Count Your Blessing

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Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
3 Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! (Psalm 105:1-3)

Are you thankful to God…I mean every day? Not just when things are going well or that there are no difficulties in your life…but every day.

You might be thinking, “How can I be thankful to God every day when there are some days I am sick or there is a struggle in my family or I have financial problems or there is so much chaos around the world?”

Let’s start with this then….everyday “Get down on your knees and thank God you’re still on your feet.”

Notice that the writer of Psalm 105 was David. He did not have an easy life. He wasn’t wealthy, he had a lot of enemies he was always running from, he was a shepherd – one of the lowliest positions there was. Often times he was lonely and hurting. But David didn’t sit around and complain…

He counted his blessing. I didn’t say blessings, I said blessing. You see, if you have God in your life, that is the only blessing you will ever need. God was enough for David. God was bigger than David’s pain, bigger than his problems, bigger than his loneliness. David didn’t have much money, he didn’t have fame, he didn’t have an easy life…but to David God was bigger than all of that. God was everything he needed.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” ~ Frederick Keonig

What do YOU have? Do you have God? Then you have everything. Because when we die we can’t take anything with us – our money, our car, our job, our house…that will all be left behind. Those are temporary blessings. The one blessing that is eternal is God Himself.

So, David says, “call upon His name.” Everyday, no matter what, pray to Him and thank Him. Let everyone around you know that the reason you can be so calm and joyful in every circumstance is because God is so good to you. Sing to Him. Talk about all the good things He has done in your life. Think about Him. Everyday, count your blessing. God will never leave you. Others might. God will never hurt you. Others might. He is always there, ready to answer your prayer, ready to comfort you, ready to break into your day.

Are you waiting to be happy someday when you get the perfect job or perfect wife or husband or perfect car or perfect house or have perfect health? You will never be happy. God is the only One who can satisfy, the only One who can fill that hole in your heart. God is the only One we can constantly thank no matter what because He created us and He loves us unconditionally.

Seeking God, living for God, and Thanking God – that is true happiness.

Count your blessing!

10 Signs that I belong to God

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Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?? (2 Cor. 13:5)

1. I feel convicted when I sin so I repent and feel sorry that I grieved Him

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:6)

2. He disciplines me and I respond to His correction, even if it sometimes takes a while!

If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. (Heb. 12:8)

3. I make it a practice to obey His commandments, though I am a work in progress.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6)

4. I abide in His word (want to know His will, pray about things, and follow what He says to me as I understand his will) as a normal course of life.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:14, 27)

5. I bear fruit for Him

“When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:8 NLT)

6. I deny myself, pick up my cross, and follow Him

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24 NLT)

7. I love Him more than I love the world

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (1 John 2:15)

8. I love my brother

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)

9. I forgive others and hold no grudges

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (John 6:14-15)

10. I love my enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (John 5:43-45)

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all the signs of salvation, but a summary. Nor is this meant to be a laundry list of works one can do to be saved or stay saved. We are saved by grace through faith, not of ourselves, it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8). They are “signs” that one IS saved. In other words, when one is saved by Christ, these signs come forth in their life. That doesn’t mean that all these signs always appear at once or we always walk in them, but that one desires to grow in them and as a result of God working in our hearts they do increase in us. Others will be able to look at our lives and see the “signs” of Christianity working in us.

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Tim. 4:15)

What’s important to note is that these “signs” come forth because Christ is in us and working in us. These “signs” show forth the work of His Spirit in us. So, they come forth as we allow Him to work through us. It’s the Spirit of God producing the fruit of our salvation in us. Our role is to be obedient and cooperate and be led by the Spirit of God.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)

May these “signs” of Christ’s life in you abound more and more as you depend upon Him and persevere in His will.

Thus I Fight

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Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:26-27)

We, as Christians, are all surely in a fight for our faith and for the faith of others. This fight has to do with whether or not we will continue to be witnesses of character and virtue that will be above reproach. Our example matters. Think of the acronyms that Paul uses for this. We are in a “race” and are all running to win the prize.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

There is a crown on the line for each one of us. Whether or not we earn this crown and get to wear it for all of eternity will depend on how we ran the race of life. Did we run the race to just finish, barely squeaking by, or did we run full bore with passion and perseverance in an all-out effort win it? The only way to win the race is to remain temperate and self-controlled in our daily life. We are called not just to preach the Word but to live the Word, for if we preach the Word and not live the very thing we preach we will not find ourselves at the head of the pack when we cross the tape.

You, therefore, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? (Rom. 2:21)

I do not fight as one who “beats the air.” I am not looking to miss the mark. What’s the point of putting on the gloves and fighting if I am not hitting my target? My target must be to practice what I preach. That will truly be the winning move in the race and boxing match of life. Then I am competing according to the rules.

Are these analogies meant to make us feel burdened and weighed down by commandments we can never achieve? No, of course not. We just need to “get in the game” and “put on the gloves” and God’s grace will win the battle. The battle belongs to the Lord (2 Chr. 20:15). He is just looking for your willingness to step into the ring and give it your best. Put on the gloves and never stop training. After all, it truly and surely is “a good fight”!

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

What Is God Like?

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He will forgive and give eternal life to those who put their faith and trust in His Son, Jesus Christ (John 2:36; 3:16-18)

He will judge and reject those who reject His Son, Jesus Christ (John 2:36; 3:18)

He will forgive us only if we forgive others (Matthew 6:15)

He wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9)

He takes no delight in the death of anyone (Ezekiel 18:23)

He wants everyone to experience life to the full, the “abundant life” (John 10:10)

He is kind to the unthankful and wicked (Luke 6:35)

He will not allow those that do wrong to go unpunished (Exodus 34:7)

He is a consuming and devouring fire to those who continue to rebel against Him (Heb. 12:29)

He gives second chances (Micah 7:18)

He is slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 86:15)

He hates evil but loves good (Psalm 97:10)

He is holy and righteous in every way so He commands us to be the same way (1 Peter 1:16)

He doesn’t look at our physical characteristics or appearance, he looks at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7)

He will move the heavens to help us (Deuteronomy 33:26)

He wants to be close to us, but requires us to make the first move (James 4:8)

He hears us when we cry (Psalm 34:17)

He cannot lie, He is altogether honest and truthful at all times (Hebrews 6:18)

He has a special place in His heart for widows and orphans (Deuteronomy 10:18)

He does not willingly hurt people or cause them sorrow (Lamentations 3:33)

He is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6)

He cannot be tempted nor does He ever tempt us (James 1:13)

He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle but will provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13)

He gives wisdom to those who ask in faith without any doubting (James 1:5)

He cares about the birds of the air, how much more does He care about you? (Matthew 6:26)

He won’t let even a sparrow fall to the ground without His approval (Matthew 10:29)

He knows you so well that He has numbered all the hairs on your head (Luke 12:7)

He wants us to cast all of our cares upon Him so He can lift our burdens (Psalm 68:19; 1 Peter 5:7)

He is close to the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147:3)

He is pleased when you believe He will reward you when you diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6)

He will not answer our prayer if we have selfish motives in our heart (James 4:3)

He will answer our prayers speedily but according to His own will which is always best for us (1 John 5:14)

Let His Light Lead You On

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Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Jesus is the light of the world, but many people are being blinded from seeing this light.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:3-6)

We all know there is a God because His reality is clearly seen through the universe He created, so nobody has an excuse before God for not believing in Him. I call this “The Light of Creation.”

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21)

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19:1-6)

Deep inside we know we are sinners and when we sin we experience guilt which is a divinely implanted mechanism to lead us back to God. We can suppress it and try to shut it down or respond to it and reach out to God. I call this “The Light of Conscience.”

for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. (Romans 2:14-16)

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)

The result of not thanking God and giving Him glory for what He alone has done leads to hardened and darkened hearts. We can either be self-seeking leading to God’s wrath or God seeking leading to eternal life.

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:4011)

But many people suppress the truth and reality of God because they want to rule their own lives and not be accountable to God. They love the darkness more than the light. So God’s wrath against them is justified.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:18-21)

Those that want to do good and know they are sinners and need to be saved from their sins come to the light (who is Christ) but those who justify their sin and deny God and the need for a savior remain in the darkness.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16)

Those that genuinely seek and search for God because they respond to the light that they have (The Light of Creation and the Light of Conscience) and cry out for understanding of His way, will be given more light.

3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverb 2:1-6)

It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. (John 6:45)

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7)

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deut. 4:29)

For this reason He says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine [as dawn] upon you and give you light.” (Eph. 5:14)

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never turn away.” (John 6:37)

The Light of Creation and the Light of Conscience are there to lead us to the Light of Christ.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)


Grace is God’s Solution

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Ever since Eve was deceived and Adam sinned man has gone his own way. First, God wiped out all mankind except Noah and his family because “every intention of the thoughts of his heart were continually evil” (Gen. 6:5). God gave us a second chance because he found Noah, a preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5). When the Israelites were in the wilderness during the time of the Exodus, their rebellion and sin against God reached such an extreme level that God was compelled to reveal their wicked hearts to them and lay down the consequences of their actions. He was fed up…again.

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. (Rom. 5:20 NLT)

The law came in so sin could increase. Then we could all see how sinful we really were. It showed sin for what it really was and showed us who we really were deep down inside. Now there was a standard of conduct to measure ourselves against. We were weighed in the balance and found wanting (i.e. Dan. 5:27). But this also showed us that God’s grace is always able to cover our sins, no matter how sinful we are.

God did that, then He brought an end to the law. Once we realized that we are sinners in need of grace, He then gave us the Grace Giver. “The Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

What is Paul saying? “Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.” In other words, no matter how wicked we were all behaving, the sacrifice of Christ is able to cover it all. There is no depth of sin, level of depravity, or darkened past that His grace cannot reach. His solution was Grace. Period.

And all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:24)

The answer is to come under God’s grace. If we do, then our sin is no longer counted against us because His grace covers all sin.

For sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. (Rom. 5:13)

Where there is no law sin is not counted against us! For Christ is the end of the Law, in order to bring righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom. 10:4)

And how do we come under grace? Through faith in the Grace Giver!

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph, 2:8-9)

Our works have nothing to do with it. Grace is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. Just believe and receive the gift!

If you are under grace you are not under the law.

Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under thefreedom of God’s grace. (Rom. 6:14 NLT)

The wage you owe for your sin was already paid for. The wages of sin is death and Jesus died for your sins.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)

So, does that mean that since we are no longer under the law but under grace that we can sin all we want and it doesn’t matter? That all depends. Do you want to be a slave to what destroys you or a servant of the Grace Giver which brings an abundant and fruitful life?

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:15-16)

Grace is God’s solution. God’s Righteousness At Christ’s Expense

Can A Man Please God?

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But my righteous one will live by faith and I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back
.” (Rom. 9:13 NIV)

How can a man please God? That sounds like a very important question.  Those of us who love God and are so thankful for what He has done for us really want to know.  So, here in the Book of Hebrews we have found our answer.  If we belong to God and are those who have been made righteous by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we must live by faith.  Then He will be pleased with us. But what is faith and how do I live by it?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb. 11:1 NIV)

Faith is really believing that what God says is true and being so convinced and dedicated to this truth that it will show forth in our daily actions.  It is having such a conviction that God’s truth is the only truth and that His promises about how I can be saved, how I can fulfill my purpose, and how I can be assured of my future are so real, that I live right now like it is already a done deal.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb. 11:6)

Not only is faith important when it comes to pleasing God, it is critically necessary.  In fact, without faith it is impossible to please God.  Faith begins with believing God exists and that belief then results in my conviction that He is willing and able to do what He has promised in His Word.

God isn’t a man that he would lie, or a human being that he would change his mind.  Has he ever spoken and not done it, or promised and not fulfilled it? (Num. 23:19 CEB)

The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.” (Isa. 14:24)

The kind of faith we are talking about here involves trust at the highest level.  The father of our faith, Abraham, is seen as one who had this kind of faith.  He believed God and in the promises God made to him in such a sure and unshakable way that He could trust God in spite of how things looked or felt in the natural.  He EMBRACED the promise of God that His son Isaac would be the seed of many nations.  He knew that Isaac would have to live long enough to have children so the promise could continue.  So when God commanded him to sacrifice his precious son, his faith was proven true.

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. (Heb. 11:17-19 NIV)

What can we conclude? That we please God by our faith. That faith is having confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  And that our faith will cause us to trust in God and in His promises because we know HE is faithful.  And that faith is shown true in our daily decisions to obey God and do things His way because HE is trustworthy in all that He says and does.  Can a man please God? You bet he can.

So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. (2 Cor. 5:9 NIV)

Does God Love Some People and Hate Others?

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As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Rom. 9:13)

Jesus tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him may never perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  Peter tells us that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).  And Paul tells us that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4).   It sounds to me like God loves everyone.  However, to be clear, He hates all evil deeds and actions of people.  In other words, God always loves the person (because He wants him or her to be saved and not destroyed) but hates the sin that person commits.  God does not delight in the death of anyone: “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God (Ezek. 18:32).

So then, what about the passage about God “hating” Esau? We know that Esau despised his birthright and had no regard for God while his brother Jacob responded to God’s voice and desired to follow Him.  Paul tells us that before Esau and Jacob were born that God chose Jacob and rejected Esau.

And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” (Rom. 9:10-13)

Some feel bad for Esau and say “that isn’t fair,” as if Paul is somehow saying that God predetermined one for evil and one for good and they had no free choice in the matter.  But the context of that passage is concerning Israel and the Gentiles and God’s willingness to save anyone who comes to Him by faith in Jesus Christ.  The very lesson there is that God calls us based on our faith and obedience to the gospel and not based on our lineage or the works of the law.  Here is how the chapter ends:

Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Rom. 9:33).

Like Esau, everyone has the choice to stumble over the truth and reject God or like Jacob, to choose to put their faith in God and His promises.  Let’s understand that God is love and as such He desires to demonstrate His love and kindness to everyone.  He did not desire that Esau would be godless and reject Him, but since God has perfect foreknowledge of the future, He knew the choices that both Jacob and Esau would make.  He knew that Esau would choose to reject Him and that Jacob would choose to accept and follow Him.  So, since Esau chose by free will to reject God, God then rejected Esau.  If we deny him, he also will deny us (2 Tim. 2:12).  But if Esau would have repented and chosen to follow God, he would have then been accepted by God.  “Return to Me,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I may return to you” (Zech. 1:3).  So, God favored Jacob over Esau not by some arbitrary, random choice, but because Jacob responded to God’s grace and Esau did not.  The best way to understand this passage then, is to say that God chose Jacob and rejected Esau.  He favored Jacob.  He loved the fact that Jacob chose to follow Him and bring Him glory but hated the fact that Esau rejected Him and treated the things of God so cheaply.

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Heb. 12:14-17)

How can I verify or confirm this interpretation? Well, Jesus says that unless we “hate” our mother, father, wife, and children we cannot be His disciples (see Luke 14:26).  Yet, Jesus tells us to love one another and that to treat each other as we want to be treated sums up all the Law and the Prophets.  Loving God and loving others are the greatest commandments.  We are never to hate anyone.  In fact, we are even to love our enemies because God does too!

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. (Luke 6:35-36)

So, what does Jesus mean by “hate”?  Simply, we are to love Jesus more than anyone else.  We are to obey Him and follow Him, even if that means that family members or friends will leave, reject, mistreat, or not respect us because of our faith in Christ.

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’  37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matt. 10:34-40)

But that doesn’t mean Jesus is asking us to stop loving our families!  It means to love Jesus first and put Him above everyone else.  We can then conclude that God favored Jacob above Esau, as we should favor Jesus above all others.

So, does God love some and hate others? No. He loves everyone.  But He favors those who love Him and follow Him and even calls them His own children!

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. (1 John 3:2)

Those that do not know God and have rejected Him are not favored by Him, but if they repent and believe in Christ and follow Him as their Lord and Savior, they too can become favored.  Praise God for His kindness!

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

The Type of Faith That Saves

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We know that we are saved by the grace of God through our faith in Christ Jesus alone and in His finished work (Eph. 2:8-9).  Our good works can never save us, only faith in the One who obeyed God perfectly can.  By the works of the law we understand that no one will be justified in God’s sight (Rom. 3:20).  The question then, is what type of faith saves someone? What is true faith in Christ? James tells us that the type of faith that saves is the type that has good deeds or actions as its fruit and evidence.  He tells us that faith that is by itself (just a mental ascent or agreement that “I believe in Christ”), without the accompanying deeds of love and obedience, is “dead” or not a saving faith.  In other words, when we really believe in Christ we are transformed and become people of good works.  In fact, this is how we are recognized as Christians.  I can say that I have faith, but I can show you that I have faith by my good works.  Good works are the evidence of true faith.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. (James 2:14-24)

“A person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone”:

By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. (Heb. 11:4)

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. (Heb. 11:7)

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Heb. 11:8)

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. (Heb. 11:17)

 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. (Heb. 11:24-25)

 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. (Heb. 11:20)

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Heb. 11:31)

Faith is always tied to obedience.  True faith is proven by obedience:

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Heb. 11:16-19)

We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-24)

When we repent and confess our sins, God forgives us and cleanses us and forgets our sin (1 John 1:9).  On the other hand, we can’t rely on the things of our past to keep us in good standing with God.  He demands that we continue to walk in righteousness.  The picture here is how the Israelites’ could not rely on yesterday’s manna.  It would rot.  Only their “daily bread” or the “fresh manna’ was edible.

“But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.

25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 26 If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. 27 But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. 28 Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. 29 Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?

30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezek. 18:24-32)

So, the type of faith that saves is demonstrated by the fruit of good works in our lives.  We may have periods of being “fruitless” but because our faith is genuine and the seed of the gospel in us produces godly fruit, the pattern of fruit bearing will continue to be evident throughout our Christian walk.

We can’t rely on yesterdays harvest!

But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest
’ ” (Heb. 3:6-11)

What is the State of a Christian’s Heart?

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We know from Scripture that the heart of man is basically wicked and that we are not to trust in the human heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?…“Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord.  (Jer. 17:9, 5, 7)

On the other hand, when we are born again and are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we receive a new nature:  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17).

So, how should we view the heart of a Christian? Is it no longer wicked because we are new creation and the old things have passed away? Can we trust our own hearts as Christians now?

To answer this, we must understand our “dual natures” as Christians.  On one hand, we are saved, reborn, regenerated, renewed.  This “new nature” or “new man” is made in the image of Christ: since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (Col. 3:9-10)

Yet, the “sinful nature” or “old nature” remains as part of us:   For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish (Gal. 5:17).

Where does this leave us? First, we must understand that the state of our heart as a Christian will be where we choose it to be – according to which nature we allow to be in operation at the moment.  For example, two Christians named Ananias and Sapphira chose to allow Satan to fill their hearts by their choice to be dishonest to the Holy Spirit:

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)

In other words, these two Christians chose to operate in the sinful nature and not the new nature.  They were not controlled by the Holy Spirit but controlled by their own sinful impulses.  They allowed their sinful nature to have its way and fell into the sins of greed and deception.  Jesus teaches us that it is out of the heart of man that evil proceeds:

“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:18)

So then, nothing has changed for us in this respect as Christians: When we sin, it begins as something we have conceived in our hearts and then it turns into evil actions.  Our hearts are still capable of wickedness because we have a sinful nature.  So, when we have conceived evil in our hearts and then sinned because of it, we show that we have allowed our sinful nature to grab hold of our hearts and have its way.  On the other hand, because we are born again and the Spirit of God now lives in us as Christians, we can choose with His assistance to operate in our new nature and allow our hearts to be controlled by the Spirit of God.  When we do this, our hearts will lead us to think and do good and not evil.  This, again, is our choice as Christians:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16)

So, when we set our minds on God and the things of God and truly live in a way in which we desire our hearts to line up with His heart (our will with His will, our plans with His plans, our ways with His ways), our hearts will produce the fruit of the Spirit because we will be operating in our new nature and the Spirit of God who lives in us will be allowed to rule in our hearts:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace…So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Rom. 8:5, 6, 8)

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children…For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. (Eph. 5:1, 9-10)

So, what is the state of the Christian heart? Before we were Christians, our hearts were controlled by evil and we served ourselves.  Now, we have been set free to choose to do good.  As we walk in the Spirit and abide in Christ, our hearts will be in the light and Christ will shine through us.  But if we operate in the sinful nature by giving into temptation and allowing the flesh to dominate, evil will shine through us.  Our hearts can be used for wickedness or for God’s glory.  The choice is ours.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)