Self Love

One of the fundamental flaws of fallen man is love of self. It causes man to think more highly of himself than he ought.

Symptoms of self love were first found not in man, but in a creature called Lucifer. For him it was a fatal flaw, for when he thought so highly of himself that he challenged the throne of God, he affected his own demise. On earth, in the garden, he infected the new humans with his own self love, by encouraging them to think more highly of themselves than they ought.

“Did God really say that? You most certainly will not die,” he told them, as if to say, “Don’t believe God’s words. He just wants to keep you from ascending to His level as a God. He doesn’t want you to have His wisdom, to be like Himself.”

Satan lured man with the same self-love that got him cast out of God’s presence. And the moment they saw the lure of thinking their own thoughts in opposition to the declaration of their Maker, pride took over their souls. They were mere created beings, yet so quickly they presumed to doubt the Creator’s Word.

God created man humble and dependent upon His instruction instead of dependent upon their own understanding, yet they were so easily overcome by their desire to be independent and self-determined.

Ezekiel, prophesying the destruction of the King of Tyre in chapter 28 of his book, describes the exaltation that turned to his pride and arrogance. Some believe the description is actually a description of Lucifer in his glorious array before he became known as Satan; others assign the description to Adam, in the glory of his original blessedness, before pride overtook him. The description certainly seems fitting to either:

You were in Eden, the garden of God. Every precious stone was your covering…You were blameless in your behavior from the day you were created, until sin was discovered in you…Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom on account of your splendor. I threw you down to the ground.” Ezekiel 28:13- 17 New English Translation

God delights in exalting the humble, but rejects the proud in their self exaltation, as His Word says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

The sad history of the Israelites in their Promised Land was that when they were humbled, they turned to God and were blessed with abundance of God’s riches and grace, but when they were thus exalted by His blessings, they began to lean to their own understanding and return to disobedience and disregard of God’s instruction, causing God to humble them once more for their pride. And so it went until Judaism was humbled into virtual obliteration as a nation.

What is it about man that tends to believe that God’s gifts are the products of his own beauty, goodness and wisdom? I believe it is self love, inherent to fallen man, as opposed to love for God.

And I believe that is why the greatest commandments direct us away from self love to loving Him supremely, and, secondarily, to love our neighbors to the degree we love ourselves. Love for God with all our being subverts self-love and diverts it outwardly, so that we might truly be like God rather than pretend that His greatness and gifts are our own.

We are clay, clay that has been blessed with His breath and that basks in His glory. When we take His blessings and glorify ourselves for having somehow generated them by our own greatness, we make ourselves repugnant to Him and an eyesore to those who seek to live humbly before God.

We see those whom God has given great gifts and abilities – high intelligence, the ability to succeed in business, musical abilities, athletic prowess – begin to believe they are superior to others, run to fame and fortune and, soon afterward, find destruction in their excess of self exaltation.

Instead of recognizing the Source of their gifts and using them to glorify their Maker and sharing their blessings freely with their neighbors, in their self-love they consume them on their own lusts, like the “goats” who did not recognize the purpose of their abundance.

Self-love, or pride, is the enemy of God because it puts self on the throne owned by God alone.

Self-love, or pride, is what we have been offered salvation from, for it separates us from God.

Mary, in her Spirit-inspired hymn of praise to God, says of Him, “He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts. He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position; he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty.” Luke 1:51-53

What does any one of us have that we did not receive? Nothing. How, then, can any of us use His gifts – intelligence, beauty, talents – to elevate our thoughts and ways over His Truth?

Jesus told those who wanted to follow Him, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  Denying self the center-stage of life is foundational to following Jesus.

It takes humility for a human to be in right relationship to our Creator. If we can truly humble ourselves to allow His written Word and His Holy Spirit to transform us, then in time He may see fit to elevate us. But as long as we use our God-given gifts as a means of exalting our selves, we cut off our access to the grace we need to truly become like Him.

Satisfaction with Worldliness = Complacency about Christ’s Kingdom

Matthew 11:12 “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”

The verse above has been a mystery to many of us, including me. But the sense of it must be taken from the prevailing circumstance when Jesus spoke those words. The rulers and most outwardly religious among the Jews could not see the urgency upon them to abandon their comfort in the world. Their religious system was on the brink of ruin; in less than a generation, Jerusalem, the temple, and everything on which they based their personal significance would be in shambles.

As the Messiah stood before them announcing that the kingdom of God was at hand, those who should have recognized the true riches of the kingdom He offered them, shunned it, derided Him and held on to their present comfort because the kingdom of Jesus threatened their comparatively paltry earthly status. On the other hand, those few deemed the most unworthy saw the tremendous opportunity before them, dropped everything formerly important to them and, in great zeal and fervor, stormed the gates of heaven to take this new kingdom at any personal cost to themselves. The word “violence” describes the great, urgent desire they had for finding their place in Christ’s kingdom. Jesus was telling all who would listen, “Run into the kingdom like a man desperate for it. Lust after this kingdom as though everything you presently possess is garbage by comparison. Because it is.”

The complacency about the kingdom of God today is too much like the disinterest of the Pharisees. Even we, who have come to Jesus, have not rushed into His kingdom with the great abandon and eagerness of men zealous to take a marvelous city. We have kept our home in the world and viewed heaven as a retirement home – “We’ll live there when it’s convenient for us to move from here.” – not considering that we must occupy it now.

I’m pretty sure that complacency can be felt in heaven.

Father, open our eyes so that we may see the shakiness and impending destruction of the foundation on which we have built our earthly lives. Enable us to feel the urgency of being fully invested in Your kingdom. May we desire Your presence above any and every thing. (Further reference: Colossians 3:1-3)

The Vanity of Wrong Comparisons

For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” Hebrews 9:16-17

Covenants are confirmed by sacrifice: the old covenant by the deaths of animals, the new by the death of Christ.

In fact, Christ was the Mediator of His own covenant. He was the One who sprinkled the blood of the Covenant – His own blood – on the Mercy Seat.

This tells us the New Covenant of Jesus Christ – the covenant by which we are redeemed in Him – came into force, became the covenant of grace for us, upon His resurrection. For He, the resurrected Christ, had to ratify the covenant Himself.

When scripture tells us that the “prophets and law prophesied” until John the Baptist, it is revealing that John was the last of the Old Covenant prophets, a voice in the wilderness announcing the appearance of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, whose Kingdom was “at hand.”

In other words, prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Old Covenant was in effect, even though the Kingdom of God had been brought to Earth in Jesus. The disciples of Christ who walked with Him daily were not yet born again even though they believed, they left everything for Him, they followed Him, and were even given authority to cast out devils in His name.

Jesus conferred upon His disciples much favor during the three years He walked with them, but it was only on the very day of His resurrection that they were born again, as “He breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” And it was only after His ascension, on the day of Pentecost, that they were completely filled with the Holy Ghost.

Now, why go through all of this?

This is a reminder to us all that, along with these original disciples, we who follow Jesus Christ through the Spirit of Christ, are part of the promised generation whose hearts have been made tender enough to walk in genuine repentance and loving obedience, and to be called the Temple of the Living God.

We have what the Bible calls “a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.”

Why, then, do we persist in looking at the faults and sins of men such as King David and Solomon, the weaknesses of Moses and Aaron, the disobedience of Jonah, the failures of Abraham and Sarah, the wrong deeds of the patriarchs, the weakness of Sampson, and the failures of disciples before the cross, using their failures to justify our sins and disobedience to the Holy Spirit of God, as if we have no better advantages than they had?

We are not more loved than they, but we are graced with greater and more precious promises than they were. With grace and the Holy Spirit in us, we have the capability to live without spot or blemish. And scripture tells us, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48

We have been given much more than our Old Covenant predecessors, and because of that, God will hold us accountable for what we’ve done with the great gifts and precious promises we have been given.

In John 15:22, Jesus declared, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.” (World English Bible)

He has spoken much more to us than to the Old Covenant forefathers. God has spoken to us through scriptures by His Holy Spirit, which is virtually no different than how He spoke to the prophets of older times. We have seen the Messiah in the Word; we know who He is, and we know His voice. We have received great promises from Him. We have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, far more so than the prophets of old had.

Don’t you think it’s time we quit comparing ourselves to the Old Covenant men and women who “received not the promise,” and who had no ability to conquer sin?

Of course it’s time. We must begin to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith,” for He is the One to whom we must compare ourselves.

Becoming His Disciple

We have church members. We have ordinary Christians. We have believers. But where are the disciples?

Christendom seems to have forgotten that disciples were what Jesus told the original eleven to go and make. And disciples are the only category of Christ followers He prescribed.

Said plainly, only disciples are Christians.

However, it’s a good bet that up to 99 percent of people who self-identify as Christians do not even know what being a disciple consists of.

Is a disciple one who believes in Jesus Christ? Is a disciple one who attends church more often than a couple of times a year?

What is a disciple?

Though it is a mystery to many in the Church today, Jesus was very specific about the condition of discipleship.

Let’s examine three astounding statements He made about those who would be His disciples:

  • Luke 14:26 “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”
  • Luke 14:27 “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”
  • Luke 14:33 “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

According to Jesus, His disciple must sever himself from all earthly ties.

Everything that binds us to this world, that makes us hesitant to wholeheartedly enter into service to the Lord, must be reevaluated and aligned with the will of God – or ditched – if we want to follow Jesus.

Our worldly goals and aspirations, our loving family and friends who want to keep us near them and walking with them, our homes, our jobs, our achievements, our hobbies, our possessions – everything that has the potential of distracting us from God’s will must be subjugated in our estimation and relegated to a position so far below our love for and eagerness to serve God that it becomes, as Paul indicated, like dung in our path. (Philippians 3:8)

If this sounds extreme to our ears, it is because we have considered some or all of these things in our lives too highly, and we still love them more than we love God.

Let’s review what Jesus said about following Him, for that is how He enlisted His disciples: He simply said, “Follow Me!”

That He meant, Follow Me in virtually every way that it is possible to do so, they seemed to know by the Spirit, for not one asked Him what we would have asked: Where are You going? How far do You want me to follow You?

In three of the gospels Jesus is quoted as saying, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

What are we to make of these words if we cannot accept that prospective disciples are being asked to sever ourselves from everything that keeps us from wholehearted service to God through Jesus Christ?

They sound as though we are to be, in truth, fully invested in the Kingdom of God, in the actual life of Christ, instead of treating our citizenship in heaven as a symbolic gesture worthy of a framed plaque on the wall but without any change in our reality.

What have we thought He meant when He said, “Follow Me”?

“Follow Me in theory and rhetoric”?

“Follow Me in my ability to explain the Bible and quote scripture”?

“Follow Me as you ‘follow’ someone on social media”?

Apparently, eleven people who heard these words two thousand years ago and believed He meant to follow Him in purpose, thought, deed, holiness, zeal for God’s will and commitment to obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit. Later, one hundred twenty believed it. And later still, thousands believed it enough to sell what they possessed, or what possessed them, and follow Jesus.

Does hearing this make you want to cut your ties to this world and follow Him wholeheartedly, or does it make you want to reconsider the Christian path? The former is a step toward becoming fervently hot; the latter is a step toward becoming cold in your love for Jesus, for indecision is a vote for lukewarmness.

Some would think this is extreme teaching.

Barely moments after the rich young ruler walked away from Jesus on hearing Him say, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me,” He said to His disciples, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

If we believe that God can make possible even those things we think are not, we might ask Him to finish the work He has begun in us, and make us disciples according to His description rather than according to our modern notions.

I highly recommend that you acquire a copy of my workbook, “The Planting of the Lord; Discipleship 101,” and step boldly onto the path to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

Will You Be Among the Many…or the Few?

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Obviously, many people – a huge percentage of the world’s population, in fact – do not ever say, “Lord, Lord,” to Jesus Christ. So, He’s not talking about them; they are already condemned. He’s speaking of a sub-group among those who DO call Him Lord. And in the very next verse, Jesus says there will be MANY of them to whom He will say, “Depart from Me…I never knew you!”

Elsewhere, He said, “How narrow is the gate and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it.”

So let me spell it out. Few people will find and follow the path to eternal life. And many who profess to follow Jesus on that path DO NOT KNOW HIM AT ALL.

We cannot be casual about following Jesus, but wholly intentional, fully invested. We must pursue His will, to do it!

Paul compares the Christian life to that of a focused athlete. “Every man who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.” He said, “Don’t you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win.

Before Jesus came, God gave people many commandments, with dire consequences for disobedience. Jesus narrowed them down to TWO:

Love God with all your, heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The consequence for disobedience to them is missing heaven. Because love IS God’s will.

That leaves no room for worldly things. In fact, the Word says, “Don’t love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him.”

In this brief lifetime, we have one non-negotiable goal: Love God the way Jesus did. Completely. Totally.

Then we can love our neighbors as ourselves…and do the will of God.

God is on your side. It’s the devil who’s on your back!

Who says hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes are acts of God? Since when are you to believe insurance companies more than you believe God’s Word?

The devil roams about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” That’s what 1 Peter 5:8 says. Look it up! John 8:44 says the devil was a murderer from the beginning.

So why do men turn on God when they are diagnosed with some horrible disease and cry out, “Why me, God?” Haven’t they read that it was Jesus “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him”?

Haven’t they heard that, “To this end was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil”?

Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He hath sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…” How in the world can you or anyone believe that God would make you sick and then tell you to ask Jesus to heal you?

Don’t be among those who pass judgment against God, accusing Him of stealing, killing and destroying, when Jesus said, “The thief comes not but that he may steal, kill and to destroy; I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.”

If you’re one of those who have blamed God for the work of the enemy of your soul, repent and ask God to let you see this one thing: God is on your side. It’s the devil who’s on your back!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning.” James 1:17

Become Born Again Today!

Jesus said, “You must be born again.” There is no other way.

If you do not believe in Jesus, it’s because you have not loved truth. If you desire to know the truth and love it, ask God to reveal Himself to you. If you do believe in Jesus, but do not KNOW Him intimately, read Luke 14:26-35, then ask Jesus to enable you to obey the seemingly impossible instructions He gives to those desiring to follow Him.

Then ask Jesus to fill you with His Holy Spirit, to enable you to follow wherever He leads.

What Are You Getting In Exchange For Your Soul?

Some give their souls for drugs.  Others exchange their souls for a career or lifestyle.

If you haven’t chosen to follow Jesus, then, by default, you have been trading your soul for something. By choosing something other than Jesus, you’re passing up a loving personal relationship with your Creator for eternity, and receiving the most terrible consequence imaginable: eternal punishment. In death, your soul will be conscious forever, experiencing pain as real as anything your body is capable of feeling right now.

There’s still time to make a better choice if you are willing to turn to Jesus Christ. He paid the price for your salvation if you will accept it.

Whatever may have kept you from seeking God — can it really be worth your eternal soul?

You may think it’s impossible to change, to give up the lifestyle to which you are so attached. Nearly every current Christian thought the same thing at one time. But God specializes in changing people.   He’s done it for millions who have turned to Jesus Christ and confessed their sins.

God won’t force you to follow Him. He loves you and wants you in His family.

Nothing is worth eternal punishment. Neither drugs, money, sex, self-indulgence, power, nor anything in this life.

Whatever stands between you and God is your destruction unless you ask Jesus Christ to be your personal Lord and Savior.

Your decision can determine where you will spend eternity. There are no second chances when you stand before the judgment seat of God.  Give your life to Him now.

What will you get in exchange?

New life now and forever. Forgiveness. The power of God’s Holy Spirit to keep you on the right path. The grace to live in God’s presence. Love, joy, peace, and all the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Do it now. You’ll never regret it.

The Odd Comfort of Irresponsibility

An acquaintance who lived on the streets of Kansas City one winter related how, frequently, people would commit crimes for the purpose of being arrested and sentenced to jail time so they could be warm and fed.

People familiar with criminal lifestyles recognize that a significant aspect of recidivism  is that some criminals find a certain comfort in incarceration and may, consciously or subconsciously, resort to activities that will remove them from societal demands of steady work, the discipline of paying bills, improving their lot in life and, in general, dealing with the rat race.

All of that tendency toward exchanging freedom and responsibility for captivity and irresponsibility may be seen in the attitudes of the Israelites freed from bondage to Egypt and facing the challenge of trusting God for their survival in the wilderness. They quickly came to resent the stark reversal of lifestyle, complaining that they no longer had the leeks and onions that sustained them in their harsh captivity.

God was taking them through what could have been a few short weeks of physical and mental transformation and reconditioning in order to bring them into a beautiful lifestyle with Himself as their Master. However, they refused to grasp the vision ahead of them, preferring the status quo of their past to the transformation necessary to have God as their only King, Provider, Protector, Comforter and Father. They were afraid to even hear His voice personally, relegating that task to Moses.

Of course, we know what resulted from their stubborn reliance on a familiar, though restrictive and harsh, lifestyle under a cruel taskmaster. Virtually the entire generation had to die out, and be replaced by a new generation raised in the harshness of the wilderness, before the Israelite culture could enter the Promised Land. Even then, stubbornness and fear kept them from the liberty of having God as their King, and led them to demand a human king so they could retain some identity with the heathen cultures around them.

We could easily relate that to this present generation of people enslaved to the government dole becoming delighted at the prospect of coming under the total cradle-to-grave control of a socialist government. But that offers no lesson for us, as Christians, to learn, assuming we have already been freed from seeing government as our salvation.

Our more immediate lesson as people of God is that we have become accustomed to being spoon-fed God’s word, comfortable in the irresponsibility of being led and taught as children by ministers, rather than growing to maturity in the image of Jesus Christ under the tutelage of the Word of God as taught directly by the Spirit of God.

Why? We love the comfort of irresponsibility.

Why do we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and accept the responsibility of hearing from God personally when we have pastors who will feed us once a week? Why should we give up the worldly culture of pursuing money and status and leisure in order to be transformed in the wilderness of separation from the world? Do we really need to hate this worldly life in order to be prepared to live under God’s Kingship in eternity?

All these whiny questions are reminiscent of a certain serpent asking, “Did God really say…?”

Satan’s appeal to reason and human rationality comes to us in similar questions: “Did Jesus really say His disciples had to hate all personal attachments to this world? Did He really say His followers would forsake all they possess in order to follow Him in lifestyle and good works? Did He really say we need to deny ourselves, take up our cross of identification with Him, and to follow Him? Did He really command us to love Him with ALL of our being?

Of course, we would not know that He said those things if we didn’t hear them from our human tutors. We would only hear words that insist we invest our entire hope and personal identification in Him and His kingdom if we heard them directly from God’s word as taught by the Holy Spirit.

God does not call us to human reason and human rationality, nor to obey the demands of our comfort-loving flesh. He calls us to life that is impossible to live, maintain and thrive in while we keep one foot in Egypt. If we set our faces toward eternity with Jesus and refuse to look back to burning Sodom and Gomorrah, we can become fit for the kingdom of God, but half-hearted commitment to Jesus is no better than an adulterous affair with the world.

Responsibility to the One who purchased us with His blood means we must be completely severed from the rest of the worldly culture in order to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Only then can we prove God’s will and way by our lives.

The day is at hand

This generation – the generation of professed followers of Jesus – is the most blessed of all generations. On us He has bestowed abundance of gifts and advantages, both natural and spiritual – all things richly to enjoy – to either consume upon our lusts, or to enjoy in fulfilling God’s purposes.

The spiritual blessings are the true riches, those from which God our Father expects increase, a harvest producing plenty. No other generation or people group has benefited as much from the grace and mercy of God as we have, from our very salvation and the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, and the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God Himself, which is an open door to God’s throne!

The light of truth has never shone on so many. The availability of the word of God in so many languages, in such readily accessible forms, at such little cost, with so many avenues of illumination and explanation, puts an unspeakably huge arsenal of spiritual weaponry at our fingertips. Yet, are we focused on God’s purpose – the harvest – or on our leisure and comfort?

Do we genuinely recognize that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”? If it is true that “to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more,” how much more so is it true that God will require more of this most blessed generation than of others?

Re-read the parable of the talents, and instead of assuming the talents refer to gold or silver, or even to your natural gifts and abilities, see if God’s richest treasures might fit into the meaning. Read it with “measures of faith” inserted in place of “talents,” or with “love,” or with “grace,” or “understanding,” “wisdom,” or any number of His spiritual blessings. Do that and I think you will understand the urgency with which we ought to pursue God’s purposes in our lives rather than our own.

The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Time is short, friends, too short for us to sleep in the light of day.

The Wrong “I”

Of Christians I want to ask: have you said (as I have from time to time), “I am offended,” or, “I can’t forgive that hurt”?

I feel wronged and offended when I have been insulted, slighted, overlooked or marginalized – “I,” meaning the old self with whom I wrongly identify at those times.

My born-again spirit, which ought to be the “I” with whom I identify, does not get easily offended, and when it does, it is for an offense toward God rather than toward self.

How did Jesus avoid anger when Pharisees said slanderous and hurtful things about Him, even to His face? He did not identify with the self life, but with the life of the Spirit of God within Him.

Why do I persist in identifying with the old “I” – the “I” that has been crucified with Christ and yet cries to be rescued from the cross.

Could it be that I still pursue the fleshly, selfish life, thus minimizing, marginalizing, the life of the Spirit of God?

When will I confidently and truthfully say, as Paul did, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

That can happen only when I can say, and mean it, as he did, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Philippians 3:8

Is your “I” the wrong “I” sometimes, also? It’s time we see the old life clearly, as the dung and death it truly is.