When no one is watching

THE SECRET PLACE
Abiding under the shadow of the Almighty
PART 23
WHEN NO ONE IS WATCHING

“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with overeating, and drunkenness, and cares (distractions) in case that day come upon you unexpectantly. For as a snare shall it come upon all them that dwell upon the face of the whole earth. WATCH therefore, and PRAY always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-35)
As always the flesh hates to listen to anything about discipline. Usually whenever discipline is being enforced it is in the light of training to win in a competition, to receive an award or to advance as the champion in victory. The concept remains the same in the context of spiritual warfare. Being an overcomer for Jesus Christ is not an option – our salvation has a calling and a destiny. Every child of God has been called to take all that Father has provided along with the responsibility to fulfill His will. The “overcoming” idea I am convinced, is as much about conquering our flesh – as it is about resisting the devil! Walking holy is not just a religious thought or phrase – it is a demand from God and a crucial determination within the heart of the disciple to follow and obey the voice of the shepherd.
God’s Word mentions about an exchange that is crucial concerning the beauty of Holy intimacy. It is the condition of the heart that measures how far or how deep we can follow Him. Selah. If we are “surface” Christians, we will only be interested in the basic blessings and eternal security that a Savior can provide. If we choose to be a disciple, we are committed to following Him into the depths of His presence as LORD no matter where they may lead. This exchange involves the tears of the servant and spiritual joy from God. “Weeping may endure for a night – but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Do you know what the weeping represents? It represents a “breaking” of the heart. Sin has a subtle way of slowly creating a “film” of dirt which is a result of compromise. In our hurried life, we can ignore the calling of the Holy Spirit to come into the secret chambers and spend time with God. We can slowly allow our emotions and carnality to lead us and influence our thoughts with negativity and sin. This deception does not go “unnoticed” in the Spirit realm in fact it has definite consequences concerning our personal relationship with Him. Each day that we ignore our need to repent and restore our fellowship – the further away we drift into higher levels of lukewarmness. Our fire and the awareness of His presence fades away while our flesh enjoys the freedom to rule our body and mind. Our spirit cries abba Father, but cannot overrule our free-will. Our heart chooses what we do and “whom” we will serve. This condition builds until one day God intervenes by opening our eyes and revealing what we have done. Thus we are pierced with conviction in the deepest part of our being and as our heart breaks with sorrow and shame, we respond by weeping from within our soul. After we have asked Him to forgive us and cleanse us, we are refreshed and renewed in the beauty of His mercy, grace and love. This of course is where our heart is flooded with joy and happiness that we have now been restored into the security and good standing of His fellowship. When is the last time you have allowed Him to break your heart and cleanse your soul? “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wild not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
There are many levels of maturity in the body of Christ. The masses usually love to hear about all the blessings God has for them or how wonderful they are. The problem with “nursing the bottle” of chocolate cake and rainbows all the time is that we can become unbalanced in our spiritual perception. As we keep repeating, I am not against being encouraged because we do need it, however we must see the big picture of not only the reality of the way God sees everything and everyone – but more personally how He sees us. This is where many immature believers need to leave because their mamma is calling! If you announced a weekly Bible study that was going to be about sanctification, I would guess that you would not need to put out very many chairs. To tell you the truth I am the same way and do not spend near enough time “deeply” examining my heart and this is because we all have the same common problem – our flesh wants to rule our life. I can do a general assessment and say a quick prayer and keep running along the path of the spiritual routines we all are a part of. But, let me say there will come “seasons” in all of God’s children, where we will come face to face with truth about ourselves that has the power to change who we are for the better. The amount that we progress and CHANGE into His image will depend directly on how convinced we are of our NEED to change. If we do not believe we need to change, as the scripture above declares we will NOT pursue the image of Christ and His glory which will result in us staying the same ALL of our life. In the routine that we have always followed, we want to live our spiritual life exactly as we have lived our physical life. We look in the mirror and see ourselves and decide what we will do and how everything will affect us. Our old state of mind will continue to lead us unless we receive the revelation of sanctification.
The concept of being made holy in the image of God can become a deception if we do not understand sanctification. If we depend on our “title” of Christian, to take the place of His refiner’s fire – we are living in a fantasy land. Just because we call ourselves a Christian does not mean that we are what God desires for us to be. Many believers are an embarrassment to God and to the world because they have never allowed themselves to be transformed by the renewing of their mind. It is true that we have been called to be “set-apart” but set apart from what? We have not just been separated from the world to keep from being contaminated or infected with sin, but we have been PURIFIED to be a holy witness of light to a world that stumbles in darkness. Where the crowds begin to slip out the back door, is when someone begins to reveal how much being purified is going to COST! Our carnality must be crushed and crucified just as the body of Jesus was nailed to the cross. In order for us to live the resurrected life of victory over sin, our old nature must die an agonizing death. Many will say that there is no suffering for the Christian because Jesus paid for everything. It is true that Christ paid for our sins with His blood but to eliminate the need for us to suffer as we deny our flesh to dominate us – is bad theology. The agony from sacrificing our carnality is crucial for our spiritual development and will flow directly in context with how much we have surrendered our will. If we have NOT allowed Jesus to be our Lord, (to be in control of our life) our carnal witness will prevent us from being sanctified and we will NOT be please Him as a faithful servant.
So, what makes the difference between those who desire to walk in sanctification and those who live carnal? It is either the lack of spiritual instruction – severe heart disease – or both. It is everyone’s personal responsibility to study and pray and listen to what God is telling them, but in many cases it seems that people just choose to not think about what God thinks about. Selah. I am not trying to appear to have arrived at walking in His Spirit because to confess openly, I have really been struggling lately. I realize that most of the time we are NOT concentrating on the mission at hand and I believe this comes from allowing our mind to be distracted with carnal matters. We may have a great time of intimacy one day but we spring a leak and the next day we are empty again. The vision should be for us to STAY in His presence but that will only come with the highest determination of discipline. It is God’s intention for us to develop a “constant” sensitive awareness to sin which will lead us into being holy; however this will only happen if we can begin to comprehend an awareness of Godly sorrow.
I had a person (that is close to me) make a comment about my ministry the other day. They said that in all of my songwriting and my article writing there seemed to be a consistent message. They said that God is saying the same thing over and over except in a hundreds of different ways and they all are about the condition and intention of our heart. The contents of the conscience is who we are, and reveals everything about us. I thought about this statement and I must agree that in the last 30 years, God in His graciousness and patience has been trying to tell me how much He wants ALL of my heart. Not just my heart – but all of your heart also. I know we wiggle and squirm because it is uncomfortable to think about laying down our secrets and the things we do that are not right. I mentioned Godly sorrow at the end of the last paragraph, and I wonder if we know what it is. As a Christian, have you ever done something or said something that after it was over, you felt convicted? Have you ever felt heaviness in your soul over a sin and you tried to shake it off but the misery just would not go away? This is a glimpse of the sorrow of sin. Godly sorrow is a blessing in disguise as it allows us to feel a little of what God feels. If we could feel how much it disappoints Him and how it hurts Him when we obey our flesh, it would definitely help us to be transformed into His image. We are a people of great needs and the one most lacking is humility. Pride allows us to sin and think it is ok. Pride hardens our conscience until we decide we do not need to commune with God. Pride presumes that all is well with our soul without ever considering the possibility of being deceived. It is in humility that we stop the madness and pull away from the chaos of Babylon and sincerely search into the depths of our heart. If we are willing to discern truth and not continue to sugarcoat our “rose-colored” image, we may discover that our conscience contains things we need to deal with. Father is doing a work in His people right now! He is preparing His children not just for a one way ticket to paradise – but so they might be able to do His work the way He wants it done. There are spots and wrinkles in our bridal garment and He is saying to come away and allow Him to “dry-clean” your mind and your heart so that we can walk the aisle as His beautiful and holy bride. Sanctification is turning away from being like the world and turning our eyes on Jesus.

Change…The Last Frontier

THE SECRET PLACE
“He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

PART 4

CHANGE…THE LAST FRONTIER

I had a divine appointment with a friend of mine the other day. I call it “divine’, because of the unique way that opened up the relaxed opportunity to talk privately. He has been going through some serious health problems and much of it has to do with his diet and lack of exercise. He confessed to me that he had tried over the years to lose weight and eat better, but had failed miserably. Food had become an addiction and he had very little willpower to be victorious over its control. He sadly and with the facial expressions of agony, told me to my face, “I cannot change”. As our conversation ended, and I walked to my vehicle to go home, I thought about the words he had proclaimed. I wondered about the levels of desire that humans are designed with and what is it that causes some people to succeed.

After much thought and study, I have concluded that God has given humanity freewill to choose certain things within a limited context of His overall plan for our lives. Within this power to decide, is the ability to prioritize and organize our desires. We must realize that we are not mechanical robots that are completely predestined and accept the philosophy that we play an active role in our destiny. This brother has made an error in the way he views his situation. Whether or not he realizes he is in denial, he willingly accepts his condition because it is a way he can hide behind his weakness. It is not that he “cannot” change, but rather it is obvious he does not want to. Actually, he has demonstrated the potential of the human psyche to deceive our own subconscious with a complex psychology, in order to be able to justify his actions. By surrendering his ability to change, he can now remain attached to his desire to indulge. Thus, feeling sorry for himself, and waving the white flag, his lust can continue to dominate and be satisfied.

Therefore, what makes the difference between those who move past the helpless and hopeless stage, and move into victory? It will always come down to the contents of the heart. The heart is a mystery that is difficult to explain, but can be considered as the deepest habitation of the conscience. One of the most popular statements in the Bible is found in Proverbs 23:7, “for as he thinks in his heart – so is he”. These amazing ten words is the simple answer to the entanglements of life. We do what we want to do and we are what we are because of what is in our heart. There may be places we cannot climb, but in general, the barriers we face only become obstacles if we believe in our “heart” that it is impossible. It is not guaranteed that we can fulfill all of our dreams, however unless God say’s no, there is no limit to what we can do or how far we can go. The reason why my friend cannot achieve his desire is that it is a moderate thought that has been placed further down in his “passion” list. Our moderate thoughts are not important enough to be considered an emergency. We will not change until our agony of staying the same becomes greater than our visions of change. This rule can be applied with anything in life because it is directly connected to our levels of determination. If our desire rises to become our highest passion, we will be consumed with the commitment to succeed. There is not enough depression or discouragement in the universe to quench the fires of passion! Just as there was no power in hell strong enough to prevent Christ from accomplishing His mission of the cross – this same unwavering power of staying focused is within you – NOW!

God created the human with the potential to know His voice and to know which direction to walk. Within this ability to see the invisible, lies the power of faith that can move mountains and cast them into the sea. As all athletes can attest, there are no gains without pain and we can also use this truth and apply it to everything worth doing. We were never promised an easy road however; we have been given the anointing to accomplish our destiny and the enthusiasm to see it through! Of all the people to receive an encouragement from, I cannot think of anyone more respected than Jesus. In Mathew chapter 5, He established a very important principal to remember and hold dear. He said, “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world”. He is literally saying that He has made us as a catalyst, an instrument to make a “difference” in this world. We are a vessel that contains His divine power and He expects us to believe it and act on it! The carpenter builds the house but uses the hammer to drive the nails and in this light, the hammer plays a very important part of the construction. God’s people are instruments that He uses to accomplish His will but He can only work with those who “choose” to be used. We can lose weight, quit bad habits, build a career, become a better family man, walk with God, or whatever is the highest priority in our heart, but we must take the step of faith. “Where there is a will there is a way” is not just a hope or a wish – it is wisdom that unlocks the divine potential of being a good and faithful servant.

THE WALK OF ABANDONMENT II

THE WALK
PART 33

THE WALK OF ABANDONMENT II

The Christian life is NOT a fight to those who abide by the world’s system of flesh. Spiritual warfare is meaningless to those who do NOT desire to abandon the love of the world or their determination to live their own life. Religious people will not hesitate to refer to praying or their expectation of heaven but our level of abandonment unto God is the real spiritual thermometer that “tempers” our love and prayers. I attended a funeral one time where the minister tried to tiptoe around a difficult situation and in the process delivered an immune message that I am not sure, anyone really understood. I admit that some funerals are tough and this one was, but if the celebration of a life lived for God is not there, the message of salvation should be presented to those who still have a chance to repent and give their heart to Jesus. There was never mentioned the plan of salvation, the blood of Jesus, or the desperate need to be born again. The funeral home was standing room only and no doubt, many needed to hear an anointed message of spiritual reality but instead it seemed he was trying to reassure everyone that we are all just a bunch of good ole boys and girls that will be having field parties in heaven forever. What ever happened to the fire and passion about how much God demands holiness or what personal intimacy within a spiritual relationship with Jesus is all about.

The ministry is a calling to those who will abandon their fears to speak the truth. Whatever happened to the responsibility of speaking GOD’S words and not selling out to pleasing men? Anyone that disobeys God in word or deed is guilty of sin and will stand before God for not being faithful. I know that all of us have blown opportunities to witness for Christ and we need to repent and ask God to help us do better next time. But, how many pastors are intimidated by their members and do not care about what The Holy Spirit is saying because they are afraid that obeying God will cause them to lose their jobs? Everyone wants to hear that all people go to heaven no matter if they were saved or not but doesn’t this just make us more comfortable in our own deceptions? There is soon coming a day when every Christian will be forced to take a stand for their convictions and it will NOT be a time to compromise. Selah.

The modern day prosperity movement is an example of devising a plan to present God’s Word as a “money machine” in order to attract enthusiastic crowds. Deceptive teachers use the truth about blood covenant and obedience and then distort it into a “give and get” doctrine. One ministry is called, “enjoying everyday life” but how can this be when the real message of the cross is the “abandonment” of this life. It is not that God will not bless us with abundance but it is intended as a way to GIVE unto others. If we live the way God has commanded us to live, I see His Word warning us of a lot of suffering, sacrifice and persecution – not a constant party. “YEA, AND ALL THAT WILL LIVE GODLY IN CHRIST JESUS – SHALL SUFFER PERSECUTION.” (II Timothy 3:12) Those who spend all their time enjoying their everyday life of pleasures can hardly relate to practicing the presence of God. The flesh is ENMITY toward God or in other words an “enemy” against the Spirit of God. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God (opposed): for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:5-8) Unfortunately, these “artificial” doctrines are taught as planting seeds and reaping a harvest so that we might fill our bank accounts and indulge ourselves with the pleasures of the flesh. This is a spiritual principal but is not intended to be twisted into a carnal slot machine. No wonder these churches and stadiums are filled! The religious seekers support and are drawn to those who say things their flesh loves. Remember when Pontius Pilate stood before the angry crowd with Jesus and Barabbas, he had the authority to do what was right but crumbled under the pressure of pleasing the people. However, those who speak the truth and who trust God even unto death, will lead a lonely life of rejection and betrayal. Why? Because very few want to hear about the need to abandon their carnality. “You adulterers and adulteresses, do you not understand that the friendship of the world is ENMITY to God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world – is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

I noticed a picture in the paper the other day of a gay rights activist holding a sign that said, “It’s ok to be gay”. I am not necessarily picking on the gay movement because actually it is more like the sign was saying, “It’s ok to sin”! What kind of world are we now living? How are we as Christians supposed to react to a crowd of people holding signs that declare that any abomination, perversion or type of darkness and wickedness is acceptable? Are we to just ignore the freedoms and rights of individuals? Are we to tolerate their sin and not worry about what people do in their own personal lives? Are we to get involved with politics and fight against sin and create laws against debauchery? I know we are to pray against the darkness and I know we are to stand for God’s truth even if our own family hates us. Nevertheless, my question is – who has the power or wisdom to declare that sin is acceptable? First, a person would have to disregard the Bible as the absolute truth of heaven and earth and that God the Father of all things – wrote it! So, if you sweep that little problem under the rug, I presume you can proceed with creating your own spiritual, legal and moral system within a brand new world order. BREAKING NEWS! This is exactly what is happening! The now generation has thrown God’s Word out the window, which gives them a brand new platform with a new clean slate. Since they do not believe that God’s Word is socially valid, our arguments against their world are not considered legally conclusive, which is the reason why watered down religion alone can never persuade the spiritually blind. This is the highest pride in the universe and compares with Lucifer’s mentality when he was still working in heaven. He said in a paraphrase that, I am smarter than God, more popular, more beautiful and can do a better job of ruling all things. And now, many are possessed with this same twisted spirit of arrogance. They are born of the dark side and pledge allegiance to the lies of darkness. Only the blind and foolish would declare that man’s limited, mortal and corrupted intelligence is the “right” way to live. For humans that do not consider God’s Word to be true, this statement takes away the absolutes and opens the door for the tolerance of all chaos, confusion and lies. In the minds of those who believe in the philosophy of doing whatever feels good, the idea of living holy unto the Lord of all Kings does not matter. Whenever man does not acknowledge sin as an opposition against the maker of heaven and earth, there is a rebellious disregard for HIS absolute truth. God has mercy on all those who shake their fist in His face and shout that they know more and better than He does – but for how long? The system of the world serves the flesh and is becoming more aggressive with their hatred for God and His Word. There is an old saying, that what is in the well, will come up in the bucket. This perfectly explains how the condition of the heart cannot be ignored nor hidden from the conscious mind. The direction of our lives and the motives behind our actions are driven by the convictions of our conscience and spirit. In addition, for that matter all who call themselves a Christian should have the discernment to realize that the one who knows every thought and who hears every whisper is weighing our intentions.

If we are walking with God, we are filled with His Spirit and His power will renew our mind and ultimately control us. If we are distant from Him, we only have traces of His presence, which leaves us lukewarm and carnally driven. Of course, those who have never been redeemed are cold and indifferent to His presence, are spiritually blind and cannot comprehend His truth. Allow me to pause for a moment and ask you where you are this moment in the levels of spiritual intimacy with Christ. We know when we sense His Holy Spirit and we know when we are living in a state of emptiness. The consequences to being lazy in our praying and worship are a “cooling off” within our spirit, which in turn causes a heaviness that blankets our joy and peace. We all go through times when we become tired of fighting the battle and the daily grind of functioning in a negative world can cause stress that wears us down. Being in a state of “blah” can be denied for a long time but that does not mean we do not know its there. We KNOW when we are sliding backward and we KNOW when things are not right within our conscience. If you feel right now that you have drifted away from being “red hot” but, you are still wearing your, “everything’s ok mask”, just stop for a minute and talk to Him. He is ready to empower us to live for Him and give us the strength to pull away from the temptation to compromise.

Father, I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you.
I am ready for all; I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I can pray no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

Charles de Foucauld

THE WALK OF ABANDONMENT

THE WALK
PART 32

THE WALK OF ABANDONMENT

There have been many things on my mind lately and I presume that circumstances that are happening around me have caused me to think about the endless mysteries of life. I have heard the older we become the more clearly we can see, (though I realize that is not necessarily true), but I will pray that in my life it will happen that way. I have spent a great deal of my life writing about things that were actually way over my head spiritually speaking. Even though I may not understand these realities right now, I still have faith in the promise given to me nearly thirty years ago from God that I would “walk out” everything I write. I have been a seeker of truth but again this does not automatically make me (or you) a “doer” of truth. (Can I get a witness?) Just because I am always thinking and pouring out my heart does not mean that I have attained a plateau on the stairwell of enlightenment. I believe in order for us to KNOW truth, it must be “quickened” in our mind from knowledge – into “revelation”, which is why God’s Word is not “activated” in most Christians. This is one of those spiritual mysteries and a very serious subject because number one – I realize that if anything is wrong it is my fault and two – my destiny is directly connected to figuring this out. If you were still wondering why I have titled this article, “The Walk of Abandonment”, I would say a good question would be; exactly what are we abandoning? Well, (I am so glad you asked). It is like panning for gold. If you are really determined to find the hidden treasure of truth and after you sort through all types of materials, you finally find at the bottom of the pan what you are looking for. Sure, there are causes and reasons and tons of excuses that we need to weed through, that are no doubt connected with the answer, nevertheless, if we are serious about examining our own conscience we will see what God sees. “And I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that ask will receive and he that seeks will find and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” (Luke 1:9-10)

I am beginning to realize within my own heart that the key problem I struggle with is the lack of love. What I need to abandon is associated with laying down what I consider to be the idols of my life – the most important “rulers and kings” that sit on the throne of my heart. This includes anything that I cherish and love MORE than God. I believe it would be safe to say that, until I submit all of my possessions and all of my carnal desires, I am NOT a living sacrifice! In addition, until I become a living sacrifice I cannot walk with God as He has called me to do. Selah. We can try to “squeeze” religion into our hectic lifestyle and live in the deception that lukewarm is good enough, but we are only playing a game within a fabricated delusion. God’s Word is like the Ocean and we love to run around on the beach without getting wet. We might stick our toes in but we will not dive in because it will cost us our “will”. We love our pride, our independence, our success and desire the respect from others way too much to become a fanatic for Jesus. We protect our reputation for living our own way, as it is our most precious asset. This is why people are uncomfortable in God’s presence because they KNOW they have betrayed Him! “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world will pass away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever.” (I John 15:17) Abandonment lies at the bottom of the pan and is the most important act of obedience for God. Working around the clock for Jesus and praying constantly does not mean that we have abandoned our carnal thinking. There will be multitudes of people that have devoted their time to good works and helpful service but never really abandoned their life to God or loved others as they loved themselves. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue (endless talk); but in deed (action) and in truth (pure motives).” (I John 3:18) “He that loves not – does not know God, for God is love. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. If a man say, I love God and hates (does not love) his brother, he is a liar: for he that does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loves God – will love his brother also.” (I John 4: 8, 11, 20-21) Some might ask, just whom does the “brother” include? Well, I believe the idea of brother represents the souls of humanity, as in the same way God is no respecter of persons. Let us turn back to Mathew and take a peek at the words of Jesus, “You have heard that it has been said that you must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. However, I say unto you, LOVE your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. That you might be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” These next verses are very powerful and are worth spending time thinking about, “For if you love them which love you, what reward do you really have? Do not even the publicans (those who do not regard God’s Word) do the same? And if you salute (respect, acknowledge, act graciously) your brethren (friends, family) only, what exactly are you proving more than the ungodly? Do not even the publicans do the same? Be therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Mathew 5: 43-48) Abandonment in this light means that we drop all of our carnal opinions, critical thoughts, judgments, negativity, stereotypes, profiling, racism, and prejudice, no matter how we were raised or what our politics, doctrines or world views may be. Furthermore, just because we can see they are living in sin does not mean that are not to love their souls! Selah. We that claim to walk with God – must not listen to the voices of carnality that we might reach out in love and compassion to the spirits of all people!

Abandonment is where the rubber meets the road! It is what separates the ninety eight percent of professing Christians from the two percent that actually live it. Abandonment is directly connected to HOW MUCH we love God and HOW FAR we are willing to go for Him. You will always find that love is intertwined with abandonment in either a positive way or negative way. When we abandon our will unto God, it is because we LOVE Him as Mathew 22:37 describes, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” However, when we refuse to abandon our old nature and reject His offer to become a disciple, it is because we LOVE making our own decisions and we LOVE our possessions more than we love Him. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will HATE the one, and LOVE the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mathew 6:24)
Mammon has several different meanings from riches, wealth, possessions, gluttony, prideful attitudes, unjust gain, injustice, selfishness, hoarding, false gods, excessive materialism, and the attitude of covetousness or greed as a negative influence. The idea may also mean an IDOL in which someone puts their TRUST. It seems the idea is not that being wealthy is always a sin but rather the attitudes and temptations that result from the luxuries of abundance. Many people have enjoyed the pleasures of being blessed by God but it takes a very holy, humble individual to be able to handle great wealth – God’s way. I believe that where blessings turn into mammon is when the heart turns from being pure, into a heart filled with carnality. The sensual, self-centered desire for power and control are directly related to financial success and as Mathew 19:23,24 points out, it is very rare to find a truly Godly rich person. “Then said Jesus said unto His disciples, verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” In other words it is not the riches in themselves that are evil because many good things need to be financed like medical supplies, food, housing, education and so on. It is the ATTITUDE of how much we LOVE our “things” as the rich, young ruler can testify. It is the ultimate challenge for man to learn how to abandon himself from the earthly and embrace the heavenly. This revelation and the willpower to separate the temporal from the eternal can ONLY be accomplished through the power of God – for the glory of God! “When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is IMPOSSIBLE; but with God ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.” (Mathew 19:25-26)
When the disciples dropped their nets, they abandoned their life and picked up a brand new destiny. They did not try to work Jesus in between their busy lifestyle but rather dumped out their life and rearranged everything around serving Jesus in thought, word and deed. Imagine the idea of emptying everything out, discarding what is not important and only putting back in what Father says He wants. Well, that sounds wonderful that a few fishermen had the opportunity to do that but what about us today in our society with our spouses and our responsibilities to work and pay our bills? It does not take but a moment for our “common sense” to start laying ground rules and limitations to our faith. The rules of our culture, our social correctness and our “laws” of how to function as a responsible adult, act as a defense lawyer to argue for our carnality. Have we given Him our “two mites” as Mark chapter 12 records, or have we just given from our abundance?

THE WALK OF THE CROSS

THE WALK
PART 20

THE WALK OF THE CROSS

What do scriptures like Mathew 10:38 really mean when it say’s, “And he that takes NOT his cross, and does NOT follow after me, is NOT worthy of me”? First, we need to read this verse in context with the flow of thought in the entire passage. According to historians, a person condemned to death by crucifixion had to carry his own crossbeam to the execution site as was within the law of capitol punishment. The cross was an instrument of death and Jesus used this parallel for us to see the cross as a place for our carnality to die and a bridge to heavens grace all at the same time! Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for us and we likewise sacrifice our will through the same concept so the world can see Him in us. Going back to the collective thought of the section in Mathew chapter 10 we see verses 34-39 explaining that walking with Jesus is not for the faint of heart. Jesus is talking about priorities and how nothing can be exalted above living (and dying if need be) for Him. Even when it comes to family, He is saying there can be NO compromise. Any tolerance of sin leads to backsliding and the danger of a lukewarm attitude toward the red-hot – on fire “passion” of our calling. The walk of the cross is humility that is under girded with Holy strength. It is truly the meaning of life.

Taking up our cross creates the difference between the sheep and goats, the wheat and tares and the spiritual from the religious. It is the definition and foundation of salvation because of the miraculous power of love that it contains. It is the denial of sin and yet also the honor of obedience. It is the suffering of discipline and the source of faith for us to yield our will to Him. It empowers us to choose the narrow path of this life while securing our future with Him in the next life. The cross is NOT an END but an exciting beginning of glory and triumph because of HIS resurrection! It represents THE WAY – the only way into a personal, intimate relationship with God and the guaranteed validity of the promises of His Word. In other words, our entire life as a Christian must be melted down and poured into what the cross represents as the bond of our holy union with Christ. His cross was erected on Golgotha (the place of the scull) and likewise it is there in the deepest recesses of our mind that we must become transformed into His image. We must choose the cross in response to the cross choosing us. Selah. The revelation is learning about what is in His cross – and the responsibilities of our cross. Our heart “chooses” the painful, agonizing transferring of control from us to “His will be done”.

The cross is identification with him and this in turn causes us to become representatives for him. Therefore, we can say it is an example and a descriptive parallel of the requirements of all Christians to surrender everything they are and everything they have to the divine reality of the cross. That message is about the endless love of God to save many from an eternal torment. It is about the endless mercy and compassion on the hopeless condition of lost sinners and how he gave his life to purchase them with his blood. It is more than a piece of jewelry and more than an ornament on top of a steeple, it is a life of suffering persecution, Godly sorrow, sacrificing and denying to live according to our own plans and dreams. It is also the gateway to living in the glory of His presence, being saturated in His love and living in the blessings of His revelations of truth that change us from the inside out – while being a constant reminder that we are NOT our own. “For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”. (I Corinthians 6:20) “For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant is the Lord’s slave: Likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.” (I Corinthians 7:22)

For Jesus, going to the cross was a mission that was done willingly and likewise it must be with us. Following Him is more than just reading about his adventures; it is actually doing and living just as He lived. The reason why Jesus was so serious and intense all the time is because the cross was always in His heart. This is a revelation for us that can only come from spending time in God’s Word and praying for this revelation.
Jesus embraced the cross as His destiny and “chose” to suffer so that many could be ransomed. He realized how His Father was to use Him as the perfect lamb and that He would become the “bridge” between heaven and earth so that Man could once again crawl into the bosom of God as a little child. We also have the free-will to obey this heavenly invitation so that through our willingness to “walk the walk” many people can hear God’s Word, be convicted by His Holy Spirit and give their hearts to Him. He was filled with genuine agape love, which is the only way He could have endured the assignment – as the same also applies to us in that agape love can be the only reason and motive for our deeds. He walked in humility and was filled with the infinite power of the Holy Spirit the same way we are to walk and live in the divine reality of the miraculous. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For who ever will save his life will lose it: and who ever will lose his life for my sake will find it.” (Mathew 16:24-25) We have been called to lay aside our custom blueprints, our selfish dreams, our independence and carnal nature so that God can be seen in us. Our cross is the daily journey of being like Jesus. Our cross is walking in the divine reality of His Spirit and not giving in to the lust of the flesh.

Do you desire to draw closer to God and bring the power of His cross closer to your heart? Fasting sobers us and is a key to drawing close to Him as it helps us to hear His still small voice so that we can understand the mysteries of His Word. Our conscience can become dull and cluttered with everyday chaos but fasting will bring much needed clarity and quiet to the worldly noise so we can focus on His person. When we just know “about” the cross, it is not the same as KNOWING Him. We can actually become comfortable to its historical image and at the same time become desensitized to its seriousness. Similar to portraying Christ as a baby in the manger, we can mentally reduce Him to a helpless infant while distracting our conscience away from His convicting power as the King of Kings. It is not the cross itself that is the power – it is falling upon it in complete surrender and trust that activates the life-changing power of Christ into our heart. Only when man falls on His face in the humility of repentance can he begin to take baby steps toward his destiny. Sadly, much of our theology has replaced humility with arrogance and the cross with enjoying pleasure. There is a balance, a time for sorrow in the prayer closet and a time to live the abundant life. Jesus was always AWARE of His destiny and he is trying to reveal the revelation of this hidden mystery that we also might be constantly AWARE of who we are and who He is. If we can become focused on the cross that stands before us – it will increase our burden for lost souls. This will happen when we accept these difficult facts.

Number one: the world will hate you and desire to kill you because they hate truth. “Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus WILL suffer persecution.” (II Timothy 3:12) This is not a sermon that will have them dancing in the isles – but it is truth. The farther we go toward the future the more this will become evident. “Then will they deliver you up to be afflicted, and will kill you: and you will be hated of all nations for my name sake. And then will many be offended, and will betray one another, and will hate one another.” (Mathew 24:9-10).

Number two: The cross is not an “option” for the overcomer. “If any man comes to me, and hates not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple, And who ever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27) It is all about priorities. Our motives and intentions produce attitudes whether good or bad. If we are playing a religious game of church, then we will be more concerned with who is singing out of key and where we are going to eat after the service than interceding on our face before God for others to experience salvation, healing and deliverance. If my prayers are centered on making me rich more than making me a soul winner then I am living on the level of a spiritual toddler. If I believe that Jesus is going to rapture me without me having to suffer any persecution then no wonder I am not concerned with being a living sacrifice. How many brothers and sisters have tasted the martyr’s death? How many are suffering now? Why are we not hearing the sermons warning of the coming persecution that could prepare the saints to stand in the coming days of affliction and trouble? Because, the cross is a message for those who desire spiritual reality – not for the ones that love to live in a fantasy world of relaxation, comfort and pleasure. The cross would rather be seen as a golden ticket to eternal life – not as the refining FIRE that purges our carnality.

If we are in the cross – the cross will be in us and this is the only power in heaven and earth that can transform our mind. His cross bears the fruit of His character and blossoms within the crucified life of the believer. If we surrender to His cross in the inner chambers of our heart – our life will be a reflection of His perfect will. The amount of “work” we allow His cross to do in our life – the more He can accomplish within us. Selah. Let us not be like the hypocritical Pharisee that worships a legalistic, empty religion. If we embrace the truth of the cross and allow it to purify us into pure, transparent gold – all that can be seen will be the presence of Christ. All of me – none of Him, less of me – more of Him, none of me – all of Him. “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, put up your sword into the sheath: the CUP, which my Father has given me, shall I not DRINK it? (John 18:10-11) Are you drinking this bittersweet cup?