Where’s My Sword?

Oh, pilgrim!

If you think God is nothing but love, love, love…you are sadly mistaken.

God is love, but he is also a God of wrath against the wicked! And lest Christ as Lord, you are wicked!

So flee!

Flee from the wrath to come!

Flee!

Into the arms of the Savior!

-Rich

I cannot count the number of times, over my many years, that I have wandered through life with my mind solely focused in the world, completely unaware of God’s presence. I lived like I am the one who controls all that I say and do. I don’t give a moments concern to the Heavenly realm or my future home. I think, therefore I am.

As such, I can do what I want, when I want, however I want! I can indulge myself to the satisfactions of the flesh. And if even a tinge of guilt or concern should wash over me, I can dismiss it quickly; never worrying about the consequences my activities might reap. After all, I’m not hurting others. Nor does a little here, a little there, really do any damage to me at all! It’s just a little thing, nothing really that bad after all! Like a little white lie. Sometimes it is necessary to spare people of a grievous hurt! It’s just a minor infraction when measured against all the bigger, badder things people do! If anything, it makes everyone feel good at the moment and there really is no reason to make a fuss. God understands!

“Those little things are harmless,” we think. When you look at the bad in this world, these little things are small. They can be compared to, say, a brick. You pick it up, enjoy it, set it down in front of you. No big deal! Then the you pick up the next one. Use it, enjoy it and set it down next to the other. Again, no issues! Then another. Then more. And before you know it, you have made yourself a nice little wall of “my ways”. But, since you started to run out of room in front of you, you’ll have to keep adding all the upcoming ones all around the sides until…You are completely walled in by your own desires, deceits, and doings!

The wants and ways you’ve been enjoying until now have surrounded you, entrapped you, and are causing misery and anguish because all those little things have now become a huge mess that is consuming your life! Amazing how those little things you thought were harmless have added up so quickly! You find yourself overwhelmed and drowning, all as a result of your dabbling with those little sins. Sins? Yes, sins! And, there are no degrees or sizes of sin to a Holy God. Sin is sin! And it only takes one sin to keep a person out of Heaven!

“But, God loves us and understands and he won’t condemn us for a couple of minor infractions!”

Because God is Holy, and sin is the breaking of His laws (see the 10 Commandments), and God cannot permit any type or degree of sin to go unpunished, he will condemn. The Bible clearly says that the “…wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). And Biblical death refers to the eternal lake of fire or hell! Not the place you want to spend forever!

“But, Jesus died for our sins so we can all go to Heaven!”

Absolutely he did! Romans 3:22-24 says we can have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. Which is to say that he paid the price for our sins on the cross and rose again to make intercession for us to the Father in Heaven! But there are conditions!

Unfortunately, many of the worldly “churches” leave out parts of the Bible. Specially important ones that say things like “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). To continue to build up our wall of sins, brick by brick, means that we have not repented, forsaken the world, and turned our lives to God through Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul continues on in chapter 6 of his letter to Romans saying “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you over its passions.” (Verse 12). There is a choice to be made and there is NO middle ground!

This is a daily choice as well. We need to be reminded that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” daily. God tells us that his mercies are “new every morning”. So what we have here is a battle between the our fleshly desires and God’s ways. We are either building our wall of sins and living entrapped in them, or we are walking in the freedoms of God’s grace and forgiveness! Now don’t get me wrong, we will sin…often. But when we do, we must repent (which means to turn away from those sinful ways) and strive harder to follow God and his ways, leaning on the Holy Spirit for strength to do this. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Ok, so we have made a decision to walk in righteousness with Jesus as our Lord! Great! But, the battle is harsh and I fail quite a bit. The world is ever before me and I easily revert to my old ways. This is the struggle that many poor pilgrims have during their journey! And, unfortunately with a weak faith, the sojourner can at times fall and not get back up! Many souls lost are littered along the very road we travel on toward eternity with God. But know this; that God does provide us with the means and way to faithfully arrive at his calling!

First, he provides a helper to guide and strengthen us. God is faithful to be with us! Even for the Israelites that he brought out of Egypt, God, in his “great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness” (Nehemiah 9:19). Jesus promised that the “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things”. The Holy Spirit resides within us, guiding us, encouraging us, and showing us the darkened areas of our lives by illuminating the truth of God and his word to us.

Which leads me to the Word of God, the Bible (or Scriptures).

In our daily battles, like any good soldier, we need to be equipped to stand against the enemy of our souls, and even defeat them. Sin is our enemy. It is the very cause of destruction in so many lives. The enemy of God, the devil, wants us to sin against God. God wants us to defeat sin in our lives. So, God provided his word! The Bible refers to the word of God as the “sword of the Spirit” and “the sword of truth”.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:4-5‬

In Ephesians 6, God gives us a list of spiritual armor to wear as we battle the forces of evil in this world. The weapon in our hand is the “sword of the Spirit”, which is the word of God. In order to use any weapon, the first thing we have to do is physically pick it up in our hands! It would be shocking to how many “professing Christians” have Bibles sitting in their homes, yet have rarely (if ever) picked them up to read. Based on conversations with people over the years (many of whom own several Bibles), there are very few people who have even the slightest clue as to what is really inside the pages. The sword is worthless if it is sitting on a book shelf or in a closet or tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

The other issue is knowing how to use it. Once it is in your hands, you have to know what to do with it! As with anything, taking time to get acquainted with it is paramount. Anyone can pick up a Bible, but to know what it contains and where to look for truths to help in your daily walk is not something you know instantly. There are 66 books contained within the covers of the Bible. Knowing what each book says and teaches takes time and effort. You don’t have to become a Bible scholar or take deep theology courses to understand it, but you do need to open the pages and read them for yourself! The Holy Spirit is there to illuminate those words to you!

Another thing is that you should not rely solely on others for how to use the sword as well! What I mean by that is in today’s technology-driven culture, people seem to resort to videos and Google to shortcut everything. Someone might go to a church once in a while and listen to a pastor teach, then watch some videos or read something online and get a brief overview and think they are ready for war. But that doesn’t replace knowing for yourself how to read and interpret the Word of God and apply it to your personal walk! Just as watching someone wield a sword in a video doesn’t make you proficient to use one in an actual battle, the same goes with watching a 10 minute video of someone else’s interpretation of Scripture, how that doesn’t equip you for the battlefront in your spiritual walk.

That is NOT to say that listening and learning from others is wrong. On the contrary, just as in Acts chapter 8, the Ethiopian eunuch needed Philip’s help in understanding the Scripture he was struggling with, we all need helps understanding various parts of the Bible! But we have to read the Bible for ourselves so that the Holy Spirit can open our eyes and heart to receive the words and store them up inside! Psalm 119:9-12 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!”

There are many great teachers and teaching aids out there to help us with our study of the Bible. But personally knowing the Scriptures helps us identify what is right and what is wrong teaching. The devil uses many false teachers and preachers, heretical churches, and twisting of Scripture to knock pilgrims off the course and even bring them to ruin. Having a good personal study of the Bible strengthens us to stand firm to God’s truth and avoid the lies of the enemy. The Jews in Berea studied the word of God and would daily search the Scriptures and compare what they read to what was being taught or presented around them. Like them, we must take the time to search the Scriptures…daily!

The Bible is right when it says that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. I get it. It’s a struggle some days just to get out of bed! We struggle not only with daily duties, but we get flooded with the chaos of the world and eventually doubts and fears start to take hold of us! I pray almost continuously to God saying “I believe, help my unbelief!” But the deeper God brings us through sanctification, (our walk with him), the more we see our faults and weaknesses before him. This helps us know where we need to focus and grow so we can draw closer to God! And it is through his word that he opens up those areas! One of God’s commands to us that many overlook is written in various places within the Bible (Leviticus, Joel, Ephesians, 1Peter, to name a few): “sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy”.

He humbles me greatly, daily to see my sins.

He lifts me up by showing me his grace.

Oh, that I may know him more, follow him more, glorify him more!

We flee from sin. We flee to Christ!

Each day is a battle that we need to take seriously and diligently. We first need to put down the bricks of sin, even the “little” ones. Life already gives us plenty of extra weight to carry every day, we don’t need to add extra! Hebrews 12:1 says to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” God sets a fountain to cleanse us from all sin and impurity. But if we continually return and wallow in the filth over and over, all we are essentially doing is deny Christ and rejecting his work on the cross.

“…shall we continue in sin…?”

We also need to take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word…daily. Don’t neglect it. How can anyone fight the good fight when they don’t know where their weapon is or how to even use it! The great Puritan leader, Richard Baxter, said “study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” There is so much to learn in our walk with God! And reading Scripture with a glancing blow hardly ripples the surface of the truth within. As with gold, you must dig deep for the best deposits. You will never become rich with just pebbles.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

God’s wrath is being stayed by his love. Yes, for God so loved the world that he did give us a way from the wrath to come; his Son Jesus. That whosoever shall believe in him will be saved. We commit our lives to God through his son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit by repenting of sins and being baptized into new life!

Prepare! The battle is here!

Amen

Sons Of Belial?

Some pretty deep and prolific words are found within the covers of the Holy Bible. There is no doubt about that. Even pagan religions have a level of reverence when it comes to the Christian Bible. It is filled with historical truths, poetic visualizations, proverbial guidances, and revelations of the very nature of God Himself. To read the pages is to get introduced to the God of the universe, to understand His will and ways, and to hold a roadmap for our life.

Yet as powerful and impacting as the Words are, it is amazing how people still live like the Scriptures have an insignificant influence. Even people who claim to be followers of Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, still live daily under the control of worldly ways instead of God’s ways. Obviously we reside in this world and, as such, we have to contend with it no matter how holy and pious we try to be. But you can tell a lot about what has the strongest inclinations or sway in someone’s life by how that person lives.

Taking into consideration that all will stand before the judgement of God at the end, which will determine where we spend eternity, one would think that a decision to follow God’s way would be an easy choice. Now, for some, that decision is easy. Yet, many others don’t want to give up the creature comforts of the secular life. They may find that walking in the ways of God is not easy or too burdensome . Plus, we need to note that there is another side to things working in our lives that also has great influence: sin. Sin’s influence goes against God’s ways, yet is very strong and many have fallen by its trappings. 

“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord” 1 Samuel 2:12

While reading through some Old Testament scripture, I came across an interesting verse that caused me to stop and think. What caught my attention in 1st Samuel chapter 2 were the words “They did not know the Lord”. Looking at the context of that statement, it shows a sad and harsh reality that I think can apply to many within the very walls of today’s church. Let me explain.

Eli was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses and the great high priest. Eli was a high priest in the temple at Shiloh. He was a godly man who was one of the judges over Israel. He had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, both of whom were raised to be in the service of God. But for Scripture to describe them as ‘Sons of Belial’, (which means worthless, and is also used in the New Testament to describe Satan!), it really shows the true nature of those boys.

To earn such an evil moniker from the writer of First Samuel, we need to understand what they were doing. First of all, as workers in the temple or sanctuary, their job was to gather and prepare the sacrifices prescribed by the Law and follow the exact instructions. The problem is that they were selfish, greedy, and very much living in the flesh for themselves. Instead of sacrificing the best cuts of the meat, they would take the best cuts of meat from the sacrifices for themselves. Adding to their debauchery, these married men would commit adultery with the various women who served at the sanctuary gates. (And we all know how clergy adultery turns out, even in our modern day and age!)

Of course these activities garnered the anger of God. Eli was admonished to scold his sons for their behavior, but he did it so lightly that they didn’t listen to him. Long story short; subsequently both of the sons would end up dying on the same day that the Philistines defeated Israel in a battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. Their father, Eli, would subsequently fall over and die of a broken neck upon hearing of the loss of his two sons and the Ark. Shortly after all this, Phinehas’ wife gave birth to a son when she heard of her husband and father-in-law’s deaths and the loss of the Ark, thus causing her to name the child Ichabod (which means the Glory Has Departed). Afterward she would also die. All this came about because God cursed the lineage of Eli and his sons for their behaviors.

So, what does all this mean?

This serves to show that even people who stand in the most reverential of duties, who interact in the most religious of environments, and who have the appearance of walking with God outwardly, might not truly know God!

That is a very scary prospect to think about! Jesus said in Matthew 6 to “beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Psalm 139 says that the Lord has searched us and knows us! Verse 4 says “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” These are truths that should have us reflecting not only on our outward life, but on our hearts as well!

You can be the most pious, religious, and reverential person on the entire planet in front of the people around you and still not know God. There are countless religious leaders that go through the motions, and yet don’t have a clue who God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit of the Bible truly are. Hophni and Phinehas went through the motions daily with their father, a high priest, yet they did not know God. Just because you say and do the right things or have great knowledge about the Bible, doesn’t make you right before the Lord.

So why is this? How can someone be exposed to the truth every day and still not know?

God’s way or sin’s way? Let me point out here that there are two motivations people face when entering into any type of religion or ministry; God or self. The Apostle Paul was a good example of a Godly motivation. He declared in 2 Corinthians 5 “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” Paul did everything for God through Christ Jesus and his love for God’s people was beyond a heartfelt passion. He did nothing in selfishness that can be shown in any of the Bible! He wrote to the Church in Rome Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)

But there are many examples of people in a ministry platform strictly motivated by self. We see a prime example in Acts Chapter 8. In Samaria there was a magician named Simon who many claimed that “this man is the power of God that is called Great.” When the Gospel of Christ was preached in the area, many became converts and were baptized, including Simon. He became very zealous, working with the evangelist in the area, and saw the miracles performed. When the Apostles Peter and John came to the area, they laid hands on the people to receive the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this and offered to pay them money for “this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” He wanted to keep his great reputation before the people. But he was admonished by Peter saying “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:20-21). Peter demanded he repent from his wickedness and intentions as he was in the bond of iniquity.

Another prime example, (that I won’t go into great depth right now), are the Pharisee and Sadducees. They enjoyed the praises of the people, walked in the highest honors in the cities, and enjoyed their power. They were also used by Jesus as examples of holy and pious men whose hearts were far from God. Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs, filled with dead men’s bones”. Sepulchres that look great on the outside, but inside were vile and filth. Their motivations were known to God; greed and selfishness. Essentially, hearts filled with sin.

The question we need to ask ourselves is; are we like Hophni and Phinehas? Are we claiming the Christian walk in appearance like the Pharisees, yet without Christ as our motivation? Are we talking a big game of being right with God, yet wanting the accolades from people? You might be able to deceive your family and friends with an illusion of Christianity by going to church. You might be able to talk all the Christian jargon online and post Scripture verses to strangers. You may even have Bible verses and stories memorized. But if your heart’s motivation in all these things is for self adulation, then not of your relationship with God is true. If you going through the motions to impress or puff yourself up, then you are only lying to yourself and those around you, which will only lead you to the lake of fire.

You see, God knows your heart. He knew Hophni and Phinehas. He knew the Pharisees and Sadducees. He knew Simon. He knows all things; and the heart of man is especially known. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

Eventually, like the two sons of Eli, all things we say and do will catch up to us and the truth will be revealed. As mentioned above, all will stand before the throne of God to give an account. Now is the perfect time to check your heart, check your motivation, your standing with the living God. Saying some words that you believe in Jesus are just that; words. It comes down to your true motivation. God or sin? Don’t let it be said of you “they did not know the Lord”

Amen

To Mask Or Not To Mask: Sin

With the inundation of mask-wearing around the world, people are losing out on seeing full facial expressions during face-to-face conversations.  In a conversation, there are 3 parts that are essential to a complete understanding of what is being said: verbal, non-verbal, and visual. I, for one, am someone that really relies on seeing the facial expressions when I am talking with someone. You can get a lot more information about the deeper intentions of the discussion by watching the person’s eyes, lips, and other facial movements. Sure, we can hear the fluctuations of the words or can see the obvious visual displays such as hand gestures and such, but we miss out on crucial insights when we lose the non-verbal expressions of the face!

Obviously, the mask is to blame. Throughout history, the mask has been used in all sorts of ways to disguise or shield the face and to keep others from knowing the true identity of the wearer. (Think Zoro or the Lone Ranger!)

But, we don’t always need a physical mask to conceal who we really are though. People will either lie about themselves or just not share the whole story at all. We all tend to keep some aspects of our lives guarded and secret. Even in close relationships people might withhold a portion of their true self that they don’t necessarily want to share with the other. Similarities can be applied when we talk about our sin nature. We all have sin in our life, but we don’t necessarily go around announcing them daily to everyone we know or meet! 

As Christians though, we have a conundrum we need to address regarding sin and our desire to mask them. Why do we hide sin? The very thing we do, though we don’t want to, we become convicted over and ashamed. Inside we know that sin is an abomination to God and that sin is what separates us from Him. But doesn’t God know everything? Including our sins? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69:5.

The Scriptures say “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” — 1 John 1:9-10. Of course this confession does pertain to talking with God directly; repenting before Him through Jesus Christ and walking anew. But there is another aspect of confessing our sins when it comes to others. Our sinful actions, whether direct or indirect, can, and often does, affect those around us and cause problems or harm. And when it does, it is important to repent and seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt by the sins. 

By confessing to others, you are essentially pulling off the mask and showing your true face. This can be very difficult for many people because we like to keep all our little secrets, well…secret! Our human nature likes to keep us from embarrassing situations, thus we easily hide the dark parts of our lives from others. Just know that all secrets do eventually become exposed though. And if not now, they certainly will before God on the day of judgement.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. — Revelation 20:12

There is no such thing as hidden or secret sin. There is no such thing as a little sin (think: little white lie). Like a disease, sin grows and festers within us, eventually creeping into other parts of our life, until it consumes you with guilt, shame, and pain. Thankfully, God in His infinite wisdom will use the Holy Spirit to shine His light on these dark shadows and bring them into the light. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” — John 1:5  Whether we see them on our own, or perhaps we are called out by one of our fellow sojourners, the exposure of our sins…though painful and embarrassing as it is…is to be a time of healing, cleansing, rejuvenation, and renewal in the Lord. 

“but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” — 1 John 1:7

There is nothing more freeing than having guilt and sin washed away from us through the grace and mercy of God. As I said before, we all have sins, commit sins, and we will continue to fight that sin nature within us until the Day of the Lord and His return. But in the meantime, we shouldn’t keep it masked up, hidden inside, eating us up with its desires. This is a fight, Christian! A daily fight to kill sin and walk in the righteousness of life! 

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. — Romans 8:13

Confessing, repenting, renewing, refreshing, rewarding! Remember that confessing (whether to God or God and others) and repentance is not a one time, past action in the Christian life; it’s an ongoing project. And confessing our sin isn’t just to make ourselves feel better or rescue us from Hell; the goal of our salvation is holiness to the glory of God. We are working daily to walk upright before God in the full likeness of His Son Jesus Christ. This is called sanctification.  

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 35, defines sanctification as this: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

And all this starts when we turn our lives to God through Jesus Christ; walking in newness of life. But when we keep hiding behind the masks that conceal our sin nature, that only leads to destruction…of soul and peace with God.

Remove the masks!

Amen

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Is 2021 The New 2020?

Time for God

So as I write this, today is January 1st of the year 2021. The new year that everyone hopes is a refreshment, a new start, and a definitive change from last year‘s chaos and utter pain. I recognize that this is a bit late coming to publish, but pray you can forgive me…it has taken a bit to shake off last year!

Normally for the new year people will make resolutions. They resolve to do things differently or to just do something, anything. Weight loss, quit smoking, eat better, be nicer, and so much more, the lists go on! I, for one, am not a resolution maker. I don’t need to set myself up for failure! On average, only 8% of Americans who make resolutions keep them. 80 percent fail by February 1st! But if I were to make any resolution, I would think that following in the footsteps of the great preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) would be the best.

In the early 1700’s, he wrote down over 60 resolutions that covered a variety of topics. Areas such as relationships, spirituality, overall life mission, and devotion to God. He categorized things under good works, time management, and character. He resolved to a deeper self examination for sin and keeping a personal check on things like pride and honesty. He had many powerful resolutions for a better spiritual life. And with these many resolutions, he would lay them all at the throne of God declaring; “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake”.

He then noted that he would “remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.” That is one sure way of keeping them!

But what makes his resolutions special is that they were to address his walk with God first and foremost! If there be any resolution for a Christian, it should be made to draw closer to God and be more keenly aware of our spiritual lot before Him.

We all (preaching to myself here!), have a tendency to walk complacent. Because we don’t see/feel/hear God’s presence every moment of every day, we tend to go about our daily lives in the light of what is around us at the moment. We focus our thoughts on things that involve our livelihood, react to the things happening to us, and interact with those people and things we see and remember, but, yet, in the larger scope of things, we often forget God.

Sure, we pause and think of God here and there, maybe toss a prayer now and again, or get a spiritual zip on the Lord’s day once a week. But to energize our desire and passions to follow wholly and completely…that is something that many Christians, specially American Christians, struggle with.

When looking at how our attitude toward God in our lives should be in light of Scripture, I thing many of us can say that we are a far cry from God’s heart. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians “so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). He also said to the Colossians to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”. And to the Galatians in 5:25 said “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

In the Old Testament, there are numerous examples of God’s people living in a deep reverence and fear of God. Their entire lives were God-centered. Yes, they faltered and would stray. A lot. But have we gotten ourselves to the point where we can say that we are daily even remotely God-centered in the slightest bit? When you look at the lives of the early Puritans, you have to understand that they left home and family to travel across an entire ocean just to live a life that was God-centered, Biblically founded, and completely committed to God in all they say and do. It certainly would be a rare sight in today’s times to find people like that.

People today walk a thin line with God. Having a flippant attitude and approach to His holiness is something that I’m sure will draw His wrath. And His wrath is something that many churches refuse to even acknowledge. But unfortunately for many, that doesn’t dismiss the reality that God will exact is wrath on people. Edwards is famous for one of the most powerful sermons ever given that occurred back in July of 1741, called “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”. The text was a simple line from Deuteronomy 32:35 that states “their foot shall slide in due time.” The opening text states “There is nothing the keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”

I personally truly recognize more and more every day that by God’s grace and mercy I still exist on this planet, and that is a true testament to God‘s character and love! He holds back His wrath on us! But that isn’t forever. His patience extends only so long! Though the sermon actually speaks more about the love of God and His lovingkindness toward us than the title would give cause to believe, that doesn’t mean we can be complacent with our relationship to God.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
— 2 Peter 3:9

Though I’ve studied the Word of God more last year than I had previously regarding our relationship with God, I still look inward and recognize that I, too, am complacent in my walk with God often, that I am lacking in my prayers and devotions daily, and that I tend to forget my religious duties. So, for me, I find it very simple to come up with resolutions that need to be addressed. I find there are plenty of things I preach to myself about!

Just as we are to take up our Bibles daily and study, we should also be taking time out of our lives to the devotion of our sanctification as Christians. It is written in scripture that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and always be striving to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And we can through the power of the Holy Spirit! It says in James 4:8 that we are to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded”.

When it says in Matthew 6 to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you, that isn’t seeking God for benefits and pleasures, but that is seeking God‘s righteousness and holiness into our life, which means walking upright daily, the way God wants us to.

We are to use the Scriptures as a mirror to see the blemishes of our sins and continue to beseech God‘s help by the power of the Holy Spirit to strive daily to mortify the flesh. That is the meaning of taking up our cross DAILY!

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
— Romans 12:1

2020 was a tough year for many. People are looking for answers. It has been reported that Bible sales were at an all-time high. We can reflect Christ to people looking for hope and show them God’s peace and love by our own lives. But we need to make sure our resolutions are set with God, so as to strengthen our righteousness that we can “in the same way let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven“.

So my prayer for us this new year is that we continue to offer ourselves a living sacrifice, examining ourselves daily by diving into the Word fully, and submitting ourselves in prayer and worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We all must continually take His Word that has been given to us and preach to ourselves daily! For 2021, if the Lord wills, I will continue to share with you those things that God impresses on my heart and mind as I look to His word and learn as well!

May God bless you richly this year, may His healing hand be upon you, and may you grow in sanctification daily, drawing closer to the Lord! Amen