There is a widely used term in the self-help or self-improvement philosophy called “stinkin’ thinkin’” This refers to all negative thinking about one’s self as it is an impediment to one’s success. One must replace stinkin’ thinkin’ with constant positive thoughts and self-imaging according to the self-help gurus.
There is a legitimate positive thinking method but it is not about raising self-esteem or self-worth as a person. This positive thinking will make us a better Christian and consequently a better person to the world. We should change positive thinking to “inspiration meditation” which involves God’s Word. The Apostle Paul wrote a good example of inspiration meditation for us.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8. There is God’s positive thinking method which is really meditation that inspires Christians.
Surely we all know that persistent and prevailing thoughts can persuade our actions. The wise King Solomon knew it and told it. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7. People will act according to the dominant thoughts of their mind whether good or bad. That can happen to Christians as well which is the reason for inspiration meditation – meditating on the Word of God.
The Psalmist saw one who practiced inspiration mediation as a blessed person. “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…..But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Psalms 1:1-2. Christians are blessed by inspiration meditation to the degree of their meditation. The more meditation the more blessing.
The chaotic and crazy world we live in can cause discomforted hearts within Christians as well as the lost. Christians have a remedy the lost do not have which is inspiration meditation. The O.T. Prophet, Isaiah, was accustomed to it. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee…” Isaiah 26:3. Isaiah didn’t repose in humanistic positive thinking. Rather he meditated on the Word of God – inspiration meditation.
We will do well to mimic the Psalmist and the apostle Paul by meditating regularly on God’s Word. If we are guilty of stinkin’ thinkin’ (par. 1) may we be quick to substitute inspiration meditation. Nothing else will settle us and raise our spirit like the Word of God.
When Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives His disciples watched in gripping awe. Two white clad angels appeared and said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven…” The disciples’ gaze was riveted on the disappearing Jesus.
I wish to speak of another time and person who gazed into the heavens with awe and wonderment and recorded its impact upon him. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Psalm 19:1. The author of this revelation was King David. Many times I suppose King David sat on a hilltop or stood on the plain and gazed into heavens with awe and reverence.
Why did King David so much enjoy gazing heavenward and to revel at its vastness and innumerable host? Because to him this vast captivating scene revealed Creator God. This magnificent cosmic picture showed to King David the God of all creation. I suspect that intently gazing into the heavens was an oft repeated pleasure for Israel’s King.
How can people see the heavens above every day of their lives and not be turned to God? That is the purpose of it all. We have astronomers, scientists and educators who see no evidence of God in the heavens and foolishly proclaim a Godless universe. These infidels confidently propagandize the tale of the “Big Bang” which needed no God.
How can it be that someone can gaze into the celestial expanse with its intricacy, complexity and permanency and not recognize the Creator? One has to be blind – spiritually blind. Paul identified this blindness in II Cor 4:4. “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not…” The small god, Satan, has filled their minds with his “Big Bang” lie.
Here is a wonderful spiritual exercise. During some dark night stand where you have a panoramic view and GAZE deeply and intently into the heavens. God will touch a Christian with His reality and greatness. Why? We are observing the physical (all the universe) declaration of God the Creator. The twinkling objects dotting the night sky are His handiwork – His craft.
Yes, gazing into the heavens was an awesome experience for King David. We too can experience the same if we will “peer in the spirit” into the celestial sphere above. Gazing into heaven can bring us closer to God so let us GAZE IN AMAZEMENT.
The wise king and preacher, Solomon, told of his search for life’s meaning, in his discourse on vanity in Ecclesiastes. In it he named “vanity” thirty three times. Six times he said “all is vanity” with which he opened and closed his book. Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8. The word vanity means emptiness; something transitory or unsatisfactory.
Did Solomon intend for us to believe that we should not enjoy such things as leisure activities, a good education, excellence at our job, investments on Wall Street, etc. etc. etc.? NO! The point to Solomon’s conclusion, “all is vanity,” is that nothing of this world will satisfy our God given emptiness but God Himself.
Our world is filled with a hungry humanity. They search for happiness and satisfaction in things of this world only to remain depraved souls. People are living for work, sports, entertainment, travel, hobbies, etc. They have a desperate need for self-aggrandizement – self-importance. Apart from God this is all vanity which leaves people unfulfilled and unsatisfied.
Did Solomon offer an antidote or remedy for the vanity lifestyle? Is there something that will prevent vanity from ruining our lives? Yes. Solomon wrote, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. This is the antidote or prevention for vanity.
Everyone everywhere is subject to God’s commandments but they won’t obey until they come to God in faith in Jesus Christ. Solomon testified that the works and deeds of every person will be Divinely judged. Those who live for self and chase the world are vain and will be so judged. Christians will have their works judged by a different standard.
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” Colossians 3:17. This is the spiritual test for the works of Christians. Are we living for Christ? Are we conscious of Christ in whatever we do or say? Are we wanting the glory of Christ to shine through whatever we do and speak? God knows and we should too.
I say, therefore, Christians can freely engage in work, play, entertainment, travel, hobbies, etc. because we have a different perspective than those living vainly. Yea, we can enjoy and excel in these things because ultimately we are living for Jesus Christ through whom we are made obedient to God.
Vanity, Vanity – it need not beset you, dear Christian.
Israel heard a historical discourse from their leader, Joshua, shortly before his death. He recounted God’s exploits and miracles by which He had created and led Israel to the promised land. Joshua punctuated his talk of remembrance with a passionate challenge. “…choose you this day whom ye will serve…” Joshua 24:15
Israel was being challenged by Joshua to choose whom they would serve – the false gods (idols) of their past or the one true God who placed them in Canaan, the promised land. Before all Israel Joshua made known his intention. “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15. That should be the heartfelt resolve of every Christian.
When a person accepts salvation doesn’t he or she, perhaps unwittingly, make the choice to serve the Lord Jesus Christ? Though salvation is a one-time event choosing to serve Jesus Christ is required daily because of our sinful nature. Jesus Himself implied that choosing to serve Him was a daily necessity. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Choosing to follow Jesus is a wonderful but demanding decision. It requires our total commitment and daily dedication to perform it. We are tempted every day by the world – by its ways and wants. We are constantly bombarded with humanistic philosophy and offended by evil ways. Is there help for us who choose to serve the Lord? Yes. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16. God’s Holy Spirit will enable us.
Back to Joshua. What was Israel’s response to Joshua’s challenge that they choose whom they would serve? “And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.” Joshua 24:24. They did just that for a while but they soon turned from serving God. As Christians we must remain aware of Israel’s folly and endeavor not to do likewise.
The Bible tells us that Christians were chosen by God before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4. That is too marvelous to comprehend but we believe it. In actuality we did not become God’s chosen until we chose to become His through salvation in Jesus Christ. In other words, when you chose salvation in Jesus Christ you became a chosen one of God.
Aren’t you glad you made the choice?
How exasperating it can be to forget something but there is something all Christians must forget. Paul explained that something in Philippians chapter 3 and what replaced it. We will examine this affirmation by Paul.
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14. This is a powerfully practical instruction for all Christians.
“forgetting those things which are behind” What things did Paul want to leave behind – to forget? It was his religion, Judaism. Why? Because, like all religions, it made him self-righteous and unacceptable to God. Paul deeply desired the righteousness of Christ by faith. Philippians 3:9. Religion can only produce self-righteous people because they don’t bring people to the righteousness of God through Christ.
“reaching forth unto those things which are before” What was Paul reaching for? I think Paul first wanted to perform the ministry Jesus Christ gave him – the taking of the gospel to the Gentiles. Finally Paul looked forward to receiving his rewards of faith at the return of Christ. He especially anticipated being awarded his crown of righteousness at Christ’s appearing. II Timothy 4:8
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” The word press imagines a foot race or a hurried pace. The word high means above or high up. Paul was anxious to find himself ready to be called to heaven when the time came. Being ready – That ought to be the goal of every Christian.
Our Moral. It can be easy for Christians, especially new Christians, to hang onto errant religious beliefs prior to salvation. I have known many Christians who were confused and held back by lingering religious beliefs and practices. They must learn to FORGET those things and, like Paul, press on in the faith.
How do we forget those things which are best to forget? We exercise that urgent desire which Paul had: “That I may know him…” Philippians 3:10. How do we gain a better knowledge of Jesus Christ? We learn all we can about Him in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. We honestly strive to obey Him and to serve Him. If our minds are on Jesus we can’t be remembering our religious past nor can it influence us.
IT IS BEST TO FORGET IT!
One of the most interesting Bible stories is that of Abraham sacrificing his Son Isaac to God. Therein we read this amazing statement, “And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” Genesis 22:10. No other deed of Abraham exceeded this one in faith. How did Abraham possess such faith?
Abraham’s faith came from the “assurance” which God gave him. In Hebrews chapter 11 (accurately called the Hall of Faith) the author memorialized Abraham’s faith. “Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead…” Hebrews 11:18-19. God assured Abraham that he would have seed (descendants) through Isaac so Abraham was confident that if he slew Isaac God would raise him from the dead to fulfill His plan.
Christianity is a “know so” faith based on the many assurances of God. John repeatedly affirmed our “know so” faith in his first letter. In that short letter John spoke twenty seven times of Christians “knowing” a certain truth. Each one of those twenty seven items of faith which Christians “know” brings assurance. The Bible is the greatest book of assurance.
I believe it is possible for any Christian to display Abraham-like faith. He and all Bible heroes were not extraordinary people – they were “assured” believers. They knew and allowed God’s Words of assurance fill them with the confidence to faithfully perform. Cannot any Christian do likewise?
Do you know that Christ’s resurrection was an act of assurance from God to all of the world? “Because he (God) hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:31. Christ’s resurrection is God’s assurance that we all will be judged according to our faith in Jesus Christ.
What assurance is afforded Christians by Christ’s resurrection? Just this: “And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” I John 2:28 When Jesus returns for His church Christians will stand before Him confidently because they knew God’s assurance, which was testified by Christ’s resurrection, and believed it.
Knowing God’s Word truly is our assurance. May we earnestly strive to know it and believe it wholeheartedly. If we do we will be assured as Abraham was and exhibit confidence in serving God. GOD HELP US!
We read of the great exploits and successes of certain Bible characters and wonder how they did it. The exemplary O.T. Prophet, Daniel, showed us the key to spiritual victories. Of him it was said, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself…” Daniel 1:8. The key? Daniel “purposed.”
Purpose is not a moment of mustered motivation or a sudden surge of inspiration. To purpose is to firmly resolve to perform or accomplish a certain thing. Purpose should also reflect one’s character and/or belief system. Daniel’s character was one of godliness and he resolutely acted in line with his faith. All Christians would do well to emulate God’s prophet, Daniel.
The Bible describes our God as a God of purpose. He said to the Israelites, “I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” Isaiah 46:11. We learn in Ephesians 3:9-11 that the church is God’s eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. Thank God He will never change or abandon His eternal purpose.
Having purpose is needful and commendable but it is not enough. We know the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. In other words people go to hell because they do not follow through on their intention to do right – to get right with God. So it is with purpose. Having purpose alone without honestly striving to live out that purpose is vain – empty – worthless.
Christians get inspired when they read Hebrews chapter 11(the Hall of Faith) which is, I believe, the divinely intended effect. It is a marvelous account of purpose driven believers – servants of God. Do you realize that they would not have been enshrined in God’s Hall of Faith if they had not been purpose driven and had not acted out their purpose! Can
we not do the same?
Could it be that God’s Hall of Fame, Hebrews chapter 11, is not complete? Could it be there exists an edition in God’s heavenly bookcase wherein is listed names of qualifying Christians coming after those in Hebrews chapter 11? If so, are you and I in it? It is up to us.
A noted Pastor and author wrote a best-selling book a few years ago titled “The Purpose Driven Church.” My definition of a “purpose” driven church is one filled with “purpose” driven Christians serving our God of “purpose.” I pray that would describe the New Hope Baptist Church.
All four gospel writers gave accounts of John the Baptist but the writer John referred to him only as John. John the Baptist was a unique and interesting character on a hallowed mission for God. He would introduce the world to Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God – the Savior of the world.
In Chapter 3 a group came to inform John the Baptist that the one whom he had baptized and gave witness to, Jesus Christ, was baptizing and all men were following him. It seems probable that John’s informants were aiming to stir up contention or envy within John the Baptist. It failed! Unshakably John the Baptist quietly explained his position and that of Jesus Christ.
In his defense John the Baptist spoke a short but profound statement in explaining the positions of himself and Jesus Christ. He said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” What a powerful admission. Of Jesus Christ John said, “He must increase” and of himself, “I must decrease.” Jesus must become more preeminent with Christians and they less self-important. That is an unfailing formula for Christian growth.
The single pursuit for Christians should be making Jesus Christ number one in our lives. We should seek to glorify Jesus in our every word and deed. True, it is a difficult order but that should be our desire. Yes, we will fail at times but we must “not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9
When we were lost we did not and could not give Jesus increase because we wanted it. We were the only one who counted. When we became saved we necessarily and gladly gave increase to Christ and decreased self. We may not have understood it that way then but that is what happened. Giving increase to Christ while decreasing self, ought to be a lifelong aspiration for Christians.
The question could be asked, Must a Christian decrease self first in order for Jesus to have increase or is it by increasing Christ that we experience decrease of self? I think a statement of Jesus in Matthew suggests the answer. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
I believe any increase we are able to afford Jesus Christ will come from an honest and diligent effort to know and serve Him. Accordingly, the decrease of self will be directly proportionate to the effort we apply to knowing Jesus Christ. Increase or decrease – more or less? Let us ask ourselves, Are we more of self and less of Jesus or are we more of Jesus and less of self?
We all know what child adoption is and some readers may have been adopted children themselves. Many times adoption is the salvation of neglected, mistreated or unwanted children. That is in fact the condition of all people before being adopted by God. Think of the great number of children in the world who are not wanted BUT God is willing to adopt them as His children.
The Bible tells us that that God predestined (determined beforehand) that those who came to Christ would be declared His children. Ephesians 1:5. Upon being declared His child God imparts the Holy Spirit who assures us that we are God’s children and we can rightly address Him as Abba or Father. Romans 8:15-16
You, dear Christian, are a bona fide child of God who is now your keeper, provider and protector. HOW WONDERFUL but it gets even better. As a child of God we are heirs of God making us joint-heirs (equal) with Jesus Christ. Romams 8:17. That is unimaginable and begs the question, Why do Christians spend so much time and effort obtaining the things of this world when we have so much more with Christ?
Appreciation for our adoption by God is intensified if we think on our previous family situation. The term “family” is not attributed to Satan in the Bible but lost people are called “children of the Devil.” I John 3:10. Everyone is either an adopted child of God or a child of Satan – the Devil. Jesus told contentious Jews, “Ye are of your father the Devil…” John 8:44
Think of it! Before our adoption by God we were children of Satan and he was our father. Scary thought! No wonder we had so much trouble. No wonder the world is so troubled. Satan is anything except a caring and loving father. His children are slaves to sin with a dismal future. Isn’t it sad that the needy and forsaken children of the world are not being offered the adoption of God?
With earthly adoptions the adopted child is no longer under the rule of their former parents or guardians. How grateful we Christians are for that. Satan ceased to be our father and lost all claim to us when God adopted us. Earthly adoptions usually provide children with better homes and lives. Is that not what God has done for his adopted children?
How can we ever thank God for adoption into His family? Sufficient thanks in words are impossible. “Actions speak louder than words” is the old sage which fits well here. The best thanks we can offer God is to be faithful children – faithful to the gospel which births adopted children like you and I.
We are all familiar with King David’s plea to God, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation…” Psalm 51:12. (Please read Psalm 51 if you can)
Is it natural for Christians to lose the joy that salvation plants within us? I think it is a common condition that can easily beset any Christian. If a believer like King David pleaded with God to restore salvation’s joy unto him it seems all Christians are susceptible to losing their joy. I have and it was restored as with King David. Doubtless many readers have had this experience.
It should be noted that King David did not ask that salvation be restored to him but that “the joy of thy salvation” return. King David didn’t need to be saved again for salvation is eternal – forever. King David was sorely missing the joy of God’s salvation. Admittedly, loss of salvation’s joy can make a Christian feel lost but that cannot be. It can however make us unhappy and impotent Christians.
The question arises, what causes Christians to lose the joy of their salvation? There are several causes but we’ll focus on the major one which robbed King David of his joy. He wrote, “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51:2. SIN stole the joy from King David. Sin will dispel the joy of any Christian.
What was King David’s recourse for regaining the joy he lost to sin? First he made a full confession to God of his sins. Sin separates (alienates) us from God and quenches (hinders) the Holy Spirit’s work within us. Confession of sin is the prerequisite for God’s forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9. No confession no forgiveness!
After confession King David entreated God to wash him thoroughly and cleanse him. Confessing our sin and obtaining God’s forgiveness brings fresh joy which expresses itself in renewed praise and worship of God. King David testified, “Then (after being forgiven) will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted.” Again, “…my tongue will sing aloud of thy righteousness.” Again, “my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.”
We have all heard the saying, “Confession is good for the soul.” It is not only true – it is necessary. It restores our relationship with God and BRINGS BACK THE JOY OF GOD’S SALVATION which stirs us to renewed worship and service.
Any Christian reading this who is battling sin can humbly confess their sin and ask for God’s forgiveness. THIS WILL BRING BACK YOUR LOST JOY!