian name given to the Hebrew exile Daniel. 

Daniel served under multiple kings, even as the regimes changed from Babylonian, to Median, to Persian. He never waiver in his adherence to the Truth that God had spoken. He fearlessly told these world leaders, “The Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone He wishes” (Daniel 4:25). 

Most leaders forget this the moment they obtain power. Such is the case of the man the Magi met: King Herod the Great. Listen to how William Barclay describes this monarch: 

“Herod the Great was always despised by the pure-blooded Jews because he was half an Edomite; and we can see the importance that even Herod attached to these genealogies from the fact that he had the official registers destroyed, so that no one could prove a purer pedigree than his own. … 

“He had made himself useful to the Romans in the wars and civil wars of Palestine, and they trusted him. He had been appointed governor in 47 B.C.; in 40 B.C. he had received the title of king. … 

“But Herod had one terrible flaw in his character. He was almost insanely suspicious. He had always been suspicious, and the older he became the more suspicious he grew, until, in his old age, he was, as someone said, ‘a murderous old man.’ … He murdered his wife Mariamne and her mother Alexandra. His eldest son, Antipater, and two other sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, were all assassinated by him. Augustus, the Roman Emperor, had said, bitterly, that it was safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son. … 

“When he was seventy he knew that he must die. … He gave orders that a collection of the most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem should be arrested on trumped-up charges and imprisoned. And he ordered that the moment he died, they should all be killed. He said grimly that he was well aware that no one would mourn for his death, and that he was determined that some tears should be shed when he died.” 

Lord Acton famously said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. …  Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.” This is so obvious in Herod! So we can understand why the city of Jerusalem was disturbed when the Magi arrived! Whether Herod knew the prophecy of the coming Messiah or not, it’s inescapably true that his days and his legacy were numbered (see Isaiah 9:2-7). 

When King Herod heard the announcement from the Magi, his reaction was violent. Perhaps Herod lashed out so ferociously because these words of Truth from the Magi reminded him his end was near, his power was not absolute, he had to answer to The Most High who is sovereign over all. 

We are no better. Oswald Chambers defines sin as “my claim to my right to myself.” We want absolute sovereignty over ourselves, but Jesus will allow no rival to His throne! He is either King over all or else He is not King at all. 

Beware of your own reaction when the Holy Spirit convicts you of a rival to Christ’s throne in your heart. If you lash out like Herod, dismiss it, or try to justify it, that is proof that you needed to hear that word of Truth. Don’t delay: Repent and allow Christ to have His rightful throne.

Jesus came as a Baby and a Savior at his First Advent. He opened the way for us to enter the presence of The Most High God, but it will cost us something to enter. Oswald Chambers tells us: 

“Redemption is easy to experience because it cost God everything, and if I am going to be regenerated it is going to cost me something. I have to give up my right to myself. I have deliberately to accept into myself something that will fight for all it is worth, something that will war against the desires of the flesh, and that will ask me to go into identification with the death of Jesus Christ, and these things produce a struggle in me.” 

Christ’s Second Advent will be as the conquering King and righteous Judge of all humanity. We have precious little time to tell others the good news. People may react violently like Herod did, but that is simply proof that they needed to hear that Truth. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series People Will Talk, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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Oy!

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

Woe is me!” said the prophet (Isaiah 6:5). 

The Hebrew word for “woe” here is the word “oy!” Although the word “woe” appears 20 times in the English translation of Isaiah, the Hebrew word “oy” in only used four times, and two of those times are Isaiah speaking of himself (6:5; 24:16). “Oy!” is a cry from a profound stab of pain from the realization that my sin has transgressed an All-Holy God. 

Isaiah saw his own sin (6:5) as well a the sin of his people (3:9, 11), and it took his breath away. He stood trembling before a holy God pleading for mercy and cleansing before he could answer the call to be God’s messenger to the people of Israel (6:5-8). 

The other Hebrew word that gets translated into the English word “woe” is “howy.” This is usually uttered from someone in pain because things aren’t going well. It’s a cry of, “Hey! Look! This is painful. This is not good at all.” But unlike “oy” which requires a profound heart change, “howy” can be said with the mouth without any change of the heart. 

Isaiah cried, “Oy!” because his sin deserved the punishment of the Righteous Judge, but his heart posture called on God’s mercy for forgiveness and restoration. Because of his cleansed heart, Isaiah could now call, “Howy!” to the people: “Hey, sinful Israel, look at your sin. Look at how you’ve transgressed against God. Feel that pain, then don’t delay, but cry out ‘Oy!’ to Him now, while mercy may still be found.” 

Isaiah’s “howy” had the impact of godly integrity because he had first cried “oy” in God’s presence. His “howy” was a call to others to do what he had done: see the holiness of God, see their sin, tremble in fear before an All-Holy God, and then cry “oy” to an All-Merciful God for forgiveness and restoration. 

We should do the same thing. When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin, don’t merely say, “Hey (howy), that hurts!” But say, “Oy! I have sinned, but God is a merciful Forgiver of sin.” Let that stab of pain from the conviction of your sin bring a change in your heart as well as a cry from your lips. God is merciful, and He does forgive. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Basis Of Our Hope

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 Basis Of Our Hope

     If there is no resurrection, apostolic preaching fails. ‘If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty’ [1 Corinthians 15:12-22]. … If Christ was not raised, the apostles were false witnesses. When a man bears false witness, he usually has a motive for doing so. What motive had these men? What did they gain by bearing false witness to Christ’s resurrection? It was all loss and no profit to them if He had not risen. They declared in Jerusalem that He had risen from the dead, and straightway men began to haul them to prison and to put them to death! Those of them who survived bore the same testimony. They were so full of the conviction of it that they went into distant countries to tell the story of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. … They were brought before Roman emperors again and again, and before the proconsuls, and threatened with the most painful of deaths, but not one of them ever withdrew his testimony concerning Christ’s resurrection! …  

     If Christ is not raised, your faith is in vain. If it is in vain, give it up! Do not hold on to a thing that is not true! I would sooner plunge into the water and swim or wade through the river than I would trust myself to a rotten bridge that would break down in the middle. If Christ did not rise, do not trust Him, for such faith is in vain! But if you believe that He did die for you and did rise again for you, then believe in Him, joyfully confident that such a fact as this affords a solid basis for your belief! …  

     If [Jesus] died for you and rose again for you, that is the groundwork of your confidence, and I pray you keep to it. … Go your way and sing, ‘The Lord is risen indeed,’ and be happy as all the birds in the air, till you are, by and by, as happy as the angels in heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From If There Is No Resurrection 

I shared a series of messages that said, “I know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of…” and each of the letters of ALIVE reminded us of a convincing proof of His resurrection. I would especially direct your attention to two of those letters. 

The “L” stands for lives changed. When someone has a complete about-face life change because of their interaction with Jesus, that is pretty strong proof that their encounter was with a living Savior. 

And the “E” stands for the engagement of Christ’s followers. It’s astounding to see how much of our world’s history has been positively impacted because of the influence of Christians. Their lives had become so radically different because of the life of Jesus in them that they could not help but change the culture around them. 

As I said last in the last Thursdays with Spurgeon installment, always remember that the one with a personal experience is never at the mercy of the one with an argument. If your life has been changed by personal and ongoing interactions with Jesus Christ, don’t keep that good news to yourself. Let that assurance you have be a bright and winsome witness to all who are around you.

6 Quotes From “Voice Of A Prophet”

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A.W. Tozer pulls no punches in the way he confronts modern-day preachers (those he calls “sons of the prophets”). He challenges pastors to return to the Scriptures, hit their knees in prayer, and do some serious soul searching on where they may be falling short of the standard set by the biblical prophets. You can read my full book review of Voice Of A Prophet by clicking here. 

“It is not the messenger, it is the message that needs to be proclaimed. If you study the Old and New Testaments you will discover that no prophet can ever be a celebrity. The most significant thing about the prophet is the message he conveys, and that message had better by rooted in the heart of God.” 

“The responsibility of the prophet is not to come up with his own message, but to faithfully deliver the message—the warning—that is coming from God.” 

“The song of the prophet is, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ Any other song will never do for God’s man to be God’s voice to his generation.” 

“God takes so much delight in us that He will go to any length to bring us back to that delight.” 

“Jesus said that our problem is a spiritual danger, not a physical danger, and our visible enemies are rarely our real enemies. The man who comes at you with a gun is not your real enemy, though his intention may be to kill you. Your real enemy is that enemy within you that makes you vulnerable to him. Esau was Jacob’s enemy because of what Jacob had done to him, but Esau was not Jacob’s real enemy. Jacob was Jacob’s enemy. The crookedness in Jacob’s heart was against Jacob, and when God straightened that out, Esau was not his enemy anymore.” 

“Well do I know, Thou God of the prophets and the apostles, that as long as I honor Thee Thou will honor me. Help me therefore to take this solemn vow to honor Thee in all my future life and labors, whether by gain or by loss, by life or by death, and then to keep that vow unbroken while I live. … Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet—not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds.” 

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8 Quotes From “Jesus In Me”

Anne Graham Lotz has given us a delightful book that feels like a living room chat with a friend as we discuss how the Holy Spirit operates in our lives. Check out my full book review of Jesus In Me by clicking here. 

“The Holy Spirit is not a thing but a Person. His personhood is emphasized in John 16, when eleven times in eight verses, He is referred to by the personal, masculine pronouns He, Him, or His.” 

“Could it be that you have missed the comfort of the Comforter because it has come indirectly through someone or something else? Like Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, are your tears blinding you to the presence of Jesus right there beside you? Right there within you? My prayer is that He will use these words to comfort you as you experience the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to open your eyes to the nearness of the One who is, in fact, Jesus in you.” 

“Whether your situation involves a misunderstanding with your neighbors, or a disagreement within your church, or tension in your home, or slander in your school, or gossip in your office, the Holy Spirit is able to defend you and plead your cause. Always. Ask Him. He’s never lost a case.” 

“Multiple times God has told me He would strengthen me through the howling winds of hardship. In Jeremiah He clearly warned me that people would fight against me but that He would make me an iron pillar. Through Isaiah He told me that people would rage against me and oppose me but that I was not to be afraid because He would strengthen me. He encouraged me from Revelation that if I would endure patiently and with humility, He would make me ‘a pillar in the temple of my God.’” 

“It’s a huge relief to know that it’s not my job to convict anyone else of sin. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Which leaves me free to love people just as they are. Yes, I can counsel and advise if they are open to it. Yes, I can speak the truth in love. Yes, I can point out the potential consequences of their sin. But in the end the most effective thing I can do is to pray for them with a heart full of love. Because the power to transform is His alone.” 

“As we choose to fix our eyes on Jesus, pursue righteousness, live by the truth, and fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, the Holy Spirit will guide us, sharpening our focus in the midst of life’s distractions and confusion.” 

“Maintaining the fire requires intentionally establishing some common spiritual disciplines. They are simple choices but not always easy. They include daily prayer, daily Bible reading, sharing the gospel, continuous obedience as you live out what God says in His Word, continuous trust as you relinquish your expectations and let Him have His way, deepening surrender to His authority—especially during times of pain and suffering.” 

“He uses all things without exception, not just some things, for my ultimate good. And my ultimate good is not health, wealth, prosperity, happiness, or sometimes the things we associate with ‘good.’ My ultimate good is to fulfill God’s purpose of shaping me into the image of Jesus Christ so I bring glory to Him.” 

My Conscience

…my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit (Romans 9:1). 

Conscience is that God-implanted part of a human soul that can distinguish between…

  • …the morally good and the morally bad 
  • …the things that attract God’s presence and the things that repel God’s presence
  • …commending things and condemning things
  • …the things that please the Holy Spirit and the things that grieve the Holy Spirit

Sin corrupts a conscience. Sin tries to blur the lines between good and evil. Sin looks for loopholes. 

Paul said his conscience was aligned with the Holy Spirit—my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit. 

The word for witness is the Greek word martyreo. Martyreo helps me distinguish because of personal experience OR divine revelation. In the case of a Holy Spirit-baptized Christian, it isn’t OR, it’s AND. Jesus used the same word when He said the baptism in the Spirit would empower His followers to be martyreo (Acts 1:8). 

The Holy Spirit aligns my conscience with God’s righteousness. The Spirit grieves when I fall short, and He rejoices when I obey. 

Following the other uses of martyreo in the New Testament, we can see that a Spirit-aligned conscience…

Can you say with Paul, “My conscience is aligned with the Holy Spirit”? You can if you make it a daily habit to listen for the Spirit’s voice and then obey His promptings. 

Don’t let sin corrupt your conscience, but let the Holy Spirit align your conscience with God’s righteousness. 

Thursdays With Oswald—A New Power Within

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

A New Power Within

     “If when you come to the altar,” says Jesus, “there you remember your brother has ought against you, don’t say another word to Me, but go and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” [Matthew 5:23-24]. Jesus does not mention the other person, He says “You go.” He does not say, “Go halfway, but ‘first go.” There is no question of your rights. 

     Talk about practical home-coming truth! This hits us where we live. A man cannot stand as a humbug before Jesus Christ for one second. The Holy Spirit makes us sensitive to things we never thought of before. … Never discard a conviction. If it is important enough for the Holy Spirit to have brought it to your mind, that is the thing He is detecting. … 

     Watch the thing that makes you snort morally. If you have not had the temper of your mind altered by Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit brings something to your remembrance to be put right you will say, “No, indeed, I am not going to make that up when I was in the right and they were in the wrong; they will say, ‘We knew we would make you say you were sorry!’” Unless you are willing to yield your right to yourself on that point absolutely, you need not pray any more, there is a barrier higher than Calvary between you and God. That is the temper of mind in us all until it has been altered. When it has been altered, the other temper of mind is there that makes reconciliation as natural as breathing, and to our astonishment we find we can do what we could not do before. … Jesus Christ makes us real, not merely sincere. …

     The whole point of our Lord’s teaching is, “Obey Me, and you will find a wealth of power within.” 

From Studies On The Sermon On The Mount

It’s pretty simple, right? The Holy Spirit convicts us, we obey His prompting, and God gives us the power to do what we need to do. 

Simple! And incredibly hard!

It means swallowing our pride, admitting we need to change, and actually making the change. But if you want to grow as a mature Christian, there is no other alternative but to follow through on all of the Holy Spirit’s promptings. 

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