Archive for February, 2017

A New Creation, Not Yet Perfect – Daily Devotion

A New Creation, Not Yet Perfect

A New Creation, Not Yet Perfect – Daily Devotion

by Wil Pounds

Start
“The believer is a new man, a new creation, but he is a new man not yet made perfect,” observes John Murray.

The born again believer still has to deal with indwelling sin. He still sins even though he is growing in Christ likeness and is the subject of the progressive sanctification of the Holy Spirit.

The believer is being transfigured into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

The emphasis the apostle Paul makes in Romans 6:14, 17, 18-20 is there has been a radical change in the believer’s relationship to sin. It is true that the believer still sins, but he is no longer a slave to sin. Sin no longer reigns as in the condition of the old man, the unregenerate person. Romans 7:14-25 teaches us that sin still remains in the believer’s mind, affections, and will. Slavery to sin is broken. But as Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:20-24, and Colossians 3:9-10 brings out the struggle in the heart of the very believer.

Herman Bavink said, “The spiritual struggle which the believers must conduct is between the flesh and the spirit, between the old and the new man, between the sin which continues to dwell in the believers and the spiritual principle of life which has been planted in their hearts.”

If the old nature has been “crucified” and “laid aside,” how can one say the believer still has an old nature?

Christ’s death took the form of a Roman crucifixion. The apostle Paul says the believer is “crucified with Christ” and is “dead” as a result of this action just as Christ after His crucifixion. Just as Christ was definitely dead so is the believer in his vital union with Christ is dead to sin. “For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10 NET).

But the finality of death is not the only thing Paul stresses about our relationship with Christ. Drawing on the symbolism of baptism by immersion in water Paul says, “Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4 NET). It is not a physical death and burial in regard to the believer, but forensic and positional. Paul has in mind our new position in a vital union with Christ. This is an act of God. We have a new relationship with Him. We have been placed in a new unchanging position. This is the way we exist in God’s sight. We are no figment in His imagination. This is the greatest of spiritual realities.

Believers are to “consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” because this is the great reality of our spiritual lives (6:10).

This status or position before God has vital significance and power in our daily life. We draw power and resources from this unchanging position.

Paul is describing the whole man and the change in our relationship. We have a new position. The contrast Paul is bringing out in these passages is not a change in our nature, but a change in relationship. Our old man is the old unregenerate self. The new person is the new regenerate self.

Because of this spiritual regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we are new creatures in Christ. As a result we have a new relationship with Christ and a new position before God the Father.

It is the believer’s responsibility to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in obeying the Word of God and overcoming temptation.

The true believer knows he needs Christ everyday. He knows he must guard and keep his heart everyday until he sees Christ is glory. When he sins he flees to Christ, His advocate. God had begun a new work in the believer, but that work is not yet perfect.

The Christian lives in both Romans chapters seven and eight. The Christian life is an increasing dynamic repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Everyday we increasingly depend upon the blood and the righteousness of Jesus Christ to cover all our sins. We love Him more and more everyday.

Our sense of repentance deepens as we discover more sins that need to be put to death. Like the apostle Paul, we cry out daily in our mourning, “I am carnal.” But daily we also rejoice in the great truth, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We die to sin daily, and we live to righteousness daily. By the inner working of the Holy Spirit, we “put to death the deeds of the body that we might live.” This is daily responsibility. Daily the inner man or “self” is being renewed day by day.

Romans 7:14-8:4 is the inner battle against remaining sin and imperfect obedience to God’s Word. It is the work of the Holy Spirit leading the believer into deeper repentance, increased holiness, and a greater dependence upon the finished work of Jesus Christ.

There will be a day when repentance will be no more, but that day has not arrived. Until that day arrives, we need to deepen our repentance and increase our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Be Filled With The Holy Spirit daily devotional

Be Filled With The Holy Spirit daily devotional

By Wil Pounds

Be Filled With The Holy Spirit

The greatest need of the born again Christian is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are under the control of the Holy Spirit, we will always glorify Jesus Christ. He will be exalted in our speech and in our behavior.

The apostle Paul issued an imperative command when he wrote, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

It is our duty and responsibility to be under the constant influence and control of the Spirit of God.

Paul used a verb in the imperative and issuedil  a command that every Christian believer to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Because the Christian life is a supernatural life, the only way to live it is by means of supernatural power. No one can live the Christian life in his or her own power and natural strength because we are dead in our trespasses and sins. God must empower us to live with His power. He brings us to life, and then He indwells us and enables us to live His kind of life. When we obey His command, He gives us His presence without limit. The filling of the Holy Spirit is His enabling.

It is from this divine enabling that God the Spirit produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faith, self-control, etc. He produces in us the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Are you “under the influence?” What characterizes your life? The idea behind the word “fill” is “control.” The indwelling Spirit of God is the One who should continually control and dominate the life of the believer. The present tense calls for a habitual and continual direction. The passive could be permissive passive, “allow yourself to be…” We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit. We do not fill ourselves; the Holy Spirit does the filling!

The idea Paul has in mind is “be constantly controlled by the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the Agent (Gal, 5:16) and Jesus Christ is the content of the filling of the Spirit (Col.3:15).

“There is no such thing as a once-for-all fullness. It is a continuous appropriation of a continuous supply from the Lord Christ Himself. It is a moment-by-moment faith in a moment-by-moment Savior, for a moment-by-moment cleansing and a moment-by-moment filling. As I trust Him, He fills me; the moment I begin to believe, that moment I begin to receive; and as long as I keep believing, praise the Lord, so long I keep receiving,” said Charles Inwood.

When we are under the control of the Spirit of God, our thought life, imagination, volitional choices, and behavior will be occupied with Jesus Christ. When we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we go deeper and deeper into our understanding of the ways of God. Our communion with Christ is deeper and closer with each day. He will be constantly controlling our mind, emotions, and will.

When we are under the control of the Spirit, our prayer life is transformed, and we pray with the heart and vision of a righteous man (James 5:16).

When the Holy Spirit is in control, we are of the same mind with God. We are humble before God and man (Phil. 2:1-8).

When we are filled with the Spirit, we have the mind and thus the attitude of Christ (Phil. 2:5). We reproduce His likeness (Gal: 5:22-23).

When we are under the influence of God’s presence, nothing really matters but Jesus Christ.

When we are filled with the Spirit and therefore under His control, we live holy lives (Gal. 5:16-18).

We have all of the Spirit, but does He have all of us? Am I yielded to Him? Do I “keep on being filled”? Has this command become a blessed habit to me?

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Wisdom For Trials Daily Devotion

Wisdom For Trials: Daily Devotion

Written by Wil Pounds

 

Wisdom for Trials

In the context of a discussion on trials in life the apostle James tells believers to ask God for wisdom to understand and use them for God’s glory.

Divine wisdom gives us the spiritual ability to view trials form God’s perspective. But not only does He help us to understand our suffering, He enables us to apply the wisdom to our trials.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

James tells us trials come from many sources. Sometimes we bring trials on ourselves by making foolish decisions and pursuing selfish objectives.

They come when we are persecuted for the cause of Christ. Satan is the one behind these trials because God has invaded his territory. He cannot take away our salvation, but he can sure eat away at our joy and fellowship in the Lord.

We live in a fallen world that has been severely affected by the results of Adam’s disobedience. Therefore, hardships in this world cannot be prevented and will be with us until the day of its redemption when Christ comes.

We also need to be sensitive to the fact that God allows each trial that we encounter. He sends trials so that we will learn to trust Him.

God uses trials so He can get our attention and teach us through those experiences. His wisdom helps us to discern not only His will, but also how we respond to these pressures in life. What does God want you to learn in this process of dealing with this trial? What is the good that can come out of this evil intent in persecution or misunderstanding?

God tests us in order to demonstrate our faithfulness and strength. He wants to show us how strong we are when we depend upon Him. The testing of our faith produces likeness of Christ.

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Testing proves Christian character. It tests our commitment and endurance to live for Christ. People are impacted with the Gospel when they see us following Christ faithfully, regardless of the chances, changes and circumstances in our lives.

The question of commitment comes when we face trials, hardships, and persecutions with confidence in Christ and obey Him when we do not understand why it is happening to us.

God uses trials to strip away the superficial spirituality in our lives. They reveal the secret inner attitudes of our lives and make us aware of secret sins, unclarified values and selfish motives.

God uses trials to demonstrate to us His sustaining grace and power during our most difficult experiences in life.

Christ lives His life in and through us to demonstrate to the watching world what authentic Christianity is really like. The pressures of trials conform us to the likeness of Christ by producing His likeness within us.

God uses our trials to minister to others who are going through similar experiences. God “comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Through trials we are better equipped to share what we have learned.

As we make ourselves available to Him He lives in and through us giving us wisdom, grace and power.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotional: Matthew 23:23

Daily Devotional: Matthew 23:23

Matthew 23:23

New International Version (NIV)

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.

Start:

Consider: The verse we look at today stands in the midst of a blistering verbal attack that Jesus levelled against the Pharisees and teachers of the law. If you read the entire twenty-third chapter of Matthew, you’ll get a feel for Jesus’ utter disgust at hypocrisy—particularly self-righteous hypocrisy that exploits others in the name of God.

I highly doubt that any one of us falls into that category that Jesus referred to as “snakes,” “vipers” and sons of hell. But we should always be very humble to allow the Holy Spirit to show us the ways in which we must make sure that our lives measure up to what we profess to believe. We all have inconsistencies. None of us are perfect. But, as we saw yesterday, we are called to live according to what Christ has taught us—to “walk in the light” that he has shed on our pathway.

For me, the main thing that I need to take from this amazing chapter is Jesus’ declaration that the Pharisees had “neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (23:23).

Yes, some things are more important than others. Jesus clearly taught that the heart of the law is love. We don’t want the skeleton of religion without the heart. If we teach our children all the Bible stories and give them correct understanding, but do not demonstrate self-sacrificing love, we are what Jesus would call “blind guides” (23:16).

Down through the centuries many Christians have been involved in seeking out those who held heretical beliefs. And that’s how they defined heresy, believing or teaching things that are contrary to sound doctrine. The great irony is that many times the heretics were persecuted by the “theologically correct” heretic hunters. That means that the persecutors had missed the whole point of Jesus’ life and teaching. The greatest heresy of all is refusing to love.

Pray: “Lord, today I want to live by what you called ‘the more important matters,’ so…

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love;

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”

– The Prayer of St. Francis

Daily devotional: Philippians 3:7-16

Daily devotional: Philippians 3:7-16

Philippians 3:7-16

New International Version (NIV)

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Following Paul’s Example
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

 

Start:

Consider: Many have called Paul the first Christian theologian. Some of his letters—such as the one written to the Romans—contain wonderful details on the meaning of life, redemption, love and the journey of the Christ-follower. But his theology was never removed from life. In fact, to Paul there was no separation between faith and real life.

As Paul explained to the Philippian believers the good news that our righteousness is not dependent on external laws (3:2-9), he gave them a beautiful piece of advice. In case they weren’t grasping all that he had to say, or in case they weren’t ready to receive it, he said…

“All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” (3:15-16)

I love that. Even if we’re struggling with our beliefs, the Holy Spirit will clarify things for us if we are sincerely searching for his truth. But in the meantime, let’s live up to the truth that we have already received. We call that “walking in the light” that he sheds upon our path.

“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)

What has God been teaching you about your journey with him? What has he taught you about how to love? Who has he pointed out to you who needs your love today? Those questions will guide you into how to live this day for him.

Pray: “Lord, you have given me so much and you have taught me more than I thought I could ever comprehend. Much of what you’ve taught me lies in my spirit, not simply in my mind. So please, bring to my awareness today part of that great storehouse of learning and help me to walk in that light.”

Daily Devotional: Philippians 3:1-11

Daily Devotional: Philippians 3:1-11

Written by Lead Pastor Phil Stout, JAXNAZ Church

Philippians 3:1-11

New International Version (NIV)

No Confidence in the Flesh
3 Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Start:

Consider: Truth matters. Theology matters. The word “theology” comes from two Greek words: Theos—“God,” and logos, which is translated as “word,” but points to something much deeper than our words can express. Our words—our beliefs—about God matter.

If we are ever tempted to think that theology is just the stuff of university lectures, musty books in seminary libraries and abstract debates, we’ll miss the transformation that God wants to do in our lives and in our world, because theology is something we live every day. As one of my theology professors liked to say, “Theology wears overalls.”

Bad theology does bad things. In the early days of our country, preachers theologized that slavery was God-ordained. In fact, some of the early explorers used theological rationale to displace Native Americans, even committing genocide. Bad theology gets people killed. To this day, misguided people still use the name of Christ to oppress others.

So you see why Paul was so passionate in opposing those who were distorting the good news of Jesus Christ. As you read today’s passage, you heard some strong language from our brother, Paul.

But you’ll also notice that Paul didn’t simply try to fight bad theology with counter arguments. He didn’t reduce himself to the role of a debater who was trying to win someone over to a competing ideology. No, his intentions with the word—the logos—of God were much deeper.

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” (3:10)

Those are not the words of someone who simply wants to argue over doctrine. Those are the words of someone who understands that the word must become flesh. And he was willing to allow Christ to do that in him.

That’s good theology.

Pray: “Lord, may my quest for knowledge be a quest for the knowledge of you and your presence in me and in your world. All wisdom starts there. Like Paul, ‘I want to know Christ’ and the power of your resurrection in me.”

Daily Devotional: Psalm 73:1-17

Daily Devotional: Psalm 73:1-17

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, Lead Pastor JAXNAZ Church

Read: Psalm 73:1-17

Psalm 73:1-17New International Version (NIV)

BOOK III
Psalms 73–89

Psalm 73
A psalm of Asaph.

1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

Start:

Consider: Why do bad things happen to good people? Many have lost their faith struggling with that question. Because, of course, that’s not an academic question. It’s a life question—a mystery that we live with every day. Because a satisfactory answer is hard to come by, some have abandoned God because they felt as though he had abandoned them.

In today’s reading we find the psalmist admitting that he had grappled with the question of evil, but with a slightly different take on that question. He asked why good things happen to bad people. He had become so frustrated with the thought that evil people prospered while he—thinking he was righteous—did not, that he totally lost perspective, to the point that he said, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence” (73:13). In other words, what’s the point of being faithful to God if he doesn’t reward me for it? What’s the point of trying to live a pure life?

Is that why we obey God? Is that why we follow the way of Christ? Are we simply trying to get good things from him?

To me the turning point of this psalm comes with a simple statement…

“When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God…” (73:16-17)

Understanding did not come through logic. It didn’t come through a verbal answer from God. It came from entering into God’s presence. This is a different kind of understanding. This is a different kind of knowledge.

Worship brings perspective. We should question, struggle and search for answers. We should try to connect our logic and reason to our faith. But we must not reduce our understanding of God to what we can comprehend with our minds. We will never have a proper perspective on God or on life if we fail to enter into God’s presence—“the sanctuary of God”—and worship him. Whether we are singing together, praying together, listening to the reading and expounding of the scriptures or together partaking of the bread and the wine at Christ’s table, we open ourselves to a level of understanding that can only be gained through worship.

Pray: “Lord, help me to enter your sanctuary every day so that I can know you and express my love to you. Sometimes it will be the sanctuary that only you and I occupy as I spend time alone with you. Other times it will be the sanctuary where the Body of Christ meets. I covenant with you to worship you ‘in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:23).”

Daily Devotional: Lamentations 3:19-23

Daily Devotional: Lamentations 3:19-23

Written by Pastor Phil Stout, Lead Pastor, JAXNAZ Church

Read: Lamentations 3:19-23

International Version (NIV)

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Consider: We turn from yesterday’s psalm of praise to haunting words of lament. If you read the first portion of the third chapter of Lamentations you are taken to a point of despair in the writer’s life. The load has become so massive, so crushing that if feels as though God himself is the One who is trying to destroy Jeremiah’s life.

We don’t often hear lamentation like that. Those aren’t the passages typically read in church or in our private prayer time. Yet, expressions of lament occur throughout the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.

These words of anguish culminate in a resignation that God has abandoned him…

“I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, ‘My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.’ I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (3:17-20)

But in our anguish we are not alone. We are not abandoned. Those dreadful words are followed by a hope-filled “Yet…”

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (3:21-23)

Yesterday we looked at the “new song” we can sing. We saw in Psalm 96—that great psalm of praise—that we could see God’s glory in places we had not previously searched. But it is important to recognize that the valley of lament teaches us the same thing that the mountains of glory teach—“his compassions…are new every morning.”

So no matter what you are going through, today is the day to sing a new song of praise for the new thing God is doing in your life. It was brand new this morning.

Pray: “Lord, I thank you that today, because of your great love, I am ‘not consumed.’ I praise you that your ‘compassions never fail—they are new every morning.’ Thank you for your great faithfulness. Even when I find myself at points of despair, I will choose to believe that you are with me.”

Daily Devotional: Psalm 96:1-13

Daily Devotional:  Psalm 96:1-13

by Phil Stout, Lead Pastor, JAXNAZ Church

 

Psalm 96
1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Consider: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (96:1). So begins this great psalm of praise. And this is not the only time the scripture speaks about “a new song.” You’ll find it repeatedly in the psalms, you’ll see it in the words God gave to Isaiah and you’ll hear it at the climax of time, for John proclaims that “they sang a new song” to the Lamb (Revelation 5:9, 14:3).

Have you been singing a new song?

We know that genuine thanksgiving is central to our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. With gratitude, we daily ask God to bless the food we eat. On Sunday mornings—the first day of every week—we gather to celebrate the Sunday morning that death was defeated with an open tomb. Every time we meet we sing songs of praise. We daily honor God as we pray the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray—“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name…”

But has it been a while since you sang a new song?

Let’s begin this work week by thanking God for the things we don’t typically remember, those things we take for granted. Of course, that will be different for every one of us. But it is good for all of us to remember that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).

We need to take a little inventory. Let’s see if there are things that he has given us that we forgot were precious gifts from the hand of our loving Father.

Pray: “Lord, today I sing a new song to you. I compose new praises in my heart, for you have given me abundance. I’m humbled before your love and grace.”

Suicide Article

Suicide Article

Last night I watched on HBO a documentary on the epidemic of depression leading to suicidal behaviors, killing  people in this world predominantly.  As I heard the responses from the crowd, of the question “if someone was contemplating suicide, what reasons for staying alive would you give”, I didn’t hear any answers that would lead me to believe they knew or even put hardly any thought toward God.” That really disturbed for many reasons.

First, it bothers me as I viewed the fact that if a person dies, and are unsaved, they will spend eternity in hell. Once dead, there is no second chances. Imagine eternity in agony and torment without end, and no life in heaven. I hardly want to imagine what pain those banished to hell, outside of heaven, would experience.

Secondly, life on earth can be really hard. However, a person who daily abides in Christ would be empowered by God, to experience the Holy Spirit’s fruit of the spirit that He gives to those who surrender to the Trinity. So, in essence, a person can go through great trials, but can still experience agape love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, self-control, etc, because the Spirit resides in only the soul of the believer. Thus, in spite of all the trials that we can go through, we can have hope, because “Christ has overcome the world.” The unbeliever has no such hope.

The believer is a child of God. Jesus paid the penalty for our all our sins, restoring the relationship between God and the new unsaved believer. This means, to those who seek Him, God will be the Heavenly Father that takes care of His children. Because of the cross, the new believer, can have ultimate peace and experience true joy and love from God; unfortunately, the unsaved is still considered an enemy with God because they chose not to or are unaware to accept God’s gift of salvation. (God want all to be His children, but if they don’t accept His gift of freedom, He cannot do anything about it, because He honors man’s liberty to have free will).

God truly loves His children. No one can pluck them out of the Father’s hands, and He promises “He will never leave, fail, or forsake His children” (see Deut 31:6). In essence, in spite of all the problems and sufferings the Christian experiences, God still has their backs”. You cannot say anyone about that to the unbeliever.

The unbeliever must face all the trials and tribulations on their own without God’s hope, is forced to try to experience peace and joy, absent from the Holy Spirit’s fruit of the spirit, which cannot be done, especially with the sinner’s frailties and sinful consciences. In essence, the unbeliever very little hope of experiencing freedom without a relationship with God, and a connection with the Holy Spirit.

Everyone needs the stability of Christ inside them, especially when the storms of life beat upon their lives. Like a house built up on a solid rock foundation, we can experience true stability and joy in spite of all our problems. The unbeliever is just the opposite. Their house is built upon sinking sands, and when life gets rough, their life becomes real fragile, which often leads to depression and suicidal contemplation.

People who have suicidal thoughts are very vulnerable to the problems of life. They need hope and compassion, and most importantly God, who is the Author of both. One bad situation can lead them toward death wish, and someone with love can make the suicidal have hope, which they desperately need. I know because I have experienced it.

I remember, around 1998, of me driving home from school very suicidal as I was fighting the urges of killing myself, by driving my car off the road purposely. At my lowest depression level, I prayed to God for help. The next thing I know THE RIVER by Garth Brooks played on the radio, giving me hope. It inspired me to keep on believing, and less than a year later, I met a teach ner who led me to a doctor who diagnosed my bipolar disorder (my OCD got discovered years later), and today, I often live close to a normal life, as my meds work great.ve

The love of that teacher, Professor Duane Dobbert, totally changed my life. If he didn’t help me, I would eventually give up on life. But God sent that person in my life, because God loved (and loves) me. I believed that teacher was a godsend, to save me from my illness.

Talking to the Christian, every day God puts people in our sphere of influence. If we love like that teacher, we may lead someone who desperately needs faith, hope, and love. God has a purpose for each of us – to Love everyone. And only through the Holy Spirit can that happen.

For the sake of freedom, we must let the Holy Spirit control our lives, and allow Him put spiritual fruit in lives. If we don’t act with love, unsaved people may die in hell because they do not know Him. That’s what makes suicide an epidemic.

Daily Devotion: Backsliding

 

Daily Devotion: Backsliding

by Wil Pounds

Backsliding

Have you ever temporarily lapsed into unbelief and sin after you became a Christian? The condition of backsliding results from spiritual apathy or disregard for the truth of God’s Word. It results in a departure from a winsome confession of faith and Biblical ethical standards. Actions are affected by our attitudes toward God and His Word.

Jesus said, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Backsliding is different from apostasy, which spurns the grace of God by renouncing the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31). When a person renounces his faith in Christ that person was never a true child of God, and never was among the elect of God (John 3:18-21, 36; 5:24-29).

On the other hand, the elect individual, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and redeemed by God has been delivered once-for-all from the bondage of sin. Backsliding is not a “fall from grace” in the sense that a Christian once saved by grace can lose his eternal life in Christ. He is God’s child forever, and He has placed His life in the believing sinner.

There were times when the disciples of Jesus withdrew from fellowship with the Lord (Matt. 26:56), Peter denied Christ (26:69-75), Corinthian believers lived in sin (2 Cor. 12:20-21), the Church in Asia became lukewarm (Rev. 2:4, 14-15, 20), etc.

The people of Israel serve as an example for Christians today. We are exhorted to persevere in righteousness and doing the will of God. Israel forsook her covenant with the LORD God (Jer. 2:19; 8:5; 14:7), and demonstrated her unfaithfulness by disobeying God.

In the New Testament backsliding is viewed as an individual problem, although it is possible for churches to become backslidden, too.

Why do Christians become backslidden? We all still possess the old nature that is “corrupt through deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22; Rom. 7:13-24; 1 Cor. 3:1-3). Lack of continuous fellowship by “abiding” in Christ results in a lack of spiritual vitality and ineffective Christian service (Jn. 15:4-8). There is no other way to live the Christian life except by maintaining an intimate fellowship with our Lord. If we do not maintain that vital contact with Him we cannot sustain spiritual growth and effectively minister in His name.

Unbelief (Heb. 3:12), bitterness (12:15), love for the world (2 Tim. 4:10), love for money (1 Tim. 6:10), adherence to worldly philosophy (Col. 2:8), legalism (Gal. 3:1; 1:6; 5:7), indifference and spiritual coldness (Rev. 2:4; 3:16) are other causes for backsliding.

Backsliding grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30), and it displeases our Lord (Heb. 10:38). There are natural consequences that follow this sin (Lev. 26:18-25).

How can we prevent backsliding in our spiritual life? It is essential that we “abide” in Christ (Jn. 15:4-7), remain spiritually alert (Eph. 6:18), put on the full armor of God (v. 10), be prayerful (1 Thess. 5:17), etc. Seek to love the Lord God with all your mind, heart and personal being every day.

We can thank God that He patiently perseveres with His saints. Just as we are to persevere in doing His will, we can be thankful that He has made a wonderful covenant with us in the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. The grace of perseverance is one of the great benefits of the atoning death of Jesus Christ for our sins. The solution for backsliding is found in the abiding love and mercy of our God of grace who remains faithful to His promises.

Backsliding is serious business. Martin Luther well said, “The offenses given within the church are greater than those given among the heathen because when Christians degenerate, they are more godless than the heathen.”

We have a choice. We can progress or regress in our Christian life. We have a great responsibility in how we choose to live the Christian life. God is able to strengthen and progressively sanctify the Christian if we cooperate with Him (Heb. 3:12; Phil. 3:10-16).

The promise to every backsliding Christian is to, “Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:7). Acknowledge your sin, turn from it, trust in the Lord for forgiveness and ask the Holy Spirit to take control of your mind, heart and daily life. Jesus says, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5).

It is reassuring that the Bible clearly teaches that the truly spiritual regenerate can never be lost. We are his forever children. Once his child by the new birth, always his child. However we can lose our fellowship with God and our effectiveness in Christian service. The God of all grace has provided a bar of soap; let’s use it often (1 John 1:6-10; 2:2).

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

 

Daily Devotional: Abide In The Holy Spirit

Daily Devotional: Abide In The Holy Spirit

Abide in the Holy Spirit

by Wil Pounds
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come the disciples realized why Jesus ascended up into heaven. He left them in order that He might be with each one of them in a more intimate relationship.

The Holy Spirit came to fulfill the ministry of Jesus Christ. “I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly,” Jesus said (John 10:10b). He indwells so that He can reproduce the character and likeness of Jesus Christ within the born again believer. He continues to do and teach all that Jesus began to do and teach when He was here on the earth (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-17).

He longs for us to respond to His love and make ourselves available to Him to live His life in and through us (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

What does the Spirit find in the temple of our body? Too often the temple looks like a desecrated shrine, unkempt, unclean, perhaps even defiled.

We grieve Him, and quench His fiery presence by our attitudes and behaviors. The Holy Spirit is always ready to use us, and longs to make us His instruments of grace and mercy to a lost world. How tragic when we deny Him His rightful place in our hearts?

We have each learned again and again that our God is the God of a second chance. How grateful we are that He “will restore the years the locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). “This is the everlasting mercy,” says Fitch. “He gave us another chance of doing what we have failed to do” (p. 125).

We abide in Him as we die daily to self-love and reckon to be dead unto sin and alive to God.

Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).

We usually treat ourselves as if we are the only ones of significant value, the most important person in the world. Instead of Jesus being our most valued person, we make ourselves the priority. Jesus said we must die to self-love and make Him our first love.

The apostle Paul applied this great truth to the believer when he wrote, “Even so consider [be constantly counting upon the fact, reckon] yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

As we daily die to sin and self and reckon upon Jesus we abide in Him. This is the vital ministry of the Hoy Spirit in our daily lives. This is an important aspect of our spiritual growth.

God is with us and in us by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. Our responsibility is to make ourselves available to Him. He will take us and cleanse us and use us to fulfill His eternal purpose in and through us.

The Holy Spirit has come to fulfill the ministry of Jesus Christ. He does that in those individuals who have believed on Christ and who make themselves available to the Spirit without reserve. Allow the Spirit of holiness the freedom to apply the blood of Jesus to keep on cleansing us daily, moment by moment from all sin. Permit Him to apply it to your conscience daily and serve the Lord with the fullness of His Spirit. We walk in the light with Him and abide in His presence, as we allow the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all sin. As a result the Holy Spirit strengthens our conscience and deepens our faith in Christ. In doing so we give Him the freedom to use us to His glory.

When we are cleansed and restored daily we keep short agendas with God and the Spirit keeps our hearts tender to the slightest whisper of His will. The Holy Spirit gives us a sensitivity to the disquiet when we are tempted to sin or not walk by faith. He makes us hate sin as God hates sin, and realize that sin breaks our fellowship with God. As Charles Wesley wrote, “Ah give me, Lord, the tender heart that trembles at the approach of sin.” And may He constantly remind us that the only way to restoration of that abiding fellowship is the cleansing blood of Jesus.

Keep your heart tender toward Him and He will abide in you and you in Him.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

Daily Devotion: Have You Received The First Blessing?

Daily Devotion: Have You Received The First Blessing?

by Wil Pounds

Have You Received
the First Blessing?

 

The Holy Spirit does a work within the believer whereby He sanctifies us. This is an experience within the Christian.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “ . . . you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).

The context tells us all the sins of these saints that were covered by the blood of Jesus. God chose the believer unto “salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13; cf. 4:7; 1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 15:16). Paul has in mind the ultimate goal, our final salvation.

God chose us in the deep counsels of eternity on the basis of His grace and love, and not because of any personal merit on our part. It is all of grace and love. The means God uses to bring us to salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit who sets aside chosen individuals to live holy lives. The Holy Spirit regenerates, indwells, baptizes the believer into the body of Christ, etc. The individual believes in the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ because the Holy Spirit has done His work in our hearts. Then throughout the life of the believer the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to progressively purify the Christian’s life.

Sanctification by the Holy Spirit is the first blessing of God’s work in the heart of the believer. This first blessing leads to the full knowledge of justification by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ for our sins.

No one can be saved without this first work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. The sanctification by the Spirit in the heart brings the believer unto obedience to the sacrifice of Christ. We come to knowledge of our justification when the Holy Spirit brings us to faith in the death of Christ for our sins. His precious blood cleanses the soul of every sinful stain. The blood of Jesus alone makes you acceptable before God. The Holy Spirit brings you to faith in Jesus Christ.

We have been chosen by the Father, purchased by the Son and set apart by the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul in the opening chapter of Ephesians lays great stress on what God in grace had done for us. The Trinity is involved in our salvation. God the Father chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world. The Son of God saved when He died for me on the cross. The effectual calling of the Holy Spirit saved me one Sunday morning when my mother and my pastor shared the Gospel and I was born again. It took all three Persons of the Godhead to bring me to salvation. If we separate these ministries, we will either deny divine sovereignty or human responsibility; and that would lead to heresy.

I often hear people say, “But I don’t feel justified.” Our justification has nothing to do with our feelings. The critical question is, “Do you believe God is satisfied with the work of atonement Jesus Christ accomplished as your substitute upon the cross?” If you believe Jesus is your substitute who died for you on the cross, then God has declared you are justified.

Don’t play the doctrine of sanctification against the doctrine of justification as if one is more important than the other. Both doctrines are vital to our full salvation.

Sanctification is not justification. Justification is not something the Holy Spirit does in your heart. Justification is the declaration by the heavenly Judge acquitting you of your guilt. God justifies the believing sinner, based upon the atonement of Christ on your behalf. God acquits you because you have taken Him at His word regarding the death of Jesus Christ. Justification is based upon what Christ did for you on the cross. It is your standing before a righteous and holy God.

Sanctification is not a “second blessing”; it is your first blessing. It is what the Holy Spirit does at the beginning in your soul and continues throughout your life until He presents you complete in your glorified sinless body in the presence of God at the coming of Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:23-24; Phil. 1:6). He will have completed His work in you on that glorious day, and not before then (cf. 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Thess. 1:10; 2:2; 1 Cor. 1:18; 3:13; 2 Cor. 1:14; Rom. 13:12).

Every born again person has received the Holy Spirit and has been set apart to God. Because of His indwelling presence we long for the time when the Spirit will have reached His goal in our lives and we shall become absolutely and forever sinless and holy. When we see Jesus Christ in glory we will be forever wholly sanctified.

As we walk in the Spirit we live holy lives, and we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16, 17; Eph. 5:18). The only way to live the Christian life is occupation with Christ. All He asks of us is to yield ourselves to Him. As we make ourselves available to Him He lives His life in and through us.

You don’t need a second blessing; you need to appropriate by faith the first blessing of the Holy Spirit. You only need to walk in the Spirit. The Christian life is not a sudden growth of spirituality, acquired through a special blessing, but a steady, sincere, patient walk in the Spirit, in uninterrupted growth in grace and knowledge of Christ.

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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