Characteristics of Your IMAGE

04/24/2015 § Leave a comment

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.  (Genesis 1:26-27 HCSB)

When God created mankind, He created us in His image.  He did this with the intent of His creation to be in His likeness (James 3:9b).  His will for His people are to live in a manner that is praiseworthy and devoted in worship to Him.  Man’s image was to be the glory of God, and a woman, created as man’s helpmate, was intended to be the glory of man (1 Corinthians 11:7), and both, in this image and in worship, are to honor the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 8:23).   With this, man has a responsibility to live in a manner that is worthy of His creation.  With your belief in Jesus Christ as Savior, He restores you to the place where God intended for you to be—as a person who is under grace and as a new creation in Him (John 1:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17).  In the same way you were created in his image, it is His will for you to live in this manner as a new creation.  Christ’s sacrifice for you should compel you to put off your old nature of sin and put on the new nature and character of Christ (Romans 6:6-7, 11-12).  Your image in Jesus Christ is all about the change taking place in your spiritual character (Ephesians 4:24; 1 Peter 1:16).

A believer who is fully engaged in his or her relationship with Jesus Christ is going to be a dynamically effective witness for Jesus Christ.  It is the perception of the believer’s interaction with others that provides the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore, a believer’s image is what people see (and need to see—whether you are interacting with non-believers as a testimony or with believers as a person of support and encouragement).  It is this image that is the complete makeup of a believer who wants to be more than just salt and light—a bright, seasoned witness for Jesus!

The believer’s image is extremely important in three different areas:

1.)  It builds and develops the person’s relationship with God

2.)  It builds and develops the person’s self-worth and self esteem

3.)  It builds and develops confidence to interact with others in multiple scenarios and circumstances

I will use the word “IMAGE” as an acrostic word comprising what a believer in Jesus Christ needs to do with a consistent fervor to grow in Christ and be a dynamic testimony before others.

There are five elements that we will study that make up the word IMAGE in this endeavor.  In order to develop and maintain your IMAGE before others:

I – Investigate the Word of God

The development of a believer must begin with the appropriate time and effort devoted to bible reading.  Even as you are developing a routine for bible reading each day, the proper development of the image of the believer must have progression in this process—the progression must continue in the achievement of levels to where you are no longer just reading the bible, but you are investigating what scripture has to say to you.

Your success as an investigator includes:

  1. Reading the bible daily
  2. Reading at a predetermined time as part of a regular schedule
  3. Using external biblical resources to complement your study (for example, using a Greek and Hebrew reference, concordance and/or study bible with commentary)

Investigate (v.) – to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

M – Meditate on the Word of God

(Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10)

Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to become aware of and reflect upon the revelations of God.[1]  Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (such as a bible passage) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God. [2]

Meditation is reflection, consistent prayer and practice that promote greater understanding and wisdom in the application of God’s Word.

A – Act (Application of God’s Word)

The act portion of your IMAGE involves taking action upon what you have learned in your investigation and mediation of God’s Word.  Taking action or applying God’s Word involves four key lifestyle elements of your faith in Jesus Christ:

  1. Repentance upon acknowledgment of sin to restore immediate fellowship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:8; Acts 3:19)
  2. Compliance with God’s will in your life (John 7:17)
  3. A desire to improve and please God (Colossians 3:15)
  4. Greater consistency in Christlike behaviors (Psalm 119:101-106; Romans 12:1-2)

We act upon God’s Word and His will because we are His specially chosen people, and we desire to maintain a special relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 37:23-24, 73:23-24)

G – Grow

Growing in Jesus Christ is the natural progression of a healthy, vibrant relationship with Him (Ephesians 3:17-19, 4:11-15)

Growth is measured in the following:

  1. Continuing achievement of maturity in Christ
  2. Hearing and knowing when God is speaking to you
  3. Increased sensitivity to matters of the Holy Spirit
  4. Greater focus and determination

E – Endure

Bearing all things that occur in the faith with an understanding of the big picture–the love of Christ is exhibited for all to see and that Jesus Christ is glorified (Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 13:7; James 1:2-4).

Jesus wants you to not only persevere but to remain steadfast in your faith and retain boldness in your faith (in words and in your demeanor before others). It is your steadfastness that makes the boldest statements of Jesus Christ’s presence in your life.

Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead and descended from David. This is according to my gospel.  I suffer for it to the point of being bound like a criminal, but God’s message is not bound. This is why I endure all things for the elect: so that they also may obtain salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.  This saying is trustworthy:

For if we have died with Him,

we will also live with Him;

if we endure, we will also reign with Him.  (2 Timothy 2:8-12a HCSB)

1 Christian Meditation for Beginners by Thomas Zanzig, Marilyn Kielbasa 2000, ISBN 0-88489-361-8 page 7

2  An introduction to Christian spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2000 ISBN 81-7109-425-5, pages 76-77

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

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Brian Williams and the Temptation of Exaggeration

02/10/2015 § Leave a comment

A repost from Dr. Jim Denison of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, February 10, 2015:

Brian Williams recently told the nation that a helicopter he had been traveling in during the invasion of Iraq had been forced down by a rocket-propelled grenade.  As everyone now knows, the NBC Nightly News anchor exaggerated the extent to which his helicopter took enemy fire.  Now he faces a “fact-checking inquiry” regarding the Iraq incident, his reporting during Hurricane Katrina, and other issues that arise during the investigation.  He has announced a voluntary leave of absence, and his professional future is in doubt.

While many are debating Williams’s actions, I’d like to focus on his motivations.  He had clearly climbed to the top rung of his professional ladder.  His nightly broadcast was the top-rated newscast on television.  He achieved rock-star status, hosting Saturday Night Live and appearing on late-night comedy shows.  He was trusted by three-fourths of the viewing audience, and was recently ranked one of the most trusted people in America.

Yet his achievements were not enough for him.  His exaggerations were an apparent effort to make himself even more historic or heroic.  If Brian Williams was the only celebrity to sacrifice personal character for cultural status, I wouldn’t be writing this Cultural Commentary.  But his story is far from unique.

Richard Nixon’s presidential reelection was virtually assured before some of his staff broke into Democratic Party headquarters and cost him the presidency.  James Frey wrote a memoir of his experience with addiction, topping the New York Times bestseller list 15 straight weeks before sections were found to be fabricated.  Alan Malarkey says he made up his bestseller, “The boy who came back from heaven,” because “I thought it would get me attention.”

Significant biblical characters exhibit the same need for more.  King David had all a man should want before his affair with Bathsheba stained his legacy for 30 centuries.  Solomon was granted inestimable wisdom and wealth, but his desire for still more led to horrific immorality and idolatry.  In the early church, Ananias and Sapphira wanted credit for more than they gave and became a parable on the perils of pride (Acts 5:1-11).

It’s been said, “I am not who I think I am.  I am not who you think I am.  I am who I think you think I am.”  Many people live with a deep-seated sense of inadequacy and a constant need to prove themselves.  No matter what they do, it’s not enough.  A dear friend suggested to me at lunch yesterday that confidence is not the result of success.  We can never have enough success today to be assured of success tomorrow.  Rather, confidence is a decision we make regardless of circumstances.  Success is its result, not its cause.

Christians of all people should be confident, because our Father is omnipotent and his Holy Spirit lives in us.  The question is not who we impress today, but whose we are.  Tim Tebow was right: “We never become who God created us to be by trying to be like everybody else.”

The psalmist could say, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).  Can you?

©2009-2015 Copyright, Denison Forum, Dallas TX

 

Courageous in Christ

05/04/2014 § Leave a comment

A summary of a message presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, May 4, 2014:

2 Corinthians 2:14

But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Believers in Jesus Christ are reminded by Scripture to be confident in their faith, but often, this is easier said than done. Perhaps you have experienced difficulties or setbacks in your faith because of life’s circumstances. These are completely normal and understandable. You can be a believer in Jesus Christ and experience different degrees of hardship. In these experiences, there is a lack of confidence in your circumstances.

Where does this lack of confidence come from?

  • First, it begins with a loss of focus on Jesus Christ
  • Next, it continues with doubt–something is not right, and now you’re not sure about the outcome of the situation
  • Finally, the loss of focus and the doubt is stirred up with a potion of fear.

A loss of focus is a huge distraction in your walk of faith.

Doubt is the opposite of faith.

Fear creeps in when faith is absent.

In order to get back to a place where faith can be placed at the forefront, you need to overcome the greatest obstacle that perpetuates doubt, and that is fear.

Fear comes from the available information, or a lack of information, which leads to a perception or anticipation of a negative outcome.

There are many different ways that fear become manifest in the life of a believer. Here is a top ten list that encapsulates how fear can overshadow a person’s life:

10. Losing your freedom

09. The unknown

08. Pain

07. Disappointment

06. Misery

05. Loneliness

04. Ridicule

03. Rejection

02. Death

01. Failure

Fear is a real emotion, but it is debilitating to your faith.

The result of fear, in your doubt and lack of focus, is a believer who is outside of the place where God wants you to be. It’s a place that is unsettling at best, and dreadful at worst.

Fear is not a switch that one can turn on and turn off. In our flesh, there is no such thing as an absence of fear. Fear is like a wound that needs ointment and a bandage in order to promote healing.

In order to overcome fear, which allows us to combat doubt and regain focus on Jesus Christ, there is a remedy. Fear must be suppressed with a reliance on God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fear must be met with courage.

Courage is the essence of a believer that drives the necessary change to promote growth of your IMAGE in Jesus Christ and the ability, in spite of any life difficulty or circumstance, to proclaim the good news for the Great Commission.

God reminds you of the importance of being courageous. It takes your mind off of the things that you are fearful of. He gives us many reminders and words of encouragement throughout Scripture.

2 Timothy 1:6-7

6 Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Joshua 1:9

“Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 

Fear is anxiety and can be driven by impatience. God wants you to be patient.

Psalm 27:14

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and courageous.
Wait for the Lord.

 

God wants you to experience rest and comfort as you rely upon the Spirit to overcome fear.

John 16:33

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

 

Fear is the absence of trust. God reminds us to trust in Him. Leave the results of your anxiety at His feet.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom should I be afraid?

 

There’s no need to go it alone. There’s strength and courage in numbers. Stay in a fellowship.

Philippians 1:27-28

27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, 28 not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God.

 

Trusting God in your fear leads to confidence that there will be a good result…but even more than this…that God will be glorified.

Daniel 3:15-18

15 Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

What amazing courage! But make no mistake about it…your courage is far from your own strength. God provides the ability for you to overcome fear and be strong in Him.

Philippians 4:11-13

11 I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

 

Proverbs 3:25-26

25 Don’t fear sudden danger

or the ruin of the wicked when it comes,

26 for the Lord will be your confidence

and will keep your foot from a snare.

 

Isaiah 41:8-10

8 But you, Israel, My servant,

Jacob, whom I have chosen,

descendant of Abraham, My friend—

9 I brought you from the ends of the earth

and called you from its farthest corners.

I said to you: You are My servant;

I have chosen you and not rejected you.

10 Do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be afraid, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you; I will help you;

I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

 

God offers Himself to you for comfort, healing, preservation and love, which overcomes all fear. He is your confidence. He is our confidence that we will succeed in any difficult situation or circumstance.

His love overcomes fear.

1 John 4:17-19

17 In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, for we are as He is in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because He first loved us.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines

Shutting Out the Noise (A Study of 1 John)

07/01/2013 § Leave a comment

Woman-Headache-6234357The following is the text of a sermon presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church on December 11, 2005.

This is a study of the first book of John entitled Shutting Out the Noise. The pursuit of a greater understanding of God starts with a fundamental decision that must be made. We have to be prepared to answer correctly the question of ‘Who is in charge of my life?’ To address such a question requires us to filter out all of the noise and distractions that keep us from living as God would have us to live. This so-called ‘noise’ is everywhere. It’s bad enough that the world tries to steer us away from godly pursuits, but there is even noise within our churches that elevate what man has to say over what God has to say. Look at some of our churches today. There is rampant hostility and rebellion in the midst of some congregations and denominations. Men who claim to be messengers of God are anything but that.

  • Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them (1 John 4:1-5).

This is a good place to start because we need to understand the playing field. There are going to be those individuals in our midst who will truly talk a good game when it comes to being true to God, but their lives will not reflect it. We have to become smarter as believers and start doing our own homework when it comes to what Scripture says. There are too many of us who are unable to discern truth because we don’t know the truth. If we fail to discern this truth, we cannot effectively live for God. God is very clear about how we need to live our lives in obedience of His word. The world, and those who are false, will try to come up with ways that stretch and bend God’s law to their own liking with their cleverness and cunning. But God’s true children can overcome such deception.

  • I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of His name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have had victory over the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the One who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have had victory over the evil one. Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever (1 John 2:12-17).

The key is to get back to the basics of what you were taught from the beginning, and build upon it with good, solid teaching, along with your own independent study. The best part of all of this is that you already have the basics down pat, and there is no better teacher that dwells within you than the Holy Spirit.

  • What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in Him (1 John 2:24-27).

So through all of the noise that we hear each day, how well are you allowing God’s voice to come through, and how well are you slowing yourself down to articulate your thoughts and prayers to God? It takes a conscious effort to have effective communication with God. It starts with our recognition of who God is in our lives.

  • What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed, and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life—that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us—what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete (1 John 1:1-4).

Who is this God that we put on the brakes for to slow down and pause for fellowship with? Or do we just go through life without paying attention to where God fits in? Perhaps we have already answered the previous question ‘Who is in charge here?’ with the proverbial ‘I’m in charge.’ Believers have to do more in this life to cut through the noise than just call themselves ‘Christians.’ We are to live differently as the people of the world live as the night is from the day. There has to be a distinction. If you are trying to blend in with others in society who are not of the Lord, Scripture says there is no difference between you and the world (1 John 1:5-10). We are called to be different. We are called by God to love one another. This love is key and is immediately distinctive from the behavior of those in the world.

  • Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command, but an old command that you have had from the beginning. The old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another (1 John 2:7-8, 3:11).

Are we missing the call that God has given us? We have seen how having knowledge of the truth and discerning truth is important. We also see that we need to make a difference in our actions and not just play like we are believers. All of this comes with greater wisdom. The noise of the world must be filtered out of your life to gain such wisdom. There are a great number of people who have been held up as people to emulate. There is always talk of people that we would like to have as great role models. The greatest so-called role models of the world were also some of the greatest sinners. A pastor or anyone else in authority should never require anyone to emulate a human being. My recommendation of a person to live for is Jesus Christ. To live for Christ is the epitome of living a life of love and obedience. God has been and will always be a great mystery to us. He is beyond our earthly capacity to understand his mysteries and his ways. Yet, for those that are genuinely intrigued by this mystery, it should be a natural inclination to want to know more about Him. That is true unless you are inherently selfish. Selfishness cannot coexist with the love of God. It is selfishness that keeps God’s love from becoming real in our lives or in the lives of those we encounter. How easy is it for you to express God’s love to someone else in your life? It is more than just putting money in a kettle once a year…it is about a way of life.

  • If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but shuts off his compassion from him—how can God’s love reside in him? Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth; that is how we will know we are of the truth, and will convince our hearts in His presence (1 John 3:17-19).

God is love, and we are to live to reflect that love. Failure to do so is to not live for God. Yes, that also means to love your enemies (Matthew 5:43). All of us must concede that as we learn more about who God is, we are inadequate in ourselves. After we have effectively cut through the noise of this world, we can stop and give our thoughts and desires to God in prayer.

  • Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for (1 John 5:14-15).

All of this requires focus. How focused are you on who God is in your life. Do you have a hunger and desire for greater understanding of who God is? I suggest that if you meet God halfway through all of the noise of this world, He will make Himself evident to you. It is important that, through all of this, we remember that there is an adversary that wants to keep you from seeing Him at all. Thankfully, God’s power overcomes the world, and the noise of this world.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

Rest in The Lord

12/13/2011 § 4 Comments

For many of us, there is no such thing as a slow time of the year, and the holiday season is no exception to that.  Everything that we are involved in seems to move at a rapid pace.  There are timelines and deadlines, ever-present breaking news events, instant communication through emails and social media, and ever-increasing expectations to do more with less, even when we aren’t at work.

As busy as we can be, our moments of leisure, such as a vacation, or even a day off from work, are very precious to us.  These are the times when we can rest our bodies, take a deep breath, and enjoy the change of scenery or surroundings, or even get a nap or two in when we need it most.  If only those moments wouldn’t go by so quickly!

Our time of rest is indeed precious to us.  God knows that this time is special.  While it is good for all of us to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and remain busy in service for Him, it is still a necessity that we make time for some down time.  In our time of rest, we are to use it to our benefit.  We need to regularly refresh and recharge our batteries, for it helps each of us to see life in a way where we can appreciate what we have instead of what we don’t have.  It is a time to focus on the peace of the moment and on where God is in your life.

The best opportunities of reflecting upon God come when we are less busy—it’s very difficult to do when we are very busy.  While we are to never put Him to the side while we are at work, we are best able to learn about Him during our moments of rest.  What you will find is that the moments of rest are His preferred time for each of us to rest in Him and in His Word.  The more that we see His best during our rest, the more we will see His presence at all times during our life.

God uses the time we spend in Him to communicate with us, and to give us a reassurance of His presence.  He gives us what we need, and when we need it most.

Deuteronomy 7:9

Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands. 

Psalm 119:102-105

I have not turned from Your judgments,
for You Yourself have instructed me.

    103 How sweet Your word is to my taste—
[sweeter] than honey to my mouth.

    104 I gain understanding from Your precepts;
therefore I hate every false way.

 105 Your word is a lamp for my feet 
and a light on my path.

In the same way that we need rest after a very long and busy day, we need God’s promises to bolster us and gives us encouragement through these moments, and even through those times when things are not going very well.  If we are being oppressed, falsely accused, or even persecuted, we are not going through those experiences alone.  God is aware of everything that we go through, sees it all, and provides encouragement that helps us to endure it.

Deuteronomy 31:6, 8

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.  The LORD is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”

Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the LORD,
and He will support you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

Psalm 27:13-14

13 I am certain that I will see the LORD’s goodness

in the land of the living.

    14 Wait for the LORD;
be courageous and let your heart be strong.
Wait for the LORD.

When we slow down from a busy life pace, we can best hear God speaking to us.  Our time of rest should also be a time of recovery, and a time of healing.

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus Christ encourages the state of being at rest, because, in His wisdom, He relates to us that He is the true source of our rest.  We readily need rest from our hectic life, our troubles, and our difficulties, and He encourages us to seek Him for that rest.  One area of that rest in Christ is communication with Him through prayer:

Philippians 4:6-7

6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 107:28-30

28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and He brought them out of their distress.

    29 He stilled the storm to a murmur,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.

    30 They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet.
Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for.

Matthew 7:7

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

Matthew 21:22

And if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Mark 11:24

Therefore, I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for —believe that you have received them, and you will have them.

John 14:13-14

13 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

In addition to prayer, your rest in the Lord is fulfilled when you have faith that God is responsive to your prayers and that you exercise complete trust…your trust and faith in the Lord is when you realize the true rest that Christ provides.  It is rest with confidence in Christ’s ability.

1 John 5:14-15

 14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.

Another aspect of rest in the Lord is that He communicates with us in response to our prayers and provides insight to His will with guidance and direction.

Psalm 32:8

I will instruct you and show you the way to go; 
with My eye on you, I will give counsel.

Proverbs 3:1-6

 1 My son, don’t forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commands;

    2 for they will bring you
many days, a full life, and well-being.

    3 Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you.
Tie them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.

    4 Then you will find favor and high regard
in the sight of God and man.

    5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;

    6 think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.

Resting in the Lord is more than just a state of mind and mere relaxation.  It is actually our best opportunity to slow our life pace down to recognize His true goodness.  He gives us much more than just rest.  He gives us a time of reflection through His word.  We are assured of:

  • His very presence
  • His encouragement through His Word
  • His communication with us through prayer

With these things, we have a confidence that He responds to us and that He will guide us through each and every situation and circumstance.  Our true rest in the Lord is our complete faith and trust in Him.

 

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.

Your Faith On Trial–Are You a Good Witness?

08/21/2010 § Leave a comment

This past week I had to take part in a court proceeding involving a former employee and the company that I work for.  The former employee is suing the company for wrongful termination, and I was her final supervisor when she was terminated.  This court proceeding has evolved into a significant undertaking for everyone associated with it, including our Human Resources group, where there has been ongoing gathering of emails, file notes, disciplinary action records and employee appraisals as part of the preparation for this trial.

I was told about three weeks ago that I needed to prepare for a deposition since I was a key witness in what had transpired leading up to the dismissal of the former employee.  It is interesting to be on the “defendant” side of a trial.  With all of the information gathering and the review of documentation, I had more than enough time to think about the case.  I tried to separate my emotional reaction from the facts, but my first impression was that the plaintiff’s attorneys were definitely looking for ways to discredit me and my abilities and capabilities as a supervisor, and I understood that because I was the opponent.  The first fifteen minutes of questions that I received during the deposition were much like those in an interview, for they discussed my past experience and my job history.  In discovery, the opposition will pull any available information about who you are, and will even do a search on the Internet to see what comes up.  In the scope of witness testimony, all of this is fair game.

I didn’t like it, of course, but I had to spend a fair amount of time in preparation for the deposition.  I was prepped on the facts of the lawsuit, the questions that would likely be asked, and the possibility that all of this would likely take the majority of the day.  All of this preparation and anticipation of being deposed made for a few days of stress and evenings of a lack of rest.

It made me also think about what it would be like to be summoned to appear at a trial pertaining to Christianity—how would I prepare, and what would I say?  That is a question for all of us.  If you were to be deposed in a trial pertaining to your support or defense of Christianity, how would you fare?  I learned a great deal about the deposition process, its level of preparation and the actual event, and my contention is that it is a significant test of your abilities and your energy as you go through the process.  Your answers to questions will have an important part of the outcome of the trial.  In a like manner, if you were asked questions about your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, your answers should reflect in a positive manner as to how you are walking with Christ and living for Him.

In order to be able to cut through all of the different religions and thought processes that the world presents to those who are curious about God, it is very important for believers in Jesus Christ to be articulate and well-versed when speaking about faith matters.  There is a verse in Jude that addresses believers about this very issue.

Jude 3-4

Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For certain men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Here, Jude is making the point that all believers have salvation by the grace of Jesus Christ, but it is very important to make a demonstrated effort to contend, or speak up, about their faith to others.  When one is a contender, he or she is speaking up in opposition to someone or something.  Jude makes the statement to contend for the faith because there was an element of opposition—firmly established deceivers in their midst whose sole purpose was to deny Jesus Christ and to keep people from recognizing and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior.

Ephesians 6:10-13

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics (or schemes, or tricks) of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.

This threat of the forces of evil is ever-present today in that there are many different messages that continually pull unsuspecting people, who are searching for the truth, in many different directions, and most of them are far from the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ.  The deception comes in many ways, but the end result is that there is no need to trust Christ as Savior because one believes he or she is good enough to make it to heaven on their own, or there has to be more than one way to be with God other than through Christ.  People will forsake God for their own pleasures and desires believing that there is no consequence for their actions, while others will believe that there is no eternal punishment for their life after death.  In addition, for the believer who is weak in knowledge and in their faith, deceivers are ready to pull them away to the “flavor-of-the-month” religion that may look and sound good on the surface but turn out to be a disastrous road to destruction.

Those who are believers must not just rest only on God’s Word and claim that it alone speaks for itself.  God’s Word is indeed the last word, but today’s world needs more from us as a testimony on behalf of Christ.  With all of the mixed messages that come from the ongoing distortion of God’s Word due to contextual errors of interpretation, we need to be on the outlook to stand firm and contend for the faith, and, in doing so, have confidence that what we contend for is the absolute truth—the only truth that leads to one having an eternal destiny with Jesus Christ.

Even though the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ may be ever present today, always remember that the truth is elusive to those who do not know Jesus Christ.

John 18:36-38

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said Jesus. “If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. As it is, My kingdom does not have its origin here.”

“You are a king then?” Pilate asked.

“You say that I’m a king,” Jesus replied. “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”

“What is truth?” said Pilate.

The deception of Satan is effective—it prevents people from seeking the truth of Jesus Christ and asking the question “What is truth?” just as Pilate did, without finding the answer.  The truth starts with our message of the love of Jesus Christ. We must step out on our faith and proclaim the gospel of Christ to effectively counter the efforts of Satan.

Going back to my discussion on the deposition process, there are areas of importance that are strikingly similar to how a believer in Christ must make a case in contending for the faith.

First, a witness for Christ must have credibility.  In order to be taken seriously as a believer in Jesus Christ, you must live your life in such a way that your statements for Christ will not be called into question.  Your life must have evidence of being different than those who live in the world.  It is OK to be in the world, for that is our field of harvest for those who need to know Christ, but we are not to live as the world does.  If we live as the world does, our testimony for Jesus Christ has no teeth—it lacks credibility.  I would not be credible witness for Christ if I lived sinfully and was unrepentant in my behavior.  Your effort to win others for Christ begins with an effective testimony as a credible witness.

Next, along with credibility, there must be a presence of Christ in your life as you live in God’s will through the Holy Spirit.  The credibility of your outward testimony is reinforced by your actions as you operate in the Spirit.

James 2:21-24

Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected. So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Your true testimony to others is a Christ-like lifestyle, where people can see evidence of your faith as you navigate through a difficult and complex world each day.  The attributes of having respectful behavior, even in the midst of your enemies, reflects an attitude that some will not understand, while others will observe your actions in utter amazement and want to know how you manage to live in such a way.  When the time is right, the Spirit will give you the words, and the testimony.

After credibility and presence comes preparation.  To be an effective witness in a trial requires preparation.  In my case, it was a full six hours of questions, reviewing of documents, and role-playing with our attorneys.  It was long and tiring, but it was necessary.  Without it, I would not have been ready for the questions from the opposing attorney.  A believer in Jesus Christ can only remain effective in his testimony with ongoing preparation through prayer and study of God’s Word.  We are all still learning and living more about God each and every day, and we will continue to do so until we are no longer living.  We can only share our experiences with others on how God has blessed us, kept us, and preserved us for this ministry as long as we remain in fellowship with Him and His Word.  We never stop learning about Him and we never stop seeking Him and His truth for as long as we live.  This is our life preparation as we can truly share with others the wisdom of God through Jesus Christ and how we can successfully live for Christ—even when the world around us seems to be falling apart.  We need to be prepared for whatever comes our way…

2 Timothy 3:12-17

In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Evil people and imposters will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing those from whom you learned, and that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

In our presentation on behalf of Jesus Christ, it is important to focus on the leadings of the Holy Spirit. In a testimony, you need to listen very carefully to the questions of the opposing attorney.  You need to be clear with your answers by stating “yes” or “no,” and also speak clearly in order to be well understood by those present, especially the court stenographer.  If you are unsure of the question, you can ask the attorney to repeat or rephrase the question, or even ask the court stenographer to read back what was said.  All of this requires a lot of focus on what is being said.  This is quite an ordeal if your deposition takes five and one-half hours!  My point is that your focus on how God leads you is very important in your efforts to lead others to Christ.  Focus on the Holy Spirit, who has perfect timing in this area.  Your words are ordered through the Spirit, but it is God’s Word that is the key to salvation.  Our focus should always be on the power of God’s Word and proclaiming it with confidence:

Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.  For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.

Finally, your testimony through the Holy Spirit will always come from the foundation of truth.

John 14:16-17

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive Him because it doesn’t see Him or know Him. But you do know Him, because He remains with you and will be in you.”

John 16:13-15

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.”

When testifying in a court proceeding, you are asked to raise your hand and ‘swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.’ (Yes, they still do that.)  Your testimony in a courtroom is to always deal with the facts.  The facts are not subject to interpretation.  Facts are facts, and the truth is the truth.  Your credibility and believability are at stake when you are giving testimony, and truth should always be at the forefront of what is being stated.  When it comes to your living testimony of God’s Word, there is no better place to be than in the truth of the gospel and its message.

Your faith is on trial each and every day.  Remember that the enemy is counting on those who profess to be followers of Christ to be languishing in their sin and to be ineffective witnesses for Christ.  We can no longer afford to be ill prepared for battle.  We must operate in the full armor of God with credibility, presence, preparation, focus, and truth.  With all of these, in Jesus Christ, we will be victorious in life and in our testimony.  Thanks to God for the ability to serve Him in such a mighty way!

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

Listen To His Voice

02/22/2010 § Leave a comment

The following is a summary and commentary of a sermon that I presented to Akron Alliance Fellowship Church in 2006.

Last week we were in Hebrews Chapter 3 learning about the relationship between Jesus Christ and us.  We learned that Jesus Christ was appointed by God to be in charge of His household, which refers to all of us within the body of Christ, and His church.  God created all of us, and Jesus was put in charge of us by His divine appointment.

Hebrews 3:3-6

Therefore, holy brothers and companions in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession; He was faithful to the One who appointed Him, just as Moses was in all God’s household. For Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses, just as the builder has more honor than the house. Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said [in the future].  But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope.

There is a role for all of us within God’s household that we must be mindful of, however, and that important piece of our relationship within Jesus Christ is revealed here beginning in Hebrews 3:6 where it states “But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are IF WE HOLD ON TO THE COURAGE AND THE CONFIDENCE OF OUR HOPE.”  Some manuscripts add the words “Hope in Christ” or “firm to the end.”  So it is our responsibility, as members of God’s family, in the body of Christ, within our church and in our Christian community, for us to hold onto the courage and confidence of our hope for the rest of our lives in Christ Jesus.  It is by doing this that we remain as members in “good standing” within His household.  What do I mean by members in “good standing”?  Well, you can be a member of an organization, but as a member there are certain things (at the very least minimum requirements must be met) that must be done within the organization in order to fulfill the terms and conditions of your membership.  Members that do these things are regarded as members in “good standing.”  If one fails to meet these requirements, it does not mean that your membership is automatically cancelled or that you were being kicked out of the group, but it does mean that you may be a member “not in good standing.”  You can also be a member of the body of Christ, God’s family, and yet you are not doing the things that God would have you to do.  Here is where your relationship with God may be tenuous.  God has one standard for all of us to meet, and if we fail to meet that standard, our membership is classified as “not in good standing.”  God does not cancel our salvation or break His promises to us.  If we are not in good standing it is because we have failed Him or broken our promises to Him when we accepted Christ.

We fail God, and yet He does not fail us.  We fail Him because all too often we succumb to the temptations of the flesh, the world we live in, and we put God in a place far removed from first place in our lives.  We fail to obey His laws and precepts and we fall victim to our own selfish desires…pridefulness, jealousy, envy, anger with sinful behavior.  No, we don’t lose our membership in God’s family, but we systematically remove ourselves from God’s fellowship because we find the ways of the devil as more attractive.  All of this occurs because we fail to listen to what He has to say to us.

In Hebrews 3:7, this is exactly why the voice that we are to listen to, in the form of the Holy Spirit, makes a strong and firm declaration.

Hebrews 3:7-11

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested Me, tried [Me], and saw My works for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.” So I swore in My anger, “They will not enter My rest.”

We need to listen to His voice, and not just listen, but also trust in His voice.  We get ourselves in trouble because of our inconsistency in trusting in Him and our failure to truly believe in Him.  We are distracted all too easily by the flesh.

Why do we fail to believe in Him?  We show a lack of courage versus the world.

Courage is the ability to act on what we know is right and good, and to dare to do what we should or must.  While fear paralyzes, it is courage that helps us move ahead.

Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom should I be afraid?

Isaiah 41:10

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

We lack confidence in God and who He is in our lives.  Confidence has many meanings.  It also can imply our level of faith, our level of hope, and our level of trust in Him.  Note that I refer to having confidence in Jesus Christ and not just confidence in us, which is completely different.

The other reason why we don’t listen to His voice is that we listen to other voices.  We have been studying in Sunday school about our first enemy who is all-powerful…the flesh.  We can never allow the flesh to get the upper hand.

Romans 6:12-14

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under law but under grace.

Pride creates an adversarial relationship with God.

Psalm 95:6-11

Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the sheep under His care. Today, if you hear His voice: “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the wilderness where your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they had seen what I did. For 40 years I was disgusted with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray; they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My anger, ‘They will not enter My rest.’ ”

Anger must be subdued.

Genesis 4:3-7

In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented [an offering]—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why are you downcast? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

We are to avoid these failures and heed the warnings in Hebrews 3 and 4.  Notice the emphasis–in triplicate–within these Scriptures to bring the point home:

Hebrews 3:7-8, 14-15, 4:7

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert…For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…again, He specifies a certain day—today—speaking through David after such a long time, as previously stated: Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.

In Hebrews 4:7, the emphasis is not to put off listening tomorrow (which is the response that the flesh will always present to you when it is time to make a decision).  The importance of doing it today as referenced means “DO IT NOW!”  Today is the day, not tomorrow, not next week, not when you get older and more settled in…today!!!

We run away from God when our life is not right.  Look at the evidence of this in Genesis 3:8-11:

Genesis 3:8-11

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I had commanded you not to eat from?”

God ignores no one.  He knows each and every one of us, and we cannot and will not escape His judgment.

Hebrews 4:12-13

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.

Psalm 139:1-4

Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.

Watch your thoughts and heed your actions.

You can fool others with your false sincerity.

You can even try to fool yourself.

God will not be fooled.

Turn your heart to Him, and give it all that you’ve got!

Deuteronomy 4:29

But from there, you will search for the Lord your God, and you will find [Him] when you seek Him with all your heart and all your soul.

What about overcoming a lack of courage or the lack of confidence?

Joshua 1:9

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We are commanded by God to do this.  Listen to His command.  Remain faithful to the end.

Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.

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