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We love because He first
Stephanie M. White
Everyone experiences an off-season in
life - sometimes more than one.
An off-season is a dry time; it is a time of lack and a time of trials. These times can feel daunting and
painful; therefore, we must understand the purpose of these times and we must be sure that God has a plan for our good and His glory.
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Heaven on earth is a life most people dream of but it can only be obtained through Jesus Christ. Our lives are incomplete without Him. If you have not accepted Him as your personal Lord and Savior, a life of heaven on earth is impossible. Accepting Christ is not some religious experience; it is the beginning of a personal relationship! Jesus Christ came to this earth and died on a cross to take your place, to pay for your sin. We could not pay for our own sin without spending an eternity separated from God. God raised Jesus back to life so that we could live our lives through Him, to Him, and for Him! All you have to do to begin a personal relationship with Christ is go to Him now! Call out to Him and receive the price He paid for you sin, invite Him into your life, and begin to understand how to live a life of heaven on earth!
WHO is Christianity Really All About?
There is far too much importance placed on the Christian rather than on Christ. I am an avid reader and I find myself wanting to rewrite many of the Christian books and devotionals that I read. Too many times the emphasis is placed on us – what WE do for Christ, what WE give to God, what WE decide in regards to how we live our lives, and so on. I was set free from focusing on me when I saw John 15:5 for what it really means: apart from Christ I can do nothing! If I can truly do nothing outside of Christ then what am I really doing for God? If I need Him in order to produce Spiritual fruit then it is really Christ who deserves the credit for any and all of the Spiritual fruit produced through me. The Bible tells us that God is not served by human hands (Acts 17:25). WE are not doing anything for God; HE is doing for us and through us. As I study the Hebrew version of the Bible I find that our translation has caused some confusion. Words like “serve,” “keep,” and “obey” have led many to believe that their behavior is up to them. What was translated as “keep” actually means to stay focused on, to guard, to product, to look at. What man has translated as “obey” actually means to hear and to take in. When we understand this we can see that hearing the Word and focusing on the Word is what we really need to do. I do not need to make myself be good; I need to take the Word in regularly and the Word will change me. Seeing that it is, in fact, the Word that is changing me and producing the Spiritual fruit in me, I can resist taking credit and feeling superior.
I think about Peter; Peter found himself in a state of denial when he depended upon himself. He was quick to tell Jesus that he would never deny Him; but yet, that is just what Peter did. If Peter would have told Jesus, “I know that on my own I am capable of denying You. I know I cannot make it without You. Give me the strength I need to not deny You,” I think the story would have read differently. Our flesh can do nothing but sin and that is who we are outside of Christ! When we are “in Christ,” or when we are in agreement with our Spiritual identity (because we are abiding in the Word and faith is being produced) that is when we are avoiding sin and instead producing Spiritual fruit. Too many times the focus shifts to us and we look to ourselves for the Spiritual fruit we long to produce. If I could just decide to live for Christ or if I could just quit sinning or I could just do what is right, and so on, then I would be a good Christian. This way of thinking could not be further from the truth. Christ is all you need! The Bible tells us that one thing is necessary (Luke 10:38-42). That one thing is spending time listening to God! The Bible tells us that faith comes from hearing (Romans 10:17) and it also tells us that living (Spiritual) faith will produce Spiritual actions in us. We are going to the wrong source when we look to ourselves. People are pointing us to the wrong source when they put the focus on us.
In the book of James, we read that faith without works is dead. This leads some to believe that they must prove their faith. Faith is given by God; God is the one who will prove our faith. Faith without works is dead – what does that mean? What is dead? The flesh. Faith can be living and it can be dead. I can believe something but if it does not produce an action in me then it is dead. For example, I can believe that lying is wrong but I until I get to the point that I no longer lie, that faith is dead. That faith is not Spiritual faith because it is not producing Spiritual fruit yet. God tells us to abide in the Word for this reason. The more time I spend focusing on the Word, the more Spiritual fruit I will produce. Christianity is not about going to church and knowing what is right and wrong; Christianity is about living in the Word of God and having the Word of God change you from the inside out. Working out our salvation is taking what Christ put inside of us when we received Him and displaying it on the outside, and we can only do this by abiding in the Word.
Too many times we puff ourselves up by thinking we do so much more for God than the next person and if they could just be like us! I cannot understand how proud we are of something we are not even responsible for. If I gave a friend the money to purchase my lunch and they expected me to be thankful to them for the food, I would laugh; yet, we do this very thing with God. He gives us everything we need to produce Spiritual fruit and we want to take the credit for it. Jesus said that we are useless without Him. If you read Luke 17:7-10 we see that Jesus does not owe us thanks. In verse 9 He says, “Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?” The word “told” was translated from a word that actually means "to arrange thoroughly." We cannot expect God to thank us for doing what He enables us to do! He thoroughly arranged for us to be able to produce Spiritual fruit; we are “unworthy” servants – which means we are useless without Him! The servant cannot serve unless the master has land to work and tools to work the land. The servant needs the master; without the master the servant can do nothing.
We may want to say that we love God and that is why we do the Spiritual things we do, but that is just not the case. Loving God was not the problem Peter had. Jesus questioned his love for Him and Peter proclaimed it. Loving God is not what procures Spiritual actions. If love for God was all that we necessitated then every Christian would be living the successful Christian life. If love for God was all that Peter needed then he would have never denied Christ. We must remember that even our love for God is only because of His love for us; everything goes back to Him! If you love God you should be praising Him, not patting yourself on the back. We must realize how much we have to be thankful for.
Humility…we must understand that without Christ
(and He is the Word!)
we are useless!
Thank You, Lord!