Overcoming Temptation

1 Corinthians 10:12-13(NIV): 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

We all face many different kinds of temptations. For the Christian, it can be very discouraging when we attempt to overcome our temptations, usually through our own power, and then give into those temptations. We must understand that all believers struggle with temptations of some type. Holy Scripture reminds us that in times of testing we must turn away from the evil one and turn to the Lord. Being overconfident in our own power is something that we should constantly be on guard against. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

When faced with temptation, the believer must stand firm and look to God for help in overcoming the temptation, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Look for the way out of your temptation and actively pray for God to deliver you from away from the influence of the evil one, who is only seeking to destroy. When you call upon and invoke God’s name, the power and influence of the evil one will greatly diminish and he will flee when you seek God’s power over your own.

1 Peter 5:8-10 (NIV): 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

This passage form 1 Peter should get the attention of every believer. Our enemy – the devil – is actively looking to “devour” you as a follower of Christ. Peter wants us to understand that we must be always be alert and cautious, because the evil one is just waiting to wreak havoc in the lives of believers. We are called upon to “resist” him and to stand “firm in the faith.” Our responsibility as Christians is to always be on guard against the schemes of the evil one and to actively resist all types of temptations that we encounter.

For those of us in ministry, we are often faced with the temptation to become overconfident in our own power, instead of giving all of the glory back to God for what we are able to accomplish. Over the past month, I have been given praise for teaching or for a service that I conducted, and each time I always say to that person, that apart from God, I can do nothing. It is the power of God resting on me and working through me that enables me to accomplish anything in ministry. I am always very careful to give all of the glory back to God. God’s power and glory is always shown to be greater when he accomplishes his will through unexceptional and ordinary people.

James 4:7-8a: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.

It is impossible to defeat Satan while relying on our own power. Only by turning to and invoking the name of God and our Savior Jesus Christ, can we defeat the enemy. Satan is powerless when we declare ourselves under the protection of God and our Lord and Savior. The next time you are faced with a temptation, follow the advice of scripture: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Heaven rejoices each time we say no to evil and turn to God and allow His incredible and unsurpassed power to lead us into the light of life eternal. Live not as children of the dark, but as children of light. “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Thank you God for your awesome power over evil and the darkness of this world. Give us your grace to be a light to this fallen world.

Giving Praise to God

As I was reading up on my study of the book of Exodus this morning, I came across this from the Billy Graham website that I found especially timely.

“Five things will help position us to hear from the Lord. First, pray. Talk to the Lord. Have a conversation with Him. Second, affirm His greatness. God wants us to praise His name. Jesus taught us to do this upfront when He said: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). Third, release any and all personal opinions and pet peeves about what you have and what you may think about this subject (idols). Tell the Lord Jesus you are letting go of anything and anyone other than God. Fourth, listen! We are surrounded and constantly accompanied by a cacophony of sound and distraction so that it is increasingly difficult to listen to God. Whatever it is, turn it off. Lay it down. Stop and listen, because the Lord will speak to you from the mountain. Remember, the Ten Commandments are God’s invitation to come up to where He is, rather than to go down to where man is. Finally, determine to obey. Make the decision to submit to all the Lord says, and you will be blessed indeed.” https://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/march-2013/you-shall-not-make-for-yourself-any-graven-image/

The article also states: “Despite our blessings, we have become an increasingly idolatrous people. God cannot be pleased. We worship so many of our blessings instead of simply thanking God for them and enjoying them. We worship sport, celebrities, clothes, money, church buildings, politics, positions, abilities and capabilities. Idolatry is the worship of anything or anyone other than God.”

God deserves our worship and praise and He is certainly pleased when we do so with our focus completely upon him. We sang the song “Hosanna” during our worship service on Sunday and I have been listening to it all week. I hope that you are blessed by listening to this beautiful song that glorifies God.

 

Heavenly Citizenship

Philippians 3:17-21: “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live accordingly to the pattern we gave you.  For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

The following is a post from several years ago but with new readers, I wanted to share it again, as it fits so well with this passage from Philippians. As Christians, our ultimate goal is to be a citizen of heaven, however, you are already a citizen of heaven if you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior. As followers of Christ, we should be encouraged to live out our life here on earth with the constant mindset that we are citizens of heaven.

My grandfather, Cleve Simmons, was a deacon in his church, he was a farmer, and he was a good Christian man.  I spent a lot of time with him as I was growing up – and he always had many stories about his life to share with me.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, these stories taught me many valuable life lessons that help to guide me even today.  My grandfather was wise in the way that you should live your life in order to please God.

He had so much wisdom that he would pass on to me throughout my teen years.  He believed and had a deep faith in God, and he did not doubt for a second, that God was with him each and every day of his life. He believed in treating other people fairly, helping out those in need, and loving his neighbors as well as his family.  That was the kind of life that he tried to live out in his small farming community in Banks County.

My grandfather lived all of his 89 years in his beloved Banks County.  In fact, he rarely traveled outside of the state of Georgia.  Whenever I would ask him to take a day trip with us to Atlanta or to go on a short vacation with us he would always answer me the same way, he would say, “Son – I haven’t lost anything there – so there’s no need for me to go.”  He was a citizen of Banks County and the United States and he was proud of that.  But more importantly, he knew that he was a citizen of another place, a place that he couldn’t see but he knew that it existed.  He was also a citizen of heaven and that was one journey that he looked forward to.

He and I talked a lot about heaven.  He would tell me what he imagined heaven to be like and how he would be glad to see his parents and his brothers again as well as his son who had passed away from cancer at the young age of 39.  He was dedicated to living a good Christian life while here on earth and showing kindness and offering help to those less fortunate.

The book of Hebrews tells us, “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.” And it is that promise of our future home that should help us become better people here on this earth.

I was with my grandfather on the night that he passed away and left this earth. He would be conscious one minute and then he would drift out on us the next.

When I walked into his hospital room that night, he opened his eyes and said “Hey son, it’s good to see you.”  He would continue to be in this world for a few minutes and then he would have visions of heaven which he would describe out loud to those of us present.  I knew that he was about to experience that beautiful heaven that he and I had so often talked about and wondered about.

He saw his brothers and he called them by name.  And then he drifted out on us again.   I have often wondered about his arrival in heaven and who was there to greet him among his family that had gone on before him.  I often wonder who was in his welcoming committee in heaven.

His last words to me were, “Son, it’s good to see you”, and I imagine that when he arrived in heaven he was also told, “Son, it’s good to see you, welcome home to the place that I have prepared for you, for eternity.

 

God – Our Comforter and Sustainer

This morning, if you are tired, weary, restless, or you have a fear of something new or unknown, take comfort in these words of scripture:

Psalm 56:3-4: When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (NIV)

Psalm 62 5-6: Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (NIV)

If you feel helpless, weak, or all alone, find reassurance from these words of scripture:

Psalm 55:22: Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. (NIV)

Psalm 63:7-8: Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (NIV)

If you know God, but you struggle through life, wondering if God is paying attention to your needs, perhaps asking yourself, “Does God really care about me?” If you are struggling with these questions this morning, find contentment in these words of scripture:

Psalm 61:1-2: Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (NIV)

Psalm 62:11-12: One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done. (NIV)

If you are seeking the things of this world instead of God, take notice of the words from this psalm of David:

Psalm 63:1: O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (NIV)

If you have felt God’s love and presence in your life, rejoice in this word of scripture:

Psalm 63:3-4: Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. (NIV)

If you believe that God is still in charge and is ruler of both heaven and earth, then open your heart to these psalms of praise:

Psalm 66:1-4: Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name. (NIV)

Psalm 67: 1-4: May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. (NIV)

 

Jesus, I Adore You!

Philippians 2:12-16(NASB): 12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

The Apostle Paul penned these words long ago to the early church at Philippi. These early believers were living among many lost souls who did not know about the love of Christ. The church at Philippi was one of Paul’s greatest church plants. The brothers and sisters there quickly embraced and lived out the Gospel of Christ. Paul was so proud of how this church, in his absence, continued to “appear as lights in the world” or in the NIV text, “stars in the sky.” Paul was encouraging them to preach the Gospel in the way they lived out their everyday life of faith in the midst of unbelievers.

This message is relevant and crucial for those of us who are followers of Christ today. Many people in our world today are moving farther away from a personal relationship with Christ. Their minds and desires are firmly set on earthly things. Their god and their idols are found in the possessions and the things of this world. They are only concerned with living in the moment and do not give a thought about what their future holds. As followers of Christ, we are to be an example of how to live a life dedicated to our Risen Lord and Savior. We are called to present an alternative of how the unbelieving world lives – we are to “appear as lights in the world.”

We must not give into the many desires and pleasures of this world. Our duty as Christ followers is to appear different from those in our society who think only of themselves and the many pleasures and material possessions of this world. As believers, we know that our reward will be found, not on this earth, but in heaven. We are different because we follow the one who paid the price for us on the cross at Calvary. Because of the love that Christ had for me and for you, we should at all times “adore” Christ and follow him. By belief in Christ and through the all-encompassing love of Christ, we have been set free from a life of sin and death. As followers of Christ, we can proclaim with all the saints, “I will bless your holy name – Lamb of God – my savior, prince of peace – I adore you! Jesus you mean all the world to me!”

So this week in your daily walk with God – try to be different! Strive to “appear as lights in the world” and let your life be a witness to a lost and unbelieving world. Allow them to see Christ in you!

 

Having The Mindset Of Christ

Philippians 2:5-11 (NASB):

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

 In our relationships with others, we are to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Stop and think about that for just a moment. If, in our relationships with other people, we treated them as Christ would, think about how much better this world would be. Of course, that would require more humility and a mindset to put the needs of others before our own needs. We would need to have greater compassion for our fellow man and we would need to listen and truly feel empathy towards others. We would have to put others first and ourselves last. Sounds like a difficult task, right?

Well, it’s not if we are followers of Christ and have the same mindset of Christ. Think about what Jesus did during his earthly ministry. Did he dine with kings in palaces or did he meet people where they were in life, as they struggled with their day to day existence and faith? Jesus spent time eating, listening to and talking with “sinners,” and all those that society had forgotten or pushed aside.

Our scripture passage today reminds us that “he (Christ) made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” And that is our calling today as followers of Christ – to take on the very nature of a servant and go out into the world with the same mindset of Christ. I urge you in your daily walk with God to have the mindset of Christ. Look at other people as Christ would. Be humble and attempt to put the needs of others before your own needs. Show compassion towards those people you encounter during the course of your day. Strive to have the mindset of Christ in all that you do today and in the days ahead.