Abundant Living

“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)” (John 10:10 amp).

LIFE IS NOT A PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED BUT AN ADVENTURE TO BE EXPERIENCE.

By John David Hicks

The abundant life that Jesus promised is experienced only by faith.  For Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Note that this faith-trust is the foundation of all love and relationships (1 John 4:16).   God loves you and “demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom.5:8).  Knowing this, God will reward those who earnestly seek him—for they know that they are completely accepted and have the requests they desire from Him (1 John 5:14-15). “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Rom. 1:17).

In the garden, Adam withdrew his surrender and obedience from God so he could be independent, in control. The desire for control comes from pride—a heart that craves to be in control, like God.  Control tries to define what is good and what is evil. It is so selfish that it wants life to revolve around itself.  Nevertheless, uncooperative people, life’s circumstances, health problems, and money troubles show us that we are not in control. 

You were created in the image of God to be in a loving fellowship with God. The Bible calls this relationship faith, trust and dependance on God.  When you become a Christian, Jesus becomes your “Master and Lord.” God wants to conform you into the likeness of Jesus Christ as He prepares you for life and eternity with Himself (Rom. 8:28-29).  “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

 As you see that life is beyond your control, you learn to depend on the Lord and live by His life (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 4:13). When we give the Lord control of our lives, the scriptures promise, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12).God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9 amp).

The abundant life comes out of your walk with the Lord. God’s Word is God sharing His life and His promises with you that cannot fail.  God’s Word is a part of Himself. When you step out by faith to do it, you are rewarded.  Living by faith (Heb. 11:6) is the key to your walk. “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!  Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up. These events will bring great honor to the LORD’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.” (Isa. 55:11–13 nlt). That is called abundant living.

Therefore 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully” (amp). When you “cast your cares on the Lord,” you are “living by faith,” dependent on Him.  James 1:2-4 tells you the reward of casting all your cares on Him?  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James is literally saying, when you have a problem, “Jump for joy, because you get to see God work.” Life is an exciting adventure with the Lord (Eph. 3:20-21). Life is not a problem to be solved, but an adventure to be experienced.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says: “Pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you…I tell you not to worry about everyday life…Seek the Kingdom of God above all else.”  These are Jesus’ steps to abundant, powerful living. Rather than being “conformed to this world,” you will be “transformed by the renewing of your mind and will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2).  You can say by faith with Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). In addition, you can say with David, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Ps. 32:7). “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Ps. 16:11).

When you surrender control, you “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalms 55:22). This is your security, significance, and sufficiency in Jesus, that God wants you to have. “For it was I, the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things” (Ps. 81:10 nlt). “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God” (Rom. 14:17–18). “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10 nkjv). The abundant life flows out of fellowship and the adventure of casting all your cares on the Lord.    E-mail: jdh@faithencounter.org  —  © 2021 • Faith Encounter

The Person that God Blesses

By John David Hicks

“Blessed is the man…” (Psalms 1:1).

In the very first psalm we are taught the way to have God’s blessing in our lives. For the last twelve months or so, our worlds have turned upside down with this pandemic. Children are no longer in school, many of our friends may have become ill or even died, and many have lost jobs. It is easy in difficult times such as these to lose hope and feel that God has abandoned us–no longer do we have His blessing on our lives. But God’s blessing, even in the worst of times, comes to us in our hearts and souls.  We know that God wants to bless us—and the psalmist here gives us the instructions.  

There are three remarkable things in Psalm 1 about the man that God blesses.

FIRST, CHOOSE YOUR COMPANIONS CAREFULLY– Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather” (Ps. 1:1 amp).  A companion is a person who is frequently in the company of, associates with, or accompanies you.

The people you associate with can either build you up or tear you down. Christian friends or family who are earnestly striving to serve the Lord can be a source of great encouragement. Another source of companionship and encouragement is books.  Some of us have more time now to read literature and devotional books that will strengthen our Christian lives. Hopefully, our church family provides encouraging friends, but during the pandemic it is easy to feel alone and isolated. If you can’t attend worship services, watch it online.  But also, reach out to others by phone or e-mail as an act of worship and fellowship. Jesus said that the world can tell if you are a Christian by your love. (John 13:34).  God has made other people an essential part of our growth and calling as a Christian.

“I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:19–20). We need Christian friends to help us on our journey to heaven. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25 amp). 

SECOND, WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT, YOU WILL BECOME.  “But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night. (Ps. 1:2 amp). [See also Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 3:1-29; II Tim. 3:16.]  

What you choose to think about and dwell on will make or break you as a person. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).  The word “thinks” is about your thought process, what you think about on a daily basis, your habitual thought processes.  You will do and act the way you think!  Thus, God says, you become what you think.

“Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 amp).

The things you think about determine the quality of your life.  Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Be mindful of what you are thinking. “Set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth” (Col. 3:2 amp). “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8 nlt).

THIRD, YOUR COMPANIONS AND THINKING CAN PRODUCE GOD’S BLESSING AND A FRUITFUL LIFE.  “And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity]” (Ps. 1:3 amp). God’s blessing isn’t the absence of trouble, it is the strength to persevere in obedience in the midst of trouble. It isn’t the absence of difficult things or people, it is the power to walk in love in a broken world full of broken people. Blessing isn’t the absence of loss, but the revelation of the riches of grace, love, and authority we have eternally in Jesus Christ.

When you are “in Christ,” He is the source of all fruitfulness in your life. Jesus says that fruit is the direct result of whatever controls your heart (Matt. 15:19). “I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing” (John 15:5 amp).

Paul in Galatians 5:22-23 tells us of the fruit of the Spirit that God desires to produce in your life: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Jesus told His followers, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you and I have appointed you [I have planted you], that you might go and bear fruit and keep on bearing, and that your fruit may be lasting [that it may remain, abide], so that whatever you ask the Father in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], He may give it to you” (John 15:16 amp). You don’t develop fruit by seeking happiness in your relationships.  You develop the fruit of the Spirit by living in difficult times and challenging adversity together.   

Abiding occurs when believing becomes knowing and knowing becomes confidence in the empowering presence of God. “That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God [with fuller, deeper, and clearer insight, acquaintance, and recognition]” (Col. 1:10 amp).

It was character that got you out of bed, it was commitment that moved you to action, and the fruit of self-control that enabled you to follow through. Nothing shapes your life more than the commitments you choose to make. “For the LORD your God is living among you.  He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness.  With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (Zep. 3:17 nlt).

Your relationships and having a heart for God produce God’s fruitful blessing.  Let me pronounce the Lord’s blessing over you: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).” May this fivefold blessing from God encourage your heart today: 1) His favor and protection over you. 2) His generosity to you.  3) His mercy and compassion toward you.  4) His approval of you.  5) His peace in you.  ***

The Blessing of Weakness

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

by John David Hicks

Being poor in spirit means you acknowledge your spiritual powerlessness, that you need God’s strength. To be emptied of your self-sufficiency, you must become “poor” or “bankrupt” inwardly. You lack the spiritual resources to accomplish anything of value in ministry apart from Christ. Thus, you depend on the Lord’s mercy and grace. The promise is that those who humbly depend on God will inherit the blessing of the kingdom. Therefore, you will find in your surrender, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength…. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:13,19). That is why you are blessed when you are weak.

Our human tendency is to try to do everything in our own strength. We rely on our own resources to be successful. Our endless desire is to manage our lives on our own. This attitude undermines God’s grace and empowering strength. The Scripture says, “He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (James 4:5-6 nkjv). Only those who have renounced their self-sufficiency and have come to the end of themselves can receive God’s grace.

To live a victorious life in Christ you must come to the end of your human resources and abandon yourself to the Father’s will and ways. “Just as it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:36-37 nasb).

The sanctified, Spirit-filled life is both a crisis of surrender and a never-ending process of surrender.

Sanctification is putting your willingness into Christ’s hands. The practical outworking of that willingness in your daily life is something that you will be doing the rest of your life. This is the unknown bundle of consecration. You can only surrender to God that part of yourself of which you are aware and acknowledge. There is a willingness to surrender now, but also a willingness to surrender anything else that comes up in the future.

You can’t surrender the things you don’t know about until you face those issues in a specific situation. In your surrender there can be a struggle between your emotions and your will. God said to Israel, “All of Canaan is yours.” But then he added, “But you must possess it. It is yours…provided you put the soles of your feet upon it, take your shoes off, recognize my presence and trust me.” 

You are to say, “Oh Lord, I will always choose your will. I surrender my right to make my choices on the basis of what I want or what I would like; and I commit myself to find your will and to do it. I am totally dependent on you. I say with Jesus, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’”

After the crisis of surrender, the outworking of this in your daily life becomes the ongoing process of actually surrendering things as they come up. Before this, you haven’t surrendered anything specific. You said, “Lord, my will is yours.” But now you say, “God, I choose your will now in this situation and I trust you.”

In the New Testament when God uses someone in a great way, that person becomes humble and weak, so he will depend on the Lord and live by faith.

The idols of wood, hay, and straw must be burned away so that the costly stones of the grace of God, of gold and silver can be revealed in us (1 Cor. 3:12-15). For “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8). God uses small vessels, plain vessels, and even broken vessels. But he will not use a self-righteous vessel that is contaminated with pride. This is why “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:27-29).

For your sake, you must die to your sinful selfish self (Gal. 2:20-21). Paul gives us his testimony, “I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory…in Christ Jesus our Lord” (1 Cor. 15:31). Then Paul reveals the mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory…. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:27, 29). This is utter dependency on God’s grace and power. When you are weakest, God is strongest. He is all you need. As you trust the Lord, he gives you direction and will fight your battles. You must learn with David that the “battle is the Lord’s” when you face your Goliaths (1 Sam. 17:47). Jesus made it plain: “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Look how God was able to use Paul in a mighty way.

In 1 and 2 Corinthians Paul gives 25 references about how divine power comes out of human weakness. So, God gave him a thorn in the flesh.  Having prayed three times for God to remove this “thorn,” Paul hears the Holy Spirit say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul had many strengths. He was well-educated, brilliant, clever, and well-privileged socially. Paul was successful in starting churches, mentoring disciples, and proclaiming the gospel. The problem was that Paul had impressive spiritual experiences and great revelations that could make any person proud and arrogant. While these strengths are an asset in the defense of the gospel, they can be an obstacle to dependence upon God. Paul could easily have been tempted with pride. So, the Father allowed Paul to experience times of weakness so he could come to the end of himself. These times were painful for Paul, but they were also the path to greater power and victory. Embracing death to his self-confidence and self-reliance, he “died daily.” The Holy Spirit then said to Paul, “My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.”

God used the things that made Paul weak to show Paul His power in Paul’s life. His weakness was the key to God’s strength in his life. Paul then testified, “Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! So, for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength)” (2 Cor. 12:9-10 amp).  Again, Paul writes, “For to be sure, [Jesus] was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him to serve you” (2 Cor. 13:4).

Will you let God crucify your self-assertiveness, natural intellect, and self-sufficiency? Will you die to your performance, the law, so that the Holy Spirit’s resources can flow through you? This is why God has chosen the foolish, weak things of the world to show up the mighty and those who think they have their act together; “so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:18-25, 29). “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

This is how you die daily. It’s a lifelong process of crucifixion, not just a one-time event.

A well-known pastor said of Billy Graham, “I am a better preacher than Graham, more educated and have more talents and abilities. Why would God choose Him?”

Billy Graham was a humble man, a Christianity Today obituary said, who spent his long life drawing attention to God, not himself. He learned it’s “not by might nor by power,” but by God’s Spirit (Zech. 4:6).

Most Christians would not have chosen the men Jesus chose as His apostles. When the religious leaders of that day saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, “they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Have you been with Jesus? Those who recognize their weakness learn to depend on God for strength.

Just acknowledging your weakness does not in itself make you effective in God’s service. But the realization of your weakness and God’s strength is a powerful combination that produces faith and trust in God.

Paul learned that and said so in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, “Not that we are sufficiently qualified in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency and qualifications come from God. He has qualified us [making us sufficient] as ministers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ], not of the letter [of a written code] but of the Spirit” (amp).

Corrie ten Boom said it well. “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit [and His gifts], then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”

Your weakness and inability will cultivate a reliance on the Holy Spirit which will prevent self-sufficiency. Weakness is seen as the absence of power. But Paul found that in Christ presence is the power. “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

PROCRASTINATION—THE GRAVEYARD OF OPPORTUNITY

By John David Hicks

“Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day” (Luke 9:62 The Message).

These words of Jesus were given to a man who said that he would follow Jesus, but not today. In all of life, the choices you make will determine your direction.  Your life is a result of your choices. The battle is won in your heart and mind. Proverbs 4:23 NLT, reminds us to: “Guard your [mind and your] heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  

Procrastination will make easy things seem hard and hard things even harder! It will steal your time, talent and treasure by delaying, postponing or avoiding a task or decision. Procrastination plants the seeds of self-destruction by undermining your ability to accomplish your plans and goals.  Procrastination starts with the feelings of being overwhelmed and the unwillingness to accept personal responsibility now.  For many, procrastination becomes a habit and their biggest regret.

Benjamin Franklin put it this way: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.” From a biblical perspective, Paul admonishes us: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16). Since time has no meaning or value in eternity all your have is now (Rev. 4:8-10). Your character is established in how you use your time (James. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:24).  At the judgement, you are judged on how you use your time, talent, treasure, tongue and task in this life (Eph. 5:16-17; Matt. 12:35-37). Naturally, Satan and the world system want you to waste your time (1 John 2:15-17; James 4:14-17).  

I like Nike’s motto, “Just do it!” The difference between success and failure often is the inability to act. To put off choosing will inevitably make circumstance choose for you.  Procrastination makes an easy job seem gigantic. So, “Just do it!” The time will never be just right.

Here are some suggestions to help overcome procrastination:

1.   Too many tasks at once can overwhelm you. Divide your time into different slots and break the task down to small jobs. 

2.   Prioritize the important tasks and set a deadline.  

3.   Focus on starting to work on the task rather than finishing it and don’t be concerned with an imperfect start.  

4.   Eliminate distractions around you by telling others your goal. 

5.   Remind yourself of the end goal and the value and reward you will receive—that will help keep you motivated.  

Some common causes of our procrastination are lack of perspective, poor time management skills, perfectionism and fear of failure.  Examine why you are tempted to delay. It is so easy to delay starting tasks that may be difficult or unpleasant in favor of more pleasurable activities. Take the unpleasant task on.  Research has found that considering a task as boring or unpleasant is more likely to result in procrastination than a lack of capability to do the task well.  “A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times,” said Lord Acton.  

One example is cleaning up clutter. It builds up on your desk, your kitchen, the infamous junk drawer, or in boxes that you have ignored. Remember that things are meant to be momentary. Clearing the clutter out of your life—be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—will inspire a sense of strength, peace and satisfaction. When you start to prioritize what is important, you will start to conquer clutter.

Procrastination spiritually will stop your spiritual growth. This is sometimes called “lag time.”  It is the time that elapses between when God reveals a truth and when you finally get around to obeying it. It looks like this:

God asks for obedience in some area of your life → you procrastinate →you stop growing spiritually → God reminds you again → you obey this time → spiritual growth

Procrastination is one of the devil’s most subtle weapons. You put off obedience—after all, you can do it later. This works on many Christians, unless they have a commitment to obedience. Satan disguises your disobedience and claims that you will obey sometime in the future. This makes you feel better, but you have been duped into disobedience disguised as future obedience. The longer you put it off, the more likely you will not do it. A mark of growth in your Christian life is a decrease in the lag time in your obedience. Your commitment goal should be to reduce the lag time to zero and “Just do it!”

So how do you get the willpower?  Willpower is about self-control. You gain willpower by practicing willpower on the little things in your life: going to bed and rising at set times, eating healthy, making your bed, and exercising. Willpower is mostly a habit you acquire through daily practice. I start my day with the word of God and prayer.  That’s where I get my A-B-C Priority list.  If you exercise willpower on little things, you will have willpower for the big things.

The definition of willpower is the strength of will to carry out one’s decisions, wishes, or plans with the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals.  It’s the will to take positive action now and stop putting it off.  Commitment to a goal will changes the way you think. Don’t let anything get in the way of your commitment.  Make no exception.  True willpower requires that you have no other options. Your focus is intense, and you are committed to get it done.

When Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7, He said to the crowd that some of them were building their lives on the solid rock and some on shifting sand.  Some were wise and some were foolish builders. Basically, Jesus was saying “The foolish builders are those people who just listen and agree with everything Jesus had to say, but do not act on it.  James 1:8 says, the foolish are like a “double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”  The wise builders, said Jesus, are “Blessed” (Luke 11:28), they listen and act on the things they have heard.  The foolish have good thoughts and intentions but never put it into practice.  The wise act on it, and the strength and reward follow.

 A philosopher from ancient Rome had this to say about our time:

We all sorely complain of the shortness of time, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives are either spent in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few and acting as though there would be no end of them.”      — Seneca the Younger

 “Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day” (Luke 9:62 The Message).  Whether your procrastination is intentional or unintentional, now is the time to break the habit of procrastination—especially if it is postponing your obedience to God.  Let time serve your purposes.  Things are not always convenient or the right time.  So, don’t let procrastination rob you of the joy and peace of a completed task. Be purposeful, but once you’ve made up your mind, “Just do it!”  

The Purpose of Prayer

by John David Hicks

Imagine a tall building filled with hundreds of rooms. Every room is filled with good possibilities for your future—provision of every kind, healing, deliverance, guidance, and wisdom to make right decisions. The problem is that the door is locked and you can’t get in. But suppose someone puts a “Master Key” in your hand that will open every door. You can choose to use the key or not use it. If you don’t use the key, the doors won’t open for you.

That is a picture of how prayer works. God won’t automatically do everything for you. Instead, He has given you His “Master Key” to use, which is prayer. Prayer gives you the ability to participate in His will being accomplished on earth. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4). However, if we don’t use the “Master Prayer Key,” the door will remain closed for some of God’s blessings.

“And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven” (Matt. 16:19 the message).

Three questions will help us understand the purpose of prayer:

What was the reason that Jesus came? “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8). “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

We are in spiritual warfare—if there were no devil, it would be easy to pray, but it is the evil one’s chief aim to keep you from prayer. Prayer is about this age, but also about reigning with Jesus in the age to come.

According to Paul Billheimer in Destined for the Throne, our prayer life determines our place of rulership in God’s kingdom. Jesus’ victory on the cross won the legal right and authority over all that was lost in the fall. Satan is defeated, but God has given the enforcing of this victory over Satan to His church, to you and me. Satan will not give up any of his rights or authority until we, the church, enforce Jesus’ victory.

Prevailing prayer is aggressive spiritual warfare. Prayer is the means by which we receive God’s supernatural help. This supernatural grace is what distinguishes Christians from the world. That’s why Jesus prayed and why prayer must take a central place in our life and ministry. Prayer also is about relationship, fellowship, and listening. Sometimes this is called contemplative prayer. Faith is born out of this relationship. “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10).

Why is prayer so powerful? “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:12-14).

We are to do what Jesus was doing, fulfilling the purpose of God the Father. It is in the atmosphere of prayer that the Holy Spirit nurtures and develops your faith and directs your will. In prayer we are “abiding” in Christ. In communion we receive His strength and power to be what we were meant to be. Prayer allows us to fulfill the Great Commission and the purposes of God for our life. When we are “born again” by the Holy Spirit, we are in covenant with God and God will keep the promises in that covenant. Joshua 23:14 testifies, “You know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed!” (nlt). Prayer puts your dependence and trust in God into action. God will keep His covenant promises.

How are we to pray? Prayer is connecting your heart to God’s heart.Jesus’ only prayer request is found in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus also said in Matthew 6:10 to pray for God’s “kingdom come; your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men” (Romans 14:17-18). “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen” (Rev. 1:5-6). “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20).

Your purpose is to pray for the kingdom of God to come in your life and in the world. The purpose of prayer is not to inform God. Neither is it to persuade Him, for His love needs neither to be induced nor charmed. So, come boldly to the throne of grace and express your faith, your expectation that by His grace He has made us an overcomer.

Paul encourages us to pray for those in authority and those under your authority (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Pray for your family, friends, those who don’t know Christ, and your influence in the world. Prayer also prepares our hearts to obey. In prayer the Holy Spirit gives us God’s heart and thus gives us faith to do His works. Prayer gives us ears to hear God and hearts to obey. God gives the Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32).

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). We are to pray persistently, with thanks-giving, in faith, for the glory of God, and in His righteousness. The Lord has promised to answer your prayers. “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me” (Psalm 17:6). “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17). The Lord has promised, “How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Rom. 5:17).

Prayer is the way we release our cares, problems, and burdens to God. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

Your faith influences this spiritual battle. “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor.15:57).

That is why James 4:2 says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the kingdom,” said C. H. Spurgeon. You should not think it unreasonable that God should make some things totally dependent upon your prayers. God promised if we will “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). Prayer will make a difference in what happens in your life and in the world. God has placed in our hand the “Master Key,” but it’s up to us to put it in the doorknob. Will you use the “Master Key of prayer?”

Prayer should become our lifestyle—to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4). The manna from heaven would spoil if used more than one day (Ex. 16:20). The same applies to yesterday’s “portion” from the Lord. You need a fresh portion and direction each day.

The Power of Prayer

Dr. Randy Byrd was a staff cardiologist at San Francisco General Hospital and a professor at the University of California. He conducted a 10-month study of 393 patients admitted to the coronary intensive care unit of the hospital. In the prayed-for group were 192 patients, while the remaining 201 patients were not prayed for.

Prayer groups around the country were given only the first names, diagnoses, and prognoses of the designated 192 patients. The groups were asked to pray for the patients by name once each day. No other instructions were given. None of the patients, nurses, or physicians knew which group the patients were in.

The results were startling. The prayed-for patients were five times less likely to require antibiotics and three times less likely to develop fluid filling the lungs. None of these prayed-for patients required breathing tubes compared to 12 in the other group, and fewer of the prayed-for patients died. The findings were published by the American Heart Association. Dr. Byrd’s study shows that praying for others really does make a difference even when the patients don’t know they are being prayed for.

Think what could happen if we started praying for others and ourselves about everything. Our prayers could change the world!

Oswald Chambers said well, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.” Like Paul “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the power may be of God and not of ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7).

    PS: The “Master Key” is found in John 14:13-14—Prayer in Jesus Name.

Mentoring Produces the Grace, Knowledge, & Authority of God

“God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 MSG).

by John David Hicks

This command of Jesus, often called the Great Commission, communicates some of His final words before His ascension. It is as though He wanted to impress this instruction on the disciples and make sure they wouldn’t forget it. Jesus envisioned that discipleship would be the main ministry of the church. It was one of the main thrusts of His ministry on earth—training others to do the work He could not finish: “Do this, day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

Discipleship can be compared to a plant’s life. An apple tree’s purpose, for example, is not to bear fruit but to produce seeds to get another apple tree. It’s a commitment to future generations. The delicious fruit is the by-product. When you plant the seeds, you get more fruit. Each person has value and potential to produce more life and “seeds” if he is discipled.

In Scripture “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). It is a life-giving “word” to the plant/person. “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). Again, Paul says “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13).

The metaphor of the “seed” as the Word, the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit all are at work in the life of a plant/person. Thus, it is the person who has received the implanted seed of God that needs mentoring in order to produce fruit and to implant the life of God in other believers. For “God’s seed remains in him…he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9).

The three stages of growth in plant life are germination, growth, and reproduction. Germination starts with a seed that is buried in the soil. The plant’s embryo then develops its roots and begins to grow. From its environment, it draws nutrients and other elements. With sunshine, the right temperature, and water, the plant becomes rooted and grounded. The more nutrient-rich the soil, the better the plant will grow. The tree continues to grow and puts forth blossoms. These flowers fade and die away as the tree puts its energy into producing fruit containing seeds.

Christian growth as a disciple can be seen to have the same three phases. In 1 John 2:12-14, the apostle uses a metaphor with three phases to illustrate the stages. He likens it to children, young men, and fathers.

John says the children know that their sins are forgiven and that they are in the family of God. The task of the child, i.e. the new Christian, is to become rooted and begin to grow. Paul in Ephesians 3:17-19 said, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

God uses the Word and your experiences to teach you so you can learn from your failures—I call that wisdom. Mentors are good for pointing out healthier and more productive ways to come into maturity…sometimes warning you, if you are open to receive that. Applying God’s Word and the fellowship of other believers is what helps feed the plant. Keeping an eye on your plant in discipleship is an essential part of growing and catching problems early.

John says that the young men are those who are beginning to show some maturity in their Christian lives. They are strong and into the Word of God and have overcome the evil one. It is like the second stage of growth in plant life, as we continue to see flowers open, each one a potential piece of fruit. As in the first stage, fertilization in the truth of God’s Word is vital for growth in grace and knowledge of Jesus. Jesus prayed for this in John 17:15-17, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

These first two stages are best accomplished through small discipleship groups. The spiritual children and young men need the input of other Christians into their lives. God never intended for you to live the Christian life by yourself, but instead to live a lifestyle of relationship with Him and other Christians. The New Testament model of the church is a small group of Christians, encouraging and ministering to one another.

For the sake of your own growth and effectiveness, get involved with an inner circle of Christians, sharing God’s life and love and your faith. A small group is God’s perfect place for working out love in everyday relationships. As the body of Christ, the church is an organism; it has life in it. It functions and moves by the Holy Spirit. God works in each of our lives as we minister to one another.

John says that the final stage of spiritual development is to be a father. These are mature Christians who cry out, “Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you” (Psalm 86:11 NLT). Paul says that the mature walk in wisdom and the counsel of God. They are like apple trees in the final, fruiting stage. The plant has grown into maturity and it produces and manifests its own fruit and seeds. Seed dispersal is essential for the next generation.

Fathers are leaders in the church of God. They are soul-winners and discipling new converts. The mature are complete in Him. Mature leaders in the church are given “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).

The Lord was first to establish a mentoring relationship in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:26-32; 2:15-25). But their disobedience to God’s guidance led to the fall of mankind. They found that their wrong thinking and pride can distort your judgment. Even fear can make you reject a helping hand from others and God. Jesus said that a disciple of His would be like a child, teachable, humble, open, and willing to receive guidance and godly counsel. Mentoring has been a part of God’s plan from the start.

Germination and Growth
The seed of the gospel, when planted, will “conform you into the image of Christ.” Christ-like character is revealed by concentrating on who you are in Christ, not worrying about what others think. Godly character begins when you give the Holy Spirit complete control of your life (Rom. 12:1-2). When you make mistakes and mess up, you make amends and deal honestly with them. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). That is how to maintain integrity with God and man.

Discipleship is nothing more than striving to model the heart and character of God and demonstrate God’s power by faith (1 Thess. 1:5-6). In the seed of plant/person the Holy Spirit works within you to take on the character of Jesus and reflect His power and presence (John 14:12-18). By grace, you will say, like Jesus, “Not my will, but thine be done.”

This seed of God within you is nourished by the Word of God. Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4). Jesus quoted Scripture to overcome evil because He recognized its power—power to make you holy and to set you free. He tells us in John 8, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). And later Jesus prayed, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17 NLT). Learning and studying Scripture and biblical precepts in a discipleship group should be a high priority in your life. For “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

But there is a cost to discipleship and Jesus admonishes you to count the cost. Too often the church has settled for an attitude of, “Just believe in Jesus or God.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared that “cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” This has made the gospel irrelevant in the world according to Bonhoeffer. A.W. Tozer said that this heresy has made “Vampire Christians” that take the blood of Jesus for forgiveness of their sin, but then want nothing more to do with the body of Christ until they get to heaven.

Why Does the Plant/Person Need Mentoring?
In Scripture mentoring is the foundation of servant leadership—leadership that serves others unselfishly (Matt. 20:25-28; 22:37-40).

Mentoring will stretch you and help you to grow (1 Peter 2:1-5). Mentoring will give you a vision of your destiny and calling (Jer. 1:5; 1 Cor. 12:4-11). Mentoring will encourage you to seek and obey the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Joshua 1:5-9; Luke 12:12; John 14:26; Rom. 8:5). Mentoring will help you activate your spiritual gifts and see your potential (1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12; Heb. 5:12-14). Mentoring will provide godly wisdom and support (Psalm 1:1-3; Eph. 5:20-27). Mentoring will motivate your thinking and bring your behavior in line with God’s Word so you can achieve supernatural success (Jer. 29:10-14; Matt. 4:17; Rom. 12:1-2). A mentor will be honest and realistic with you, giving you positive direct feedback.

If the plant/person does not produce, there will be no future fruit. Likewise, the purpose of the church is to produce more disciples. A seed is the reproductive part of the plant which can grow into a new plant. The seeds are inside the fruit—you. “Jesus used a show, tell, deploy, and supervise method of training,” said John Wimber. “After calling the disciples he took them along with him, teaching and healing the sick as he went. Then, after he thought the disciples had seen and learned enough to try for themselves, he then commissioned, empowered, instructed, and sent them out to do the same things.”

A good mentor will impart his character, values, and faith into your life (1 Cor. 4:16–17; 2 Tim. 1:13). His coaching will give you permission to succeed and fail; to try new things; to be different and not conform; to ask questions; to cast a vision. Through his guidance and wisdom, you will grow spiritually. Watchman Nee said, “Every time I have grown spiritually another brother has provoked me.” By that he meant that a brother motivated him to go deeper spiritually.

Jesus modeled discipleship by spending time with His disciples—getting to know them, relaxing with them, sharing with them. Intimate sharing and caring love that is expressed in loyalty, commitment, and mutual acceptance will bond you to others. This is where you can pray and care for one another and focus on the Word of God. It is where you find your place in the body of Christ and learn to play your role in God’s story.

A mentor’s function is to release the individual to be his own unique person. When a person is loved, accepted, and respected, true character can be established. Before beginning the relationship, both parties should clarify their expectations. For mentoring is about growth, purpose, establishing a vision, and development of the plant/person within us with wisdom, teaching, and support. Someone has described mentoring as helping people with their career, specific work projects, or general life guidance out of the goodness of their heart. Mentoring is about developing leadership and long-term development.

An important principle of mentoring is to “shut up and listen.” Otherwise you will be giving answers to questions that no one is asking. You need to know what they are experiencing.

Another principle is fellowship around a table. Food, trust, and security go together; that’s what connects you and earns your right to be heard. The purpose of discipleship is not getting someone to profess a certain doctrine but applying the under-standing of Scripture to life in the kingdom of God here and now.

Discipleship mentoring is a process not a program. Paul gives us an example of a mentor when he says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Mentoring is a process by which a mature, older Christian commits himself for a period of time to a few individual Christians for the purpose of equipping them to reproduce themselves in others—to become fathers spiritually. Every Christian knows that they need accountability and discipline for this, but few crave or seek it. This is why you need a mentor. Look for a mature Christian you admire, respect, and trust. Then spend time with them; most of what you will learn comes through your association.

The mentor’s insights, reflections, questions, and perspectives will advance fathers into deeper maturity. A good mentor does not need to offer all the right answers, but it is essential for him to ask direct questions and offer discernment. When you see fatherhood modeled, it will lay the foundation for greater spiritual development. This is how a mentor empowers leaders for ministry.

Mentoring Produces the Grace, Knowledge, and Authority of God in the Christian’s Life, Resulting in Obedience to the Great Commission
Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus encouraged the disciples to wait for the gift the Father promised: “In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). In verse 8, Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The sign that you are filled with the Holy Spirit is that you are a witness to what Jesus said and did (John 14:12-14).

When the disciples received the power of the Holy Spirit, they could then fulfill the Great Commission, which was to teach and to disciple new converts to carry on the work of the gospel. The fire of the Holy Spirit will release the seeds of truth and guide you into the life of God that is in you (Eph. 3:20-21).

Did you know that pine trees are dying in our national forests because of lack of forest fires? Man has tried to prevent forest fires, which pine trees depend upon. The main thing that kills the trees are pine bark beetles, which infest the trees and lay their eggs. Insecticides are ineffective on infested trees. Only forest fires can kill the bugs and release the seeds of the tree for new growth.

Likewise, you need the fire of the Holy Spirit in your life to kill the bugs that have infested you spiritually and to release the seeds of life into your life.
Paul affirms this: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20). For “Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake” (1 Thess. 1:5).

Jesus devoted most of His ministry to discipling His disciples to do what He was doing (John 14:12-14) and molding the righteous nature of God into their lives (John 14:9-11). This was His intentional plan—discipleship.

Never forget that for mentoring to take place there must be a bonding in your relationship. This happens when there is security in your relationship. You know that there is a commitment to confidentiality and trust. So, you can be direct, share yourself, and be comfortable with feedback. You have permission to be real, open, and vulnerable and still be loved, accepted, and seen as a maturing, growing person.

Over my many years in ministry I have seen that those Christians who excel in their walk with God were connected to a loving and caring discipleship group. They answered the call to discipleship.

Discipleship is so important to Jesus that He promised, “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20). Discipleship and mentoring is what produces the seeds in the plant/person in God’s kingdom. No wonder it is God’s priority and should be yours and the church’s priority!

 

The Voice of Freedom

The Voice of Freedom

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me…. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says” (Rev. 3:20, 22 nasb). “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32 nasb).

By John David Hicks

The Christian life is all about relationship, and communication is at the heart of any good relationship. There must be an exchange of thoughts, messages, or information. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” In verses 3-5 He says the shepherd “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

As the chaplain in a gospel mission, I sometimes deal with individuals who are depressed and find it hard to function. Many live under condemnation because of sin, failures, or abandonment. Others are confused, in conflict, and sometimes suicidal. I explain that “in your mind you hear three voices”:
One is from God. His voice is holy, good, kind, and loving. Jesus promised that His “sheep” would hear His voice (John 10:27).

A second voice is yours. As a Christian you want to do God’s will (John 7:17), so your mind is going through a transformation process (Rom. 12:2; Phil. 4:4-8). At times your old fleshly mind raises its head with hurts from the past, and Satan then inserts greed, bitterness, fear, and negative self-talk.

The third voice is the devils. His voice is negative, condemning, and evil. He fools you into thinking that his voice is yours so you will hear it, and then he can tempt, accuse, or deceive you (Luke 4:13).

You’ve probably seen a cartoon that pictures a good angel on someone’s shoulder whispering in his ear and on the other shoulder the devil whispering in the other ear. There is a lot of truth in this. Jesus attributed all evil to demonic forces (Mark 9:25; Luke 11:14; 13:11-16; Acts 10:38).

Remember when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you…for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” Peter heard God’s voice. Jesus then explained that He had to go to Jerusalem and be crucified. Peter began to rebuke Jesus. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus did not rebuke Peter, but Satan. “Get behind me, Satan!” (v. 23).

Peter didn’t mean to be an offense. However, the devil inspired Peter’s statement, and Jesus went after the real source. That is your example to follow. Learn to recognize the lies of the devil.

In Destined to Overcome, Paul Billheimer says a lot of difficulties and troubles in our body, mind, and spirit are caused by demon personalities under the command of Satan. They use our thoughts to affect our moods, condemning us, depressing us, and making us fearful. “There is no such thing as abstract evil; evil always has an intelligent self-conscious source. There is no evil that does not originate in a personality.” Evil spirits watch your reactions to situations and the words you say before they influence your thoughts toward evil. The only way you can overcome the devil is to expose him and resist him in the name of Jesus.

Satan wants you to focus on yourself and to see people as for you or against you. His voice is coming from your flesh when you hear: “I’m such a klutz”; “I’m so stupid”; “I can’t do anything right”; “Those people don’t like me.” Satan uses thoughts from your old patterns of living which are still in your brain. When you hear the devil’s voice and think it is your voice, you will receive it. When you receive these negative thoughts, they instantly become yours. That is what makes you discouraged, condemned, and defeated. The key is to instantly “capture” them and reject them. When you say, “Stop, I will not receive this,” or “Get behind me Satan,” you short-circuit the negative. Now focus on what is true and positive.

Paul was concerned about you when he wrote: “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Satan wants your mind to become polluted, your heart to become indifferent, and your flesh to demand sinful pleasure. Don’t be like Eve and become deceived by the devil’s craftiness. You are at war with demonic forces of evil, the world system, and your fleshly mind.

Listen to God’s plan: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:2 nlt). You are tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil. This world’s system is at cross-purposes with God’s plans and values (1 John 2:15). Life in the “flesh” is lived under the serpent’s lie of judging that is independent of God (Matt. 7:1; Rom. 7:18). Jesus said the devil is the thief that has comes to steal, kill, and destroy you (John 10:10; James 1:13-15).

The main way you will win the battle for your mind is to learn how to separate yourself from the evil thoughts the devil puts in your mind. You will know the devil’s voice when he puts into your mind: anger, pride, greed, bitterness, jealousy, lust, resentment, spite, negativism, pessimism, condemnation, guilt, confusion, deceitfulness, and revenge. All these evil thoughts are coming from the enemy.

Since those thoughts are not yours, you are not responsible for them any more than you are responsible for someone using profanity in your presence. But then you must learn to disregard them and not accept them as yours. If you accept them and believe those thoughts are yours, the devil has got you and will shame you, make you feel guilty, and condemn you. All bondage begins first in your mind.

The secret, Paul says, is: “Christ lives in you” (Col 1:27 nlt). You are in Christ and are to live out of His life. It’s like abiding in the vine—the branch will bear much fruit (John 15:5). “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24). “In Christ,” you die to your old self as the center and make Jesus the Lord in your new self (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:17).

Here’s the good news: “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). You have spiritual weapons from God that will put the devil to flight. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5 nlt).

Whatever you set your mind upon will ultimately determine your behavior. The first temptation in the Garden was to doubt the Word of God. On the other hand, Jesus overcame Satan by quoting the Word of God. Align your thought life with the truth that comes from God’s Word. Then the truth will continue to make you free. “Watch [or guard] over your heart [innermost thoughts, pictures, and words] with all diligence, for from it [your innermost thoughts, pictures, and words] flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23 nasb).

Every word you think about has power—to build or destroy your hopes and dreams, to restore or cause you loss, to heal you or break your spirit, to bring you delight or despair, to bless you or curse you—for “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21) and in the thoughts you accept (Prov. 23:7).

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). As you “submit” to God’s love and authority, and order Satan to flee, you will recognize a new freedom from oppression and ignorance. The devil cannot deceive you or defeat you if you are established in the love of God and His Word. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:35, 37).

When you resist the devil by telling him you will not receive his negative thoughts and to flee from you in the name of Jesus, he will go. He knows he has to. But if you don’t resist the devil, the Bible warns you that you will become a double-minded man, unstable in all you do (James 1:8).

“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s [or devil’s] judgment: For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:15-16). As a “spiritual man” you have the “mind of Christ” and can discern thoughts from God, yourself, and the devil.

As you submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee from you. This truth will set you free from Satan’s schemes to defeat you. You’ll have power to live a life of peace, joy, and victory over the devil and every negative thought. “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” (Rom. 15:13).

God’s Kind of Leader

by John David Hicks

When I was teaching at Canadian Nazarene College, a pastor friend was looking for a youth pastor for his church. I asked him what kind of person he was looking for. “Oh,” he said, “one that can play the guitar, sing, and is good with kids. He should have a good personality and be outgoing.”

“Those are all desirable traits,” I told him, “but God looks for something else in a leader. Paul told Timothy and Titus to look for two key things in a leader. Hospitality, because ministry comes out of relationships, and he must be teachable, so he can teach others.”

How would you define hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8)? The ministry of hospitality introduces people into the kingdom of God. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

You are God’s representative of the message of reconciliation, and that message will come out in your hospitality and teaching.

Hospitality is an attribute of God and will be manifested in the lives of His children. In the Bible, hospitality focuses on loving-kindness toward the alien or stranger, widows or sojourners as an expression of God’s love. Hebrews 13:2 tells us, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hospitality is also a ministry to the saints. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew18:20).

A life of hospitality begins and ends with a recognition of God’s grace and generosity. Hospitality is an act of Christian love and a mark of a mature Christian home. Sitting around the table, people will feel they are loved and accepted. Thus, one lady defined hospitality as “the kitchen is always open.”

In Romans 12, Paul summarizes what it means to be in Christian ministry. He first speaks about the lifestyle of leadership and hospitality. Then he adds the character qualities of humility, diligence, and love that will work in all circumstances. “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically” (Romans 12:9-11 nlt).

Hospitality is the door to discipleship and stewardship. By it we demonstrate that God owns everything we have. We are just caretakers of what God has given. He is the real owner. He is our Lord. Out of reverence, gratitude, and devotion to Him, we share His abundance and His love for what He has done for us.

Hospitality reaches out to give comfort. It is a willingness to share your time, your family, your home, your church, even your finances and food. A hospitable person is the first one to greet visitors at church and invite them home for fellowship or lunch. Hospitality is at the heart of ministry in the kingdom of God because it moves you into relationship with God and man. Hospitality affects eternity and is “a cup of cold water given in the name of the Lord.” Jesus says that it will be rewarded. You can never tell where the influence of hospitality will end.

How would you define a teachable person (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:9)? A teachable person has a spirit of humility. When a person thinks he knows it all, no one can teach him anything. A teachable person is willing to learn from anyone and can apply truth. Because he is a “doer” of the Word of God, he is learner-teachable. He can move out of his comfort zone and try something different and can even make mistakes. He can change his views and practices and admit when he is wrong. All because “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

A disciple of Christ is someone who learns from Jesus by following Him and submitting to His teaching and lordship. Think about how Judas responded when Christ corrected him. The disciples were at Simon’s house and Mary anointed Jesus with expensive oil. Judas protested, saying that the oil could be sold for a year’s wages and given to the poor. Jesus then reproved Judas and said that what the woman has done will be told wherever the gospel is preached. The next verse declared that Judas went out and betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Can you receive correction? Will you respond like Judas when someone tries to correct you? Will you get defensive or angry? Will you turn against your critics? To be teachable means that we must be willing to receive instruction and correction when someone gives it. Proverbs tells us if we listen to correction we will “dwell among the wise.” When you are not teachable, you will have to learn from your failures.

Basically, being teachable means that you have an attitude of learning and can accept advice and correction. In 2 Timothy 2:23-26, Paul says, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

The New Testament example of this ministry was Priscilla and Aquila. They used their home to give shelter and hospitality and teaching to those in need. Paul said they had great influence among the “Gentile churches” and he thanked them for risking their own lives for him (Romans 16:3-4). When Apollos came to speak in Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila heard him and invited him to their home. They “explained to him the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). Paul tells us that the result of having hospitality and a teachable spirit is that you will “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58 nasb). This person is God’s kind of leader!

The Story Behind God’s Love for You!

“I Have Loved You With an Everlasting Love!”

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. Therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you’” (Jeremiah 31:3). 

By John David Hicks © www.faithencounter.org

The greatest truth in the Bible is that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God knows you by name and has chosen to “love you with an everlasting love.” That’s why He has “continued His faithfulness to you.” He will not give up on you. His patience toward you is a part of His nature. God wants you to know that you are special, and that you are loved personally for who you are, with all your strengths and weaknesses, faults and failures. His love for you is not based on your performance, looks, or talents. The transforming power of God’s love is that He knows all about you. He sees everything you do. He can find you anywhere you go—and He likes you, but not the lifestyle you have chosen. He loves you dearly, and the most important thing to a God of love is a relationship with you.

Jesus tells a parable (story) we call “The Prodigal Son” to illustrate God’s love as a compassionate father (Luke 15:11-31). The younger son in the family asks his father to give him his portion of the family estate as an early inheritance. The father agrees, and the son takes the money and recklessly spends it all in a faraway land. Ashamed of himself, he returns to ask humbly for a job as a servant in his father’s house. But the father has been watching for him and hosts a party to celebrate his return. The elder brother, who has been working all this time, sees what is happening and is angry because he is jealous.

Neither of the brothers understands their father’s love for them. Both brothers are spiritually sick. They both build relationships based upon money. The older brother will get two-thirds of his father’s estate and the younger one-third. They want their inheritance, but in their hearts they are rejecting their relationship with their father. In other words, they only want Dad’s stuff and couldn’t care less about being with Dad. They both had a party spirit. The only difference was the younger son had the guts to act it out. When he came home, his older brother bitterly said to his father, “Why didn’t you throw me a party?” Both brothers also desired to be free from the father’s authority. It’s a picture of living your life with no regard for God.

The younger son can’t stand his father or his brother and wants to get as far away as possible. By asking for an early inheritance he is saying that he wishes his father were dead. He did not comprehend the love and mercy that God the Father gives to everyone who accepts His love.

When he left his father’s home, he went to a distant country and wasted his fortune on wild living. When the money ran out, he was in dire need and a severe famine hit the country. No one would give him anything. Finally, in his desperation he took an unpleasant, stinking job of feeding pigs and he even longed to eat the pigs’ food.
It is then, in his great need, that he remembers his father and decides to return home. He is willing even to be a hired hand in his father’s house (Luke 15:18). He will ask his father for forgiveness. When he says, “I will arise and go to my Father,” he was repenting of his sinful ways and rebellion against his father. He realized that he had sinned against heaven and had wronged his father. The son still does not realize the depth of his father’s love for him and only sees his father as a possible employer.

The father who had been watching for his son ran to meet him and received him back home with love and compassion. The son tried to explain his mistake and to ask for forgiveness, but it was drowned out by his father’s joy. His merciful father completely restores him without condition as a full member of the household. The father called for a celebration and gave his son a robe, sandals, and a ring. He is restored to his place as a son, not a slave. The past is forgiven and he has a role in the father’s house. He sits at the table as a son, with full acceptance. The son could not have imagined this wonderful reception. The broken relationship is healed. Your destiny is determined by your choices.

What are the signs that you have a “younger brother” attitude?

  • 1) When you have a rebellious attitude, and want to do “your own thing” with no regard for God.
    2) When in your selfishness and pride you try to make a deal with the Father.
    3) When you have no regard for God or the church and feel like God will not hear your prayers.
    4) When the devil condemns you for your past sins and failures and makes you feel unworthy.
    5) When you feel good enough to serve the Father, but not good enough to receive His gifts and blessing.
    6) When you see God as someone who is in the way of having a good time.
    7) When you come to the end of yourself and decide to return home. When you do, you will find God the Father is waiting patiently, with loving compassion to restore you. God affirms your worth with the love He showed on the cross. Even in your bondage to sin and when you were thinking, feeling, and acting like God’s enemy, God demonstrated His love for you “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). The fantastic price God paid to redeem you establishes your unsurpassable worth. In God’s sacrifice on the cross, God demonstrates you are so valuable to Him, you are worth dying for.

God the Father’s first concern is for your welfare; the focus is not on your sin, but on your relationship with Him. It is the relationship that will keep you healthy and away from sinning (John 14:15). God does not want you to suffer the destructive consequences of sin (Romans 6:23). Only God’s love and care for you can make this happen.

Meanwhile, when the older son came in from the fields and discovered a party to celebrate his brother’s return, he refused to join the joyous celebration. Instead, he became enraged. Whereas he had served his father faithfully, he felt that his brother was unworthy to receive anything. He does not accept his brother and calls him the son of his father. He saw his father as the employer who pays the wage rather than a compassionate father. The father again expresses his compassion when he humbles himself in front of his guests and goes into the courtyard to discuss the matter with his angry elder son.

His father explained that his brother was lost and now has been found. This called for a celebration. Then he reaffirms his love for his older son. “You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” Obedience to the known will of God determines your blessings.

In this story of the older brother, we see a self-righteous, bitter, and unloving son. He thinks he is morally good and imagines that the father has accepted him because of his good deeds. He is jealous of his father’s love toward his brother. He is envious of his brother’s acceptance by their father. He is bitter about all the years he has worked. He is unforgiving of his brother’s sins. He is ungrateful for the love and provision of his father and couldn’t care less about being in relationship with him. He is cold and heartless. He cannot recognize any sin in his own life.

What are the signs that you have an “elder brother” attitude?

  • 1) When you are resentful of the blessings and acceptance that God offers to others who you think may not be worthy of them.
    2) When you are jealous that the party and fattened calf is not for you. After all, you’ve served faithfully for years.
    3) When you won’t go into the Father’s house—to church to be in the family of God.
    4) When you feel self-righteous because you serve God, but are angry that you have not received the Father’s spiritual gifts and authority.
    5) When you are judgmental of the sins of others, but fail to see the failings in your own life.
    6) When you are blind to all that God has already made yours.

The father did not give up on either son, but the elder brother acted like a slave, not a son. He also needed the father’s forgiveness. He was performance driven, which blinded him from having a loving relationship with his father and brother. His attitude kept him from receiving the blessings of the father or to be a part of the family of God—the church.

Sin is more than a specific isolated act—a lie, a theft, immorality, dishonesty—for sin is rebellion and living in independence of God. It is about relationships and attitudes. Sin twists your motives and damages your emotions, resulting in sinful acts that contaminate everything you do. Sin will cause you to struggle with your health, life, and purpose. Sin is behind every broken home, every empty life, every sorrow and grief. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). That is why God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross in our place to pay the penalty for all our sins so we could be forgiven and be reconciled to God.

In this story, the father’s response to the younger son is unexpected. He honors the boy’s shocking request for his inheritance. The father’s love gave him the “freedom of choice” that allows for his rebellion. Later, instead of rejecting his son for his sin and rebellion, the father watches and waits for his son to “come to himself” and return home. When he does, his father blesses him with gifts and a banquet. He is restored as a son with love, acceptance, and forgiveness. All this is unimaginable.

For the son to be completely restored he had to receive his father’s forgiveness. When God forgives you, He gives you the power to forgive yourself. Only then is your reconciliation as a son complete. The consequences of not receiving the Father’s forgiveness are feelings of guilt, condemnation, and the judgment and disapproval of God and yourself. We see it in the broken, sick lives of resentful people in their irrational fears, bitterness, anger, and depression toward others, themselves, and even God.

The Father’s love for you is unselfish and loyal, with only kind intentions. He is committed to your welfare and will not hold your sin against you. He has a deep affection for you. He wants you to acknowledge His presence so he can fellowship with you. You are very special, dear, and important to Him. I trust you will experience the Father’s lavish love for you! Be reconciled to God.

Jesus had told this parable to show His listeners what God is like. Although the younger brother is reconciled with his father, the story of the elder brother has no conclusion. Jesus is silent about the elder brother’s outcome. His listeners must decide whether the older son will accept the father’s love and then act in love and compassion toward his lost brother like the father did.

But I would like to give you my conclusion.* This is how I believe Jesus would like to have told the story of the older brother. It would go something like this:

Not long after his brother left home, the older brother told his parents, “Mother, I heard you crying last night. I know you miss and hurt for my little brother. I too wonder what has happened to him. The other night when I came home, I saw a candle lit in his room. I rushed to his room to see if he was there. I was going to give him a big hug and tell him how glad I was that he was back. But the room was empty. I cried myself to sleep. I miss him so.”

“Dad, I know your heart aches too. When I was working in the field the other day, I saw you climb the hill and look down the road. I plowed on, but I could not hold back the tears. Let’s face it—life has been horrible without him. We miss him. I will go find him and bring him home.”

“No, Son,” his mother said. “I’ve lost one boy. I don’t want to lose you.”

His dad hugged him closely and then said, “My son, you are a good man. That decision is up to you.”

The elder son said, “I have experienced your love, care, and goodness all my life. It has been an honor being a part of this family. In our relationship, Dad, you have taught me about life. I have seen your love and compassion for the hurting, broken, and lost people in this world. I miss my brother just as much as you. I am glad to be your son. So as your son, I have got to go find my brother.”

The next day the elder son started out. His parents walked down that dusty road with him for a while. Then they silently watched him disappear into the distance. Daily the father would climb that hill and look down the road. Days went by, and then one day he saw two boys walking. He ran down the hill as fast as he could and called out to a servant, “Get robes, bring rings, and don’t forget the sandals!” He first hugged and kissed his prodigal son and told him how glad he was to have him home.

Then with deep affection and admiration the father turned to his elder son and gave him a big hug. “You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Everything I have is yours forever,” he said.

“No, Dad, I told my brother how much we loved him and missed him. His sin and messed up life was not that important. He was what mattered to us and we wanted him to come home. We would let bygones be bygones. We would forget the dividing up of the estate. All I have is his too. I just want us to be brothers again.”

Then the father told the servants, “Bring the fattened calves, two of them. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. Invite all our friends and neighbors. For these my sons have returned home. One was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found. The seat of honor belongs to my elder son. All this is possible because of him!”

Jesus is our example of what it means to be the elder brother. He was a servant and calls us into servanthood for the Father. Jesus’ attitude and love for the Father and others should be your attitude. “For the Son of Man [Jesus] came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). In Revelation 3:20, Jesus gives you, the younger brother, the invitation to come back to the Father’s house. “Behold, I stand at your heart’s door and knock. If any man will hear my voice and open the door, I will come into him and have fellowship with him and he with me.”

If you will receive Him, He will come into your life, cleanse you from all your sin, and “The Holy Spirit himself testifies with your spirit that you are God’s child” (Romans 8:16). “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). “For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).

Jesus’ attitude and love for the Father and others should be your attitude. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT). God wants you in the family of God, the body of Christ, His church. In a good church, you will find a deeper relationship with God, His will and direction for your life. Friendships are built and opportunities are given to serve others. This is how you are to be Jesus to your world.

Each of us must decide how the parable will end. In the same way that God the Father shows compassion for His children, you and I also must demonstrate love for one another. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’” (Jer. 31:3).

*I received some insight from an unknown source.

Discerning the Call of God on Your life

Discerning the Call of God on your life

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God” (Acts 20:24 NLT).

by John David Hicks

Hearing a pastor or missionary speak of feeling called to their work can be baffling to listeners. How did he or she know it was a call of God? Would God be calling me to some kind of full-time Christian service? How can I be sure?

The common practice of Jesus’ day was if you wanted to be a disciple of a teacher, you sought them out and volunteered. But unlike them, Jesus chose His disciples. The ministry is not something a person chooses on his own. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The New Testament begins with, “There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe” (John 1:6-7). John the Baptist was willing to make any sacrifice, pay any price, forsake all to “pave the way for Christ.” He declared, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

For some the call may come gradually. You begin to feel a burden for the ministry as you serve the Lord. When you teach or preach, that desire grows into a flame. You understand Jeremiah 20:9, “His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” The call is on you.
Charles Spurgeon explained a call as “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.” The person called of God will have a growing compulsion to preach and teach the Word, and to minister to people. Often, the person called feels inadequate, but the Lord will equip you with the gifts necessary for your ministry.

When God calls you, He also gives a message. John Wesley testified, “I felt my heart strangely warmed…. I knew that God had saved me, even me!” That was the message God incorporated into his life, and through his ministry millions of people began to follow the Lord. With that conviction, he had a ministry and a call that changed the world.

The Holy Spirit is the one who must issue the call to ministry. You can “desire the office of a bishop” (1 Tim. 3:1), but the call of God comes from the Holy Spirit. Be sure not to confuse recognition of a need with a call. You hear a missionary from India telling of work among the lepers and think you may have been called to help. Then someone from Africa tells of the desperate need there and you want to go to Africa. There are always needs all over the world, and in our own country too. That doesn’t mean you are called to meet all those needs.

Jesus devoted most of His ministry to training His disciples. Education and experience will free your potential to minister effectively. That is also part of the call and should not be rushed or neglected.

Jesus modeled for us four qualities of successful ministry:

First of all, you must know that you are loved and accepted by God. This knowledge will affect your outward performance and success. You must know that your identity and righteousness are established with God. A performance mentality is no longer an issue. Many in ministry often struggle with the aspect that they have to perform in order to be accepted and to validate their ministry. If the ministry comes from God, then obedience trumps performance. Where God guides He provides…therefore it is not of “you” anyway (Phil. 4:19).

At Jesus’ baptism, at the beginning of His ministry, this was established. “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (Matt. 3:17). This laid a foundation for His ministry. When you know that you are loved, accepted, and forgiven, you can love, accept, and forgive others. It is not how much you love God, but knowing how much you are loved that will motivate you. “For Christ’s love compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). Know that you are greatly loved.

Second, like Jesus, you must understand that your calling is to be a servant. Jesus served others, without expectation of reward or affirmation. He gave without expectation of return. This gave Him spiritual authority. “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:26 NLT). When your concern for others outweighs your concern for yourself, you will have maturity in your ministry. The authority of your ministry will be built on your service and sacrifice.

If you can be submissive to church leaders’ authority, you can be submissive to God’s authority. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Lead by being a servant.

Third, Jesus was involved in a discipleship group. People are discipled in small groups primarily through modeling. When you are in a group that is honest with one another and accountable, you will grow and mature spiritually. The group will cultivate in you personal times of worship and prayer, clarify scriptures, and provide accountability. It is through real life situations and shared experiences that your faith will be established. Get involved in an accountability group.

Fourth, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and He promised, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NLT). The proof that you are filled with the Holy Spirit is, “you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere.” After Pentecost the disciples had the power to be witnesses! Jesus said, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49 NASB). Paul could say, “Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake” (1 Thess. 1:5).

The call of God is evidenced by the fruit of relationship with God and others. If you can’t lead others to Christ before you go on the mission field, what makes you think you could do it when you get there? Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John15:16). Your calling and fruit can be seen as you immerse yourself in the word of God, as you pray for anyone who has a need, and as you disciple the ones you have led to Christ.

As the call of God is incorporated into your life, you will step out by faith and share Christ. A truth is not real to you until you experience it. When you are “a doer of the word and not a hearer only,” you will find with Paul that the will of God is good, worthy of eager acceptance, and perfect (Rom. 12:2).

The Lord who has called you will open the doors before you and provide for you. The church and other believers will recognize and confirm the call of God on your life. “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act” (Matt. 7:16 NLT).

Pray with me:  You, O Lord, have loved me with an everlasting love. You have seen my past, present, and future. I have settled it in my heart that I am loved and accepted by You, and that love will never change! No matter what I do, You will not love me more. No matter what I do, You will not love me less. I am secure in Your presence. I have fixed my eyes on You, the author and perfecter of my faith. I expect You who began a good work in me to accomplish Your purposes. I acknowledge Your sovereignty and sustaining grace. Thus, I will not waste my time arguing with You about my weaknesses and unworthiness. You called me and ordained me. The choice was not mine, but Yours. Your will be done.

Lord, make me Your bond servant. I have made my choice. I am not my own, I belong to You. Claim me as Your right; love me as Your child. Catch me when I stumble, protect me when I am attacked, heal me when I am wounded, resurrect me when all seems hopeless. I am Your servant to do Your will, which is more desirable to me than greatness or wealth or power or position, and I choose it over all things in heaven and on earth.

Lord, I desire more than anything to live in Your presence. This was the purpose of creation, that I might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. Your union in my heart is Your gift of Yourself. “In Christ,” I am Your servant, and Your approval is all that matters. I bow in Your presence in wonder, praise, and worship!

My Lord, I have heard Your call and accept Your commission. You, O Lord, have anointed me with the oil of the Holy Spirit; You have gifted me with Your wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption, to live in Your presence and to labor by Your power and to experience Your victory. Lord, the harvest is great; send me into Your field to reap and raise up workers. Thus, I will watch and pray, for I want to be a disciplined soldier when You come for Your own. I will be in the front line of battle, obeying Your orders, loyal to Your church. My banner will read: “AN AUDIENCE OF ONE.” For it’s all about You, Lord, not about me! You, O Lord, are my beloved, my message, my center, my essence, my purpose, my all! You are good. Your unfailing love and faithfulness continues forever. To You be all the glory, honor, and praise for ever and ever! Amen and amen!

The Armor of God – Prayer

The Armor of God – Prayer
by John David Hicks

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph. 6:10–18).

You are in Spiritual Warfare. The apostle Paul tells us that a good soldier of Christ Jesus will “endure hardship,” and focus on pleasing his “commanding officer” (2 Tim. 2:3–4). Then he will “not be ignorant of Satan’s schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). This armor will defend you in battle and make you ready for the onslaughts of the devil. “Therefore,” Peter says, “prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you” (1 Peter 1:13). “So, let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom.13:12), which is the armor of God. You have five defensive and two offensive weapons.

V.11-13 Lord, As I prepare today for battle; I take up THE ARMOR OF GOD. So that you “may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” You are to take a “stand” and face the enemy. With God’s help you are able to hold the line, not retreat or give up any territory. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). “Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us” (Rom. 8:37 AMP).

V.14a I put around me the belt of truth and integrity. God’s truth must surround us like a belt. It means being honest and sincere in your faith, and not full of religious hypocrisy. Your belt will hold up your pants and sword. The truth is God’s antidote to Satan’s lies and deception (John 8:44). A “lying tongue” is “detestable to” God (Prov. 6:16-17). The truth sets you free (John 8:32), because your lifestyle conforms to Scripture. The truth makes your witness credible. To be ready for the battle, you must be truthful with yourself and believe in the character and truthfulness of your commander.

V.14b I wear your Breastplate of Righteousness, Holiness and Redemption as my badge of confidence (1 Cor. 1:30). A breastplate shields your vital organs and protects your heart. This righteousness is a gift and is received by faith. Righteousness is first of all a condition of the heart, and your heart is what determines the course of your life. With no condemnation, you have a defense against Satan’s attacks of faultfinding and accusations. You can stand in the presence of God without fault or blame (Jude 24-25).

V. 15 My Shoes of Peace and Conviction make me stand secure. At times the enemy will place dangerous obstacles in your path. Only the gospel of peace will make you aware of the traps of his propaganda. Your shoes will also make you or break you on a long march. Your shoes must provide protection, support, traction, performance and comfort. This peace of God will govern your heart (Phil. 4:7). Your feet are fitted with readiness to share the gospel of peace at any time, which means knowing how to tell others about Christ and being open to the Holy Spirit’s leading in specific situations. Peace gives you a sure foundation (2 Tim 2:19).

V.16 My Shield of Faith in your faithfulness protects me from the darts of the enemy. Your shield is your faith and confidence in the Word of God. As you keep your eyes on Jesus, He will be the“author and perfecter of your faith” (Hebrews 12:2). This assurance will put out the incendiary arrows of the enemy. When you believe in something, your belief gives it power to manifest in your life. Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). If you believe the devil’s lies, you are putting faith into them and opening a door for the devil to influence you. The devil’s lie’s will make temptations stronger. Your shield of faith is protection for you and others. When soldiers join their shields together, they strengthen each other with their faith and are able to take on great challenges. Together, our shields of faith make us overcomers (1 John 5:4).

V.17 The assurance of Salvation is my Helmet that guards my mind. The thoughts in your mind must be protected from deception. Satan bombards you with fear, hatred, suspicion, depression, mistrust, false doctrines, and a host of mental distractions. This call for spiritual discernment (Phil. 4:4-8). Sow a thought, reap a deed. Sow a deed, reap a habit. Sow a habit reap a character. The assurance that you are loved, accepted and forgiven will protect your mind. “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:2 NLT). So, think about the true, good, kind and lovely (Phil. 4:8-9). You helmet is your defense. Without it you are vulnerable to Satan’s attack.

Offensive weapons: The Sword of the Spirit and Prayer in the Spirit.

V.17b I wield the Sword of the Word as my defense against the Adversary and my authority to save, heal and deliver in the Name of Jesus. The sword of the Spirit is both a defensive and an offensive weapon. “The word of God is living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12). The primary purpose of Jesus’s coming was to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8). Jesus used the Word of God to defeat Satan (Matt. 4:1-10). He showed us the power and authority of the Bible. That Satan is defeated by exposing his darkness to the light of God’s word! “Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake” (1 Thess. 1:5). “But what does [the Bible] say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming” (Rom. 10:8). This sword of the Spirit is available to you! Know it and use it!

V.18 With prayer in the Spirit, I hear your voice; strength is given and the battle is won. The other offensive weapon critical to defeating Satan is prayer in the Spirit. Jesus told His disciples, “How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house” (Matt. 12:29). For the gospel to bear fruit, Satan must be bound in prayer. In Acts 4 when Peter and John received threats from the Sanhedrin, they called a prayer meeting. They ask God to “speak your word with great boldness… [and] stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders…” (Acts 4:29-30). God answered their prayers: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31). In other words, they were praying for power evangelism.

Paul said, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…” (Eph. 6:19). When you pray in the Spirit you will receive spiritual strength and your orders from God. Without prayer, your efforts in spiritual warfare will be unsuccessful. Jesus said in John 16:24, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” But James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” John Wesley said, “God will do nothing, but in answer to Prayer.” As you pray in the Spirit “the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Rom. 8:26 NLT). Jesus promised, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27). Prayer makes a difference! No wonder the devil does not want you to pray.

Thank you, Lord for the Armor of God that make me an Overcomer! “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37). Put on the full armor of God—truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, your Sword, the Word of God, and prayer. These are your weapons of warfare that will make you spiritually victorious against the attacks and temptations of the enemy.

PRAYER: Lord, As I prepare today for battle; I take up THE ARMOR OF GOD. I put around me the belt of truth and integrity. I wear your breastplate of righteousness, holiness and redemption as my badge of confidence. My shoes of peace and conviction make me stand secure. My shield of faith in your faithfulness protects me from the darts of the enemy. I wield the sword of the Word as my defense against the adversary and my authority to save, heal and deliver in the name of Jesus. The assurance of salvation is my helmet that guards my mind. With prayer in the Spirit, I hear your voice; strength is given and the battle is won. Thank you, Lord for the armor of God that make me an overcomer! Amen.

Receiving the Mind of Christ

“For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16 nkjv). “Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked” (1 Tim. 1:19 nlt). “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Prov. 4:23 nlt).

 by John David Hicks

 In Scripture, your conscience is a part of your heart. Your heart is your whole inner life, your character, the real you: your feelings and desires, your will, your thoughts, and your conscience. It is the center of your moral and intellectual consciousness. It is the control room of your soul that makes you a self-determining being with the freedom of choice (Matt. 15:19; Rom. 10:10).

The dictionary defines the conscience as: “a knowledge or sense of right and wrong, with a compulsion to do right; moral judgment that opposes the violation of a previously recognized ethical principle and that leads to feelings of guilt.” The word conscience (con + science) literally means “with knowledge.” Whenever you sin, you do so “with knowledge” that what you’re doing is wrong. Your conscience wants to vote for what is right. That is why God will speak to you many times through your conscience (1 Tim. 1:5). You will know right from wrong as you listen to your conscience. It will remind you of sins you have committed, so that you will come to the Savior.

Before we were born again, all of us were separated from God, and our conscience was programmed by our parents and our culture which affected our moral and ethical conduct. The “mind of Christ” or a “renewed mind,” 1 Timothy 1:5 says, “comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” A clear conscience is a faithful monitor of your life. For your conscience is what interprets your enjoyment of life. It will give you confidence to fulfill your destiny and develop an attitude that makes you “more than a conqueror” through Jesus Christ your Lord.

To have the mind of Christ, Hebrews 10:22-23 says, “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (nasb). When you are redeemed, born again, and made a child of God, your conscience is in the process of being renewed into God’s way of thinking. Paul told us in Romans 9:1, “With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it” (nlt).

As a “new creation in Christ,” you are guided by the Word of God and by the witnesses of the Holy Spirit. “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]” (Rom. 12:2 amp). The Lord brings healing and enlightenment to your conscience when your mind is renewed. Your desire to obey God and live by His Word will cleanse, mature, and change your conscience.

We must make a distinction here, between the unredeemed and the Christian believer. Sin has consequences, but it does not separate a believer from God. Hebrews 13:5 makes it clear, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” It is the full rejection of Christ that is the unpardonable sin (1 John 5:16-17; Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-30). A. W. Tozer says, “Any person who has ever committed that dark and dread unpardonable sin feels no guilt and confesses no worry…for Christians with guilt and concern, the very fact that a person is worried and concerned indicates that the Spirit of God is still working in his or her life.” Even when you sin, the Holy Spirit is right there, convicting of sin and with your confession cleansing you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

The Bible warns us about a hard heart and a seared conscience. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:1-2). From a seared conscience come false doctrines, legalism, perfectionism, and immorality. A defiled conscience operates by its own self-centered standards and convictions. It does not look at things as good or bad but on how it affects me. Nearly every kind of sin can be rationalized away until the ego controls everything. The ego will do anything to serve its self-interest. Paul in Romans 1 explains that God turns a seared conscience “over to a reprobate mind…. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity,” and he names their sins (verses 28-32).

By ignoring and disobeying God their hearts became hardened, their conscience seared. Listen to what the Holy Spirit says in Hebrews 3:7-11, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness…. I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest’” (nlt).

The “mind of Christ” starts with a clean conscience. But, how do you get a clean conscience and a pure heart? When our conscience speaks, it will always speak for what it knows to be right. It remains silent about wrongdoing that it may not be educated about. Therefore, we are to educate our conscience with the Word of God for it to have sufficient substance from which to draw. When our conscience speaks, we can trust it to guide us to do right. It will never speak and lead us to engage in a known wrong. If it is seared or uneducated about a matter, it will remain silent and not voice a direction. Its silence should not be mistaken for approval. It may be seared or simply not know what the Word would instruct about a particular event or choice.

The key is found in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” “Walking” in the Bible is a metaphor for how you live your day-to-day life. The “light” of the Holy Spirit will let you see reality and truth. It will expose sin and overcome darkness. Every day you will choose to either walk in the light or move toward darkness. Some of the most important choices are about what you set your heart upon. You will live by faith or you will live by your strength or self-reliance.

God’s purpose in salvation is that you surrender to the reign and rulership of the Holy Spirit: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25 nkjv). In other words, if the Holy Spirit lives in you, let Him direct you! Then, according to Paul, your conscience will act like an umpire or judge regarding your thoughts and conduct as either good or bad.  Your conscience is your moral muscle. As you develop your conscience you will have standards and convictions. There are some things you will not do, some places you will not go, and sins you know that you will not commit. The conscience is your spiritual GPS, operated by your human spirit that is designed to help you navigate life.

Paul goes on in 1 Timothy 3:9 that you “must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” As you develop a tender conscience to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, you are able to “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Prov. 4:23 nlt). Listen to your heart (Prov. 22:17).

So, if you try to cover your sin, your conscience and heart will send out an alarm to your spirit. The joy of the Lord will depart because you “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 4:30). But as you walk in the light by confessing your sins, “he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God speaks in your conscience, but He’s distinct from it. God is not your conscience.

If your conscience could tell you everything, even right and wrong, then you would not need God. “Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6 amp). “Watch [or guard] over your heart [innermost thoughts, pictures, and words] with all diligence, for from it [your innermost thoughts, pictures, and words] flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23 nasb). You are daily educating your conscience.

Whatever you set your heart upon will ultimately determine your behavior. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt. 6:21-23).

The Bible gives us a picture of how an idol speaks and how God speaks to your heart or conscience.

First, some of the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord. The Lord told Ezekiel that they had set up idols in their hearts. Ezekiel had preached on the stumbling blocks of idolatry. His message was, “Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” (14:6). The elders did nothing. Now God would let them stumble and it would be their downfall. God told Ezekiel, “When they inquire of the Lord, I will let their idols answer them; but they will think that it came from Me.” That is God’s attitude toward idolatry. The idol in your heart will speak to you and you will think it is God, to your own downfall.

The answer is, “Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” That includes pride, greed, pornography, and wickedness to others. Idolatry is a substitute for God.

Second, in Hebrews 12:1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

The answer, as you look and consider Jesus, “you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Because you have “thrown off everything that hinders and the sin of unbelief that so easily entangles, and are running with perseverance the race Jesus has marked out before you.”

So how do you obey the light of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit? Watch for His signal! Your conscience is like a traffic light that gives you guidance and warns you of danger ahead. The light is meant to keep you on the right track. If you choose to ignore the yellow light of caution or the red light that means stop, then you can expect danger. Look for the green light, which means, “Go with His blessing in His power and authority” (Eph. 3:20-21).

When you are living under the lordship of Christ, the green light stays on longer and the yellow and red lights you can see clearer. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). “If any man desires to do His will (God’s pleasure), he will know (have the needed illumination to recognize, and can tell for himself) whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking from Myself and of My own accord and on My own authority” (John 7:17 amp).

First, the test of the yellow light is your commitment to obedience. Picture in your mind a flight of stairs. When you first accept Jesus as your Savior and become a Christian, you are at the bottom of the stairs. As the Holy Spirit gives you insight and opportunity to obey, your obedience moves you up to the next step. If you take the opportunity to obey, you are given further insights and additional opportunities. With this step, the believer experiences a deeper fellowship, joy, peace, and wisdom. This is the way you grow and mature in the Lord.

But disobedience causes you to descend the stairs. You stop growing. As a result, God will not give you more insight, until you walk in the light you have (Matt. 13:12). Uncorrected over time, you become lukewarm and forsake your first love, as the apostle John warned the churches in Revelation. Your heart becomes hardened and you return to the ways of the world. The Bible consistently says you must not only hear the word of God, but also do what it says! Your choices to disobey or procrastinate stop your growth.

The second yellow light test is called lag time. Lag time is the time that elapses between when God reveals a truth and when you finally get around to obeying it.

Procrastination is one of the devil’s most subtle weapons. You put off obedience—after all, you can do it later. This works on many Christians, unless they have a commitment to obedience. Satan disguises your disobedience and claims that you will obey sometime in the future. This makes you feel better, but you have been duped into disobedience disguised as future obedience. The longer you put it off, the more likely you will not do it. A mark of growth in your Christian life is a decrease in the lag time in your obedience. Your commitment goal should be to reduce the lag time to zero. Stop, before you run a red light.

The third yellow light test is called the three-second rule. Remembering this principle will keep you from temptation and help you to resist it the moment it comes up. Give yourself three seconds to run from temptation to victory—or to entertain temptation and be defeated.

To entertain temptation even for only a few moments weakens your resistance. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). David fell into sin because from atop his palace he kept looking at Bathsheba bathing, then he kept returning to the temptation. Run from temptation, like Joseph from Potiphar’s wife. He honored the word of the Lord when he said, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). He escaped with a pure heart, and God honored him.

Recall that you have three seconds to decide to run from temptation. The longer you wait, the stronger the temptation. This kind of obedience only comes from a total commitment to do the will of God (Luke 8:21), and is the “mind of Christ.”

When you run the red lights of your conscience, sooner or later in your battle with temptation you will be hurt, wounded, or maimed. Sin has consequences. “For the wages of sin is death [separation from God], but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23 esv). “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7-8 esv).

To run a red light is a deliberate act of disobedience to the known will of God. It is manifested in rebellion or indifference to God. When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He answered to love God and to love your neighbor. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:40). Sin is the violation of relationships with God and man.

In the Bible, King David is one who ran the red lights of his conscience. His godly sorrow led him to true repentance, yet there were consequences to his sins of adultery and murder that affected him, his family, and the nation.

When the prophet Nathan confronted David for his sins, Nathan said, “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?” David repented: “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die’” (2 Samuel 12:9, 13-14). Notice how David ran the red lights: he “despised the word of the Lord,” which meant that he was either in rebellion or indifferent to God. The consequence of his sin was the death of his child born to Bathsheba. David later wrote, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge” (Psalm 51:4). David’s sincere repentance led him to accept the consequences of his actions no matter how painful they were. God forgave him (Psalm 51), and used it to build character into his life. But the consequence in his children was devastation.

The two books of Samuel are the story of Israel’s kings and their sins from man’s perspective. But the two books of Kings are the story from God’s perspective, and David’s sin with Bathsheba is not mentioned. When God forgives, He forgets; He will not hold your sin against you. Also note, Bathsheba had a second son who became king after his father David. His name was Solomon, which means “peaceable.” David is at peace with God.

Hebrews 12:7-11 tells us of God’s divine discipline of the children He loves. He says it is because He wants you to share in His holiness. Afterward there will be a harvest of righteousness and holy living for those who are trained by it. God’s discipline is a good thing; as you “walk in the light,” you will receive the “mind of Christ.”

“Therefore, since these [great] promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates and defiles body and spirit, and bring [our] consecration to completeness in the [reverential] fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1 amp).

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless [because of your conscience] with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25 nasb).

 

 

The Truth Sets You Free!

by John David Hicks

I want to share with you a simple technique the Lord has used to break down strongholds in the lives of people I have ministered to. Ed Silvoso said, “A stronghold is a mindset impregnated with hopelessness that causes the believer to accept as unchangeable something he knows is contrary to the Word of God.” This bondage and oppression hinders the believer from experiencing the victorious life (John 10:10).

There are two approaches to deliverance: the truth encounter and the power encounter. Neil Anderson represents the truth encounter and traditional deliverance. You cannot cast out sin and you cannot repent of a demon.

The “truth sets you free” from spiritual conflicts and bondage not caused by demon spirits. Satan’s first and foremost strategy is deception. Satan’s power is in the lie, and when his lie is exposed by the truth, his plans are foiled. When you renounce strongholds of sin and bondage and take them to Jesus, Satan’s influence is canceled. But he tries to remain undetected and deceive you into believing a lie so he can control your life.

The second approach, the power encounter, casts out demons.

Both encounters, truth and power, are needed. The truth encounter invites the Holy Spirit to unearth and expose the lies you believe that keep you in bondage. When you renounce the lies, forgive, and apply the truth of God’s Word, you receive freedom and power (John 1:12; Rom. 1:16).

The power encounter, the more direct approach, requires discernment to identify afflicting spiritual forces and influences, and then remove any legal rights of the demons to be present. The believer can then be set free by exercising our authority over demon spirits, casting them out and binding their influence by the blood and cross of Jesus. When the 70 disciples returned to Jesus, they stated, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name” (Luke 10:17). Paul proclaimed, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4 nkjv).

There is a battle in your mind. Your thoughts dictate your actions. The Bible effects transformation in those who read it. Jesus said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” God wants you to align your thought life with the truth in His Word. He made you so that your mind can be renewed. In your mind, higher levels of thought change lower levels of thought. The higher truth will replace the lesser truth. God wants you to apply the higher thought (feeling or state) to the lower level of thought, so that the second thought will be changed by the more powerful first thought. “Overcome evil with good” (Rom.12:21). Then the truth sets you free.

“Watch over your heart [innermost thoughts, pictures, and words] with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23 nasb). Your thought patterns must be changed. You negate Satan’s lies by affirming God’s truth. The heart of sin is rejection of Jesus (John 3:18). Jesus is the only way of deliverance (Acts 4:12). Salvation is not based on your performance but on the shed blood of Jesus, walking in the light of repentance and letting the blood cleanse you from all sin (1 John 1:7, 9). The grounds of condemnation is that Christ the “light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).

How can you get set free? You take it to Jesus! “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

In your mind, picture Jesus as your Savior. “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin” (Rom. 4:7-8 nlt). Yes, you are loved, accepted, and forgiven; you are God’s beloved child. Picture that in your mind.

Now go to a lower thought and picture it in your mind. Think of rejection, fear, bitterness, shame, anger, pride, greed, bitterness, jealousy, lust, resentment, spite, condemnation, guilt, confusion, deceitfulness, or revenge. All these evil thoughts are coming from a stronghold of the enemy in your mind.

Satan wants you to focus on your sin, your hurts, or your problems, which he uses to discourage, defeat, or condemn. The thoughts you accept will build up or destroy your hopes and dreams; they will bless you or curse you.

First you take a negative, unpleasant memory, difficulty, or embarrassment, one that has the power to make you feel bad. Now run that movie in your head with sights and sounds. Notice how it feels. As you watch that unpleasant memory on the screen of your mind, your brain will keep updating what you have learned with new information. That’s how we learn and change. You can take control of what you do inside your head and that can take you in a new direction.

The key is to “capture” those thoughts and reject them. Listen to God’s plan: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:2 nlt).

Again, you change your thinking by taking the higher truth of “Christ in you,” and taking the lesser truth to Jesus and letting Him replace it. “Repent [change your mind], then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Gather your sin, shame, or wound in your arms and give it to Jesus. Now imagine yourself stepping into the River of Life – God’s River of Love, Healing, and Forgiveness that flows from the throne of God. Let it wash away everything that is old, dead, and sinful. Let the Lord’s life flow into your hands and body.

Some people do it by picturing taking the lower level thought or feeling to God. Many lift their hands to the Lord. When you know that Jesus has taken it, that you have submitted it to God’s love and authority, you will then recognize a new freedom from oppression and ignorance (James 4:7). You’ll know a peace and joy that all is well in your soul. The higher life has overcome the lower life and there is freedom and victory. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory [as conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57 amp).

God wants you to change your behavior through your mind. Ephesians 4:22-24 says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Your mind is being renewed in the Spirit to make you consistent with your new identity as a child of God. Notice how this makes you feel, how it draws you and pulls you in a new direction.

Even after you have given a sin or hurt to the Father, Satan will try to re-open the wound or bring back shame. But when he brings those thoughts to your mind, hit them with your Return to Sender stamp. Don’t open them up and dwell on them. Simply say, in the name of Jesus, I will not receive this. Remember that Jesus is Lord of your life. As you do this, you will abide in the vine and the life of the vine will flow through you and you will grow strong and bear fruit (John 15:5).

The Bible gives us a picture of how to activate the power of God to change our lives. After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this’” (Rev. 4:1). Jesus had already revealed Himself to John: “I am the Alpha and the Omega…who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8).

John said earlier that he “was in the Spirit.” Now notice the Lord’s invitation: “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Jesus is telling John to simply disconnect where he was and go up and be with the Lord. When you “activate” the thought-feelings of your higher level beliefs and values in His presence, you give the Holy Spirit permission to work in your life to dissociate your lower level of thought and feelings. Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” When you “go up to the higher level” and join the Lord, you can mentally bring the lower level into His presence and replace the thoughts and feelings of the lower level as the higher truth overcomes it.

From that position with the Lord, you can “let go” of your negative emotions, and change the meanings and perceptions of your mind to reflect your true spiritual values and beliefs in the Lord. By “dissociating” the negative and “associating” with the Lord on His throne, the Lord’s love and power will heal your hurts, fears, and sins.

Try it. Imagine yourself in the presence of the Lord. Now give Him your anger, bitterness, depression, or hurt. Watch Him “evaporate” your negative thinking.

See yourself as being “in Christ,” whose “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Colossians 2:10 reads, “And you are complete in him, who is the head of all principality and power” (nkjv). When you are in Christ, you lack nothing.

To be “in Christ” sums up what it means to be redeemed.

Your faith is in Christ (Gal. 3:26).

You have eternal life in Christ (Rom. 6:23).

There is no condemnation in Christ (Rom. 8:1).

You cannot be separated from God’s love in Christ (Rom. 8:39).

You are approved by God in Christ (Rom. 16:10).

You experience God’s grace in Christ (1 Cor. 1:4).

You are triumphant in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14).

You are reconciled to God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19).

You have liberty in Christ (Gal. 2:4).

You are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3).

You are a partaker of God’s promises in Christ (Eph. 3:6).

Your righteousness comes through faith in Christ (Phil. 3:9).

Your heart and mind is guarded by God’s peace in Christ (Phil. 4:7).

Your needs will be supplied according to God’s riches in Christ (Phil. 4:19).

“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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith in Action

Faith in Action

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matt. 7:24-27).

by John David Hicks

Plainly, the “rock” represented the Lord Himself and doing what the Word of God says. Jesus said that if you are wise you will put your faith into practice. This gives the Word of God power to make a difference in your life. It starts with what you know, then doing it. Jesus goes on to say, if you hear but fail to act on the Word, your house, your life will fall apart when it is tested. The foolish man is shallow in his thinking and has no solid foundation. He is a person who is “all talk” but has never put his faith into practice.

This parable effectively brings the hearer or reader into a crisis of decision. Both the wise and foolish builders have heard Jesus’ teaching. Will you allow Jesus to be your “rock” by being obedient to His Word in your life? Or will you “do your own thing” and build on sand? The storms will reveal what foundation you build on.

As a Christian: You believe that God is your creator. You believe in the integrity of God’s Word, the Bible. You believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. You believe that God loves everybody and wants a relationship with them. You believe that every person is of great worth in the sight of God. You believe that Jesus came to reconcile the world to God, and that everyone who will trust Him as Savior can have the abundant life that He came to give. That’s knowledge—a lot of talk.

You believe, but knowledge only becomes relevant when it is translated into action. Now you must put it into action. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”  How? By walking in the light of what you know. By putting it into practice day-to-day. By proving it in your life. By building on the certainty of God’s Word. That’s your “rock,” your foundation that can’t be shaken. A truth becomes real to you when you experience it.

James 2:21-22 explains this: “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” Abraham was justified—made righteous—not by what he believed, but by his corresponding actions to what he believed.

1 John 3:18 gives us the love principle: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” When you put the Word of God into practice you will see: The gospel lifts up the fallen; gives hope to the despondent; brings healing to the sick, sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf, value to the worthless, love to the abandoned, forgiveness to the guilty, mercy to the pitiful, joy to the hopeless, prosperity to the unworthy, strength to the weak, acceptance to the outcast, courage to the fearful, enthusiasm to the indifferent, beauty to the unlovely, and life to the dying. That is why Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

The gospel is alive and at work inside you; “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21). The grace and power of God is in your life. But it must be released by you putting the Word of God into action. The power comes to “those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).

Let me illustrate this. Let’s say God puts it on my heart to teach or preach on the “Power of Blessing”—how God wants you to bless your children, others, and your enemy. You are moved by the Holy Spirit and say to your spouse, “Yes, we need to bless.” After the service, you tell me that God spoke to your heart—that is knowledge or conviction. The seed of God’s Word has the power to transform you. As you obey the truth by your action the Holy Spirit makes the truth a part of your experience to transform you.

But if in the next few weeks you do not put it into practice, blessing your children, others, and your enemy, then that seed-word will be taken by the devil and the power that could have transformed you will be lost.

Yet, there is a greater tragedy. The truth is not taken from your mind, but it’s locked in. You believe it; you have knowledge. But because you did not put it into practice, it has no power. It locked you into a form without power (2 Timothy 3:5), without a true faith. The next time you hear someone talk about the “Power of Blessing,” you say, “Amen! People need to bless their children, others, and their enemy. Boy, these people sure need to hear this.” You are not the example of the word that was preached, but you sure agree with it. Your faith cannot transform you; it is dead and powerless, like a body without the spirit, says James.

I can point to people who would fight to the death to defend the doctrine of ministering to the poor, but they never minister to the poor. Others believe in being filled with the Holy Spirit with the power to witness, but they never witness. Others believe in healing, but they never pray for the sick.

When your learning is intellectual, you are insulated from personal experience. You can know the Scripture by memory, but if you don’t apply it, the truth is powerless. When you do not obey, the truth cannot transform you.

Jesus sums it up: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines” (Matthew 15:8-9 nrsv). The truth got into their mind but not into their heart. The heart and soul of religion is to recite facts and principles. The result is knowledge without power—religion without God.

When Jesus was about to be crucified, He was brought before the Sanhedrin, Pilate, and King Herod.  Jesus answered questions posed by the Sanhedrin and Pilate, but He refused to speak to Herod. The king asked about eternal life and the things of God, but Jesus refused to speak to him! Why? Two years earlier a prophet by the name of John the Baptist confronted the king by saying, “You are living in sin. You are living with your brother’s wife. You need to repent and get right with God.” No one had ever talked to the king like that. But Herod respected John, put him in prison, and would talk to him at times. God’s principle is this: He will not give you more light until you walk in the light that you already have. Do you think that the king would have repented if Jesus answered his questions? Jesus said in Matthew 13:12 that whoever walks in the light will get more light in abundance. But whoever does not walk in the light, even what he has will be taken from him. Are you walking in the light you have? Will you hear and obey the Word of God?

You must give God permission to speak about any and every area of your life. But obedience comes with a price. Even Jesus, God’s Son, “learned obedience from the things he suffered” (Heb. 5:8 nlt). Obedience requires trust in God (Acts 4:19). Obedience will crucify your flesh (Gal. 2:20-21). Obedience is the premium you will pay for godly character (Romans 8:29).

Do you believe in God enough to trust Him? Will you let the love principle of ACTION flow through you? If you have surrendered to God, Jesus will be the “author and perfecter” (Heb. 12:2) of your faith. He has promised, “‘Whoever believes in me…rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (John 7:38-39). By faith you can say, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23 nasb). “Blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:28 nlt). Will you put your faith into action today?

burdens are lifted

 

Psalm 23 – The Prayer

Psalm 23 – The Prayer

This is designed to be used as a prayer retreat for those who want a more intimate fellowship with God.  This is not about making prayer requests, but has everything to do with fellowship.  In dialogue, speak to the Shepherd of Psalm 23.  Be still, listen and meet with the Lord.

By John David Hicks

picture David as a young shepherd boy, lying on his back in a pasture, looking at the stars, and meditating on the things of God. For David to write Psalm 23, he had to have thought of the Lord as the Good Shepherd. He knew that sheep cannot survive in the wild without a shepherd. So David wrote down what the Lord showed him about Himself. God gave David this revelation to help him fight his battles and carry the burdens he had to endure in his journey of life.

As you read this psalm, read it slowly. Pause and close your eyes and meditate on what the Lord is saying to you. Then speak it back to the Lord in a prayer. This psalm is for you—for the Lord calls His own sheep by name; He cares for them and they follow Him.

The Lord is my shepherd

That’s about relationship! “Lord, You are my shepherd and king.”

(Meditate on the Lord’s revelation to you).

I shall not want

That’s about supply!   “Lord, You meet all my needs.”

He makes me lie down in green pastures

That’s about rest! “Lord,   You take away my striving and give me peace.”

He leads me beside the still waters

That’s about refreshment!   “Lord, You satisfy my thirst and refresh me.”

He restores my soul

That’s about transformation!  “Lord, You are my healer and counselor.”

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

     That’s about holiness!   “Lord, You have accepted, forgiven, justified, and sanctified me.”

For His name’s sake

That’s about purpose!   “Lord, You know my name, character, and destiny.”

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

That’s about testing!   “Lord, You let me see light in the midst of darkness.”

I will fear no evil

That’s about protection!   “Lord, You are my watchman and stronghold. I need not fear.”

 For Thou art with me

That’s about faithfulness!   “Lord, in Your presence I receive Your joy and peace.”

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me

That’s about defense!   “Lord, Your power, mercy, and favor protect me.”

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

That’s about security!   “Lord, Your presence in me has made me more than a conqueror.”

You anoint my head with oil

That’s about consecration!   “Lord, You have called me and chose me to bear much fruit.”

My cup runs over

That’s about abundance!   “Lord, You have lavished on me blessings after blessings.”

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

That’s about favor!   “Lord, Your kindness and compassion track me.”

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

That’s about sanctuary!   “Lord, You have made me Your temple, Your dwelling place—a house of prayer.”

 Forever

That’s about eternity!   Both now and forever!

 

Now picture what the Lord is trying to do in your life. Using our sanctified imagination to picture what the words describe is one of the ways we can release the power of God’s Word into our hearts and lives. It is especially helpful to do this with Bible passages we know well, such as the 23rd Psalm. Familiarity with a passage can dull our senses to both the beauty and the meaning of God’s Word. Not only can our imagination free the power of God’s Word, but God’s Word can cleanse our imagination and fill it with holy truth.

Here I have modeled how to meditate on the 23rd Psalm in a way that allows its truth to seep deep into our hearts:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Picture: the Good Shepherd who was willing to die for you. He provided for your salvation as well as for your provisions, guidance, protection, and sanctification (1 Cor. 1:30).

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

Picture: green pastures and quiet waters that heal and restore your soul. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

 He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 

Picture: the gift of righteousness that gives you the ability to stand in the presence of God, reign in life, and receive the Lord’s favor and guidance (Romans 5:17).

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me.

Picture: a canyon that casts the shadow of death. A shadow cannot hurt or destroy you. It may look dark, but light will overwhelm it. When you face pain, suffering, disease, injury, or death—know that the Lord will not leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

Your rod and staff, they comfort me.

Picture: a rod as a heavy club used to kill predators, and the staff as a long pole with a crook on one end that is used to round up the sheep and to guide them along. The rod is for discipline and will kill the enemies of fear, doubt, and guilt.  The staff is for support to guide you safely through life. Both are for your well-being (Romans 8:31).

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Picture: a battle going on all around you. Despite the impending danger of the world, the flesh, and the devil, the Lord spreads out a banquet table and serves you right in front of your enemies (Romans 8:37).

You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.

Picture: yourself being anointed as a king, priest, or prophet. The anointing oil of the Holy Spirit is overflowing into your life and ministry. The fragrant perfume of the oil of anointing will unlock doors of opportunities (1 John 2:20, 27; 2 Cor. 2:14).

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

Picture: two dogs, loving and faithful, who follow you everywhere you go. Their names are Goodness and Mercy. You can count on God’s goodness and mercy every step of the way (Isaiah 63:7).

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord.  

Picture: yourself, like David, praising the Lord in the temple. Now see yourself as the Lord’s temple with Christ’s dwelling presence in you. Hear the Lord ask you, “Whose life will you change, and what circumstances will you influence today with your prayers?”

Forever.

Picture: your greatest blessing, living in the Lord’s presence. “And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent” (John 17:3 ab).

God is eternal. Only what is in Him is forever and endless. Sam Shoemaker said it well: “Eternal life does not begin with death; it begins with faith.”

You have only one life, it will soon pass; only what you have in Christ will last.

 

To My Prayer Partners

Thank you for your prayers and support as I proclaim the life-changing gospel to the homeless and needy as chaplain at the Gospel Mission, and mentor pastors and churches.

Your Brother in Christ,

John David Hicks

 

The Danger of Forgetting

The Danger of Forgetting
By John David Hicks

When it comes to forgetting, James warns us, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23-24).

James pictures for us a man with a dirty face and messy hair, who after looking in a mirror forgets what he looks like. If he fails to do something about it, he is foolish.

It is just as foolish to look into God’s Word and make no changes in your life. When you know a truth but don’t put it into practice, you become unresponsive to it. It has no power or authority in your life. God honors those “who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28).

The GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL is that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). The reality of Satan’s defeat makes our redemption possible (Rev. 12:11; Acts 10:38). “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant (2 Cor. 3:5-6). In this new covenant God declares, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Heb. 8:10).

This new covenant gives you the legal right and authority over Satan, making you “more than a conqueror” through Jesus Christ your Lord. You have been redeemed from your sins on legal grounds from Satan’s kingdom to God’s. You have been given the gift of righteousness with the legal right to come boldly into the throne room and take your place as a son. You have the legal right to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling as the temple of God. You have the legal right to use the name of Jesus in prayer. Jesus has given His authority to you, His body. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Col. 2:9-10).

These truths were foundational to the Christians of the New Testament. They created an atmosphere of faith in the church that was infectious. Today, however, these truths have been neglected or forgotten by much of the church. The enemy is always seeking to define you by your past, so you need brothers and sisters who will declare to you the truth of your identity as an overcoming child of God who can destroy the works of Satan. If the enemy can divide, isolate, or discourage you, he can conquer you. Affirming your identity in Christ and encouraging one another in the community of faith is foundational to your life and witness.

YOUR CONFESSION AND FAITH ARE BASED ON GOD’S PROMISES IN THE BIBLE. God has said, “I am watching over My word to perform it” (Jer. 1:12 NASB).

Your faith with confession calls faith into reality. Abraham by faith believed God, “who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist” (Rom. 4:17 NASB). All believing climaxes in confession. Believing and confession are practically one. What does the Scripture say: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming” (Rom. 10:8). Your faith can never go beyond your confession. “For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:10 NASB).

When you by faith arise and take your place “in Christ,” the gates of hell will be broken down and strongholds will be “conquered through him who loves you.”

TO BE “IN CHRIST” MEANS that I am a new creation, born into the family of God (2 Cor. 5:17; John 3:3). As God’s child I am a partaker of His life and nature (2 Peter 1:3-4; 1 John 4:4). I am united and one with Christ as the vine and branches (John 15:5; 17:21). I am blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3). I have His strength and all my needs will be supplied according to God’s riches (Phil. 4:13; 4:19). I have grace to be an overcomer (2 Cor. 9:8; Rev. 12:11). I have the anointing of the His Spirit to do God’s will (1 John 2:20, 27; 1 Cor. 6:19; Phil. 2:13). “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

The danger comes to you as a believer when you confess, “I am in Christ.” The devil gets upset and is deeply troubled by your confession, because he knows the power and authority you have “in Christ.” In Helps to Holiness Samuel Logan Brengle put it this way: “Many people who say they are fighting the devil do not know what fighting the devil means. It is a fight of faith in which you take hold of the promise of God, and hold on to it, and believe it, and declare it to be true in spite of all the devil’s lies, in spite of all circumstances and feelings to the contrary, and in which he obeys God, whether God seems to be fulfilling the promise or not. When a soul gets to the point where he will do this, and will hold fast the profession of his faith without wavering, he will soon get out of the fogs and mists and twilight of doubt and uncertainty into the broad day of perfect assurance.”

Satan’s temptation to Jesus and to you is to doubt that you are loved and accepted as God’s child. “If you are the son of God,” he says, “prove it.” God has said to Jesus and to you that you are His beloved son. “To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph.1:6 NKJV). John 15:16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit.”

Don’t forget that you are “in Christ,” a part of the fruit-bearing body of Christ (John 15:5). The branch is completely dependent on the vine to be loved, accepted, and made righteous. Abiding brings the branch into relationship with the vine. Jesus said, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9 NASB). “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Thank the Lord that you are “in Christ,” and are abiding in His presence. Be aware of it.

Being “in Christ” not only makes you victorious over the evil one, but also makes you like Jesus, so you can complete the task of bringing the kingdom of God to earth (Matt. 6:10; John 14:11-14). When you are aware of who you are “in Christ,” there will be a bold confidence in your walk in Christ. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).

The danger comes from looking into the Word of God and forgetting who you are “in Christ!”  So with confidence, declare with David, “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with Love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s…. Praise the LORD, O my soul” (Psalm 103:2-5, 22).

The Voice of Freedom

 

The Voice of Freedom

 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me…. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says” (Rev. 3:20, 22 nasb). “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32 nasb).

By John David Hicks

The Christian life is all about relationship, and communication is at the heart of any good relationship. There must be an exchange of thoughts, messages, or information. Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” In verses 3-5 He says the shepherd “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

As the chaplain in a gospel mission, I sometimes deal with individuals who are depressed and find it hard to function. Many live under condemnation because of sin, failures, or abandonment. Others are confused, in conflict, and sometimes suicidal. I explain that “in your mind you hear three voices”:

One is from God. His voice is holy, good, kind, and loving. Jesus promised that His “sheep” would hear His voice (John 10:27).

A second voice is yours. As a Christian you want to do God’s will (John 7:17), so your mind is going through a transformation process (Rom. 12:2; Phil. 4:4-8). At times your old fleshly mind raises its head with hurts from the past, and Satan then inserts greed, bitterness, fear, and negative self-talk.

The third voice is the devils. His voice is negative, condemning, and evil. He fools you into thinking that his voice is yours so you will hear it, and then he can tempt, accuse, or deceive you (Luke 4:13).

You’ve probably seen a cartoon that pictures a good angel on someone’s shoulder whispering in his ear and on the other shoulder the devil whispering in the other ear. There is a lot of truth in this. Jesus attributed all evil to demonic forces (Mark 9:25; Luke 11:14; 13:11-16; Acts 10:38).

Remember when Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you…for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”  Peter heard God’s voice. Jesus then explained that He had to go to Jerusalem and be crucified. Peter began to rebuke Jesus. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus did not rebuke Peter, but Satan. “Get behind me, Satan!” (v. 23).

Peter didn’t mean to be an offense. However, the devil inspired Peter’s statement, and Jesus went after the real source. That is your example to follow. Learn to recognize the lies of the devil.

In Destined to Overcome, Paul Billheimer says a lot of difficulties and troubles in our body, mind, and spirit are caused by demon personalities under the command of Satan. They use our thoughts to affect our moods, condemning us, depressing us, and making us fearful. “There is no such thing as abstract evil; evil always has an intelligent self-conscious source. There is no evil that does not originate in a personality.” Evil spirits watch your reactions to situations and the words you say before they influence your thoughts toward evil. The only way you can overcome the devil is to expose him and resist him in the name of Jesus.

Satan wants you to focus on yourself and to see people as for you or against you. His voice is coming from your flesh when you hear: “I’m such a klutz”; “I’m so stupid”; “I can’t do anything right”; “Those people don’t like me.” Satan uses thoughts from your old patterns of living which are still in your brain. When you hear the devil’s voice and think it is your voice, you will receive it. When you receive these negative thoughts, they instantly become yours. That is what makes you discouraged, condemned, and defeated. The key is to instantly “capture” them and reject them. When you say, “Stop, I will not receive this,” or “Get behind me Satan,” you short-circuit the negative. Now focus on what is true and positive.

Paul was concerned about you when he wrote: “I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor.11:3). Satan wants your mind to become polluted, your heart to become indifferent, and your flesh to demand sinful pleasure. Don’t be like Eve and become deceived by the devil’s craftiness. You are at war with demonic forces of evil, the world system, and your fleshly mind.

Listen to God’s plan: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:2 nlt). You are tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil. This world’s system is at cross-purposes with God’s plans and values (1 John 2:15). Life in the “flesh” is lived under the serpent’s lie of judging that is independent of God (Matt. 7:1; Rom. 7:18). Jesus said the devil is the thief that has comes to steal, kill, and destroy you (John 10:10; James 1:13-15).

The main way you will win the battle for your mind is to learn how to separate yourself from the evil thoughts the devil puts in your mind.  You will know the devil’s voice when he puts into your mind: anger, pride, greed, bitterness, jealousy, lust, resentment, spite, negativism, pessimism, condemnation, guilt, confusion, deceitfulness, and revenge.  All these evil thoughts are coming from the enemy.

Since those thoughts are not yours, you are not responsible for them any more than you are responsible for someone using profanity in your presence. But then you must learn to disregard them and not accept them as yours. If you accept them and believe those thoughts are yours, the devil has got you and will shame you, make you feel guilty, and condemn you. All bondage begins first in your mind.

The secret, Paul says, is: “Christ lives in you” (Col 1:27 nlt). You are in Christ and are to live out of His life. It’s like abiding in the vine—the branch will bear much fruit (John 15:5). “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24). “In Christ,” you die to your old self as the center and make Jesus the Lord in your new self (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:17).

Here’s the good news: “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). You have spiritual weapons from God that will put the devil to flight. “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5 nlt).

Whatever you set your mind upon will ultimately determine your behavior. The first temptation in the Garden was to doubt the Word of God. On the other hand, Jesus overcame Satan by quoting the Word of God. Align your thought life with the truth that comes from God’s Word. Then the truth will continue to make you free. “Watch [or guard] over your heart [innermost thoughts, pictures, and words] with all diligence, for from it [your innermost thoughts, pictures, and words] flow the springs of life” (Prov. 4:23 nasb).

Every word you think about has power—to build or destroy your hopes and dreams, to restore or cause you loss, to heal you or break your spirit, to bring you delight or despair, to bless you or curse you—for “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21) and in the thoughts you accept (Prov. 23:7).

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). As you “submit” to God’s love and authority, and order Satan to flee, you will recognize a new freedom from oppression and ignorance. The devil cannot deceive you or defeat you if you are established in the love of God and His Word. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:35, 37).

When you resist the devil by telling him you will not receive his negative thoughts and to flee from you in the name of Jesus, he will go. He knows he has to. But if you don’t resist the devil, the Bible warns you that you will become a double-minded man, unstable in all you do (James 1:8).

“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s [or devil’s] judgment: For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:15-16). As a “spiritual man” you have the “mind of Christ” and can discern thoughts from God, yourself, and the devil.

As you submit to God and resist the devil, he will flee from you. This truth will set you free from Satan’s schemes to defeat you. You’ll have power to live a life of peace, joy, and victory over the devil and every negative thought. “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” (Rom. 15:13).

 

Holiness Is What I Need

 

Holiness Is What I Need 

“Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

by John David Hicks 

The songwriter said it well: “Holiness, holiness is what I long for; holiness is what I need. Holiness, holiness is what You want for me.”

Holiness recognizes God as creator, set apart from all He created. Hence, holiness is associated with God as being morally pure, perfect, and righteous. It is a state of spiritual soundness and unimpaired virtue. Holiness is God’s portrait and the summation of all His attributes. “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). The goal of holiness is to be like God. Sanctification is what God wants to do in you if you will let Him make you holy.

Man was made originally in the image of God and could walk and talk with God in the Garden of Eden. In the fall, man’s sin and rebellion made him selfish. God is agape love—unselfish love. God wants you to be holy and righteous. Righteousness has to do with the just compliance to God’s law, and holiness has to do with the condition of your heart.

Holiness is about God, you, His presence, and others. First, holiness is about the character of God. His very nature is holy. Holiness is about who God is, what He has done, and what He has decreed. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth” (1 John 1:5-6). Light represents what is good, pure, healthy, true, holy, and reliable. Light shines and exposes hidden things. Light makes God’s presence known. Darkness represents what is sinful and evil, hiding from the light. To walk in darkness is to live and act in ignorance, error, and untruth, and to be immoral and impure.

How do you get rid of the darkness? Expose it to the light. Light always overcomes darkness; darkness cannot exist in its presence. Jesus is the light of the world. By walking in the light we have fellowship with one another and with God (1 John 1:7), for Jesus’ blood cleanses us from all sin and makes us holy.

But many Christians have grown up in a “culture of prohibition,” of do’s and don’ts, thinking that this was holiness. Legalism is a ministry of death (Romans 8:2). Some have been turned off because of Christians who claimed holiness, then lived selfish, conceited lives. In Romans 10:2-4, Paul says that the Jews missed salvation because they sought to establish their own righteousness and not that which comes by faith in Jesus Christ.

Scripture tells us to pursue love (1 Cor. 14:1), to pursue holiness (Heb. 12:14). For without love you are nothing, and without holiness you will never see the Lord. “The love of God has no meaning apart from Calvary,” says Jerry Bridges. “And Calvary has no meaning apart from the holy and just wrath of God. Jesus did not die just to give us peace and a purpose in life; He died to save us from the wrath of God. He died to reconcile us to a holy God who was alienated from us because of our sin. He died to ransom us from the penalty of sin—the punishment of everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord. He died that we, the just objects of God’s wrath, should become, by His grace, heirs of God and co-heirs with Him.”

David Wells adds that “without the holiness of God, grace is no longer grace because it does not arise from the dark clouds of judgment that obscured the cross and exacted the damnation of the Son in our place. Furthermore, without holiness, grace loses its meaning as grace, a free gift of the God who, despite his holiness and because of his holiness, has reconciled sinners to himself in the death of his Son.”

God’s holiness made the atonement a necessity. Love and holiness now have meaning.

Holiness is about the character of God.

Second, holiness is about God making you holy. “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14 nkjv). Holy people will see God. Unholy people will not see Him. God’s holiness will not let sinful man enter His presence. “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (Rev. 21:27 esv).

Listen to the songwriter: “Purity, purity is what I long for; purity is what I need. Purity, purity is what You want for me.”

Eliphaz asked, “Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?” (Job 4:17 esv). How can a holy God make you holy? 1 Peter 3:18 has the answer: “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.” And Paul wrote: “For the grace of God…teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12). What God’s holiness demanded, God’s grace provided in Jesus Christ.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thess. 4:3). Richard Watson summed it up, “Sanctification is that work of God’s grace by which we are renewed after the image of God, set apart for His service, and enabled to die unto sin and live unto righteousness. It comprehends all the graces of knowledge, faith, repentance, love, humility, zeal and patience, and the exercise of them toward God and man.”

To restore our relationship and holiness, God “predestined [us] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). Theologically, salvation includes both the event of our justification and the process of our sanctification. Justification is the forgiveness of sin, regeneration, adoption, and the imputation of righteousness. Sanctification is being “holy, set apart for God; cleansed for service.” Thus, holiness is your walk in the Spirit.

But sin has caused us to “miss the mark” and to miss God’s perfect will. Sin has messed up our thinking about God, our self, and others. If you can control your thoughts you can control your actions, your attitude, and your life. Sin makes you judgmental and prejudiced, incapable of making the right choices. When you die to the law, to your performance, the power of sin is broken and holiness can break through. Holiness corrects your “stinking thinking” as you see things from the source of truth.

What you think you will become (Prov. 23:7). Right thinking is important. Our lives are powerfully affected by what we permit to enter our thoughts from people, books, music, and media. In sanctification God gives to us the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). That is why He tells us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things…. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9).

Do you see a God who is sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing, and always present and who loves and accepts you? The “mind of Christ” changes your thinking, your actions, and the direction of your life. When you are sanctified, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

The character of holiness is found in Jesus and is imparted to you by the Holy Spirit. Look at the fruit of holiness in Galatians 5:22-25 (nasb):

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

Note how the Holy Spirit manifests the holiness of God in your life. He gives you love for the unlovable. Joy in the midst of tribulations. Peace in the midst of war. Patience in affliction. Kindness to the unkind. Goodness to those who upset you. Faithfulness to the unfaithful. Gentleness to the harsh. Self-control when you have reason for revenge. With such things there is no law or self-righteousness because you have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires and are walking by God’s Spirit in holiness.

Holiness is about God making you holy.

Third, holiness is about the Holy Spirit’s presence in your life.

When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes into your life—all of Him, not just a part of Him. When you are filled with or baptized in the Holy Spirit, you do not get more of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit gets more of you. Ephesians 3:20-21 explains this: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” The Holy Spirit is in you, but you have to release Him. He must have unchallenged control of your life.

Paul describes two kinds of Christians in 1 Corinthians 2:14 to 3:4, the carnal man and the spiritual man. The carnal man lives by his power in the flesh. He has divided loyalty and the mindset of the world. “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17). The apostle James refers to this situation as “double-mindedness.” The flesh and the Spirit are at war, fighting for control. John describes them as hot, cold, or lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-17). Peter declares, “If it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:18). Again we see the sinner, the man in the flesh living with no regard to God and the righteous man. Although it may seem strange that a Christian would be carnal (Romans 7:21-25), this is consistent with Christian experience.

Look at the righteous man: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). James says the foundation of a powerful and effective prayer is righteousness. When you know you are right with God, right with others, and right within, there is boldness in living and boldness in your prayers. Sanctification makes you righteous with a clear conscience before God and man.

Jesus spoke of the gift of the Holy Spirit as the Father’s promise. That is why He prayed for us, “Sanctify them in the truth [set them apart for Your purposes, make them holy]; Your word is truth” (John 17:17 amp). Then Jesus adds, “Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (17:21, 24). He wants you to be in fellowship with the Trinity, and He wants you to be with Him now, in an intimate relationship. His presence sanctifies you by transforming you into His image (2 Peter 3:18; Romans 8:29).

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor. 6:19). His presence is better than physical contact, because He is always within you. “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8 nasb).

Koinonia, a Greek word that means communion, intercourse, fellowship, describes this relationship. Applied to the believer, it is personal communion with God. You become God-centered, one in Spirit. You are invited to participate in the fellowship of the Godhead (John 17:22-23). John wrote: “Our koinonia is with the Father and His Son.” Peter wrote: “We are partakers of the divine nature.” Paul wrote: “God has called you into koinonia with His Son.” Jesus prayed: “Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am that they may behold My glory.” As the “bride of Christ,” you can experience this koinonia in intimacy with Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:3).

Paul tells the Colossians that God “has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault” (1:22 nlt). You are made holy only in the presence of God. That is why David cries out, “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:3). Then David tells us what this holiness is like: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

The purpose of His presence is to make you Christ-like. God is calling you to share in His unique character. Your behavior will grow out of your understanding of who you are in Christ and who God is. When you worship God you are not exalting Him, for He is already exalted as sovereign of the universe. You worship God because it aligns your body, soul, and spirit into the truth and reality of God. Jesus said in John 4:23, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” It is “the will of God” (1 Thess. 5:23) that you “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4), because this is worship “in spirit and truth.” This kind of worship is what makes you spiritually sensitive to the presence of God.

This loving relationship is only possible when you have free will. Because God is agape love, unselfish, unfailing, and eternal, He allows you to exercise your will even if it means you might reject His love. For a loving relationship to take place, a choice and a commitment must be made. God has chosen to love you. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God has promised, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). This is God’s commitment to be faithful to you. That is why Joshua 24:15 says to you, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.”

Holiness is about choosing to live in God’s presence.

Fourth, holiness is about God’s love for people. When the Holy Spirit makes you holy, you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commissioned His disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit and power to do what He calls us to do. Peter could boldly say, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). Every Christian is commissioned to reproduce in others what God has done for you. You are to witness to the Good News that Jesus died on the cross to forgive sins and to give eternal life (John 1:12).

Paul says we witness “because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Romans 5:5). John says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:17-20). “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like him” (1 John 4:16-17).

Like Jesus, when you live in His holiness you are able to love others. He gave us the Golden Rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). Then He reduced the law to just two commandments: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. “On this hangs all the law and prophets” (Matthew 22:40). For sin is the violation of love, of relationships and God’s holiness.

Increasingly, I have seen how important a role the Body of Christ must play in our growth in holiness. It is in giving and serving one another that our selfishness is daily crucified. It is in loving those with whom we have little in common, who rub us the wrong way and get under our skin, that we grow in real holiness. There is a tendency for Christians to withdraw from the church and isolate themselves. No matter what experience they have had at the altar, this withdrawal usually unravels holiness and ends spiritual progress.

God wants you to trust Him with everything in your life (Phil. 4:13, 19). You can’t earn holiness, but you can demonstrate it by your stewardship and service: in your stewardship by managing your time, talents, and treasure, and in your service by following Jesus’ example (Matthew 20:28). Holiness looks like Christ—you begin to talk like Him, act like Him, and walk like Him.

Holiness is about God’s love for people.

How does God sanctify you and make you holy?

First, believe that God’s promise of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is to make you holy.

God cannot lie. He has given His word (John 17:19-20). When you see your need and when you hunger and thirst for the fullness of God Himself, you will find it (Matthew 5:6).

Jesus’ prayer for your holiness is found in John 17—that we would be protected from the evil one. His command is to “tarry…until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The Holy Spirit is not a doctrine to be debated, but a person to be received. You may have all the right theology, but miss His presence, power, and splendor. When the Holy Spirit indwells you, your life will show the fruit of the Spirit. Without Him, your attempt at spiritual ministry will be lifeless. Remember that a holy life is not based on the law or your performance but is by faith. Paul wanted to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Phil. 3:9).

Faith is the instrument by which you receive salvation and sanctification, not the reason for it. Only by trusting God can you please Him. In God’s economy you cannot possess what you do not have the faith to ask for. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

In salvation God has put you “in Christ.” “In Christ Jesus, [He] has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). The gift of righteousness gives you the right to dwell in His presence (Psalm 140:13).

John Wesley emphasized that Christ doesn’t just cover our sinfulness. He cleanses us and makes us holy. God’s holiness is actually imparted, not just imputed, as He dwells with us. Our lives are hidden in Christ, but not our sin. He charged some who had mistakenly thought that sin magnifies the grace of God when they acknowledge that they live a life as helpless sinners. But this position robs God’s grace of the power to make us holy as He is holy. The idea that God’s holiness is only imputed and not imparted is a great hindrance to growing in holiness.

The promise is, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). Believe God’s word.

Second, surrender everything to God.

In your consecration you seek Him (Matthew 6:33) by turning everything over to Him, including yourself (Luke 22:42). Quit depending on your performance and surrender to the lordship of Christ. “Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus…. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:11, 14).

Man’s part is consecration. The apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).

God’s part is sanctification (Eph. 5:26; Heb. 13:12). It’s one thing to be forgiven and another to be accepted as righteous. “Those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

God’s plan is to conform you into the image of God. He “has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9).

Third, receive the Holy Spirit by faith.

In Acts 15:9 Peter testifies that God makes “no distinction between us and them [Jews and gentiles], for he purified their hearts by faith.” Paul reminds us, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). By faith you have died with Christ so that you can live with Him.

God commands you to “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). As you take the step of asking, surrendering, and receiving by faith, the Holy Spirit will bear witness with your spirit. Again Peter affirms, “God, who knows the heart, testified to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us” (Acts 15:8).

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). Life in the Spirit is “in Christ,” where you are holy, loved, and accepted. Your part now is to abide (John 15:5). Abiding brings the branch into relationship with the vine. Fruit only comes through union. The branch is completely dependent on the vine to be loved, accepted, made righteous and holy. Jesus said, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9 nasb).

My response to God’s holiness is to know that I am abiding in the vine. Since Christ is holy and accepted with the Father and I am “in Christ,” I am holy and accepted with the Father. That is why the Bible calls us saints!

You receive the Holy Spirit by faith.

Fourth, God’s part is the sanctification.

The Spirit-filled life of holiness (wholeness) is lived from the inside out—by God’s power, not yours. “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thess. 5:23-24).

In the New Testament, what was it that impressed demons? Holiness. What did they cry out when they saw Jesus? We “know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24). Holiness gives you spiritual authority. If you are not sanctified to the purposes of God, you will have no authority over demons. If the devil can get you to sin, he knows that you have surrendered your spiritual authority. Authority and power come out of holiness.

In sanctification God graciously gives us two gifts. First, the gift of Himself in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. “You have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Col. 2:10). Second, the fruit of this fellowship is power. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

God does not give you power without first giving you authority. Authority is knowing who you are in Christ. God changes your self-image by freeing you from guilt, shame, and condemnation, and replacing it with His love, acceptance, favor, and grace. “I have given you authority…to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (Luke 10:19). If God gave you power without the authority, you would not know what to do with that power.

Conviction and peace are the two witnesses that confirm that you have the authority of the Holy Spirit. Conviction confirms your inner peace (Romans 9:1; James 1:6; Heb. 11:1), and the peace of the Holy Spirit in you will govern and guide you (Phil. 4:6-7). “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13).

The life of holiness includes a lifelong process of spiritual growth and being continually refilled with the Holy Spirit. You keep filled in part by obeying God’s Word. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word” (Psalm 119:9). The Lord is faithful to keep you blameless and in fellowship (1 Cor. 1:8-9; Romans 14:23).

Listen to the songwriter again: “Take my life and form it; take my mind transform it; take my will conform it—to yours, to yours, oh Lord.”

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13).

God’s desire is for you to be holy, conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29). That is why Jesus prayed for you: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

You have heard the promises of truth from the Word of God; let God sanctify you. “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).

 

How to Walk in the Spirit

John David Hicks, Evangelist / Bible Teacher *

Summer 2002 · Volume 6 Number 3

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16 nkjv). “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness Continue reading

The Day of Small Beginnings

by John David Hicks, Evangelist © 1996

Zechariah 4:6-10 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. “What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to Continue reading

A Passion for God (part 3)

The Glory of God

“Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’ And the LORD said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD,in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion… Continue reading

The Man of God and Sexual Sin

“Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified; that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8). “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4). Continue reading

The Ministry of Suffering

“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering…. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted…. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect Continue reading

Living with Rejection and the Praise of Men

“Then Saul said, ‘I have sinned…. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly'” (1 Samuel 26:21). “Many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not con-fess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43). “We are fools for the sake of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10 NRSV). Continue reading

Aaron’s Halfway Repentance 

 “‘But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out'” (Numbers 32:23). “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “Among those who approach me I wil Continue reading

THE MAKING OF MIGHTY MEN OF GOD*

by John David Hicks, Evangelist © 1997

1 Chronicles 11:9-11, 22-25 And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD Almighty was with him. These were the chiefs of David’s mighty men — they, together with all Israel, gave his kingship strong support to extend it over the whole land, as the LORD had promised…Benaiah Continue reading

God’s Kind of Faith

The way to ascend into the supernatural faith of God (Part 1)

A universal law, the Law of Faith, rules the physical and spiritual worlds. Three things are essential in life the Bible tells us: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV). Continue reading

Gospel of Healing

Salvation, Healing, and Deliverance: The Scriptural Proof

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:2-4 NKJV).
By John David Hicks Continue reading

The Lost Key to Power and Authority

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge (understanding). You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering” (Luke 11:52). “I will come to you very soon…and then I will find out not only how these arrogant people are talking, but what power they have. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Corinthians 4:19-20).  Continue reading

The Authority of Righteousness

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 4:25-5:2). God did this “For the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26 nasb). Continue reading

The Power of Righteousness (Part 2)

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom’” (Hebrews 1:8). “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30) Continue reading

The Second Missionary Journey

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29). “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17-18). Continue reading

Prayer for a Wayward Child  

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate….’ Not long after that, [he]…set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living…and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. Continue reading

You Need God’s Grace

““From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” (John 1:16). “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:16-17).

By John David Hicks

“The unaware life is not worth living,” said Socrates.

It’s also true that the Christian who is unaware of the beauty of grace Continue reading

How to Hide God’s Word in Your Heart

“I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word” (Psalm 119:15-16 NASB).
By John David Hicks

The psalmist internalized God’s Word by meditation, delight, and memorization. “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:10-11). He desires not just to know about God, but to know God personally, His ways, Continue reading

A Harvest of Righteousness

“The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (Isaiah 32:17-18). “For the kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men” (Romans 14:17-18).
By John David Hicks

When you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, something amazi Continue reading

“Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled”

By John David Hicks

These six words of Jesus can free your heart and stop Satan’s accusations. They will help you overcome trouble, fear, and condemnation: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27 NKJV).

Continue reading

Emily’s Quinceañera

By John David Hicks

My family recently experienced a new tradition. My daughter Sandra married a man from Guatemala 17 years ago. They have two children, a girl and a boy. In all of Central and South America and even Mexico, when a girl turns 15 the family celebrates what is called a Quinceañera.

A Quinceañera is the Continue reading

Condemnation Kills

“The letter (the law) kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6).
By John David Hicks

The Garden of Eden had two trees that Adam and Eve could choose to live by. They chose to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, although God had forbidden them to eat of it.

That tree was an example of living in the flesh, living in self-centeredness. Like Satan, when you live in independe Continue reading

“David Strengthened Himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6)

By John David Hicks

Known in Scripture as a “man after God’s own heart,” David was a worshiper. His name means “Beloved of the Lord.” He was called and chosen. Yet in his troubles, problems, sin, and discouragement, David had to “strengthen himself in the Lord.” At times he had to preach to himself to regain his strength. I’m sure he would often remind himself of God’s faithfulness when he had faced the lion, the bear, and King Saul.

Continue reading

It’s Opportunity Time!

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:15–17).By John David Hicks

There are many things in life that demand your time. You choose Continue reading

Plugging into the Power of the Church

By John David Hicks, Evangelist / Bible Teacher • Summer 2012 • Volume 16 Number 2
Acts 17 tells the story of Paul and Silas going to Thessalonica. The preaching and demonstrating the gospel led to a great multitude of believers. There was a reaction to this and a riot broke out. The mob started looking for Paul and Silas. “When they did not find Continue reading

Praying the Scriptures

By John David Hicks

There is a special blessing, authority, and power when you pray the Word of God. “Praying God’s Word completely changed my prayer life,” one pastor said. “It was like lifting weights—suddenly my prayers had real substance and I could tell I was putting on some spiritual muscle.”

Continue reading

Listening Prayer

By John David Hicks

Many times I have come to the Lord in prayer wanting provision or guidance, not for the relationship itself. But it’s the relationship we have with the Lord that is the key to the abundant life He has promised. A good relationship is the ability to relate to others, to give and take with listening and sharing things in common. Relationships take time, patience, and the desire to be together.

Continue reading

Love Stoppers

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:14). “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
By John David Hicks

When a couple attends marriage counseling and are thinking of getting a divorce, I ask them this question: “When you got married, were you in love with each other?” They almost always say, “Yes, we were in love and that’s why we got married. But now we can’t stand each other.”

Continue reading

A Letter to a Devastated Christian

 

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6).
By John David Hicks

My dear brother in Christ,

Your question about hearing the voice of God has more to do with the assurance of your salvation than it does with divine guidance. Both the Old and New Testaments emphasize that “the just shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17). Your faith is based on the trustworthiness of God’s Word. Trusting God’s Word during a time of devastation or solitude in your life will build that relationship. So hang in there and trust God’s Word.
Continue reading

My Prayer Partners

To My Prayer Partners!

“Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20 NKJV). God wants to fellowship with you. Out of that fellowship you will do and see what the father is doing.
By John David Hicks

Jesus’ times of prayer were not seeking God’s will but seeking fellowship, His presence. When you read the Gospels you see that Jesus has a message and put it into practice. He is doing what God is doing.

To walk with God and live in His Continue reading

Listening Prayer

By John David Hicks

Many times I have come to the Lord in prayer wanting provision or guidance, not for the relationship itself. But it’s the relationship we have with the Lord that is the key to the abundant life He has promised. A good relationship is the ability to relate to others, to give and take with listening and sharing things in common. Relationships take time, patience, and the Continue reading