Forsaking the Love of God

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Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. – Revelation 2:4

Over the years we hear many explanations of the reasons why our Lord spoke so strongly to the Ephesian Church about their loss of their “first love.” Our Lord summed up the entire Old Testament in one sentence, paraphrased: “Love God and Love Others.” This love has action and proof to it. Intense and sincere devotion to Jesus Christ will produce a life of godliness and good works. Jesus was calling his Church back to practical worship, godliness and a denying of worldliness. They had hatred of evil, endured persecution in their society (Revelation 2:3), were able to spot false teachers and doctrines (Revelation 2:2) and even hated the major evil doctrine of the day taught by the deacon Nicolas (Revelation 2:6). Yet slowly love of pleasures were mingling into their affections for Jesus Christ alone. They passion they had for Him and Him alone was beginning to wane. Their looking to the cross and seeing the “lover of their souls” was something that lost its luster at least for a moment.

Nicolas began as a full-hearted believer full of the Spirit of God (Acts 6:2-6). Yet slowly through self-importance he went away from the teaching of the Apostles and formed his own teaching and way. David Wilkerson says of Nicolas of Antoich, “The church fathers had two cardinal rules for believers – do not eat meat offered to idols and avoid fornication. Nicolas evidently fathered a doctrine that led to idolatry and fornication. The society of that day winked at sexual promiscuity. Nicolas and his followers invented a doctrine of false security that eventuated in mixture with the world and an undercurrent of sensuality in their teaching.” Clement of Alexandria said of the Nicolaitans, “They abandoned themselves to pleasures like goats, in a life of shameless self indulgence.”

How do we not lose and forsake our love for the Son of God:

1. Look to Him alone for nothing else but Him. It is God that is our goal, not success, money, fame or anything else the world can offer. Give God your love and worship.

2. Pleasures are always fighting us for our affection for Jesus Christ. Our worship for Him must overcome and let Him be our satisfaction not passing worldly pleasures.

3. Look to the cross. It is there you find meaning, fulfillment, peace, joy and life eternal. Meditate on the cross. Daily thank the Lord for His death.

4. Look to yourself more then others. Instead of seeing others faults, look to your own. See the apostate deacon Nicolas in the early church as a warning sign to look inward in your own life. Are you submitting to what is the apostles doctrines today? Are you believing what the Church has always held to or are you trying to make your new teachings and ideas? The road to apostasy always begins with the separation from the people of God which leads to a leaving of God Himself.

5. Love others, find ways to do good to others. Think of others more then yourself. And you will find peace.

Praising Jesus Everyday

facebookPraise 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

Sometimes our life seems to spiritually become foggy and we lose sight of what really matters. Pressures, trials, circumstances come in like weeds crowding out the very purpose and reason why we exist. When we lose sight of the cross, when we begin to lose our desire to praise and thank the Lord, we can know that we are failing to really focus on the matter of first importance. Christ was the one that became flesh, who shared our humanity. He suffered and died, and God resurrected him. He is our hope, our sure foundation, our mighty fortress, our promise of eternal life. Our response must be praise, thanksgiving, a singing of hallelujah. As St. Peter opened his epistle with “praise” we should also begin each day with praise to our God.

There is a wonderful chorus that goes: “Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus, Ha-Hallelujah, Ha-Hallelujah, Ha-Hallelujah, Ha-Hallelujah, Ha-Hallelujah.” Take time even now while reading this short mediation to praise Jesus, He is longing for your adoration. Look again to the cross, see its beauty and glory. Glorify the risen saviour who paid so much for you. Thank Him who died for you. Heaven will be filled with praise and thanksgiving. God is looking for worshippers in the work of the Lord. It has been noted by godly men that we sing songs about God but our need is to sing worship to Him. Jesus deserves and desires this attention and focus. God alone our goal and sight. Look to Him today, take time to praise Him. This will be our heavenly occupation, enjoy it now.

Keys to Being Set Free from Unforgiveness – Greg Gordon

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Freedom is something we take for granted. But talk with a man who was behind prison walls for most of his life. He will say that every breath, or sight of a blue sky, brings joy and excitement. Some believers have lived in bondage to unforgiveness and have almost forgotten the peace and joy of a life that forgives others.

The Good News of Jesus not only sets our consciences free from dead works and sins committed in the past, but it can also keep us clean and free of bitterness and unforgiveness in the present.

We will look at two keys to being free: blessing others and praying the Lord’s Prayer.

Blessing Like Joseph

Many of us have heard the dramatic story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. This young man was abused and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He suffered greatly in prison and in other circumstances. Finally, in an amazing turn of events, God brought him to a great place of prominence where he became one of the most powerful people in the known world. Many of us have had terrible things done to us in this life, and if we have not, just wait, it is coming.

This world is full of hurting lives that have been sinned against in great ways. Joseph had a terrible thing done to him. His brothers even contemplated murdering him in the beginning. Now he was in the position and had the power to exact perfect vengeance to them. But what did he do? He forgave them completely. He actually was in such a place of realizing God’s grace that he did not even bring up any of their sins and details of what they did. He just wanted to bless them! Jesus teaches us to bless our enemies (Matthew 5:44), to bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28, Romans 12:14), to “never avenge yourselves” (Romans 12:19). Joseph does not tell his brothers that he was the “one you sold into Egypt” to condemn them. Rather, he really wanted them to know he was their brother and that he loved them greatly still. How do we get to the place where we can bless others in the body of Christ who sin against us? How can we even get to the place where we can forgive enemies and bless them?

We are called to forgive but blessing seems like it’s too much. When we forgive at times we still secretly hope they will be exposed or judged for their sin, or that, at the judgment seat, they will get what’s coming to them. Such thinking is not forgiveness but a form of vengeance masked in a guise of spiritual humility. When we truly forgive someone as Christ forgives us, we need to come to the place where we can bless them and desire God’s blessing also on their lives.

Do you realize God will actually bless your enemies and pour his grace and favour on their lives?

Think of someone that you have ought against. Picture their face. Do you want that person to be blessed? It takes brokenness to bless others who hurt you. Joseph went through terrible circumstances but God was bringing him to a place of nothingness where he could share in the sufferings of Christ and have the heart of God. In the end when we bless and forgive others we will be blessed by God himself. God wants to anoint those who are free from bitterness in their Christian lives.

Perhaps its as simple as praying a prayer to God, “Lord please bless that person” (The person’s name).

 

Reciting the Lord’s Prayer

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Many godly believers in the past have recommended praying the Lord’s prayer multiple times a day. In many Church traditions, every Sunday the Lord’s prayer is recited. In the underground North Korean Church, they put emphasis on reciting the Lord’s Prayer together.

One of the benefits of this practice is that you can check your heart daily to see if you have any unforgiveness towards someone since our Lord shows us that we should expect God to forgive our debts as we also have done to others. Some brothers and sisters claim that they do not have unforgiveness towards an individual but their actions show they do have this poison still lurking within them.

The Lord has forgiven us and does not hold or accuse us over sins that have been forgiven, but when we say we forgive others, we still hold their sins to the light. Such is not true forgiveness. Only God is the one that can truly help someone that has sinned. When humans try to fix a problem without God it ends up getting much worse. When we forgive others, we also release ourselves from bondage and open the door for God to bring healing to our heart. When we hold onto bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, we can suffer throughout life with problems and end up hurting ourselves much more.

John Chrysostom says,

“Just as maniacs, who never enjoy tranquility, so also he who is resentful and retains an enemy will never have the enjoyment of any peace; incessantly raging and daily increasing the tempest of his thoughts calling to mind his words and acts, and detesting the very name of him who has aggrieved him. Do you but mention his enemy, he becomes furious at once, and sustains much inward anguish; and should he chance to get only a bare sight of him, he fears and trembles, as if encountering the worst evils. Yet for the very torment resulting from the thing itself we ought to forgive the offences of those who have aggrieved us. What can be more senseless than the man, who both here and there brings punishment upon himself, while he thinks to be revenged upon his enemy?”

The Amplified Bible translation says, “Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14). You cannot have forgiveness towards others and gossip about them.
To bless is to speak well of them; to curse is to speak in a wrong, accusing way. When we carry resentment for feeling we have been unfairly treated by another in the body of Christ we end up putting ourselves in harm’s way as well as hurting others. Unforgiveness is spiritual filthiness, a poison for your soul, a prison of torment. Forgive and give the individual to God and even have the grace to love and accept the individual again.

Being Set Free

Sometimes in life we live in such pain or have such ailments and problems that the thought of being free of it seems absurd. We start to normalize that which is abnormal. To hold unforgiveness is abnormal and, perhaps, through reading this short volume you have seen this afresh. Do not let the enemy of your soul, Satan, speak his lie that you cannot forgive or be forgiven.

Review and start to practice these steps daily:

1. Consider the coming of the Lord and that we should not be caught in unforgiveness with others (James 5:9).

2. Remember how much Christ suffered for you in the flesh and how we mar and hurt our Lord himself when we hold to bitterness (Ephesians 4:30-31).

3. Think on how much you sin and how terrible your sins are, judging yourself, not others (James 4:11-12).

4. Choose to bless (Romans 12:14) those who hurt you, praying for them and asking God to help them and show his grace to them.

5. Daily (perhaps 3 times a day), say the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) out loud with meaning.

6. Choose not to slander to speak evil of anyone (Colossians 3:8).
Prayer

Lord, we come to You honestly with a broken heart, realizing that we have held things against those whom you have fully forgiven.

Your servants in the Bible have gone through much greater problems than we have ever had to face. You saw them through their trials and difficulties, hurts and pains. Thank You for Your promise that you have forgiven all of our debts as we forgive our debtors. We choose today to forgive those who have hurt us in anyway.

Give us the ability to choose to always forgive and release others. Please bring back the peace in our life that was filled with bitterness and hurt. Help us to stay close to You and not stray in our hearts. We pray for the grace to find freedom from all forgiveness in our lives.

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen.

Unforgiving at the End of the Age

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St. Paul writes to Timothy giving us a picture of how it will look just before the second coming of the Lord. He shares that people will be “unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good” (2 Timothy 3:3).
 
In the end times there will be a great shift in how people live and act worldwide. Jesus spoke of children who will betray parents and how people will even want to put Christians to death (Matthew 24:9-10).
 
But we see the root of the issue in the attitudes of human hearts, and committed believers in Jesus Christ are not excluded. Not having love, not forgiving, and speaking evil of other good believers will be just part of the coming spirit of anti-Christ in the world.
 
Unforgiveness is a prison, a torturer. It will rob us of our joy, peace and even physical health. Jesus knew mankind and he knew that a great problem that many deal with is forgiving others. It is one of our Lord’s primary teachings and the apostles were very keen to this.
 
Peter said to Jesus in answer to his question of forgiveness, seven times! He understood that Jesus said to be extravagant in our forgiveness of others, and the current teaching by rabbis in that day was to forgive three times and then seek revenge. Our Lord’s response showed the extent of how God forgives and how those who claim to follow him should forgive, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22).
Our Lord is teaching that forgiveness is not optional. We should be like our Lord who forgives greatly, forgives deeply, and forgives the inexcusable.
 
Do you find it hard to forgive other brothers and sisters in the Lord? Do you find it hard to love others in the body of Christ because of hurtful things that were done to you? Are you speaking evil of those brothers and sisters and judging them? It is very important that we are clear of all such sin and are full of love, forgiveness and using our mouths to show mercy and love to others in order to restore them (Galatians 5:1).
 
Early believers lived in great anticipation of the coming of the Lord, and the thought of holding a grudge in unforgiveness with a believer and then entering eternity with this sin was unthinkable. In speaking about disputes, St. James writes, “Don’t grumble against one another” (James 5:9). The terrible reality to him was that the Judge was standing at the door, the Lord was coming back soon.

Surviving the New Dark Age in Evangelical Christianity

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“This is what the ancients were commended for.” – Hebrews 11:2

Many philosphers, christian theologians and prophetic men are speaking of Western civilization entering into a new dark age similar to the medieval dark ages. Human history has been short, fickle and full of uncertainity and the time of darkening upon the world should concern us as christian believers.

Arthur W. Hunt says,

“We cannot ignore the parallels between the Dark Ages and our own time. The great irony of our age is that for all our technological prowess we are remarkably less articulate, less civil, and more irrational than we were 100 or even 200 years ago. The technological shift from the printed word to the visual image is pulling us back into the Dark Ages.”

Morality changes with no girting in reality or reason are just one of the signs of the times. The Church has survived a dark age before and the Lord says that satan will not overthrow the Church, so we are certain to make it through this coming one.

Rod Dreher, the author of Benedict Option says,

“We see ourselves as living in the ruins (though very comfortable ones!) of Christian civilization, and tasked with preserving the living faith through the coming Dark Ages.”

Evangelical Christianity has never had so much knoweldge, resources, programs and helps. Yet never has there been such a lack of godly wisdom being lived out in moral character and godliness. We live in a information knoweldge based age with very little ability to gain wisdom in the midst of it. We know all the facts about faith but need to have a “living faith” that is displayed before the world. One might say, “Why worry about these things and make a big deal about it?” Yet look at our lives, how shallow, plastic, pleasure oriented, materialistic, self-centered. We are living for the present world in many ways in the modern Church and things of eternity are not gripping us. We can test ourselves in one way to ask ourselves the question, “Am I living for the present pleasures and comforts or for a future eternity and eternal purpose of God in my daily actions?”

We can look to Hebrews chapter 11 as a light in the midst of the coming darkness. There are a lineage of men in the history of mankind that walked in the light and left us a path to follow. The ancients were men of faith so their decisions revolved around “what is to come” (Hebrews 11:10). They “longed” (Hebrews 11:16) for something better then the present world. They caught the real reality of God willing to “prepare a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16) and therefore they gladly forfeited what all other men seek after here below. We can see this example of godliness and other-wordliness throughout Church history in especially in godly leaders in the early Church. Yet when the first dark ages consumed upon the Church we see men leaving even society itself to found monasteries where faith and practice was kept with an eternal mindset. It is interesting to note that the Bible itself, literature, school, medicine and many other things we enjoy as the Western culture were preserved through these Christian communities. Many departed to the desert seeking God for Himself, known as the Desert Fathers, when the reality of worship was being lost.

And once we take a large lens view of the Church of 2000 years we can see these communities where faith and practice were preserved, that they themselves were the salt and light to the rest of the Church. Without faith that displays itself with deeds done with an eternal mindset we are just left with formality of a religious kind that ends in a lack of changed lives. How then do we survive a coming dark age of the Church?

In way of application and help, here are some possible helps for you to consider and apply to your Christian walk:

1. “Others” – Remember that Christianity is not a religion about the individual but rather the community. We are called the body of Christ (Romans 12:5) and we always need each other. Many modern believers live as an island to themselves, with every little meaningful relation with believers throughout the week. One of the marks of the dark ages and a coming evil age is people seeking self over others (2 Timothy 3:2). Make priority to practice Christianity community daily with other believers, share your life together.

2. “Living Faith” – How do I live out my faith? It is actually simple, choose to spend time practicing what we believe. Disciplines in the Christian life are what keep us alive and strong in our faith. Early Church believers recited the Lord’s Prayer meaningfully three times a day outloud. It was a practice in christian communities to pray 5 times a day, called the hours of prayer. Daily bible reading and deciding to obey what we read instead of just reading for knowledge. Following the commands of Christ for believers is not burdensome but freeing. Read Hebrews 11 again and note how each believer was commended in their obedience.

3. “Looking Backward” – In a time of dark ages we must not look forward to try and follow the newest trend in Evangelical Christianity. But rather look backward and find those solid time tested principles, and examples that were shining lights in the darkness. The speaking of a new doctrine, new revelation, new emphasis that appearnetly the entire Church has missed throughout history, will resound but we must not listen to these voices. Find the solid footing of what the Church has always believed, what godly men stood on and passed on to the next generation.

4. “Eternal Thinking” – The ancients were those who put their mind on eternity. In our modern societies Evangelical Christians are caught up in all the rat-race of large homes, latest technology, creature comforts and all the extra pleasures offered. If we are to be a people who will be shining lights in the coming Dark Ages we must say no to ungodliness and wordly passions (Titus 2:11). And choose a simplier way of life. This can mean moving from the city to the country. It can mean to associate in a christian community. Other ways to practice this is to minimize one’s life and say no to all the offers of society to indulge the flesh. For we are looking for a “heavenly country” let us start that journey now or continue on it and look away from all that distracts.

K.P. Yohannan: Overcoming Criticism in the Body of Christ

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K.P. Yohannan Founder of Gospel for Asia

Criticism is a great danger in the Church in our day where many are even thinking they are doing God a favour by being critical against others. K.P. Yohannan shares ways we can overcome criticism that is directed towards us and understand why people do these things so we can have empathy and compassion for them. Currently we are featuring on SermonIndex.net a sermon on Bitterness by K.P. Yohannan which goes into detail of why believers end up acting in these ways. Only with God’s help through forgiveness can we be freed of this sin and start to live in a way where we bless and not condemn others.

Read below what K.P. Yohannan says about Criticism:

In our world, it seems impossible to escape criticism. If we do poorly at school or at work, people will criticize us. Should we do well and excel in business, we still face criticism from people who are jealous of our success. It seems to be a favorite pastime of the human race to take one person after another, good or bad, and “skin them alive” with criticism.

What makes people act this way? Psychologists say one of the underlying reasons people criticize each other is to take revenge for the hurts they once received. Whether deserved or not, criticism is always painful. No one likes it. Yet people seem to enjoy themselves when others are cut down.

Most believers have accepted the fact that the world will criticize us regardless of how saintly we may live or how many charitable contributions we may make. However, I have found that the greatest shock and discouragement for believers come when they realize that they encounter this same heartless criticism from their brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. Of course, God never meant this to happen. But many Christians have never allowed the Lord to cleanse their lives from this destructive behavior. It’s a very serious problem; and if it is not dealt with, it easily can destroy a church.

Imagine this: Jesus, the sinless Son of God, faced His worst criticism—not from the Roman government or from ungodly people—but from the most recognized and pious religious leaders of His nation. Paul experienced the same thing. His worst critics were people inside the Church, not the heathen he tried to win. In fact, he deals very thoroughly with this problem in his second letter to the church in Corinth.

Whether criticism comes from the world or from within the Church, it is important for us to know how we should respond to it.

Here are a few ways to Overcome:

1. Not To Pay Back – The Bible clearly instructs us in Romans 12:17 not to pay back evil for evil, which means we must not lash out and respond in anger in the same manner we were treated.

2. Maintain Love – On the contrary, God wants us to respond differently. We are to maintain our love for the brothers and trust the Lord to handle our defence. Only if we do this will the cycle of destructive criticism be broken.

3. Say No to Discouragement – The feelings of deep hurt and discouragement that follow criticism can easily bring us to a point of despair, giving up our calling or even suicide. In no way must we allow this to happen! If we give in, the enemy has reached his goal of stopping us from building God’s kingdom.

4. Look Objectively – The best we can do when we receive criticism is to look at it objectively. If the accusations are simply empty talk, we should dismiss them and by God’s grace go on with our life.

5. Be Willing to Change – Lastly, On the other hand, if there is any truth in the criticism, let us be willing to change, improve and grow in that area.

Finishing Well in the Christian Journey

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We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. – Hebrews 2:1

The other day we were driving on a back country road when all of a sudden a huge orange sign appeared with the ominious words, “Attention!” written on it. Right away all of our senses were more alert, our eyes were looking around trying to find the problem of why the sign was there. Danger possibly loomed and we wanted to avoid the problem. We see this exact same warning in the Holy Scriptures when it says that we must “pay the most careful attention” this is a large sign warning us as believers that if we do not heed it we could fall into great danger.

An ancient Christian writing called, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” speaks of the Christian journey as climbing a ladder to heaven, it is full of godly examples of how Christ is formed in us and how we grow in fruitfulness during our Christian walks. Some have made a picture to illustrate this book, it shows believers walking up the ladder and certain demons luring or pulling believers off the ladder. Perhaps some falling so far they will never return to the ladder itself. George Whitefield stated in one of his sermons that we can lose years of spiritual maturity in a matter of minutes in a fall from grace. He pictured this to a climbing of a mountain and falling many feet down. The Scriptures clearly teach it is possible to drift away (Hebrews 2:1), falling short of the rest (Hebrews 4:1) Turning away from the Living God (Hebrews 3:12). Many other warnings are given in the Scriptures. The doctrine of Perserverance is that those who have started well, will finish well in the end. Perserving to the end is the mark of true faith in a believers heart.

Robertson McQuilkin wrote a poem about finishing well, here is part of his writing:

“It’s sundown, Lord. The shadows of my life stretch back into the dimness of years long spent. I fear not death, for the grim foe betrays himself at last, thrusting me forever into life: Life with You, unsoiled and free. But I do fear I fear that dark spectre may come too soon – or do I mean too late? That I should end before I finish or finish but not too well. That I should stain Your honour, shame Your Name, Grieve Your loving heart. Few, they tell me, finish well… Lord, let me get home before dark.”

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12). That Scripture has been a continual warning and encouragement to me, though we are greatly secure in Christ we are still warned not to fall. So how do we finish well? What are some things we can do to ensure we end our Christian walk well.

1 – Knowing God. “They have not known my ways” (Hebrews 3:10). We are prone to know many things about God but do we intimately know Him? Do we know “his ways” in our life, do we hear “his voice” (Hebrews 3:15).

2 – Unbelief. “Unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). This is a heart that starts to distrust God. The deception of sin is that we can trust ourselves and not what God says. We must say “no” to this and revere God’s Word constantly as our rule and to be obeyed.

3 – Hold Firmly to Hope – “If we hold firmly to our.. hope” (Hebrews 3:6). Our hope in the resurrection from the dead, is a sure hope in Christ. This hope when firmly held will help us to not cling to this present world. We will say “no” to ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12).

4 – Not Drift Away – “careful attention to what we have heard” (Hebrews 2:1). Heresies, false teachers abound. We must hold firmly to the faith once delivered to the saints. Many deny the incarnation of the Son of God, the resurrection, many deny the trinity. We must hold fast to what the original Apostles recieved from the Lord. Such beliefs are codified in the Nicene and Apostles creed and other early statements of faith of the Church.

Lord, it has been some time in this walk with you. I have made my stumbles and falls but I am still climbing closer to You. Please let me not drift again or fall from the place I am. Let me daily grow closer to you, Knowing your ways and Yourself. Keep me from staining your Name. Let me get home before dark. Amen.