CHOOSE TO BELIEVE
Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. – John 12:37-40
This could be interpreted as the ultimate teaching in predestination. That interpretation would be that these people were never given the opportunity to believe because of Isaiah’s prophecies. However, the Word of God makes it clear that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13); “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20); and “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). No one has ever been denied the opportunity to accept salvation (Ti. 2:11).
Mark 6:5 says that “he (Jesus) could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.” In that instance, it is evident that the reason Jesus couldn’t do any mighty work was not because He didn’t possess the power, but because He chose not to use that power against a person’s will. He couldn’t perform the mighty works because of His decision to uphold our freedom of choice.
Likewise, these Jews could not believe because of their choice to reject Jesus. They could not believe because they chose not to believe. “They stumbled at the stumblingstone” (Rom. 9:32), which was Jesus.
Isaiah did not predestine them to this fate. Rather he saw that very few would receive the report (Isa. 53:1) about the Messiah, and therefore would be kept from the knowledge of salvation because they rejected Him in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found (Col. 2:3). This is what Isaiah prophesied, and it came to pass. Be careful what you choose.
FORGIVE OTHERS …
And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted, (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32 AMP
As followers of Christ, our character should mirror His character. We should be helpful, kind and tender, understanding and loving to one another. Most of all, we should be extending forgiveness in the same way that Christ extends forgiveness toward us. In other words, we need to forgive unconditionally. But many times, people say they won’t forgive until the other person says they are sorry. Or, they won’t forgive because they think somehow they are getting that person back. But the only person who is hurt by your unforgiveness is you! When you hold unforgiveness, it blocks God’s forgiveness and keeps you locked up in the hurt and pain.
Choose to forgive today! Forgiveness simply begins with a choice to obey God’s command. When you open your heart to forgiveness, you open your heart to God’s healing and restoration in your life. Make the choice today to forgive others—readily and freely—as Christ forgave you!
DIFFERENT WAYS TO PRAY (3)
‘I lay prostrate before the Lord…’ Deuteronomy 9:25
Find a prayer style that works for you. In Scripture people pray as they stand, kneel, lie on the ground, sit, stretch out their hands, lift their faces toward the sky, or bow them toward the earth. Just find the method that works best for you, and use it. Some people pray better when they are moving. If you’re one of them, take a walk, go for a drive, or run. You are free to use your body and posture to help you turn your mind and heart towards God. When you’re acknowledging your sins, you may find it helpful to have your head bowed and to kneel; it’ll help you to remember and experience the humility of the moment. In worship, you may want to turn your face towards the sky. In asking for guidance, you may find it helpful to turn your palms upwards as a way of expressing with your body: ‘Lord, whatever You want.’ When praying for someone, say at a restaurant, you may want to look that person right in the eye while talking to God and say, ‘Father, I’m so grateful for this person. You know what they need. Give them what is required by their heart.’ When you’re praising God, put on a worship CD and sing along. The point is you should approach God with the joy, excitement and simplicity with which a child runs into the arms of a loving parent. Just as you don’t have anyone else’s fingerprints, you don’t have anyone else’s temperament. So just approach God in a way that’s natural, spontaneous and comfortable for you.
DIFFERENT WAYS TO PRAY (2)
‘Hezekiah received the letter…and spread it out before the Lord.’ Isaiah 37:14 NIV
Hezekiah, King of Israel, received a threatening letter from a much more powerful king—the King of Assyria. The Assyrian potentate demanded unconditional surrender, and told Hezekiah not to trust in God. The letter was graphic, warning that resistance meant the Israelites would have to ‘eat their own excrement and drink their own urine’ before they died (2 Kings 18:27NIV). So Hezekiah went to the temple ‘and spread it out before the Lord.’ Then he prayed: ‘…God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made Heaven and earth. Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see…’ (Isaiah 37:16–17 NIV) Hezekiah basically said, ‘Lord, would you read this, then do something about it!’ And God did. Indeed, what He did was spectacular. ‘Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty–five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!’ (Isaiah 37:36 NIV) So, what piece of paper would you like to spread out before the Lord? A financial statement that’s overwhelming? A divorce decree? A medical diagnosis? An angry email? Any piece of paper that causes you stress can be an invitation to prayer, and a candidate to be spread out before the Lord. If it’s important to you, it’s important to Him. You say, ‘I’ve never done anything like that before.’ Try it. Give it to God, trust Him, and watch how He works things out for you.
GOD FAVORS YOU BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU …
1 John 4:19 – We love Him because He first loved us.
Have you ever found yourself receiving such exceeding favor that you wonder why? My friend, it is because God is lavishing His grace—unearned, undeserved, unmerited favor—on you. And He does it because He loves you.
I love reading the Old Testament story of Ruth, a young Moabite widow, because it speaks of God’s amazing grace. The moment Ruth depended on God’s grace or favor, she had full access to His blessings. Of all the fields in Bethlehem, His grace led her to the field that belonged to Boaz, who was not only a wealthy bachelor, but also a relative of her father-in-law. (Ruth 2:3) Boaz was therefore her potential kinsman-redeemer—someone who could redeem her from her plight as a poor and childless widow.
Boaz favored Ruth from the moment he laid eyes on her. Ruth was not even a Jew, yet he cared for her safety by telling her not to glean in another field and to stay close to his young women. He even commanded the young men working for him not to touch her and to allow her to drink the water which they had drawn.
During mealtimes, he sat her beside the reapers although she was just a lowly gleaner who picked up what they had missed or dropped. On top of that, he gave her parched grain, making sure that she ate and was satisfied, and that she had leftovers to bring back to her mother-in-law. (Ruth 2:1–18)
Ruth simply believed that she would find favor in the field and God placed her at the right place at the right time, so that He could open a big door of blessings to her.
Do you know that Boaz is a beautiful picture of our Lord Jesus? The Bible says that “He first loved us”. Jesus saw you and loved you first, long before you knew Him or loved Him. And He favors whom He loves.
Beloved, there is no need to fight or strive to qualify for God’s favor and blessings. His favor is all over you because He first loved you. Just trust in His love for you and you will see His favor bringing an abundance of blessings into your life!
RIPPLES OF HOPE
In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. —1 Peter 1:3
In 1966, U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy made an influential visit to South Africa. There he offered words of hope to opponents of apartheid in his famous “Ripple of Hope” speech at the University of Cape Town. In his speech, he declared, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
At times in this world, hope seems scarce. Yet there is an ultimate hope readily available for the follower of Christ. Peter wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Through the certainty of Christ’s resurrection, the child of God has a hope that is more than a ripple. It is an overwhelming current of confidence in the faithfulness of the One who conquered death for us. Jesus, in His victory over death—our greatest enemy—can infuse hope into the most hopeless of situations.
My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. Edward Mote
In Christ the hopeless find hope.
THE POWER TO LIVE A HOLY LIFE
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. – John 12:31
The only reason Satan ever had any right to become a prince or rule over us was because we yielded ourselves to him through sin (Rom. 6:16). Since Jesus “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet.2:24), Satan no longer has power or authority over those who accept Jesus’ gift of salvation. Satan has been “cast out” — stripped of any power he had. Now he can only deceive, and if we fall for his lies, we stop God’s blessings from flowing in our lives.
The reason why a believer must live a holy life, is to avoid Satan’s bondage. When we obey sin, we yield ourselves to Satan, the author of that sin.Yielding to sin is yielding to a person, Satan. God doesn’t impute the sin to us but the devil does. Our actions either release the power of Satan or the power of God in us.
Although God is not imputing our sins unto us, we cannot afford the luxury of sin because it allows Satan to have access to us. When a Christian does sin and gives the devil an opportunity to produce death in his life, the way to stop him is to confess the sin. God is faithful and just to take the forgiveness that is already present in our born-again spirit and release it in our flesh, thereby removing Satan and his strongholds.
A person who abandons himself to sin is actually becoming a slave to the devil while a person who obeys righteousness is yielding himself to the Lord. This is why a Christian should live a holy life.
GARMENT OF PRAISE …
Provide for those who grieve…a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor – Isaiah 61:3
What are you wearing today? Not on your physical body, but what’s covering your mind and emotions? Are you clothed with despair and disappointment? Are you wearing “heaviness?”
If you’ve recently gone through a hurtful or disappointing situation, the Bible says there is a time to grieve. It’s important to go through that process and release the hurt to God. But the Bible also says that God wants to give you a garment of praise instead of a spirit of heaviness or despair. He wants to exchange your hurt for His healing. He wants to fill you with His peace and joy.
Are the garments of yesterday holding you back and weighing you down? Maybe it’s time to exchange that heaviness for His garment of praise. Maybe it’s time to release those heavy burdens. It’s time to forgive those who have hurt you and begin to praise your way into a new season. Start right now by thanking Him for the life you have today. Thank Him for the opportunities today has to offer. Thank Him for the beautiful sunrise. Put on the garment of praise and release the spirit of heaviness.
DON’T PUT YOUR FAITH IN DIETS AND EXERCISE …
Psalm 118:8 – It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
A lot of people think that the way to get health is to watch what they eat. For example, many people say that the Mediterranean diet is a very healthy one. I agree, generally. But do you know that the people whom Jesus healed were also on a Mediterranean diet? They did not eat pork and prawns, for example, because they were Jews and these things are not kosher for them.
I know that you want to walk in divine health. But God does not want your focus to be on food—what to eat, what not to eat—or even exercise—how to exercise, when to exercise. All these are natural means which the people of the world trust in. It is better to trust in the Lord and His finished work, than to put your confidence in the latest man-made diet plans and exercise regimes.
At the cross, Jesus took your sicknesses and carried your pains, and by His stripes you were healed. (Isaiah 53:4–5) The Bible even tells us how to escape sickness and premature death—by discerning the Lord’s body when we partake of the Lord’s Supper. (1 Corinthians 11:29–30) But instead of focusing on these truths, many of us prefer to focus on dieting and exercising.
Now, I am not against eating well or exercising. I myself exercise and I do watch what I eat. For example, I don’t like to eat oily stuff because it makes me feel uncomfortable. And when I have to preach, I do my best not to eat foods that make me burp!
But I eat generally healthy stuff not because I trust dieting to make me healthy. I exercise not because I trust exercising to make me healthy. No, I trust the finished work of Christ to make me healthy. I eat well because I like to feel good and I exercise because I enjoy the rush, the sweat!
God wants you to be free when it comes to eating and exercising. Don’t make laws for eating and exercising, and then trust these laws to give you “divine” health. Trust in the finished work of Christ. Discern His body when you partake of the Holy Communion. And just enjoy your food and workout!
JESUS PAID OUR DEBT
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. – John 12:31
There is still a future judgment of the world coming, where the wicked will be separated from the righteous and cast into the lake of fire. This verse refers to the sins of the world that were about to be placed on Jesus and that He would suffer our punishment.
Jesus suffered the punishment for our sins, so there is no reason why we should suffer for them too. The price for sin has already been paid by the only one who could fully pay it and that is Jesus. All Jesus asks of us to make His redemption ours, is faith in Him as our Lord.
Sin has a wage it must pay and no one can avoid payday without faith in Jesus. Anyone who does not receive the new birth will be held liable for all the wrong they committed as a result of their sinful nature. However, those who receive the new birth through faith in Jesus, don’t have a sin nature and therefore, will not receive the payment of death.
Physical death as well as every result of the sin nature (i.e. sickness, depression, fear, etc.) is only a by-product of the spiritual death that was already inside of us. The Lord told Adam that in the day he ate of the forbidden tree, he would surely die (Gen. 2:17). Adam didn’t die physically that day but he did die spiritually. Physical death came 930 years later for Adam (Gen. 5:5) as a by-product of his spiritual death.
Eternal life is a gift. The dictionary defines a gift as “something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation; a present.” We have nothing to do with earning this gift. All you have to do is receive it by faith.