These are short lessons that I taught at various Women's Bible Studies. Sorry you weren't there! But, maybe the transcripts will give you a peek in God's word that you wouldn't have had otherwise. God bless!
Father God, The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that Your word is spiritually appraised, so right our spirits now, Father. We confess that we are sinners who need to hear from You, the only Righteous and Holy One. Teach us Lord by Your Spirit as we open Your word. Lead us into all truth, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen
Re: the topic of Stinkin’ Thinkin’ or having a toxic thought life.
Turn with me to Romans 12, and could someone please read verses 1 and 2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” - KJV
So, let me ask? How was your thought life this past week? Did you have some stinkin’ thinkin’ to correct? I sure did. But I’m so grateful for God’s word that teaches that we can transform our thoughts by renewing them. There is a lot of information in these two verses.
Let me read it again, this time from the New American Standard version, which translates it this way, listen. " 1Therefore "I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
When it says, “Therefore”, it’s always good to go back and see what the therefore is there for. Let’s look back at v. 33 of Ch. 11 and read for us vs. 33 & 34. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?” The depth of God’s wisdom and knowledge, His unsearchable judgments, and His unfathomable ways, or, as the King James reads, His ways PAST finding out! They are so different than our own.
Deut. 32:4 has this to say about His ways, “The Rock! His work is perfect for all HIS WAYS ARE JUST: A God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” Have you known Him to be your Rock? I know we could testify until tomorrow, but in a quick sentence, how has He been your rock? It’s to this Rock, this faithful One who is righteous that we are to present ourselves a living and holy sacrifice. The word there for “present” in Rom. 12:1 is in the aorist tense. All that means is that it’s at a point in time that we present our self to God, and another point and another point. In other words, at every point of our day we are to keep presenting ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice. And ladies, this is a command from God. We all are to keep on moment after moment presenting ourselves a living and holy sacrifice to Him.
Acts 17:28 says, it is "in Him that we live and move and have our being. For we are His children." And as His children, our thoughts as He is training us up as the Loving Father He is, our thoughts should align with His, not as Romans 12:2 says, be conformed to the way this world thinks. From the time we are physically born we are brought up in a world that does not think like God. But as a born-again believer, we are a new creature, and we are no longer to be Conformed to this fallen world. And ladies, this also a command.
God wants us to take this seriously. We are commanded to not put ourselves in a position to be like the world, to think like the world, to do as the world. It has become more and more apparent how differently this world thinks than God thinks. Call it human viewpoint, or natural or worldly thinking, this world thinks nothing like the mind of God. 1 Corinthians 2:14 calls it a “Natural man” or one who’s being led by their own soul, and not walking by the spirit.
Turn to 1 Corinthians 2:14 and read – “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” That is why we must be under the control of the Holy Spirit at all times, so we can discern what the Lord would want us to do, what He would think about a situation. God is Spirit, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Truth, now there’s something that Satan has worked to destroy. In the Garden of Eden, he took the truth and gave it a little twist, and since that time he has twisted it more and more until today when you ask a college student what is truth, they will tell you that it’s relative to each individual’s circumstance. There is no exact truth, only what is true for each of us.
But we know better don’t we? In fact, the Bible tells us Jesus prayed this for believers, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” In John 17:17, and in Psalms 119:160 we read, “The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” God’s word always adds up to TRUTH. We can trust it, depend on it, and let it reshape our thinking, because it is pure truth.
When we read in John 4 about Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well, He tells her, “But an hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” That’s who He wants us to be, women who seek the truth in His word!
Verse 24 says, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” We must be women of His word. Reading it, studying it, remembering it, so that when those lies from the devil come at us, we know the truth. The outcome will be that we can stand firm, steadfast, in the face of his lies.
Look at Jesus when He was in the wilderness for 40 days, tempted in every way that we are, His constant answer back to Satan was scripture after scripture. He knew the Word and combatted the lies of Satan with truth. Back in 1 Corinthians 2, if we had read on to verse 16, we would have seen that as His child, we have been given the mind of Christ. This Bible reveals the word of God, in black and white to know inside and out the mind of Christ. If we are to worship in truth, it means we must know God’s word. So, keep studying, ladies.
It also says, if we are to be true worshipers of God we must be filled by His Spirit. What do I mean by filled? We’re told that at the moment of our salvation we are entered into a relationship with God, through Christ. We become part of His body. Titus 3:4-6 tells us, "But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior."
There’s a-whole-nother study about what takes place at the moment of our belief in the work Jesus did for us, but part of it is that the Holy Spirit gives birth to our spirit, regenerating in us what was once dead, making us a new creation, so that we can have fellowship with Him and worship Him in spirit and in truth. In that process of placing the Holy Spirit within our spirit, we are filled by Him. And though we can never lose His Spirit, we can certainly squelch His activity in our life, we can take back control for our self.
The Apostle Paul addressed this with the church in Ephesus. Turn to Ephesians 5:18 and read it. It tells us we’re not supposed to get drunk with wine, but rather be filled with the Holy Spirit. The New Testament, or the majority of it, was originally written by the apostles in a Greek language called Koine’ Greek, the way that came about is a miracle story in itself, but it was a language that was more concise than any other. And the word for “filled” with the Holy Spirit means that we would be saturated by Him to the point of control.
God doesn’t want us saturated to the point of control by drink, nor by any other thing, including thoughts, worries, concerns, situations. He wants us only to be controlled by His Spirit. He must be allowed full access of control over us (including those thoughts, worries, concerns and situations).
As we walk by His Spirit, we are able to be a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, mentioned in Romans 12:1 & 2, because His Spirit will only lead us in God’s perfect plan for us. Considering what Christ did for us in God’s great grace, it’s only reasonable that we would serve Him this way.
Once we are His, once we have become His own, we no longer belong to ourselves. And it’s a daily battle to lay our own will down, our own thoughts to again take up His cross and follow Him.
I know we’ve mentioned 2 Corinthians 10:5 in the past. The real power comes in the context beginning in v. 3, which says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” I just want to point out, when we hold up that thought, examining it in light of God’s word, and the obedience of Christ, we don’t hang on to it!
Ladies, we have weapons in our arsenal that are not of the flesh. They are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. What thought have you allowed to make a fortress in your life? What thought do you find yourself struggling with? There’s truth that speaks to it!
Is it a lack of adequacy? Read 2 Cor. 3:5-6 - Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Is it poor health? Read 2 Cor. 4:16-18, Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Do you feel defeated? Let 1 John 5:4-5 speak - “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” All because of John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Romans 8:31-32 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things.” Thoughts of condemnation? Look at Romans 8:1 “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” and 8:33-34 “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”
His word is rich, it’s alive and able to help us in every situation. And remember, we don’t fight against flesh and blood ladies, we fight like Christ did, in Spirit and in Truth with weapons that are divinely powerful. Don’t put yourself in the position to be conformed to this world. Renew your mind by being in His word daily. Then let’s live it out, obeying its commands. The result will be having a peace of mind that only He can offer.
Father God, You command us to not be conformed to this world, to not even put ourselves in the position to be swayed by this world, and yet we struggle so often. It can be so subtle when the world’s ways creep in. Help us to be alert, to be on guard through the taking in of Your word, renewing our mind to the truth of it, so that we can present ourselves to You as a living and holy sacrifice. Help us to walk in obedience with our minds fixed on You and Your ways this week. I ask this in Jesus’ name. AmenFather God, The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that Your word is spiritually appraised, so right our spirits now, Father. We confess that we are sinners who need to hear from You, the only Righteous and Holy One. Teach us Lord by Your Spirit as we open Your word. Lead us into all truth, I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen
Good Morning! What a privilege to be able to spend the day with you ladies. It's always a joy to my heart to be able to talk about the things of God. My husband and I moved on island a couple years ago, having moved from California, away from family and friends, and a women's ministry that I was deeply involved with there. Moving here, not knowing anyone, well it was difficult. BUT, one of the good things about belonging to the Lord, is that wherever we go, there is always family there. His body spans every continent and island. So, I come to you as a sister in the Lord today, seeking to worship our Lord together and find encouragement in His word. Would you join me in praying for our time?
Father, Thank You for Your family, that we can come from different places, different backgrounds, and yet be united in Christ Jesus. Father it is You whom we choose to glorify today, and always, so have Your Spirit speak this morning, may the words come directly from You, and not me Father. Help us to have ears that hear what you would speak to us so that we might leave here changed. I ask this in the precious name of Jesus, amen.
Our scripture passage today is Psalms 37. An interesting song from King David that holds truths for you and I today. May I just take some time to elaborate on some of the verses? If I may, I will begin in v. 4:
NASB - "Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart, Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it, He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him..."
There are six short points that I'd like to lay out for us this morning from this passage:
1) DELIGHT OURSELVES IN THE LORD. Now, I would have interpreted the word delight as, to take joy, appreciate, find pleasure in the Lord, and I would have been correct, but as I studied a little deeper I found that there are additional nuances, such as it meaning, to take a high degree of pleasure or mental satisfaction, another said to "Take exquisite delight" I saw words like "Pamper" "Spoil" "refreshing oneself ". So, it could read, Pamper yourself in the Lord, Spoil yourself in the Lord, Refresh oneself in the Lord. That brings a little different look at the instruction to delight in the Lord, doesn't it?
Refreshing ourselves in the Lord, I can certainly understand, for anytime that I spend time with Him, or in His word, I feel refreshed. But, how would we pamper ourselves in the Lord? Or Spoil ourselves in the Lord? That took more thinking, and I realized that the more we know God, and know His word, the more we see that He is willing to do all the work on our behalf, He is willing to grace us with life and life abundant. It is totally to our benefit to belong to Him, to know Him, to live for Him because the rewards are so generous. And the instruction in v. 4 is to Delight ourselves in the Lord.
Well, how do we delight in the Lord? Oh, in hundreds of ways, I suppose. If we have paid any attention at all to the words we have sung in worship to His name, we have delighted in the Lord. If we have stopped to look around and realized how privileged we are to be able to gather in His name, we will take delight in the Lord. But primarily, we can only take delight in what we know or experience, and it requires us to be mindful of Him.
So, first and foremost, we must KNOW GOD. Do you know God? He's rather amazing! He's all powerful, He's God almighty, He is full of grace and mercy, forgiving all our sin when we were still sinners. He loves with a love that keeps on loving regardless of the response He's given, because He is love. He is just. He is Holy and Righteous, there is none other like our God. He is good! He is faithful when we are not. He is Omniscient - knows all things. He is the beginning and the end of all things. He is ever present. He is a rock, a refuge, a shelter. This God whom we are to delight in, has the supply for every single one of our needs.
God, in His holy perfection, looked down on us, a sinful people, and knew our need of a Savior. So, He made supply for our greatest need of all. In the Book of John we read in Ch. 1"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being..." then in v. 14 "And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."
We're told in Philippians 2:6-7 that Christ Jesus, "although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (or held on to), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of man, He became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." He sent His Son to die and pay the penalty for our sin, and yet, there is victory in that death, for it was as planned long before, that Jesus Christ would be raised! And He lives, having risen from the dead, our Savior now sits at the right hand of God and declares every believer, REDEEMED! That is our God. It is in Him that we are to delight.
Personally, the Lord and I have a little thing going where He reminds me of His love when I come upon a heart shaped rock, or piece of coral, or a cloud. And I delight every time I see one, which is often, it seems. My response is always a smile, and a thank You.
I take joy in Him, as I said, by being in His word. Having been raised in the home of a Pastor-Teacher, I have been blessed to be taught the meaning of the word, and I delight in His words to us. They are my anchor, they are my strength, His words are refreshing to my soul. His words bring understanding and sometimes surprises me with its impact.
A couple summers ago, my husband and I were camping in a lush, thick forest in the state of Oregon. There was a beautiful river there called the McKenzie, with water as turquoise as our Caribbean sea. One morning a fellow camper came by with a large pot of coffee he'd made at his campfire and we began to talk. He lived in the next valley over in a town called Lebanon and seemed quite knowledgeable about the area so we were asking about a particular tree that we kept seeing. He said that there are only two known places that those trees grew, one was here, and the other was in the Holy Land. They were a particular cedar of Lebanon. I thought that was an interesting fact of trivia to file away in my memory. Later that day I went for a walk along the river, further upstream. There were some beautiful water falls to view and as I walked the trail between the two there was a section of the river where some great force had blown a large number of the trees down into the river. From both sides of the river, they had just fallen in on one another across the water. It must have been a mighty powerful wind. As I passed the pile of trees, marveling at the size of the pile, I could hear the lower falls, and the water was just rushing, pounding over the edge. The sound of the water was so loud it and thunderous compared to the silence of the pine covered trail I was on. When I got to the falls, it was one of those moments when God's creation just takes your breath, it was so spectacular to see, I just prayed in thankfulness for the beauty of His creation. I was definitely delighting in the Lord. But I found myself at the base of the falls wishing I had my Bible in hand, so I ran back up the trail and hopped into the car to grab my Bible. I opened, randomly, as we often do, and my eyes fell on these words, "Ascribe to the Lord, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; Worship the Lord in holy array. The voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders, The Lord is over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful, The voice of the Lord is majestic, the voice of the Lord breaks the cedars, Yes, the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon..."
I couldn't believe the words I had "randomly" read. I was certainly delighting in the Lord now! His word brought exquisite delight. Farther down it reads, "In His temple everything says, 'Glory!'" And I said, Glory! Pure delight.
And while this instruction to take delight in the Lord is given, often we find ourselves in situations that don't necessarily have us running to obey that directive. Circumstances in life can often trip us up, and our eyes get fixated on the situation, stripping us of any sense of delight.
But notice where we are to find our delight, not in our circumstances, not in our situations, but - In the Lord.
THEN, HERE'S WHAT HE WILL DO WHEN WE DO THAT - He will give us the desires of our heart. Hebrews 11: 6 reads, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." He is a rewarder. Sometimes we can begin to think that because we are a believer of God, a follower of Christ, that life should be pretty good. We might think that if it says He will give us the desires of our heart that then we shouldn't have to suffer, or do without in any way. But God is not a genie that we can command at our will. This is God we are referring to. We did not make Him, He made us.
His promise to give us the desires of our heart FOLLOWS the command to take delight in the Lord. And it PRECEDES the heart of this passage in the next verse which begins with -
2) COMMIT YOUR WAY TO THE LORD - commit your way to the Lord. What happens when we commit to something? In my case, I committed to marrying a man that at that time, 37 yrs ago, didn't know St. Croix existed. In my mind, I was committing to being his wife, I even said the words, in good times and bad, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, to death us do part. But at the time I had no idea that would entail moving close to 4000 miles away from my grandbabies! But my commitment to 1) Submit my life to God, and 2) Submit my life to my husband, meant just that.
Commitment takes sacrifice at times. Committing our way to the Lord is telling Him, whatever and wherever You want me to be, I will go. I will follow you. I give myself to You. I commit my life to You. If our mind is set on Him, and we are committing ourselves to Him walk in His way, something is going to happen to our desires. They will be changed to match His will for our life. So, when it says, Delight in the Lord, it means get to know Him, know Him so well, that you take joy in living for Him, and He will give you the desires of your heart because they will match His desire for your life.
Being committed to living for God, committed to knowing God, makes the next point so simple -
3) TRUST IN HIM - Part of the delighting in the Lord, is, as I've said, in knowing Him. If you've been a believer for any length of time, I'm pretty sure that God has shown Himself to be trustworthy to you. That you can you look back and see His hand at work in your life. We might be short-sighted and forgetful people but if we take the time to look at the span of our life, we can see Him at work. That He has proven Himself even when He didn't have to.
As we trust in Him, the scripture says, "He will do it, He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday." Praise the Lord God! He is going to accomplish whatever is needed as we walk after Him. He will do it!! He will never leave us nor forsake us. Philippians 1:6 Paul says "For I am CONFIDENT of this very thing, that He who began a good work us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Hallelujah Ladies, He's not finished with us yet! He will perfect us. He can be trusted. He has been faithful so far, so don't think He will leave you hanging.
When we learn to trust Him above all else, we are able to
4) REST IN THE LORD - Resting in the Lord simply means, that we quit striving to find all the answers for our self. We are able to say, Lord, I have committed myself to You, and You will never fail me, so I trust You, I rest in the fact that You already know the way out! My faith rests in You alone, and not just in You, but in the work that Jesus did in my place on the cross of Calvary. There is no greater work, so I rest Lord. Let me read to you from Hebrews 12 - "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Don't lose heart, rest in the Lord
5) WAIT PATIENTLY FOR HIM - Ladies, DO YOU BELIEVE THE WORD OF GOD? James 1:2-4 is one of my favorite promises of God, it reads, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing." Endurance produces an incredible result, that we might be made perfect, complete and lacking in nothing! It's not all going to happen overnight, and it's not all going to happen pain free, there are some things we are going to have to endure, but ladies, just WAIT!! Wait patiently for Him. He is at work. He is busy on your behalf to provide all you need.
Psalm 27:13-14 says, "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord."
I asked Do you believe His word? Then listen to these words from 2 Peter 1, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." Do you have a need? He has provided! This passage in 2 Peter tells us He has provided EVERYTHING WE NEED pertaining to life and godliness. He is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills, all things were created by Him and for Him and HE willingly provides for our needs. Do you believe?
6) DO NOT FRET - We live in a sin filled world. The consequences of that can be frightening at times, worrisome in others, but God's word tells us time and time again, not to worry, not to fret. Philippians 4:6 is a verse many of us have heard before, but always a good reminder, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. "
Delight in the Lord, Trust In the Lord, Commit your way to Him and see, just see if you don't find the desires of your heart being met in full as you align your will with His.
He is worthy. I promise you, He is worthy. He who knew no sin, became sin's sacrifice. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, to be our Savior, the One who paid it all, so that we could have it all. Trust Him, Delight in Him.
Father God, You alone are worthy to be praised. You have brought us salvation, You have supplied our need. Help us to walk each day, delighting in You, trusting You. What foolishness it would be to do anything less. You amaze me Lord God. And I love You. Bless the remainder of the day here, as they ladies seek to know You better. In Christ's holy name, Amen.
WELCOME LADIES! The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength – A wonderful verse chosen by our tea committee as our verse for the day, and when I began to look at the joy of the Lord, and went to Nehemiah 8:10 to look at our key verse for the day, the heading for that section read, “This Day is Holy.” And I thought how fitting that it was because Ladies, today is a holy day. A day that has been covered in prayer, one that we have set aside to spend time together in His presence, a day to worship and to glorify God as the One and Only giver of true Joy. WE’RE GLAD YOU’RE HERE!
We’ve gathered today to ENJOY some JOY!
Joy, what is joy? And what does it mean that we’re, “Livin’ the Joy”? The topic came up between a girlfriend and I at the end of last year when we were discussing how blessed we felt, how utterly, undeservedly that we have been blessed, how could we not be full of joy with all the blessings we have in Christ? And yet, as we chatted, we also realized how sad it was that even though we, and our friends, are so terribly blessed, it’s easy to get caught up in the struggles of this world and forget to live the joy we have available to us. We determined then that this year our motto would be to Live the Joy, as a determination for our own lives, and as an encouragement to others. I have to add that this girlfriend is one of the most joyful people I have had the privilege to know, despite her health issues, despite other things going on in her life, she truly represents the joy of the Lord and I’m so grateful for her example, because personally I find it all too easy to complain. But my motto it is, Live the Joy, and what I share today is in direct response to trying to figure it out.
What is joy? In the New Testament we find the word for Joy is Cha-ra – translated as rejoice, gladness, bliss, delight. One definition I read said, “Joy is a state of delight and well-being that results from knowing and serving God” – After being His child for over 40-um+ years, I can certainly attest to the truth of this.
A fascinating note about Joy that I learned in a previous study was that there are two very similar words in the Greek, one is cha-ra and the other is cha-ris. Cha-ra means joy, and Cha-ris means Grace! Both have the same beginning letters as well they both have the same beginning source! For apart from God’s grace, there could be no true joy. He provides the grace which in turn provides the joy. Without His grace, we are left trying to create our own joy, and that always leaves us wanting more.
When you look at the context of our key verse: “The Joy of the Lord is my strength” in Nehemiah 8:10 it is an amazing scene that has unfolded. A man by the name of Ezra had been reading the book of the Law to the people from early morning until about noon. And in Neh 8:9 it says, “Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.” The reason they were mourning and weeping is because they saw that when the standard of the Law was read to them that there was no way that they had measured up. None of them could keep the whole law, and they were sorry for how they had been acting. It goes on, in v. 10 – “Then he said to them, "Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
And ladies, I can assure you, that YOU TOO CAN HAVE THE JOY OF THE LORD AS YOUR STRENGTH, you can’t earn it by following the Law anymore than the Israelites could but His joy is a gift from God who provides it through His Holy Spirit – Listen to these familiar words in:
Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. JOY is part of the fruit of the Spirit. So, in reality we can’t produce or conjure up joy in us at all! The best we can do is a fleeting emotion that mimics it, which in reality is more accurately happiness than the deep joy we have by abiding in Christ. We have to rely on Him to give us real joy as we walk with Him.
Because Joy is a By-Product of Faith – When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord, and our Savior, He provides His Spirit to give us everything pertaining to living this life in a godly way (He tells us that in II Peter 1). When we accept the GRACE of God, He not only provides salvation, but He says He provides a divine nature through His Holy Spirit living in us. Can we just take a moment and realize how incredible that is? Joy comes to us because we trust God. Our faith, first at salvation provides the Spirit’s joy within us, and then as we trust and have faith when tests and trials come, we again have His joy to strengthen us through those tough times. James 1: 2-4 are some incredible verses, promised to us who are in Christ. They say, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” I don’t know about you, but I respond to trials in my life a whole lot better if I know the reason AND I like the outcome. In this case, God tells us, all those trials and temptations you are enduring, they are for a reason, they have purpose. They’re allowed so that you can be made perfect, complete and lacking in nothing. So, we need to maintain our faith, knowing our God is working all things to our good if we love Him and are called according to His purpose. If we want joy, then the only answer is to walk in obedience to Him, to His leading.
And Joy is a Result of Obedience – As we go about our day, submitting to His leading in our choices and decisions instead of being our independent, headstrong selves, we are able to accept whatever He brings into our life as being for our good. The direct result, I kid you not is that fruit that is produced in us through that faith and obedience is Joy, its guaranteed.
Did you know that God commands us to have joy? –Listen to: Psa 37:4 says,” Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Delight, or be joyful, is a command! Then there’s Psa 100:2, “Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing.” Phil. 4:4 says, “Rejoice again, I say rejoice!” He commands us to be joyful. I tried this as a parent. You WILL eat your veggies and you WILL be happy doing so! Now eat them! Or, how many of us have said to our children, go to your room until you can choose to be happy! But you know what I just love about God, when He commands us to do something, He always provides a way for us to do whatever He commands us to do.
Jesus told His followers, I’m going to leave you, but I’m not leaving you as orphans, I’m going to ask the Father to send you a Helper, and you know what? The Father did! He sent His Spirit to live in each believer to HELP us have a joy that we could never experience on our own. The joy we have is a direct response to trusting Him, and to walking obediently through whatever circumstance we might find ourselves in.
ABIDE - The joy comes as we abide with God. Joy is not a result of our circumstances. We have joy available in spite of circumstances. Joy is not BECAUSE of the situation, it’s available THROUGH the situation, no matter how hard it might seem! Because it’s SUPERNATURALLY GIVEN. A blessing from God Himself, because it’s in His DNA, and since His Spirit comes and lives in each one who believes, you have the joy of the Lord available to draw strength from 24/7.
THERE ARE TIMES WE ARE COMMANDED TO NOT HAVE JOY –
Truly, the Bible tells us there are times when we are commanded not to have joy. The book of James, Ch. 4:9 is a case in point: “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.” Why? James says it rather bluntly in 4:4 “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” We can’t expect to draw strength from the Lord and live for the world. He’s not a genie in a bottle, we don’t have some magical book to rub and out He pops to do our bidding, He is GOD, the Almighty, Creator, Holy and Righteous! And He doesn’t just want part of us, He wants all of us. We have to give Him everything, even the circumstances that seem so daunting to us. Don’t worry, He’s big enough to take them on. He is ABLE Ladies, to carry our burdens much better than we can.
He has a great exchange program. We give Him all our problems, all our stuff, and He gives us HIS Love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. He exchanges our weakness for His strength to endure, remembering that endurance has a perfect result, making us perfect, complete and lacking in nothing. And just to top it off, He reminds us that this life is really just a short span of time in light of eternity, so He throws in eternity as well, promising to come back and take us to be with Him forever. How can we not have JOY? How can we not live that Joy when we are so blessed?
If we’re not livin’ the joy ladies, it means we are not living by faith, we are not walking in obedience, and the result, whether we’re aware of it or not is that we are being a terrible misrepresentation of all the blessings available to us in our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, join me ladies in making LIVE the JOY your motto this year! Ladies, We don’t just have joy for the moment, we don’t just have joy in spite of the circumstance, we have joy because of ALL that He’s given us. And the joy of the Lord is our strength.
Enjoying the sweet river of blessing this weekend? Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is so good to us? We’re looking this weekend at Living Water, from a series of verses out of the book of Ezekiel, where the prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of God leading him out of the temple through different depths of water. As we open His word this morning, may I just take us into His throne room right now?
Father God, there are not enough words in my vocabulary to praise You as You should be praised. You are more than I can imagine, You are gracious, Holy, and worthy, Lord God, of all the praise we can muster and more. You know the secret praise of my heart toward You. Father, as we open Your word, would You teach us by Your Living Water, fill us to overflowing Lord so that we will serve You completely. Thank You for Your precious Son, Jesus Christ, in Who’s name I am able come. I pray that You would bless our time in Your word this morning, teach us through Your Spirit and may we be changed because of it. Thank You, Father. Amen
I want to begin by re-reading the text in Ezekiel 47, beginning at v. 1 - Ezek. 47:1Then he brought me back to the door of the house; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east, for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar. He brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate by way of the gate that faces east. And behold, water was trickling from the south side. When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water, water reaching the ankles.
And this morning we want to look at the next verse, Eze 47:4 Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the knees...
I can’t tell you the blessing I’ve had in preparing to share the next concept that was gathered from this text as we see Ezekiel on this sacred walk. He’s now walking through the water up to his knees, and we begin to think about a sacred place God takes us to regarding our knees and that’s a sacred secret place called prayer. As I’ve looked at scriptures and definitions regarding prayer, I am more and more convicted that my prayer life has not been what it should be, so I come before you this morning in the simple humility of one that is traveling along this river of blessing with you, learning right along with you, and making some changes in my life because of what I’ve found in God’s word. As I’ve studied, I’ve found that this sacred blessing of prayer is all part of what God intended as He provided His Living Water for us.
Ladies, if you hear nothing else of what is said this morning, know this, He so longs for us to be living in constant communion with Him that He provided His Living Water in order for that to be possible. Just the fact that the water is LIVING, that means something is happening there, it is active, moving, it’s not stagnant or static. His Living Water is provided so that we can have a living, ongoing relationship with Him.
We call it prayer life, and that is what it should be. Life lived out by being in constant communication, constant talking and sharing with God. He longs for us to live life IN HIM, WITH HIM, CONSUMED BY HIM, and prayer is His gift to us, because prayer is a supernatural, extraordinary ability to communicate with the Living & Holy God. Let me repeat that: Prayer is a supernatural, extraordinary ability to communicate with the Living & Holy God. The ability to reach the very doors of heaven, and actually enter in, is not an ability we have of our own doing, quite the opposite in fact, for on our own we are unable to reach across the great divide between heaven and earth.
Prayer is a sacred, secret place we obtain in the name of Jesus Christ and through the Living Water HE provides. The Bible has many things to teach us about prayer, about what it is, what it’s for, even how we’re to pray. In the Old Testament, we see prayers such as Abraham calling out to his God, or Sarah’s handmaiden, Hagar, who was alone in the desert, crying out to God and God not only saw her, but He heard her and answered her. Or, we read the Psalms, and we see song after song where King David was praying to God through the words of his songs. What about the prayers of Hannah, or Zacharias, both fervently longing for a child. Prayers are scattered all throughout the scriptures.
Most are familiar with the famous request by the disciples when they asked Jesus to teach them to pray, and in Matthew 6, Jesus responds with an example. We call it The Lord’s Prayer. We’re even blessed in John 17 to see where Jesus, the night before He was crucified, prayed first for his disciples, and then for all those who would follow Him. The Bible is full of examples;
As I’ve studied over the past few months, I’ve found some basic principles laid out in scripture, and some of these may be new to you this morning, so get your Bible ready as we want to document this as we go. The Bible is clear that we should always test to see if a teacher is teaching truth, so don’t just take my word for it, study the scriptures for yourself because seriously, there is so much to be found regarding these principles that we would need more than this weekend to uncover it all. His word is rich and unfathomable, and from it we have principles that teach us how it is, that we, you and I, may enter a sacred place where we are able to approach the throne of a holy and perfect God.
A Sacred Secret Place Called Prayer - Let’s just dig right in this morning shall we? As we look at being up to our knees in this river of blessing, there are some fill-in’s in your booklet, and some principles of prayer I have found:
PRINCIPLE 1) Prayer is to be addressed to God the Father. 2) Whom we come to in the name of Jesus 3) And, it must take place as we are in fellowship with His Spirit. It’s no surprise that all three parts of the Godhead are working to provide this sacred secret place called prayer for us because they are all part of what we refer to as the Trinity, One God but in three distinct personalities. And through the work of all three together as One, God does everything we need to make it possible to live and talk with Him.
PRE-REQUISITES: Along with the three principles laid out, there are also a few of pre-requisites in order for us to enter the throne room of God and we want to look at those as well: 1) We must belong to Him. Titus 2:14 2) We must be righteous. We’ll look at James 5:16 in a bit, where it says, “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” Rom. 1:17, 3:10, 5:19, Gal. 3:11 So we must belong to Him and be righteous. 3) We must confess any sin in our life to be in fellowship with His Spirit I’ll explain these more as we go, and often the thoughts will overlap so let’s take a look at both the principles and prerequisites.
First of all, let’s look at the fact the Bible shows us Principle #1 - We are to address our prayers to the Father – you’ll see that in the verses I’ve listed for you, in Matthew 6:9, Jesus is instructing the Apostles how to pray, Jesus says, "Pray, then, in this way: Our Father who is in heaven,…"– Jesus is setting the protocol for addressing God as our Father.
We should come to Him as our Father ; John 15:16 Jesus again tells them “so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” And in Eph 5:20, "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, the Father.” Jesus Himself gave us the example when He said, in John 14:16 “"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;” So, we’re instructed to address our prayers to the Father. That in itself is an incredible thing, Ladies!
God, Creator of all things, righteous and holy God is whose Father? OUR Father. Our relationship with GOD is that of a Father/Daughter relationship. Did you know you are Daddy’s little girl! And your Daddy happens to be the King of Kings! I have to add that whether you have had a good relationship with your earthly father, or a bad one, whether the example of that relationship was right or wrong, don’t you find that we all seem to be instilled with a longing for the kind of relationship where we mean everything to our Daddy. And ladies, guess what, if you are a child of God, you have that kind of relationship with Him. We are taught to address our prayers to our Father.
Our access to the Father comes through the atoning sacrifice of His Son. It is in His name and past the brazen altar that we can approach that great throne of grace. I must caution us though Ladies to never forget, that though it is a throne of grace, it is still a THRONE. God is Lord of All, King of Kings, sovereign in every way. We should never flippantly come before Him as if we have a right to the throne our self. Jesus Christ has the right to the throne, and it is only as we are IN HIM that we can have this sacred relationship with God. I have to admit I often burst into the throne room in such a rush that I forget who it is that I’m addressing. I find myself so comfortable with God that I almost forget He is GOD! Often, I take that throne of grace for granted. When I remember this, I’m even more grateful for His grace. Especially when we read times in the Old Testament when God was trying to teach them about His power and the regard with which they were to hold Him, and occasionally HE would strike someone dead, even swallow them up in the earth when they did not treat Him with the reverence He is due. In the Temple talked about in Ezekiel people would enter in to the inner courtyard making their sacrifices, speaking to the priests and one another, but there was that place in the temple, behind a large veil, or curtain, called the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest could enter and only then once a year, for inside the Holy of Holies was the very presence of God, who would come down in that room and sit on the Mercy seat. It was in His great mercy that He made it possible to meet with man, one on one. The Holy of Holies was that sacred, secret place where man and God would meet.
You might remember one of the most spectacular events happening when Jesus Christ was crucified, as He breathed His last breath, the sky darkened and there was a great earthquake. It was then that the veil in the temple that separated us from that Holy of Holies was completely torn in two from the top to bottom, giving direct access to come face to face with the Holy God. There was no longer any need for a man to serve as our priest to do our talking for us; we had direct access to the Father through Jesus who became our High Priest. In Christ we can meet one on one with God. It is as we belong to Him, that we can approach the mercy seat of God.
Charles Spurgeon in his book, “The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life” reminds us that the “Mercy seat” is still a Throne. He says, “True prayer is an approach of the soul by the Spirit of God to the Throne of God. It is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of heaven and earth.” Heb. 4:16 “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” “He is the most Holy of all kings. His throne is a great white throne – unspotted and clear as crystal. … with what lowliness should you draw near to Him. Familiarity there may be, but let it not be unhallowed. Boldness there should be, but let it not be impertinent. You are still on earth and He in heaven. You are still a worm of the dust, and He the Everlasting. Before the mountains were brought forth, He was God, and if all created things should pass away, yet He would still be the same. I am afraid we do not bow as we should before the Eternal Majesty. Let us ask the Spirit of God to put us in a right frame, that every one of our prayers may be a reverential approach to the Infinite Majesty above.”
I see a real threat among believers, in the books we read and conferences we attend, even some pastors we hear, who try to “humanize” God. We want Him to be so approachable that we make Him almost like us. The reverence and fearful respect for who He is has been replaced with flippancy in our hearts and we plop into the throne room calling Him Dad, or Papa. There was a bestselling book that came out a few years ago now that was a prime example of this. It not only “humanized” every personage of the Godhead, but even went as far as to make God a woman, which is totally unscriptural. It was a best seller and all those I talked to that loved the book said it made God so approachable, so real to them. Ladies, God is real, He is approachable, but He is not one like us.
In Psalm 50:16-21 – God is addressing the Israelites who continue to live in sin while offering their sacrifices to Him, they are going through the motions of religion but forgot the relationship they were to have with Him. He’s telling them that He doesn’t need their sacrifices, He wants their obedience, and then the kicker comes in v. 21 when He says to them, “These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you…” God is approachable, we can draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, but the One we are approaching is Complete Holiness, perfection’s very description. He is Righteous and Just, and worthy of all our praise and our reverence. Prayer is a sacred place because we enter into the very throne room with God the Most High, His dwelling place. He is God our Father, HALLOWED BE HIS NAME.
I call Him OUR Father, but that may not be true for all of us here. You see, we are only His children if we have accepted the sacrifice of His Son, the only true sacrifice that could save us from paying the penalty of our sin, which is death. We must be “born again” as Jesus told Nicodemus, born of His Spirit. Recognizing a need for a Savior, acknowledging that we cannot reach God on our own merits, we come to Him through the Name that is above all names. We come to Him in the name of Jesus Christ. And as we do that, He provides His Spirit within us; that Living Water that gives us a supernatural connection to the Father, and a life of communing, of communication with GOD, becomes possible, given as a gift to us in the name of Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit indwelling us.
HE PROVIDES A SACRED SECRET PLACE - Sacred – Because it individually sets us apart into a relationship with God; A Holy relationship that He makes possible, so that we can walk in the Living Water; Sacred because it cost His Son everything to make it possible. Sacred because its other worldly and cannot be replicated any other way than through that gift of His Son. It’s Secret – because it is individual, you and He alone, your communication with Him is personal, it is spirit to Spirit, even when we are praying aloud it must be our spirit to His Spirit, our humbled heart connected to His great Holiness. That is the sacred secret place of prayer. How precious it is that the Lord God, Creator of all things, Sovereign God of the Universe and beyond, would allow, would desire, would encourage us to come before Him in prayer, as if He needed our input. As scripture says, “What is man that you are mindful of him?”
Prayer is a sacred secret place of communication with God which should create a humility in us that makes us careful how we approach His throne. As Rev. Spurgeon said, “Familiarity there may be, but let it not be unhallowed. Boldness there should be, but let it not be impertinent.” We approach Him as our Father, but that Father is in Heaven and hallowed be His name. IN HIS NAME -
So, Jesus teaches that our prayers are addressed to the Father, but He goes on to say “In My Name” – Oh the importance of a name. It signals ownership or belonging. I use to be, some 34 yrs ago, Tammy Welch. Sounds odd to say that name now. I belonged to the family of Troy & Minnie Welch, but on June 17, 1978 I was given in marriage to Robert Bounds. On that day, my identity changed. And the name I had practiced writing for the two yrs. of our long engagement, now belonged to me! I now belonged to someone else other than my parents and my new life began as I became Mrs. Tammy Bounds.
Coming to God in faith is much like that. When we are spiritually born again we take on the name of our beloved Jesus, becoming a Christian, a Christ follower. At salvation our identity changes as we are placed into Christ and God no longer sees us in our sinful, earthly state, but rather He sees us as in His own Son who is perfect and holy.
In Christ we are blameless, sin free, righteous, acceptable - not that we live that way all the time, our experience is often quite different at times, but at salvation, when we are placed into Christ, we gain everything that He is, He is the atonement on that brazen altar, He is the righteousness for us when we are unable to accomplish that for ourselves. We’re told in Isaiah that our righteousness (our acts of doing right) are as filthy rags to God, but Christ provides the righteousness we need to have a relationship with God. So we come in Jesus’ name. Titus 2, verses 11-14 tells us, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
I tried to figure out how to describe what takes place when one accepts the gift of salvation: The Greeks in biblical days diagrammed it by drawing a circle representing Christ, and placing a dot inside it that represents the person who is in Christ. Some of you have seen that diagram before from previous studies. A couple weeks ago the Lord gave me kind of another silly picture of it, which perhaps you can relate to more. Have you ever received or seen one of those gift balloons that are clear and you put a teddy bear or something inside the balloon? I thought, it’s kind of like that. Christ is the outer balloon, the protection for what’s inside, and because we have accepted the work that He did on the cross, dying in our place, we put on Christ. We are the teddy bear, inside that balloon, if you will.
Ladies, what happens to balloons when they are not sealed up? Everything comes out of them. And an empty balloon just doesn’t do much, does it? It just lays there, shriveled up. But the Lord God doesn’t let that happen, once we are in Christ He seals us in there by His Holy Spirit. And life is full, we can move as His breeze moves us. Did you know that the Spirit is referred to as the pneuma? It means wind.
In Biblical times a name was directly related to the character of a person, Jesus – Yeshua – means Savior, He was called Immanuel, God with us. Names were significant. And as I mentioned, names related people to other people, so when we come to the Father in Jesus’ name we are relating ourselves to the Father through the relationship that we have with Jesus, who is in relationship with the Father, as part of the Triune God. When I read Tit. 2:11-14 Did you catch all that GRACE SUPPLIED: Salvation available to all men, instruction on how to live godly, it provides a blessed hope of His return, redemption, purification, and change of ownership. We become His possession in Jesus Christ, and then in turn will be zealous for good deeds. When we belong to God, through accepting the work Jesus did for us, we’re sealed in Him by the Holy Spirit,
In the book of Ephesians in the New Testament we have a list ch. 1 of all the things we inherit by being in Christ, and then we have this in v.13 Eph 1:13 “ In Him (In Christ), you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, v 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
It is IN CHRIST that God’s grace is poured out, and it is in His name that we can approach a holy and perfect God. So the obvious question comes, are you in Christ? Do you belong to Him? If so, then you have been sealed In Him through the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit Our approach to the Father is in the name of Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit. Let’s take a look at what that means. In Titus 3:5 says, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."
Salvation begins when we recognize our need for a Savior, seeing the work that Jesus Christ did on our behalf and accepting His gift of mercy. When we do that we are sealed IN HIM by the Holy Spirit who does the work of regenerating and renewing us (that means it’s His job to change us as we live for God). The Holy Spirit has a big job to do! And He has been at work through this whole process. It is through the Holy Spirit that we sense that first inkling of conviction that we’re not who we should be, or what God wants us to be, He is the one that intercedes for us drawing us to see our sin and our need for someone to fix us! He is our prompter in prayer even, teaching us to pray as we should – As Charles Spurgeon says it, “He is our advocate before the Father battling out the legal ramifications of coming before the King & Judge– He gives His power so that our prayers may be heard. The work of the Holy Spirit is as a translator. He takes the words and thoughts and intentions of sinful man and translates them into something acceptable before a Holy God.” I’m so thankful for that.
There are some incredible things in this book (Bible). Take a look with me at Romans 8 - Paul is talking to the Jews about the difference between living under the Law, which no one could keep, and living in Christ. Rom 8:1 "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Again, there’s that term of ownership) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (There’s the work that He accomplished for us) 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (at least that’s the goal) v.5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, (I don’t know about you, but I want to choose life and peace) 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Who’s righteousness? Not ours, but Christ’s) v. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" (Abba Father is a term of endearment, a term of affection – and that is how we can address the Father when we come to Him in the name of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit) 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
When we are “born again” we are placed into Christ, and His Spirit is placed into us. He has given us His Spirit to help us live in His righteousness as we submit to His leading, His teaching, His direction in our life. As I said, God so longs to walk with us and communicate with us that He has provided His Son to bridge that gap, and His Spirit to maintain that fellowship. Were it not for the Holy Spirit relating our spirit to His our prayers would be nothing but words. Without belonging to Him, without being in Christ, sealed there by His Holy Spirit, we would not even be wired to have the connection to God to speak to Him. In Eph 6:18-20 we’re told, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints...’ We’re to be “in the Spirit." Just one chapter before that in Eph. 5:18 he told us that we shouldn’t be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but instead to be filled with the Spirit. We aren’t to be controlled by wine (or anything else for that matter) but rather we’re to be controlled by the Holy Spirit; so saturated with Him that He is the one leading us, controlling our behavior, our reactions, and putting us under His constant influence. And here’s the thing, the Spirit of God is not sent merely to guide and help our devotion, but we’re told He Himself "maketh intercession for us" according to the will of God.
We’re told that the Holy Spirit prays for us in Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;” Isn’t that a blessing to know? We don’t have to have the “right words” or be eloquent in speech in order to pray. His Spirit prays for us, intercedes on our behalf in ways that we could never approach the Father ourselves. I would venture to say that most of us have experienced situations in life where we could find no words to pray, we didn’t know what to pray, the situation that we found ourselves in was beyond words, and we can take heart in those times knowing that His Spirit interprets those wordless moments for us. When we are so distraught over a situation that we cannot find the words, His Spirit is still intervening on our behalf as we come to God, empty, wordless. He knows our heart, He is able to intercede on our behalf in ways we cannot do for ourselves. When those times come ladies, when we cannot find the words, seek Him, throw yourself humbly on the throne room floor, or fall into His arms with a heart that says nothing more than “I need You” and I promise you, His Spirit will be there to intercede on your behalf.
One of the interesting things about prayer is that we often assimilate it to a specific event, or time. When we hear of a need we say to that person, “I’ll pray for you” or we sit down to eat a meal and we pray a prayer of thanksgiving, we train our children to pray before going to bed. But God sees prayer as something much more than that. Prayer is a walk with Him, it’s a way of life, the very air we breathe should be in prayer with Him. In I THESS. 5:17 we’re commanded to Pray without ceasing.
On a Sunday afternoon, my granddaughter (who was then 7 yrs old) and I were collecting leaves, rocks, etc… on a little nature walk in my back yard. As we were walking along we were talking about church that morning, and this verse came up. I asked her if she knew what it meant to “pray without ceasing” and she said no, so I explained that God wants us to talk to Him all the time, not just when we eat, or when we go to bed. She stopped abruptly and looked up to ask, “You mean I can’t go to school or anything? I just have to sit and pray?” I said, “Natalie, we’ve been walking together and doing things like picking up rocks and leaves and talking about them the whole time, haven’t we? That’s what it’s like with God, He wants us to talk with Him all day long about everything that we’re seeing, and what we’re doing.” That put her little mind at ease and hopefully planted a concept of walking with God throughout her day.
Another facet of walking and talking with Him all day long, He makes us more alert and aware of the needs of others around us. I taught my children very early on to be aware of praying for others and one way was when we heard sirens or saw emergency vehicles going somewhere, we would pray right then for whoever it was that they were going to help. We prayed for the families, we prayed for the EMT. Those are prayers we’d never see answers to this side of heaven, but it made us aware of what God might be doing.
Again, He longs for us to walk together with Him in what He’s doing, prayer is one way that He lets us in on that. As we pray for others we become more mindful of how we might be used of God in that situation. We’re more mindful when He reveals Himself in the situation. Prayer is truly a sacred walk with Him. There’s also something else that happens as we are talking with Him throughout our day. He’s able to correct our thinking.
Bobby and I recently took a trip up through OR, WA, ID and MT. We saw lots of Living water on our trip, and experienced a lot of THE Living Water as well. About 2-3 weeks into our month long camping trip we were up above Libby, Montana, and taking a drive around Lake Kookanusa which spans between Montana and Canada. I am an avid photographer. I don’t always take great pictures but I take a lot of pictures of great things. My family has called me the paparazzi for years and I annoy them all with my picture taking, but my sweet hubby has gotten to where he has no problem waiting for me on every hike, or pulling over at any time that I suggested a great picture could be gotten. So you can imagine my shock and dismay when we came around a corner of this lake, and stretched out before me was such a beautiful sight. Lake Kookanusa is a brilliant blue color, and fairly steep mountains on each side of it, and down below us we could see all the way into Canada from this vantage. The green tree covered mountains surrounded this brilliant blue lake that stretched out and the sun was shining bright on a bridge that was in the middle of this section of water with Canada above and the US below. So try to picture this with me, there was a stretch of brilliant blue section of water, then this brilliant white bridge as the sun shone on it, with another section of brilliant blue water on the other side of the bridge. It was one of those choir-of-angels-singing moments. It was a magnificent view, and I said, Oh that would make a great picture! To which my hubby uncharacteristically ignored my comment and kept on driving. Apparently he and I, though traveling in the same vehicle, were not on the same planet at that time! So I said, “Hon, I missed that great shot of the bridge on the water” but still no reply. Wellllll, I was getting a little bit miffed by his lack of listening, understanding, and action! And I felt the Lord say, “Tammy, it was just a moment I gave for you, you don’t need a picture to remember it.” To which I replied, “But Lord, how hard would it have been for him to listen to me and pull over?” and the Lord said to my heart, “it was just a picture, you need to get over it.” But LORD!!!! But Tammy… And on and on the conversation in my head went. We went a couple more miles and Bobby pulled abruptly into a turnout and said, “there take the picture of the bridge.” We were now eye level with said bridge and that was not the picture I wanted. So I said, no, that’s okay, I don’t need a picture of the bridge, it was the view from the top looking down that was so pretty, not the bridge by itself.” So off he drove again, and on went my conversation with God, “What did he think I wanted a picture of that silly bridge for? It’s just like any other cement bridge, I don’t want the picture of the bridge…” Tammy, you need to stop being so childish and get your attitude right. BUT LORD!!! Then I had a thought, ah ha! We’re going to have to turn around to head back this way so I’ll just get it on my way back, and about that time Bobby says, “I think we’ll go across the bridge and travel back up on the other side since we haven’t seen that side.” GRRRr….. so much for that idea. Lord, this man!!! And the Lord said, um.. I think it’s you with the issue here. But LORD!!! But Tammy…
Now, all this time I think that I’m just quietly conversing with the Lord about my attitude, but apparently my hubby man could sense that something wasn’t quite right because as soon as we crossed the bridge and turned back up toward camp, he pulled the car over and said, "there, take a picture of YOUR bridge."
Hmmmmmph!!! Now I had somehow taken ownership of this stinking bridge! I again explained that it wasn’t the bridge so much as the way it shined so brightly white against the blues of the lake. So, we drove on again. We drove a couple more miles and he saw another turn out that had a better view of the bridge over the lake and pulled over, then said, “Get out and go take a picture of YOUR bridge.” By this time, I thought I was pretty much over my silly tantrum over the picture of the bridge, but Bobby wasn’t letting it go! (And neither was the Lord – when He wants to purge something out of you, He wants it out of you.) And I told Bobby, it was okay, I didn’t need the picture, it wasn’t that important, but he insisted I get out of the car and take the picture, so I thought FINE!!!! I’ll be the submissive wife and get out and take this stinking picture of this stinking bridge! (See? There wasn’t anything wrong with my attitude!)
So, I got out with camera in hand, stepped across the guardrail to stand on the edge looking down toward the bridge.
I could not believe my eyes, I kid you not… The Lord strategically placed the clouds in the sky to form a shadow directly over MY bridge until it was all but transparent! It was lost and so was my picture. And I knew I was receiving a little DD as my dad called it, a little Divine Discipline from my heavenly Father for there was no shadow this side of the bridge or on the other side of the bridge, it was only directly across the bridge, and the bridge just faded away. Gone.
I began to hysterically laugh there on the side of the road, bent in half laughing uncontrollably. The Lord is so good, He is so gracious to teach us with humor at times. And if you watch the video montage that plays before each of our session, toward the end of the video, if you look really closely you will see a picture of “MY Bridge” on Lake Kookanusa, and you’ll notice the shadow was precise, it was direct and so was the Lord’s speaking to my heart.
That’s what walking in communion with Him is like. It’s a life of constant abiding with Him, walking and talking with Him sharing in life as we would with any close friend. The great thing is this friend is ALWAYS with us. We belong to Him, and we travel together. So, pray without ceasing. Live life in constant connection with Him, there’s nothing like it. Remembering that we Pray to the Father, in the name of the Son, through His Holy Spirit.
And then we must Pray with Faith – A while back I came upon this passage in Psalm 5:3, and it speaks to that. It reads, “In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” Eagerly watch for what? For what God is going to do, of course. If I’m going to pray about something, I need to expect God to answer! He knows our needs before we ask, and He’s busy working things to the good of those who love Him are called according to His purpose. Never think that He is not on the job. We must believe He is who He said He is, capable of doing much more than we can imagine and comprehend.
Did you know God always answers prayer? Sometimes the answer is Yes, Sometimes it’s no, sometimes its wait, but he always answers prayer. God’s even good to discern between what our words are saying when we pray, and what our true desire is. And sometimes He gives us what we ask for, but it doesn’t produce the desired result in us. Other times He gives us what will produce the desired result but it comes in a totally different way than we asked for. Sometimes He says no to both the desire and the request.
Whatever He answers we must always TRUST that He is doing it for our best, as any good father would. James 1:6 tells us we must ask in “faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.” In the book of James we are taught that we shouldn’t be double-minded, saying we have faith but not living like it. When we pray with faith, we’re praying believing that God can do all things because we’re aware of who our God is and what He’s capable of. And there are certainly some guidelines in that. It breaks my heart to see articles as I read this past week of yet another child dying because parents chose to believe God would miraculously heal the child without the needed medical treatment. Ladies, God has blessed man with a mind that has been able to create and understand medications and treatments that will “heal” a person. Yes, God could have miraculously healed that boy. Yes, He is able. But I heard a pastor say one time, “Why ask God to do something that we have the ability to do ourselves?”
I have great faith that He could miraculously heal, why? Because I’ve seen Him do that before. But, does He miraculously heal all the time? No! Why? Was it a lack of faith on someone’s part? No, God’s ways are not our ways. God answers prayers in a myriad of ways. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the man who lived in an area being flooded, and before long he was having to crawl on top of his housetop to escape the rising waters, and he cried out to God, “Help, God save me!” And a little while later a man came by in a boat and told the man to get in, and the man said, no thanks, I have faith that my God is going to save me. So the boat drove on, and the water got deeper, and the man cried out again, “LORD SAVE ME!” And a helicopter came by and the man waved him away saying the Lord will save me, ….and the man drowned. When he got up to heaven he said, “Lord, I had faith that you would save me, what happened?” And the Lord answered, “I sent a boat and a helicopter, what more do you want?” Aren’t we like that sometimes? We have something we’re praying for and we believe God can do it, we have faith that He will, and yet, God does something else. You see, God has the bigger picture in view. He sees the end of all things before they begin, and God answers prayer for what is best for us SPIRITUALLY, not necessarily physically. The key is in acceptance of God’s will being done regardless.
Jesus the night before He went to the cross, pleaded with the Father if there be any other way, but yet, not My will but Thine be done. The Apostle Paul pleaded with God three different times to remove what he called “the thorn in his flesh” and the Lord chose not to remove it from him. That was not within God’s will, or apparently the best for Paul. Eventually Paul recognizes that it must be for a reason, and in 2 Corinthians 12:7 he writes, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself!”
I find that intriguing. He was given something, we’re not told what exactly but that it was a thorn in his flesh. Ever had a sticker? Or thorn? Aren’t they simply so annoying and distracting? Can’t think of much else but getting rid of it. Much like a chronic illness, or health issue, they can be all consuming and distracting in walking and serving God, don’t you think? The other night the Lord pointed this out to me when I couldn’t sleep because I was itching from head to toe. I scratched, I tossed, I turned, I couldn’t get rid of the itch. Finally got out of bed and paced in the living room. It was all consuming, to the point I didn’t pray about it because I was too busy scratching! And then nearing dawn I realized, if I was going to get any sleep, prayer was my answer.
The Lord was gracious and gave me a couple hours of sleep. Now why would I itch from head to toe? I assure you it wasn’t without purpose, because I woke up thinking, this is how distracted every woman must be that has some sort of chronic illness or deep sorrow in her life. It becomes all consuming, all about YOU and what’s happening to YOU. It becomes a distraction in serving the Lord, it becomes the excuse for not living up to the potential we could live in. Paul didn’t let it stay a distraction. He asked the Lord, in faith even, that the Lord could remove this “thorn” and when he felt God saying no, he moved on. You realize it didn’t go away, the thorn was still there, it was just Paul’s perspective that changed.
Perspective: It’s everything isn’t it? Why do you think that Jesus began His example of prayer, addressing it to the Father, and then attaching, “Hallowed be Thy name”? You see, when we address the Father, approaching Him in the knowledge of who He is, when we take time to praise Him for His character, it puts things into right perspective. He is God, we are not.
You may have heard the saying, Small god, Big Problems, Big God, small problems. It’s true. Every part of our life, every corner of our mind must be retrained to realize, He is God and we are not. Our perspective, when it places God in the sovereign position of authority to do with us as He will, brings peace and rest for us because we no longer have to worry about things working out. He’s got us covered. Having FAITH that He will only do what is best for us because that’s the kind of God He is, and that is what He has promised He will do. And if we’re going to “pray in the name of Jesus” our prayers should be aligned with His will. And if we are going to know His will it will require walking in fellowship with the Holy Spirit as our lead. It’s an all encompassing walk with God.
Praying to the Father, our Heavenly Hallowed Father, in the name of Jesus our Savior and High Priest, and in fellowship with His Holy Spirit, our Living Water, that He so graciously gave us so that we could enter a sacred secret place we call prayer.
It’s my privilege to share with you this morning, just a little bit of the greatest LOVE STORY ever told. A story with more intrigue and mystery than Romeo and Juliet, this story is like no other because this is a TRUE LOVE story… and it’s about YOU. And even though I may not know you, it’s okay, I know the Author of the story.
We certainly don’t have time this morning to cover the whole story, as it spans from Genesis to Revelation, but with Easter fast approaching, I’d like to take a look at those chapters of the love story that describe that very first Easter, for it was a pivotal part in the relationship where the Author writes the story in a way we could not have imagined, it’s hard to comprehend, and confusing to those who were directly involved, but this is the point in the story where He PROVES His great love for YOU.
If you’ve ever wondered does God really love ME, if you’ve ever had the thought, am I worth anything? Then listen to this:
A very familiar verse to most – “For God so loved the world (that would be YOU) that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
The Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans Ch. 5:8 God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while were STILL sinners Christ died for us.
You see, God doesn’t JUST love, HE IS LOVE acc. to 1 John 4:16
God is not only Love, but He is omniscient, meaning He knows all things, and knowing that man would sin, a plan was put in place that would make it possible for man to reconnect to Him, a plan to redeem us. You know about redeeming is right, with couponing all the rage surely you have redeemed a coupon for something to get a good deal on it? Well, forget extreme couponing, this is extreme redemption. Rom. 6:23 says the wages of sin is death, so to pay the cost of that sin, God made a plan, that plans name was Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t His first and only name though. John Ch. 1 tells us, In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,… and the Word became flesh and lived among us. But why? Because God, Who is perfect, Holy, and Righteous can have no part of sin, and since God desires a daily, minute by minute relationship you, He had to provide a way for that to be possible.
It’s certainly not possible on our own. We are all sinners acc. to Romans 3:23, and in Isaiah we’re told our righteousness, even the best RIGHT thing we can do, is like filthy rags in comparison to God’s righteousness, there’s no way that we can be good enough on our own, especially since the first word out of our mouths, and tell me if I’m wrong, the first words out of our mouths as a child is usually NO. We are by nature, sinful people, so God in His great love made a way.
In Gen. 3 He promised a Savior to come and make things right. One who would NEVER sin, although as a human He could have at any time.
Phil. 2:4-9 gives some insight into Jesus, Who was in the beginning, Who was with God, Who was God - It reads, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be held on to, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Crucifixion - One of the cruelest forms of death. For not only was it a death by which your hands and feet had stakes driven through them into the cross timbers, but then you are jarringly placed in the ground, to hang there, until your body could no longer hold yourself up and as you sunk down into the weight of your feet, the air was unable to gather in your lungs, and you died of asphyxiation. Crucifixion was a gruesome death to be sure. But Jesus, out of His great love for You, set aside His rights and privileges as God and came to die that very kind of death for You.
And that brings us to the story of Easter.
It was a dark night in the garden. It had been such a busy week, what with all the travel to come back to Jerusalem for the festivals, all the people so excited to see Him again, well, all except the Jewish leaders of course, He was just a little too imposing, not to mention a huge threat to their own power, for them to be excited. But what an entrance that He had made, and what a sight it must have been with Palm branches waving, people laying their garments on the road, and in He rode, surrounded by His entourage of followers, this man on a borrowed donkey. Excitement was running high for this Man, Jesus, to finally enter Jerusalem and become KING. The week flew by in a whirl with all the preparations for the two Sabbaths to take place on that special week of the year and the celebration of Passover arriving.
You know how that is, all the activity, sleeping in beds that are not your own, you don’t get a lot of rest. There have already been several days of this going on, and tonight had been so strange with all the talk of death, and betrayal. Jesus had even washed their feet, something was very strange indeed. After having shared supper with His men, Jesus says, let’s go to the garden. It was a familiar place to them as Jesus often went to the garden of Olives when they were in town.
With all that had been going on, I guess it’s no wonder that His men fell asleep in the garden, out under the stars, waiting for Jesus who was off to the side praying, but still, He had asked them to stay awake and to pray with Him. He seemed very different tonight, well truthfully, He always seemed different, but tonight, something was up. In fact, He seemed rather upset. Listen to Matthew’s account:
Mat 26:36 Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He *said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me." 39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." 40 And He *came to the disciples and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done." 43 Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He *came to the disciples and *said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 "Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!" 47 While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him." 49 Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" and kissed Him. 50 And Jesus said to him, "Friend, do what you have come for." Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus *said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. 53 "Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 "How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?"
Jesus knew from the beginning that this is the time that He had come for. He was there in the beginning with the Father when the plan was made, before He even created us. But now was the time. It was happening tonight. The betrayal of a friend, His arrest, The public display, The court proceedings, if that’s what you could call them, The beatings would begin, His followers would deny even knowing Him. Tonight was the beginning of the end as they knew it. And Jesus prayed. He prayed hard. But in the final analysis, He knew He would obey, He would stick to the original plan, out of His love… for you… It was a long night, a torturous night, all endured because of His great love for you. This was the only way, No one comes to the Father but through Jesus Christ.
It was in His great love that He went to the cross for you, and that He stayed on that cross. If we know anything about Jesus it is that He was God. He set aside those rights and privileges as God to come to earth but He could have taken up those powers at any time. He could have vanished and escaped as He had done on other occasions, He could have had them killed rather than He be the One on the cross. He could have called legions of angels to defend Him, and yet, He submitted to the plan, and as He hung on that cross you were on His mind. It was the only way to reconcile you to a holy and just God. The debt for our sin had to be paid, and HE was the only One able to write that payment for He alone was sinless.
2 Cor. 5:21 says, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
It was love that allowed those spikes to be driven into His hands and feet. It was love that kept Him from calling down angels from heaven to assist Him. It was love that held Him to the cross that day. It was love that would cause Him to make an even more magnificent show of His love than ever before seen. For as torturous as the physical betrayals, the beatings and mocking were, NOTHING was more torturous for our Savior than the moment as He hung there on that cross when the sky turned dark, and He cried out, Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani, which is a moment He Himself had never experienced before, it means, “My God, My God, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” For the very first time Jesus felt the weight of sin, and God not able to have any part of sin turned His back on Jesus.
Never before had He been separated from the Holy Spirit of God for even though He set aside his rights as God, God’s Spirit had been with Him every day, but then… at that moment the excruciating pain of separation took place, God’s Spirit was removed and all that Jesus felt was the grotesque weight of the sins of the world. That dear ladies, is love.
And then, the final words were uttered, “It is finished.” What blessed words those are, for the plan had been completed, the debt had been repaid, and Jesus says, “It is finished.”
Of course, in hindsight we know the story wasn’t finished, just that chapter. Sunday was coming! And we see the glorious resurrection of the Savior. Not only raised from the dead, but taking the sting of death away because it would no longer have power over men. Now eternal life was made sure through our Lord Jesus Christ. What was promised in the garden of Eden, foretold through OT prophets, was all fulfilled. It is finished indeed, but not over for us here, now we await His return.
Jesus promised (and I think He’s proven He’s pretty good about keeping His word) that if He went away, He would come again. And in the meantime He said He’ll send His Spirit to help us live in this world. We see it in John 14:16-21 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. 18 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 "After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 "In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him."
That’s His love for us: He not only died on the cross for us, not only bore the shame of our sins causing separation from God in that moment, but promises His Spirit to help us until He comes again for us.
You may be thinking, well He’s certainly taking His time in coming back, it’s been over 2000 yrs. and yes, He is taking His time. II Pet tells us, He’s not slow about His promises but He is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. Is He waiting for you? For your loved ones? He is not slow, He is patient. And He will come again. As sure as He fulfilled the prophecies before, He will come again.
In the meantime, relish in His great love for you. John 15:13 tells us “Greater love has no one than this, that they would lay down their life for a friend My question to you is: Are you His friend? V. 14 says, “you are My friend if you do what I have commanded you.” So, are you His friend?
We’re told to abide in His love, to let the love of Christ control us.
Let me leave you with one more thing about God’s love. If we are His, if we have accepted that gift of what Christ did on the cross for us, if we have accepted His love and are living in Him, then we can know this… there is nothing we can do, there is nothing that can happen to us that can separate us from the love of God.
The words in Romans 8:38-39 become words of encouragement to us and you never have to doubt His love again. Rom 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There are bookmarks for each of you as a reminder of that fact. I hope you know that to be true, that you are convinced a little more each day that nothing can separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As you continue to look toward Easter I hope you will be bold to teach your children of Jesus great love, to be bold in living for Him. Follow His example and be loving to others especially when they don’t deserve it. Be sensible and choose Jesus for yourself, living for Him and modeling that for your children so that they too, learn of the great love story of Jesus.
If you’ve never accepted that gift that Jesus bought for you on Easter long ago, now is a good time to do that. With our heads bowed and eyes closed so that we are not distracted, would you even in the quietness of your own heart accept Him now. There are no special words you have to recite, God knows your heart, you could just admit to Him that you are a sinner and that you need a Savior, and you believe that Jesus paid the price for your sins so that you could have a relationship with Him. Tell Him now that you choose to live for Him because He died for you.
For those of you who are already Christians, are you living as His friend? He said, you are My friend if you do what I command. Are you walking with Him, making choices that would please Him, obeying His commands? If not, then now is the time to confess that sin in your life to Him so that His Spirit can have rule over your choices.
With heads bowed and eyes closed still, I’m going to ask you if you made a commitment to accept God’s love today, would you just slip up your hand so that I can continue to pray for you over the next days. For those who made a commitment today, please share that with the others at your table so that they too can pray for you.
Father God, thank You so much for making a way for us to have a relationship with You. Thank You for Your great love that sent a Savior to die in our place. Lord God, as we leave this place, help us to live for you, to walk boldly, lovingly and sensibly in faith with You. I pray this in Jesus’ name, and in gratefulness for His sacrificial love for us. Amen.