Tag Archives: Pride

Take Care of Your Beam

Matthew 7:3-5

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye

We can see it so clearly! It glares at us like the sun shining off the snow on a crisp, clear winter day. It shines so brightly we almost have to turn away or cover our eyes. Our eyes focus in on it and must go and tell others about the amazing sight they have just witnessed. We must spread the word that it exists, and that it is there for everyone to see. We just can’t miss it and we want to make sure they don’t either. What is it? It’s our brothers faults and shortcomings, that’s what.

It is so evident what is wrong with those around us, isn’t it? If they are full of anger, we know it. If they are prideful we certainly know that. If they are gossips of busybodies we will make sure everyone knows that. The truth is, we are so quick to see what is supposedly wrong with everyone around us that we forget we are imperfect beings as well. We all are!

The admonition of Jesus in these verses is quite clear, and it follows the exhortation to not judge one another. As always, perfect timing! When we try and figure someone out by looking through our imperfect eyes, we most likely will see them wrong. We most likely will look through a lens that is cloudy or warped by our own preconceived ideas and notions. Our vision is blocked by who we are and what we have seen or heard. There is a beam in our eye, and that beam is our own faults and failures.

It boils down to this – take care of your own problems first. Take care of your own shortcomings, whether they be in the things of this world or spiritual things. Paul tells us to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) What this means is that we are all flawed when we compare ourselves to Christ. That is the only comparison we should make. We should never compare our spiritual progress with someone else’s. We have our own problems when it comes to perfection. While it is true that we are saved when we confess Jesus Christ and accept His sacrifice as an atonement for our sins, that salvation comes into our innermost being. We are made new creatures in Christ at that moment (2 Corinthians 5:17). But we are still clothed with this flesh and all it’s imperfections. For the rest of our lives, that perfect salvation that entered our soul needs to be worked outward to affect the flesh we are burdened with.

Our brother is also clothed with that flesh and God is working on Him as well. The trouble is that we have no idea what God is working on in their lives or where He is taking them. They are on their own journey, with all their flaws and faults. God is working on them. Why do we feel a need to point out their weak areas? Don’t you think God can point them out and take care of them? Doesn’t He know all about them already? And if God was concerned with that imperfection that you see, won’t He take care of it in His due time? Of course He will!

Then why do we insist on pointing out someone else’s faults? I think it is because of pride. We want to see ourselves as better or more important. We may see this other person as someone smarter or more entertaining then we are so we bring up their weaknesses as a way of making us feel better. That’s pride. Anytime we compare ourselves to others thinking we are better or worse, it is pride. Pride is simply thinking an inordinate amount of time about ourselves, whether it is thinking good of ourselves or bad. Our pride will look past our own faults but look directly at someone else’s.

Reading Psalm 139 can really put some perspective on our lives. Gpd says He knows every thought we have and every word we say. He says no matter where we go, He is there. The psalmist says God always knows exactly where I am. If you think you’re pulling one over on God because you have a secret sin lurking in your life you are sadly mistaken. He knows that sin, and He knows others that you may just ignore, He does not reveal everything that is wrong with our lives all at once. He reveals things to us a little at a time and gives us the grace to deal with one thing at a time. If He showed us all our faults at once, we would be devastated at our wretchedness.

He follows this same process with every one of His children. And if He is dealing with their lives, what right do we have to intercede? Can’t we just let God do His job instead of trying to do it for Him? Remember what the serpent said to Eve when He tempted her to take the fruit? He said You shall be as God (Gen 3:5)! And when we look at the mote in our brothers eye that is exactly what we are doing. We are trying to be like God, showing them their imperfections, when we have our own huge imperfections to deal with.

Later in Psalm 139 vs 17-18 the psalmist writes that God has precious thoughts toward us. Even as He sees all our imperfections and all our wandering off the path He has designed for us, He still has precious thoughts toward us. So many precious thoughts that they cannot be numbered! If He can look at us, with all our faults, and still think of us as precious, why can’t we do the same to our brothers and sisters on this earth? Instead of pointing out their failures, lift up their successes! Instead of trying to point out what they are doing wrong, help them see all they are doing right. Lift them up, edify them and encourage them in all things. This is what we are supposed to do.

Then at the end of this precious psalm (vs 23-24), the psalmist makes an extraordinary statement. He asks God to search Him and see if there be any wicked way in Him. He has already acknowledged that God knows every thought, every word, every action that he takes. Why then does he ask God to search Him? It is so God can reveal to him his own wicked ways so that he, the psalmist, might be able to understand the thing he needs to correct. Then he will be able to remove the beam out of his own eye and see clearly.

There are times that God will work with us to help someone overcome a fault. I will readily admit that. But we must make sure it is the stirring of the Holy Spirit within us that is causing us to feel we must help. If it is not, we are most likely going to bring an offence between us, or we will sow discord among the brethren, which is listed as one of the things God hates in Proverbs 6. I can honestly say it is very rare that God has ever asked me to help correct someone else’s faults in my 40+ years as a Christian, and that person was my best friend for 60+ years. We know each other inside and out so when God starts to deal with me about him, I can be blunt with him and know he will still love me. Not many of us have that kind of relationship with someone else. If you ever feel God is dealing with you in this area, pray earnestly before you say anything and make the Holy Spirit bears witness.

First and foremost work on yourself. Work on your salvation. Work on your trouble areas. When I think about that, I think of a song my kids used to sing when they were little. I still sing it to myself sometimes today. I want to close the lesson with this:

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

There really ought to be a sign upon my heart
Don’t judge him yet, there’s an unfinished part
But I’ll be better just according to His plan
Fashioned by the Master’s loving hands

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

In the mirror of His word
Reflections that I see
Makes me wonder why He never gave up on me
But He loves me as I am and helps me when I pray
Remember He’s the potter, I’m the clay

He’s still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
‘Cause He’s still workin’ on me

“He’s Still Working on Me” by Joel Hemphill

Where is Your Treasure

Matthew 6:19-21

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

My brother used to have a fun game he played with his grandson. It started when he was just three and went on for about 6 years until the young man outgrew it. My brother would draw up treasure maps They would feature keys areas in and around his yard, and his grandson would try and decode those. At first. He needed help. But then it got harder and harder for my brother to make them difficult. Somewhere along the way, his grandson started making up maps for my brother which got more and more challenging. It was a fun game that I’m sure they will remember for the rest of their lives.

I can remember as a teen doing a lot of scavenger hunts. You were given a list of items and you had to go around and find them somewhere. One of those lists might include a pine cone, a paper clip a tube of lipstick and other very diverse items. We always had fun trying to win those scavenger hunts to win some silly little prize. Sometimes I feel like doing one again.

All of my life I have been hunting treasure though. For 24 years I hunted the treasures of this world. Wealth, fame, status, respect, power – these are all the treasures of this world. I was drawn away from this quest by what I perceived as the treasures of the flesh. These are the things we want so that our physical life will be more exciting and more provocative – sex, drugs, booze. These things dominated my life and distracted me from those fleshly treasures that most go after., They made me unable to function to my fullest capacity and I fell way short of the things I could have accomplished. They caused me to drop out of college and waste my mind. They caused me to pour out my income like water into the abyss. They caused me to become a lost soul. This is what the treasures of this world will do to a man.

Moth and rust corrupt. This is an interesting saying to me. A moth will eat away at natural fibers like wool until it is destroyed. When I think of moths, I think of wool Moths can destroy a wool coat quite quickly. When wool was stored in old days, people used moth balls to keep the moths away. They really stink, in case you didn’t know. I’m not sure whether people still use them or not. I used some to put under my deck and keep the stray cats out, and it worked!

Rust uses the oxygen in water to corrode items made of iron. Iron is known as a very strong metal, but it is no match for rust. I remember once having a Dodge Opal car which was made in Germany. It came overseas on the deck of the boat and all that salt water had quite an effect on the car. As much as I loved that car. It had rust everywhere, and it just kept getting worse. When the floorboard started rusting through, it was time for it to go!

These two items are known for their durability and strength still today. Yet that durability and strength are vulnerable to a small insect and the natural elements of the world. Our lives are the same. No matter how strong we are, it’s the little things that will seep in and destroy us. Paul wrote that a little leaven will leaven the whole lump (Gal 6:9). Leaven in this case is referring to sin. If just a little gets in, our whole body is infected with it. The riches of this world can bring all kinds of sin alive in our lives. Greed, jealousy, pride, arrogance, haughtiness, boastfulness, and the like. These seeming little things will corrupt us, and people will easily see past our Christian façade.
The other thing about the worlds riches is that thieves can steal them. People can take them away from you. We hear of this all the time not only with traditional robberies, but with the many scams that are going on, money making schemes galore. And people just being plain dishonest. All of these things rob our of our earthly riches.

So then, are we to not put aside money for retirement or the future of our family? This is not what Jesus is talking about here. He is talking about gathering to yourself riches to lavish upon yourself. He is talking about getting riches so that we can appear better than anyone else. God hates pride, and riches can easily lead to pride if we are not careful. If you are accumulating wealth for your retirement and future generations, do not think for a moment that God is not pleased with that activity. That is part of being a good steward. But if you are heaping up treasures and just storing them to lavish on yourself then beware lest you be carried away by their allurement.

We are to lay up treasures in heaven. What are these treasures? Many believe these are souls saved because they hear our testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and want the same blessings on their life. In Rev 11:12, we read that we are saved by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by the word of our testimony. This testimony that we share might be the story of how we came to Christ, or a healing He has done in our lives, or peace that He has given us in the worst of times. We do not have to wait for some mighty miracle or special discernment from God to share a testimony. The every day blessings He gives us make a wonderful testimony and can minister just as effectively to those who do not know Christ. I think many Christians shy away from giving a testimony about the Lord because they don’t feel anything “spectacular” has happened to them that would sway another person. Never feel this way. Share what Christ has done for you with anyone where the Spirit prompts you. Your treasure awaits you!

Another thing that is promised to believers are the five crowns. These are mentioned in various places in the New Testament. They are the Crown of righteousness, the incorruptible Crown,, the Crown of Life, the Crown of glory and the Crown of rejoicing. Let’s briefly look at who earns these crowns (yes, they are earned).

The Incorruptible Crown:

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 KJV

This verse tells us that those who are willing to sacrifice everything, including their earthly body, will earn this crown. It is not given to those who just barely make it into heaven, or those who just do what they are told and nothing more. It is given to those who go all out, those who are seeking more and more to do from God. Think of the missionary who goes into the jungle seeking out tribes that have never been reached. It is for those who “strive for the mastery” in a controlled, concise way.

The Crown of Righteousness

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8 KJV

This crown is given to those who love to see Christ when He appears. I am not convinced that this means only those who rejoice at His second coming. I also think it includes those who rejoice to see Christ at work in other people. They rejoice in the right thing being done in the name of Jesus, because that means Jesus has been present among them. They rejoice when others are touched by the Lord. They also rejoice in hearing from the Lord. Speaking to us is a way that He appears to us. They even rejoice at the Lord’s rebuke and correction because that means He is there. To receive the Crown of Righteousness we must eagerly await His presence among us.

The Crown of Life:

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1:12 KJV

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Revelation 2:10 KJV

This is the only crown mentioned in two different places. Both verses tells us that this crown goes to those who endure temptation and put up with the trials that they might face in their Christian walk. They do not shy away from trouble on behalf of Christ. They accept it as part of the price they pay and they remain faithful through every test the world might bring their way. We should not be afraid of these trials because we can rest assured He is with us in the midst of them for Her loves us.

The Crown of Glory:

“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Peter 5:1-4 KJV

This crown is for the Pastors and teachers of the Word. They have faithfully shared what God has placed on their hearts, delivering His message week after week. They have not shied away from the truth contained in the Word, and they have not altered their message for the sake of monetary gain. They are not forced to preach but enjoy sharing the truths of the Bible wanting everyone to walk in that truth. They shepherd their flock, leading them to still waters and green pastures.

The Crown of Rejoicing:

“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” 1 Thessalonians 2:19 KJV

This is given to those who witness to others about the Lord, sharing their testimony freely so all they come in contact with will know the saving power of Jesus Christ. They have no backed off or shied away from confrontation when it comes, but have persevered with patience to win souls to the Kingdom of God. The are not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for they know it is the power of God to salvation (Rom 1:12).

There are many who have done long studies about these crowns, but I am going to leave it at that. Some will only receive one crown, others might receive them all. Most of us will fall in between. These treasures are only gained in heavenly realms. They are no earthly good. But the results of what it takes to receive them will bring us even more treasures in heaven. And that is a good thing to strive for.

Your heart will belong to the place where your treasures are.  It will long after them and want to stay in that place.  If your treasure is on this earth, you will be  reluctant to leave this earth.  Heaven will not seem so glorious, because the glorious things in your life are here on this earth.  Don’ let that be your attitude!  I pray that you are seeking those things which are above, not those things you can gather for yourself here below. This life is but a vapor. Why would anyone store up things that would last for a minute rather than have treasures for eternity? Let’s get out there and earn those crowns!

 

When You Pray

Matthew 6:5-8

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

Prayer is a fascinating subject. I have spent a lot of time studying prayer over the past 9 months working on a book that is close to the publishing point. It is called “The A.S.K. Principle: Developing An Effective Prayer Life” This study was first done by me over 30 years ago and I was going to write the book then, but did not. As I was going through cancer maintenance I came across the notes and decided it was time. Some of you might remember me blogging a good portion of the book on this blog earlier this year.

I learned a lot about prayer doing this study, but will spare you the whole book here to concentrate on the point Jesus is making in this portion of the Sermon. Once again He mainly addresses pride, as He does many times throughout these passages. It always amazes me how much the Bible talks about the evils of pride and yet the church still goes on in its prideful way. I know I did for years, something I have shared over and over again on these pages. When will we begin to understand the heart of God is humility?

In this portion, Jesus is specifically discussing how we should pray. The Pharisees were well known for standing on the street corners in their ornate robes and praying very fancy prayers so that all could see them and hear them. The prayed loud and long for God to intervene in the nation and in people’s lives. Their prayers also included praise to God. They often sang these prayers, or recited them in lyrical form. They could be very beautiful. You can still here these types of prayers sung and chanted in both Israel and in many Arab nations. The sound of praying fills the air in many places.

The problem here is not the prayers. God loves prayer, and He loves it when we come to Him with our requests (Proverbs 15:8). He loves it when we express our praise and our need for Him in our lives. He wants nothing more than to bless us and give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). The problem here is not that they are praying, but the reason they are praying. Jesus says they are praying so that men might see them. In other words, their prayers were meant to draw not only the attention of God but the attention of men as well. They desired to be noticed because of their fancy, elaborate prayers. This is one of the reasons they stood on the street corners – not to cry out to God, but to be noticed by men. This act of drawing attention to themselves is pride. The attention of men is their reward.

Jesus tells us to go into our closet to pray. Our prayer should not be an open show. It should be a quiet conversation with God about the needs of others around us and our own needs. The closet is a place of solitude. God wants us to get alone with Him when we pray. He wants us to give Him our full attention and not try to draw the attention of men. Prayer is a solemn time when we come before the creator of all things and present our requests. It should not be taken lightly. At the same time, it should be like a casual conversation between us and God. We do not need fancy words to pray. We just need to talk to God.

The other thing I draw out of this scripture is that we should not go around telling others that our prayers were answered. If we are doing that to draw attention to the fact that we prayed and it was answered, that is pride and only builds us up, not God. If we are glorifying God about His answer to prayer, that is OK. People need to know prayers have been answered. We just make sure they know for the right reason. Jesus tells us to let our light shine so people can see our good works and glorify the Father (Matthew 5:16). He does not say so people could hear about our good works. Keep your prayer life to yourself unless you speak of it to bring glory to God.

Then the wonderful statement comes in that God knows what we have need of before we ask. I have had so many people ask me “Then why doesn’t He just supply it?”. I believe the answer is simple. Do you recall the story of Blind Bartimaeus? He was a blind beggar who sat on the street every day looking for alms. When Jesus came to town, He cried out over and over “Jesus, thou son of David, Have Mercy on me.” The crowd tried to hush him, but he just keep crying out. Finally Jesus heard him from the back of the crowd and asked that he be brought forward. Jesus then asked Bartimaeus what he wanted. It was quite obvious that he was blind! Why did Jesus ask the question? I am convinced that Bartimaeus could have asked for anything he wanted and Jesus would have granted it for him that day. He asked for his sight and his eyes were opened.

The question is never if God knows what we need. He always knows what we need for any situation we find ourselves in. If we are sick, we want healing. But God may know we need faith more. If we are in financial difficulty, we want finances, but God may know that we need patience more. He knows what we need the most. That is why it is so important that we come to him asking for wisdom so we know what each trial is meant to teach us in this life. The same is true for those we pray for. They may be having big difficulties in their marriage, and we may pray that God will bring them closer together again. But God might know that the husband needs to learn more empathy for his wife’s physical needs. God knows exactly what they must go through in order to come out the other side. Our prayer should be that God will strengthen them until He decides to bring the solution. We often pray against God’s will because we pray for the solution we think is right. God may want a totally different lesson to be learned before that battle is over. God is looking at the long term benefit while we look at what our heart desires for the moment.

You may say that God’s will is healing for all, and it is. After all, Jesus healed everyone that came to Him and He is our example. Shouldn’t we always prayer for healing? Of course we should, and we should expect God to heal. But we also must expect God to heal in His time and in His way. He may perform a miracle and heal instantly. Or He may heal over a period of time because there are other lessons we can learn in the midst of that trial. Some are healed only in dying, where they will have no more pain or sorrow. God has the final answer and we must do our best to pray that His will be done, not our own. It took two and ½ years of chemo to get me to the point of remission I am in today,. God could have healed me instantly, but He had much greater things in store. Over 1,000 poems and songs, studies in Psalms, James and other books that built my faith. A book is being published top build the body of Christ. All because God healed me slowly, not right away. I am in awe of His wisdom, and hope everyone will be patient and await God’s healing in His time.

Watch your prayer life carefully. See if you are praying to get noticed. Observe how you are praying for others and if you are boasting about answered prayer. Be sure you are glorifying God and not yourself when prayers get answered. When we pray in the closet and keep those prayers to ourselves, God gets the glory.

Silent Mercy

Matthew 6:1-4 KJV

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory ofmen. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Let’s face it.  We all like people to know what acts we do for others.  WordPress is full of such instances.  We love to read stories of heroic acts, good deeds and exploits that help other people.  We also like to write about the things we do because it makes for good reading and it makes us feel good.  It also brings nice comments from those who read our blogs.  I for one certainly do not want to see you stop posting these wonderful stories.

Jesus tells us at the beginning of Chapter 6 that we should not tell others of our good deeds, called alms in the KJV.  These acts of mercy are not supposed to be done for the eyes of men.  Jesus equates this to the hypocrites of His time who did their good deeds in the synagogues and streets.  They actually sounded trumpets before they accomplished their acts of mercy so that men would exalt them.  One can only surmise that Jesus was talking about the Scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees but He does not mention them by name.

So what is the difference between the good deeds that are mentioned in the first paragraph and those mentioned in the second paragraph?  There are two distinct differences that I see.  First, the writers of blogs on WordPress do not tell us what they are going to do by trumpeting the merciful act before they accomplish it.  The ones I read tell about the act after it has been done.  This way they are not drawing attention to the fact they are going to do something.  Second, the blog writer always turns their story back to glorifying God and teaching us something about His ways.  The hypocrite of the second paragraph does his acts to bring himself glory. This leads to pride, which is one of the things God hates (Prov 6:16-17)

Jesus tells us that the man in the second paragraph has received any reward he might get here on this earth.  He received the praises of men.  That is his reward.  Maybe he even gained financial means through his good deeds.  Maybe other things came his way because he helped people and told others about his merciful ways.  Whatever the case, they have received their reward.

Then Jesus makes an interesting statement.  He tells us not to let our right hand know what our left hand is doing.  How can I do that?  After all, both hands are controlled by the same brain, so it is next to impossible for one hand to ignore what the other is doing. The idea here is that we should forget the good deeds we do after we do them.  This will prevent us from bragging about them afterward.  No one needs to know what we did for our neighbor, or who we support with our tithes, or what foods things we have done for our church.  Our left hand doesn’t even need to know!  When we keep this things in secret, the Father is glorified and we will receive our reward from Him.

What kinds of rewards will these be?  I believe these rewards can range from financial blessings to good health to peace and joy.  God can give us anything we need and He will give it to us in His time.  When we do things that glorify Him, He does things that help us grow in our relationship with Him and with others.  He always knows exactly what we need.  Why would we ever want to boast about our good deeds and receive our rewards from men?  It is very reminiscent of the Pharisees who would not acknowledge Jesus because “they loved the praises of men more than the praises of God (John 12:43).  Wouldn’t your much rather receive what God has in store for you when you glorify Him?

To those who blog about their good deeds, please don’t stop.  It is very obvious that your intent is not to draw glory to yourself, but to give the glory to God.  We are all blessed by your wonderful stories and how you relate them so poignantly.  Your wonderful words fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving.  I for one can remember times that I was brought to tears by the unselfish compassion you showed, and how you bring God the glory.  Keep it up!  As long as your motive is not to bring yourself glory you are doing the will of the Father, and that is always a good thing.

The silent mercies we do need to remain silent, both in our own minds and in the minds of others.  There is no reason to talk about these merciful acts unless our intention is for God to be glorified.  There is no reason to bring it back up to the recipient again.  That person knows you have shown them mercy.  It is not something you hold over their head to make them feel indebted to you.  We are to put them behind us and move on.  Do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, or has done.  It is finished and it is time to move on in pursuit of Christ (Philippians 3:11-12)

I know someone who fits the second paragraph.  He is always telling other people about gifts he is going to give them or someone else ahead of the fact.  I would call this the trumpeting part.  Then after the deed is done, he tells people that it was accomplished and wants to receive praise from them.  I know this because I am one of the one he tells.  He also keeps bringing up the good things he has done for me and others.  It’s almost like he wants to receive our praise again, or like we now owe him something.  I often want to tell him how wrong this is but am reluctant to because I do not want to hurt our friendship.  And I know how stubborn he can be to others advice.   Do you know anyone like this?  Did you confront them, and if you did how did you handle it?  I would really like to know.

 

May Christ be Exalted

Be Perfect

Matthew 5:48

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

I would guess that there is not a single person reading this who has ever looked at this scripture and said “No problem.” Actually quite the opposite has always been true with me. How can I ever live up to this? Perfect, as God is perfect? Jesus must have misspoke. He didn’t really mean what He says here, did He? But then again, Jesus always meant what He said. I also don’t believe Jesus ever told us to do something that was beyond accomplishing in our lives, including this verse.

First, let’s look at this word perfect. Our human concept is that it means flawless or without any blemishes of any kind. Our human concept is that it is impossible to attain perfection because we will never be flawless. Our flesh is always messing up, making mistakes and marking us with sin. Day after day we struggle to stay above this sin filled world, but we slip and fall and have to repent once again. Our flesh will never stay perfect and for that reason we will never see ourselves as perfect in God’s eyes.

But there is more to the Greek word than that. In the Greek, this word means brought to its end, finished or lacking nothing necessary for completeness. This is an entirely different picture of the word. I think of the potter. He molds and shape the clay until it forms the vessel he is trying to make. He smooths the clay, works it with his hands and applies the water to smooth it out. Once it is in his desired shape he will fire it in the kiln and allow it to harden. When done it is perfect in his eyes. To is complete and ready for his use. There may be small imperfections in the vessel, but the potter ignores them because he knows the vessel is ready to meet his use, so that is all that matters to him. He sees it as perfect.

I never want to think I am perfect. If I do, pride will rise up within me that I have accomplished something and I am something special. I have been there before and I don’t want to go back. When the spirit moved on a service, I would think I put together the perfect worship service. When many people came to the altar for prayer after a message, I would think I delivered the perfect message for that day and gave the perfect altar call. I did this or I did that. Perfection will never come from within me, nor will I probably ever produce perfection. There is just too much flesh covering my life that I can’t get away from its imperfections.

We have to look at this word differently. Jesus is not saying we have to be perfect in our own eyes. He is saying we have to be perfect in God’s eyes. The difference is huge! God knows where He wants us to be and what He is trying to accomplish in our lives. Only He knows when we are perfected to the place He wants us. We might still see all our flaws and failures, but He may see us as perfected for the purpose He has for us today. That perfection will change as we grow and mature in Christ. God is the one who sees us as perfect.

“How do we get there?” has to be the next question. The journey starts with our salvation. The sin stained life of Adam must be covered with the redemptive life of Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:2 says Jesus is the propitiation for our sins. That means he covers our sins so that God does not see them. In fact, God removes them as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). He tells us that though our sins are scarlet, He will make us white as snow (Isaiah 1:8). He says if we confess our sins, He will forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Our sin must be removed before we can even think about being perfected by God. That is the starting point.

There are many verses in the Bible that talk about the Lord purifying us like gold and silver is purified. This points to a process of perfecting us by removing the things that hinder us in our spiritual walk. Malachi 3:2-3 tells us God will purify the sons of Levi so that they may present the Lord righteous offerings. We are the spiritual priesthood and God wants to purify us so that our works are righteous and pure before Him. Psalm 66:10 says that the Lord has refined us like silver. He has taken away the dross and left those things that are pure before Him.

But how does He do this? This is the thing we must grasp onto. He does the purifying through our trials and tests. Those difficult things God allows into our lives are the very things that remove the dross and imperfections from our lives. Isaiah 48:10 tells us He has tried us, but not like silver, because He has tried us in the furnace of affliction. 1 Peter 1:7 tell us that our faith is more precious than silver or gold and it is tried by fire. Our faith is tried and purified by the fire of afflictions that come into our life.
The key verses to me are James 1:2-4:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Perfect and entire, wanting nothing. There it is again. James tells us that this is attainable. We can be perfect and entire before God. This is not the kind of perfect that has no imperfections! It is not someone who does absolutely no wrong, who is what we would call “squeaky clean.” It is not a person who says the right things and does the right things all the time. It is not a perfection of this world. It is a perfection in God’s eyes.

James tells us first to be joyful when troubles and trials come out way. Sounds impossible, but it is not. This is the Fruit of the Spirit joy that is always there no matter what things may come. It doesn’t laugh uncontrollably or leap for joy or shout for joy. It’s a joy that knows God is doing something good and will rejoice because He is working in us, right at this very minute. The trials we go through are going to exercise my faith. We all know that exercising something will make it stronger. Our trials make our faith stronger.

As our faith grows, so does our patience. We learn to wait on God. We learn that the answer does not always come within the time frame we are hoping for. We learn that His answer always comes at the time appointed by Him, not us. So we have to wait, not really knowing when the answer comes. We have to continue to extend our faith in expectation of that answer, knowing He will answer our prayer because He promises He will. We also have to have wisdom to know when the answer comes because His answer is not always what we expect. He will send His perfect answer, where we always want what we want!

Patience eventually takes over. We no longer worry or fret when the answer will come. We just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has everything under control. We wait and pray, knowing God will bring the best answer at the right time. Patience with God is a critical thing. Patience with ourselves is also a by-product. Patience with others is a result of it all. Being able to endure when things aren’t going exactly the way we want is patience. Being able to hold your tongue is patience. Allowing your life to be led one step at a time is patience. It is when patience is completely working in every part of our lives that we are perfected. That’s is when God looks at us and sees a perfect vessel ready for the Master’s use.

When I first saw this truth, I was blown away. Knowing that patience is so critical in our walk with God will change our perspective. It sure did mine! I realized that all those trials I have gone through, and am still going through, are God’s perfecting agents for my life. That is why I can have joy in the midst of every trial and test. I know He is brining me closer to perfection in His eyes. I know that this trial is bringing me to the place where I am perfectly ready to fulfill His call on my life.

Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect. Not in your own eyes, but in His eyes. He sees our heart, we see our flesh. We see an imperfect vessel, He sees a perfect heart if we have come to that point. Allow yourself to be perfected by God, and be perfect.

Do The Unexpected

Matthew 5:38-42

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

The natural man wants revenge. That is our way. If someone wrongs us, we want to do something wrong to them. If they offend us, we want to offend them. If they steal from us, we want to take something of theirs. If they hurt us, we want to hurt them. Revenge.

God does not want us to take revenge. His way is love. He does not want us to remain angry, but forgive. No matter what is done to us God wants us to show love. There is nothing someone else can do to us that would make God approve of us taking revenge. Revenge belongs to Him.

Romans 12:19

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35).

Why are we so quick to ignore this part of Jesus’ teaching? What is it about revenge that is so sweet, and why do we feel we are entitled to it? The answer is simple, and we have mentioned it several times in our study already. It’s pride, pure and simple. Getting even with someone makes our flesh feel better. The old man wants nothing more than to be on a level playing field with everyone else. If they are offended, offense should be thrown back. If they are slapped on the cheek, they should slap back. If they are taken advantage of, they want to find a way to take advantage of the other person. Only looking at what makes me feel better is pride. Doing what is best for the other person is humility. The trouble is most of us do not want to be humbled. The other problem is that God will allow people into our lives that will offend and hurt us over and over again to teach us this lesson. Have you noticed this in your life?

I see and hear Christians all the time wanting to get even or to repay a hurt that was done to them. This ought not to be so. We should do all we can to allow God to even the score with someone else. The commission for us is to love our enemies (Matt 5:44), to count it a blessing when we are persecuted for righteousness sake (Matt 5:11-13), and to count it joy when we fall into temptation or trials (James 1:2). These things come into our lives to help us grow in grace and mercy and to learn humility. Are we allowing God to teach us these lessons, or are we trying to get our own way and feel better about ourselves?

The second lesson in this portion of scripture is to do more than is expected. Our human tendency is to only do as much as we must too get by. My wife works as a hostess in a restaurant most evenings. During the night, there are several waitresses that clock in and out at various times. Each is expected to do certain things at the end of their shift to help prepare for the next day. Most of the waitresses will help get another ones chores done so they don’t have to stay so late. There is one lady who does her work and then leaves without regard for how much more there is to do. She simply says her work is done, so she is leaving. This really gets under my wife’s skin, because my wife is the type that will always help the others until everything is done. She is kept in high regard by her fellow workers because of her wonderful attitude about this. Some nights this keeps her an hour or two past her shift being over, and often she has already clocked out. That’s just who she is! My wife is a Christian – it is what she should do.

In Jesus day, it was a law that if a Roman soldier asked you to go a mile for him, you had to do it. This was not a matter of choice. Often, the soldiers would ask people to carry their armor, or some sort of load for that required mile. Imagine their surprise if someone would say they would go another mile after the required mile was done. Do you suppose it would allow the person carrying the load to share why they were willing to do so? Because, as a Christian, they just wanted to go the extra mile in honor of Christ. What a witness. Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone, or done more than they asked you to do? Did it bless them? Did they ask you why you did so much when you didn’t have to?

The things Jesus mentions here go against the grain of our society. They go against everything our flesh tells us. Lend to people without expecting anything in return? That’s outrageous isn’t it? But that is what Christ says (Luke 6:34). I know there are many times I have loaned out small amounts (under $100) and then simply forgot about it. I didn’t forget on purpose – I’m not even sure that is possible. I just forgot, which is a fault of mine. When my wife would remind me about it, I would simply say that I ‘m not going to worry about it. If they get around to paying me back, great. If they don’t, I’m not going to let it get to me. I choose to just sit back and forget it. This beings me a peace of mind that would not be there if I was always reminding my friend he owed me back.

In fact, all three of these examples Jesus gives add to my peace of mind and also to the peace of the other person involved. When I am offended, or compelled to go with someone, or lending something, I can easily get all worked up and impatient about things if they don’t go my way. But if I make sure that I put the other person first and allow these three principles to reign in my life, I will be in a much better place. These things are also roads to humility in my life, which I believe is one of God’s favorite characteristics in His children. All three put the other person first and put down our own pride in the process. What could be more pleasing to God?

Don’t Offend Yourself

Matthew 5:27-30

27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

 

About 15 years ago I attended a conference in Des Moines, Iowa for people in ministry in the Assembly of God church. These were all pastors, youth pastors, worship leaders and evangelist. One of the first speakers was Fed Stoeker, who was from Des Moines. Fedr had co-authored a book with Steven Arterburn entitled “Every Man’s Battle : Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time”. My pastor knew that this was an area where I struggled deeply and brought me specifically for this session. I will never forget the opening statement made by Mr. Stoeker.”According to polls done over the last few months, over 50% of the people in this audience have a problem with pornography.”

He was addressing a group of spiritual leaders! People who were supposed to set the example and be above this type of temptation. We all knew the dangers of pornography. We preached against it In our pulpits, citing the dangers of even a little glimpse at the taboo. We told our churches what a rabbit hole they could sink into if they even ventured there and how hard it was to get out of once we had fallen. Now we hear that 50% of us struggle with the very thing we know is so poisonous! If we were struggling so deeply, what percentage of our congregation was? Fred want on to say that over 75% of our men and 25% of our women were in the same situation. I have to state here that this seminar was for male church leaders only, thus the high percentage. He also said that the fastest growing demographic was the women. He had our attention right from the start.

There are many ways our eyes can offend us, but the quickest and most damaging is sexual imagery. For me it started with the Sears catalog when I was young. Those pictures of women’s undergarments were titillating to me and I would stare at them for hours. By my teens I was with a group of boys who could get Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler magazines. I also remember cleaning houses with one of my friends mom’s and finding some sexually charged books in some of those houses. Later we would go to XXX rated drive-in movies and theaters. I was deeply hooked and it took me places I will not talk about here. Let’s just say it nearly ruined my life. I have shared some of this before in this blog. It is a lifelong struggle that many men have. I was fortunate to have this pastor who loved me enough to take a hard stance and get me the help I needed. It was not easy. In fact, I still confront temptation on a regular basis and have to guard my eyes continually.

This offense to my eyes may only go away if I do pluck my eye out! How can I overcome so great a thing that has a hold on my life. Research shows that an addiction to pornography is greater than that of cocaine, heroin or meth, The chemicals released into out body by a sexual high are much more powerful. The truth is you cannot fight this battle and win. The only way you win it is by overcoming your pride. That’s right, pride. Because pride is rebellion against God in any form. Pride is putting our thoughts and our ideas above God’s law. Pride is having a high opinion of ourselves. Pride is spending an inordinate amount of time thinking and worrying about ourselves. Pride is thinking it’s OK to break God’s law because He loves us and will forgive us. Pride is our worst enemy. God hates pride and it is spoken against dozens of times in the Bible. Until our pride is overcome, we will never win the battle against sexual addiction.

And how can our hand offend us? Many would say the quickest way is masturbation. That fact that Jesus mentions this in the same context with lust after women tells me this is a viable supposition. It typically goes right alongside sexual addiction and is offensive to God. It is only mentioned once in the Bible that I am aware of, and the person who committed it was slain by God (Gen 38:9-10). This is another area I have struggled with all my life, for the same reasons as mentioned above. And the same remedy is prescribed by God. Get rid of pride.

Steve Gallagher is an author who has written many books on this subject. He is also the President of Pure Life Ministries (PLM), which is where I spent 8 months learning about my pride and how pervasive it is. A few of those books are “At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry”, “Irresistible to God”, and “When People are Big and God is Small.” He also put together a tremendous 24-week, daily bible study entitled “The Walk of Repentance.” That study deals with this subject extensively. I highly recommend these books if you struggle with sexual sin. I would love to talk with you further if you would like more information on this subject. Just email me at pgard7@gmail.com.

The truth is that we cannot get rid of our pride, we can only learn to control it. We do not get rid of sexual sin by trying to put it out of our mind. This will only strengthen its hold on us. We must replace it in our mind, and that replacement must be Jesus. It must be a dying to self and living for Him. It must be taking all our creative, knowledge seeking mind and centering on a thirst and hunger for His word and His truth. We must replace what the enemy has used to try and destroy us with the life-giving word of God. It is the only way. We cannot think our way out, or try to rid ourselves of the thoughts without replacing them with something stronger.

Look at Luke 11:24-26

24 When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out.
25 And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.
26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

It is clear by what Jesus says here that riding ourselves of the unclean spirit of lust is not the answer to riding ourselves of sexual sin. That spirit will wander around and if we have not filled ourselves up with Jesus and the Word, the enemy will come back in stronger than before. I have witnessed this in my own life. My actions would go progressively downhill each time I would try and get rid of the lust in my life without filling back up with God.

This is a difficult subject for me because of the deep struggle I have had with it since my very early years. I am 66 now and wonder if I will ever completely overcome in. I have worked extensively on my pride and my wife is a huge helper. Together we have overcome quite a bit of that pride. The fact that I still fight the battle with lust also helps me give insight into it’s workings in men’s lives. God has entrusted me with some wisdom in this area, and I am thankful.

Look at what Paul says in Philippians 3:12-14:

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 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,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul knew He was not perfect. He had not attained the perfection He was looking for in Christ. I am not sure what sins kept Paul from that state, but it does not matter. We all have something we could dwell on. But Paul laid out a formula that we should remember and follow. It is powerful when you learn how to accomplish this on a regular basis, because when we battle sexual sin we need this routine a lot!

I have learned that the worst thing I can do is stew and lament over the times I slip and fail. That only draw attention to the sexual act again, drawing me back into it. I must live a life of daily repentance, bringing those things to God and laying them down at the altar. I must do my best not to dwell on the sin, but leave it behind me. Paul said I must forget those things which are behind. When we repent, we must leave those things behind.

Then I must spend time with Him, basking in the light of His word and drawing closer to Him. I must reach for the things that are ahead of me. Reach for His grace, mercy, love, peace, joy and so many other things He has promised to us. I must press toward that calling of God that is on my life. He has a plan for me, and it is up to me to walk the path He has laid out and fulfill that plan. Part of that fulfilling process is going through the trials and test placed in our path.

James 1:2-4 says:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

These verses have become a beacon in my life. The trials and test we go through should be seen as joyful because they cause our faith to be exercised, which builds up our faith. That building faith takes time and patience, though. As we work through this process, we are perfected for the plan God has for our lives. This is a beautiful thing! God uses what He allows the enemy to toss into our lives as a perfecting agent!
This should excite us!

My friends, I have been brutally honest with you in this post, and I am hoping I struck a chord with you. I will say again, if you are struggling with sexual sin and would like to talk to someone, I am here for you. We share common ground. Email me at pgard7@gmail.com and lets try and bring you some victory in this area. To the rest, I pray this has opened your eyes to the poison that is out there and perhaps you can share this post with them and let them know there is hope! We serve an awesome God!