Keeping Your Mind and Heart Focused on Christ

Colossians 3:1-4 (NASB): Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 

Are you growing weary of watching or reading the “news” and just becoming so completely discouraged at what is happening in our country and our world? There is so much hatred and a lack of unity that it reminds me of the words of Jesus from the 24th chapter of Matthew’s gospel: “most people’s love will grow cold.” You could certainly argue that there is a growing lack of love in the world we live in today. A very wise lady in the Sunday School class I teach said, “People just don’t love each other anymore.” As Christians, as we continue “seeking the things above,” our response to this world must be to love one another.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

As Christians, we need to wake up every morning, open up our Bible, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our heart and mind. (We also need to do this throughout the day and before going to sleep at night). By staying in the Word, we draw closer in our relationship to God and we have what we need to face a sinful and hurting world. As we set our mind “on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth,” we think less about the sinful desires of the world we live in and more about how to overcome the things of this world. We are given power from above to actually show the world what it needs most – the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So many people measure their life by what they accumulate and accomplish while on this earth. They desire to make a name for themselves and to leave behind a legacy that will keep their memory alive. Our text from Colossians today reminds us as followers of Christ, we have died to this world and our “life is hidden with Christ in God.” Although we continue to live in this world we are not of this world. Our eternal future and our life in Christ is not measured by what we have done or accomplished but rather by what Christ accomplished on the cross at Calvary.  Continue to “set your mind” on the things above.

“When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

 

Resist the Devil

James 4:7 (NIV): Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 

1 Peter 5:8 (NIV):  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV): For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Have you tried to resist the devil in any aspect of your life this week? And if you have tried to resist temptation or sin, have you been successful? I have been trying to write this post for over a week now, but it seems that every effort I make towards writing has been hindered. If you are a follower of Christ, and you are making an effort to share the gospel message of Christ, you will at some point come under attack from the spiritual forces of evil. How will you respond when faced with trials and temptations? Will you succumb to those trials or will you call upon the power of God to overcome and persevere these times of testing?

There are three things a believer must do in order to wage spiritual battle against the dark forces of evil. 1) We must call upon the name of Jesus for protection against the forces of evil. 2) We must pray. 3) We must remain constantly in the Word of God.

The first thing I do when I feel the attacks of the evil one is to call upon the name of Jesus for protection. I ask Jesus to safeguard my mind and to protect me.  When we attempt to resist the devil, we must be careful to do so in the name of Jesus. Trying to resist the evil one without doing so in the name of Jesus is useless. The archangel Michael, probably the most powerful angel in the Bible, knew that the devil must be rebuked in the name of our Lord. 

Jude 1:9 (NIV): But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

The seven sons of a Jewish chief priest named Sceva, found out what can happen when you misuse the name of Jesus to drive out evil spirit for selfish gain.

Acts 19:13-16 (NIV): 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

The second way to fight off the advances of the evil one is to pray. Jesus told us to “watch and pray” so as not to fall into temptation (Mark 14:38). Satan wants to take our thoughts and mind away from God so that he can tempt us in sinful ways which prevents us from being in close communion with God. He knows that if he can get us to take the bait, then we will have a difficult time letting go of our sin. When we pray for Jesus to help us in our time of temptation, we are calling upon a higher power, our Lord and Savior, to protect us from the temptations of the evil one.

Jesus gives us the example of prayer as a weapon to resist the temptations of the devil. Luke 22:31-32 (NIV): “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” If Jesus himself prayed for the protection of his disciples from the evil one, then we certainly must be doing that as well.

The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, is the third way that we can resist the devil. (Ephesians 6:17). 

When Satan tempted Jesus in the Judean wilderness, Jesus answered every temptation with scripture. 

“It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” (Matthew 4:4) 

“On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’” (Matthew 4:7) 

“Go, Satan! For it is written, YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” (Matthew 4:10)

When faced with temptation from the devil, resist him and call upon the name of Jesus for protection. Then pray for protection from the evil one and stay in the Word of God, in order to use scripture to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Do You Worship?

Luke 4:5-8 (NASB): And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

Luke’s gospel gives us the account of Jesus, “full of the Holy Spirit,” being led around by the Spirit in the Judean wilderness for forty days. Jesus had been in the wilderness for forty days without anything to eat and it was at the end of these forty days that the devil came and tempted him. It was at his weakest point that our Lord was tempted, and his refusal to yield to temptation, teaches us how to respond when the evil one tempts us.

The Holy Spirit led me to this text from Luke this morning and I felt the need to share it with you today. Who do you worship? What do you worship? I believe that each of us was created to worship our creator God, but sin tempts us and constantly seeks to draw us away from a close relationship with God. Satan has a unique way of tempting us with worldly things and pleasures and he knows that if he can get us hooked, we will gradually let go of God more and more each day. Satan wants us to depend on and draw strength from anything other than God and he is tirelessly at work creating other things for us to worship.

In the text from Luke, Satan tempts Jesus with “all the kingdoms of the world” if he will only bow down and worship him. And Jesus answers, “You shall worship the LORD your God and serve him only.”

Many people today are allowing themselves to be drawn away from God and from going to church because they worship other things. Their priorities are not in developing a closer relationship with God but rather they “worship” their material possessions and the things of this world. Satan will absolutely place in our path many obstacles that keep us from worshipping and developing a closer relationship with God.

Who or what do you worship? You can find the answer to that by where you spend your Sunday mornings? Are you in church worshipping God and trying to draw closer to Him, or do you have more important priorities? God created each one of us for a close and dependent relationship with Him and He is constantly calling out to us through his Holy Spirit, desiring an intimate relationship with each of us.

It breaks my heart to see people living out their lives as if God doesn’t exist. They go about their lives without even stopping to consider God’s great love for them and the purpose that He has for them. As individual believers and as the “church,” our hearts should constantly be burdened for those who do not know Christ. We must tirelessly pray and reach out to these people and help them to know God and to draw closer to Him. As followers of Christ, our mission is to evangelize and make disciples of those who do not believe. Christ gave us the example of who we are to worship and Christ alone will help us as we speak God’s truth to a world that doesn’t place God at the center of their lives.

Who or what do you worship? If the answer is not God, then I urge you to make some immediate changes in your life. God is patient with you and he doesn’t want anyone to perish, but one day your opportunity to acknowledge Christ, as Savior and Lord of your life, will draw to a close. Decide today who you will worship. God is waiting and he stands ready to forgive you of past sins and mistakes. All He asks is that you believe upon His son Jesus Christ, and ask Him to come into your life and to be the Lord of your life. If you will place your faith and trust in God, you will find a purpose and meaning for your life, and you will have a deep desire to worship and praise God.

Joshua 24:14-15 (NIV): “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Imitating the Humility of Christ

Philippians 2:1-11 (NASB): Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

In your daily walk with God, do you strive to been seen and noticed, or do you take great joy in working behind the scenes, quietly going about the tasks God has given you? Our worldly culture certainly elevates those who strive to be noticed. People are enamored with “celebrity” and really anyone who seeks to gain attention. The loudest and most boastful, tend to be given more attention.  And to be perfectly honest, that is the type of person most people aspire to be like or at least admire.

Christ set a different example for his followers to emulate. Christ, the ultimate example of humility, calls his followers to “value others” above ourselves. We are called to be loving, compassionate, and caring towards others. A follower of Christ does not think more highly of him/her self and always strives to put the needs of others first. This means not only considering the needs of others in your family or church, but also the needs of complete strangers that you happen to meet. Christ followers should consider everyone as being a child of God and a creation of God.  

Christ certainly set the ultimate example of humble obedience for us when He gave his life for our sins on the cross. And because Christ died for the sins of the entire world, “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.”  

There are many in the world today that do not know the name of Jesus or have completely rejected the name of Jesus. Our duty as followers of Christ is to not be ashamed to speak the wonderful name of Jesus to those who do not believe, out of our love and compassion for our fellow man. God’s desire is that every person on the face of the earth would praise the wonderful name of Jesus and acknowledge Him as Lord. The name of “Jesus”, what a wonderful and powerful name!

 

Dry Bones Coming Alive

Ezekiel 37:1-5 (NASB): The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” 4 Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.

Ezekiel chapter 37 gives us one of the prophet’s key visions. Ezekiel finds himself in a valley of dry bones and the Lord asks him if these bones can live. God tells the prophet that God can “cause breath to enter” so that these dry bones “may come to life.” The dry bones in this passage refer to the “whole house of Israel” whom God will bring forth from exile. God is speaking to the hopelessness of his chosen people, and through his prophet, He is giving the message of hope.  

Relating this passage to our present time, we all have those around us who represent these dry bones or “dead hearts” and we pray for them to come alive. During the last several weeks, I have been praying for those I know who have not accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. We must certainly do our part to live a life that serves as an example or witness to them, but it is ultimately the power of the Holy Spirit that draws people to faith in God. I am praying for the Holy Spirit to “breathe life” into the lives of those who do not know Christ.

If you are praying for someone to come to faith in Christ, keep on praying! So often when circumstances seem hopeless, that’s when God prefers to show up and change circumstances and give hope. Remember that nothing is impossible with God – even dry bones can come alive!