THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION – Part 3


Matthew 23:1-4 – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”  NASB

The rise of the Spirit of Religion and the Pharisees was developed through their adopting a Religious Method to Keep the Law.  They produced Fences.  What I mean by that is they developed rules and regulations that were designed to keep a person from getting near enough to the Law to break it.  They produced fences upon fences religiously. 

In that, there is a clear problem.  Over time, they ‘forgot’ what the command was and became enamored with the fence.  They ‘forgot’ that the fences were man-made and began to call them the Word of God or The Law.  It became incredibly complicated and they erected massive structures of man-made traditions.  They moved from being persecuted to highly respected and many held them in awe. 

It was impossible to not realize they were present.  That was the whole idea.  At the time of Jesus’ ministry, there were only about 6,000 of them but they seemed Omnipresent.  You could not miss them.  They were their blue robes and had their box on their forehead (phylactery).  They placed a verse inside the box. They had a box tied around their waist and wore long prayer shawls.  You could not miss them!  Their outward visibility was for show and they sought to be noticed and sought to impose their religious views on everyone.

By the time of Jesus, they had become national heroes.  It is commendable to believe that the Word of God “IS” the Word of God.  They were fanatical students of the Scriptures and sought to observe and obey every Law of the Old Testament Mosaic Law.  They loved to obey!  They would even take the commands meant for the priests and seek to keep them.  They demanded that everyone be educated in the scriptures and tithed on ‘everything’.  They also were eagerly awaiting the Coming Messiah. 

Therefore, there is much to commend them for.  Yet, Jesus said, “You are a bunch of snakes!  You are clean outwardly but inside; you are yesterday’s food rotting in the pot. You are dirty corrupt pots.”  Now, the LORD has my attention.  He is challenging the accepted religion of His day and questioning their motives and actions. 

I suggest that when we understand ‘why’ the Pharisees are there it has the potential of blowing the lid off our religious theology.  It has the potential to change our lives completely and bring us to a new freedom we never dreamed existed.

The Love that Jesus lived and that flowed out through Him can only be understood when contrasted to the brittle, rigid, formalism, and legalism of the religion of the Pharisees.  It is only when we see what man has polluted that we can see what Jesus came to do.  It is shocking to a religious legalist.  It is in Jesus that Incarnate Love is dropped into the midst of the religion of the Pharisees. They are polar opposites and in direct conflict.  The two cannot live harmoniously.  One must be destroyed.

If Jesus had come and said, “I am come that you might have abundant life” without having the religion of the Pharisees to contrast that to, we would miss the power of the freedom He brings.  He came and said, “I am the polar opposite of that!”  If He had not had the Pharisees to contrast what He was bringing, we might think that He was simply bringing another religious system.  We still try to relegate the Abundant Life of Jesus and His Incredible Grace to a religious system.  We keep trying to live, in many ways, as Pharisees.

Some may have read what I have written and ask, “What is wrong with the Pharisees?”  They seem like good people who wanted to live for God.  What was it about them that induced the anger of God?  I leave you with a thought that we will touch on in the next devotional, Jesus said, “I am not come to destroy the Law (Torah), but to fulfill it.”  The Pharisee said the same thing but meant, “I am going to obey every detail by rigid observance.”  He sought to earn favor with God and be worthy of God’s favor and that is the heart of Legalism!

Until next time, may the LORD be with you and guide you to Truth and Freedom!

THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION – Part 2


Matthew 23:1-4 – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”  NASB

In considering the development of the Spirit of Religion and the Pharisees we see that in their pursuit of spiritual perfection and rightness they produced what is called the ‘Great Separation.’  That is important because they sought to ‘separate’ themselves from the heathen nations surrounding them.  They identified themselves as ‘God’s Separated People.’  That was commendable but, over time, they grew lax and their enthusiasm for the scriptures and truth waned.

That brought about the rise of a group within the nation, the Hassidons (pious ones).  It was loosely translated ‘saints’.  They separated themselves and declared, “We will return to the devotion of God with a whole heart.”  They were a group within the group and that progression is important to note.

Psalms 119 was written by a member of that sect and in it, you find key words such as, ‘Law, Testimony, and Statute.”  The Torah was their focus.  They loved the Word of God.  They were so committed that when Greek thought and philosophy tried to invade Jerusalem saying, “All this Torah stuff is old fashioned, let’s get with modern thinking,” they resisted.  They said, “No, we stand firm in our commitment to the Law of God.”  They were persecuted, laughed at, despised, ridiculed, called old fashioned, and were the brunt of jokes.  It was not easy being a Hassidic Jew.

Then, time marched on and we saw the first Hitler, Antiochus come on the scene.  In the year 135 BC there was a split within the group.  Some of them gravitated to politics and others to rededication to the Word of God.  That group was given the moniker, “Separatists” and thus we have the Pharisees, (a separated one) coming into view.

This is where the Spirit of Religion that Jesus was so totally other than was birthed and began its ascent to prominence and power.  This group became fanatical and sought to keep every jot and tittle of the law down to the most minute of details.  They called themselves “The Association”.  In that they were saying, we have associated ourselves with the Word of God.  We have associated ourselves with those who Love God’s Word.  We have separated ourselves from all who are not like us.  That is dangerous!  They were moving from being a group of devoted followers of God’s Word into fanaticism, being narrow and totally exclusionary.  Does that sound remotely familiar in today’s’ world?

One of the significant problems in this mindset is they not only separated themselves from the world but from brother and sister Jews as well.  They were saying to those Jews, “You are not good (holy) enough for us.  We are the Association!”  To become a member of that sect you had to be initiated and it took from 30 days to a year of intense examination, evaluation, and training. 

They saw themselves as ‘the godly’ among ‘the ungodly.’  They believed that because of their Law Keeping that they and only they were the ‘True People of God.’  They believed that everyone else was phony.  They would greet each other, “Shalom Neighbor.”  Remember the scriptural directive “love your neighbor as yourself?”  To the members of the Association, they believed that what God really meant was, “Love all the members of the Association.”  They evolved to believe that it was okay to hate everyone else and that only those in their sect were True Neighbors.

That is a dangerous and deadly condition.  It is serious.  They were focused on Law, Law, Law, Law, and more Law.  However, they realized in their hearts and lives that keeping the Law as difficult, if not impossible.  So, they began to seek how they could keep the Law.  That’s where they produced their Religious Methods and the Spirit of Religion rose to prominence.  That is what we will talk about in the next devotional.

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION…


Matthew 23:1-4 – “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. 4 “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”  NASB

I hope the title is not too problematic for anyone.  It is simply a vehicle to allow us to discuss the Pharisees and the bondage of religious legalism.  The more I study the New Testament and the ministry of our LORD, the more I become convinced that if you took the Pharisees out of the gospels you would create an incredible void.  Much of the valuable teaching of Jesus came through His interactions with that group of religious legalists. 

Much of what Jesus said and did, He said and did in contrast to what the Pharisees said and did.  Much of the truth that He brought to us comes through His confrontations with them.  I have observed that our LORD would, at times, bait them in order to expose their false views and teach much-needed truths to bring liberty.  He, unashamedly, went out of His way to upset them seeking to bring them and the hearers to Freedom.  It was not mean spirited, but for the purpose of redemption but bait them He did.

In Galatians 4:4 we are informed that when Jesus was born it was in the ‘fullness of time.’  That is incredibly important.  Jesus could not be born at just any time.  It was in the exact moment of nations coming together.  It was exactly at the right time.  It was when languages had developed, and all dovetailed together.  It was in the Fullness of Time!

However, one thing had to wait and that was the development of World Religion.  What I mean by that is a religion born of the world, the devil, and self.  That religion used the Inspired Word of God as its foundation.  It used it wrong, but it used it.  This religion was not Islam, Buddhism, or any of the myriad of other religions.  No, it had the Word of God as its foundation and yet it was spawned from hell.

At the coming of Jesus, it had risen to its fullness.  There was never a time when religion was as strong as then.  Jesus came and ‘confronted’ that religion.  He had to so that we could know what the Gospel IS NOT.  Thus, I contend that Jesus could not be born until the Pharisees had risen to their zenith.  It was in that ‘fullness of time’ that He came on the scene and ripped away the mask of religion and said, “I have not come to give you this (the religion of the Pharisees), but this (the Gospel and Grace).”  That is an incredible contrast and a problem we still face today in many circles.

In order to grasp what Jesus did, we must define the Pharisees.   Who were they?  I want to be fair in my discussion.  The word Pharisee has come to mean hypocrite and that is unfortunate.  Originally it identified a person of great sincerity and faith.

I ask that you take a walk through history with me and consider the progression of the religion of the Pharisees.  Let’s go back 600 years before the birth of Jesus and we see Israel in captivity.  They were in bondage because they had turned to idols and forsaken God and His directives.  Their disobedience and rejection of Him had brought about the severe judgment of God and they lived in slavery to Babylon.

It was in that time of captivity they picked up their copy of the Law, the Torah (Pentateuch).  That was their Bible.  They began reading and discovered they were cursed because of Idolatry.  In that revelation and realization, they repented and turned back to God and devoted themselves to studying the scriptures.  It is at this time that we discover the scribe Ezra and his incredible guidance for Israel.

At the time of their return to the land under Cyrus the Persian, they devoted themselves to the Scrolls of the Law and realized that in God’s Words was their hope of life and liberty.  They understood that every command must be obeyed and there could be no more idolatry.  They were incredibly sincere and dedicated to truth.  In that intense desire for Truth, they began to insert the Laws of Man to enable them to keep the Laws of God. 

I have only scratched the surface and hopefully not been too focused, on the minute but we will take this another step in the next devotional but until then, set your heart to seeking first the LORD and pray for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  We will consider the benefits of their devotion and the dangers that evolved.

God bless you as you enjoy this day in Jesus!

IMAGINATION AND THE BELIEVER – Part 3


Proverbs 23:7 – “For as he thinks within himself, so he is…”  NASB

Let me ask this question to allow us to continue considering the subject of Imagination and the understanding that it is the Gift of God for us to use for good.  “Why does God hate an evil imagination?”  If God created us with the ability to use our imaginations, and He did what is it about it that makes Him hate its misuse? 

Our Imagination or the ability to imagine is directly connected to the purpose for which we were originally created.  God said, “Let us make man in Our Image…”  God created an “Image” and as a result that is reflective of the Life and Power of God in us.  Our Imagination is a reflection of who we are, and we are supposed to be “Images of God.”

I have talked to inventors and read accounts of people who achieved incredible scientific and technological advancements.  I always found it incredibly interesting that most of the time they described ‘seeing’ before ‘doing.’  They would see the machine or whatever it was and how it operated before they designed or built anything.  It was first in their Imagination then became a creation.

Imagination is one of the powerful tools God uses to enable us to ‘see’ what He is doing and desires.  With the picture in our minds, we are emboldened and encouraged as well as enabled to bring it into reality.  When our Imaginations are under the control and direction of the Holy Spirit, they are invaluable tools for use in the Kingdom of God.  If they become directed by the lust of the flesh they come into direct conflict with the principles and purposes of the Kingdom and must be rejected and even repented of.

Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden and the Fall of man.  I contend that the devil did not attempt to force Eve to disobey God.  What he did was maneuver her into Thinking about disobeying.  How did he do that?  By Suggestions.  He suggested there were benefits that God was wrongly keeping from her and she had not been given the full truth.  He helped her create thoughts that produced images of having what the devil suggested.

Think about the process.  She changed how she viewed the tree and its fruit.  It looked good but, the fruit had not changed, it was exactly the same as before, but in her mind, it looked Good.  The fruit and reality had not changed only Eve’s thoughts had.

That brings me to a reality that I have addressed many times regarding our Thoughts or Thought Life.  I have had people insist that we are only responsible for what we do with our thoughts, not the thoughts themselves.  I contend that every thought must be brought into immediate captivity to Jesus.  We are responsible for our Thought Lives or Thought Processes. 

The Psalmist addressed this in Psalms 139:23-24 when he cried out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”  Paul spoke to it in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 

It is a spiritual process and results in spiritual progress.  It is important and vital that we renounce the idea that as a believer we are unable to control what we think.  We cannot prevent the devil from offering suggestions, but we do not have to allow them to come into our minds.  He delivers a package and we do not have to sign for it.  Reject it and set your mind on Christ and things above.

Remember in Matthew 9:4 it says, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”  The Scribes and Pharisees would hear Jesus forgiving people and the thought that was conjured in their minds was, ‘This is Blasphemy.’  Jesus held them accountable for their thoughts as well as their words.  Paul tells us in Romans 8:6, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”  Then in Philippians 2:5, we find the powerful and needed injunction, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”   The mind of Jesus was Pure and so must ours be.

We are instructed to meditate on the Word in Joshua 1:8 and the promise was if we did and observed the directives, we would have Good Success.  God has given us authority over all the power of the devil and our own thoughts.  We can decide, with the help of the Holy Spirit and in harmony with the Word of God, what we think.  We do not have to accept thoughts that are contrary and inconsistent with God’s Word and Covenant.

Romans 8:7 warns that the carnal mind is the enemy of God.  God tells us to Rejoice in Him Always.  The carnal mind says, “When I feel like it.”  God instructs us, when wronged, to go to the person and discuss the matter with them for reconciliation and redemption.  The carnal mind says, “No, I’ll tell everyone I can what they did and get my ounce of flesh in revenge.”  God tells us to be Thankful in all things and at all times.  The carnal mind says, “If I don’t get exactly what I want, I will not express gratitude.”  God tells us to Fear Not.  The carnal mind says, “But something bad might happen.”  God tells us to resist Covetousness.  The carnal mind says, “How can I keep from wanting what I do not have, and others have?”

I ask the LORD to help each of us bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Jesus and allow the Gift of Imagination to propel us into the next level or dimensions of His purposes for us. 

Have a Great Day in Jesus!

IMAGINATION AND THE BELIEVER – Part 2


Proverbs 23:7 – “For as he thinks within himself, so he is…”  NASB

Let’s continue considering the Gift of Imagination and learn to use it God’s way for good.  I refuse to allow the devil to steal a Gift of God from me because it is abused and misused by other religions or Christians.  He promised to ‘guide us into all truth’ and that is my objective and desire.

I ask you to consider the statement of Jesus in John 5:19 when He said that He never did anything that He did not first see the Father doing.  Then think about the situation where Peter’s mouth was about to get him in trouble regarding taxes and obedience to civil law.  Jesus ‘saw’ the fish with a coin in its mouth and when Peter caught the fish it was exactly as Jesus had seen and declared it.  Jesus ‘saw‘ the pots of water becoming wine at the wedding feast and when the attendants followed his directive, the water became wine.  He ‘saw’ the loaves and fish being multiplied to feed the multitude and when the disciples served the people there was enough and abundance leftover just as Jesus had seen and said. 

Some will contend that I’m pressing that beyond measure, but I believe Jesus saw it done and it was done.  Katherine Kuhlman would often declare that she ‘saw’ something, then describe it, and people were healed.  How did she see it?  I believe it was through the Holy Spirit. 

I believe that as our ability to SEE becomes linked with God’s power to CREATE that we experience miracles.  We ‘see’ what God is doing and as we embrace what we ‘see’ He moves through the Power of the Holy Spirit and creates it or brings it into our reality.

The Bible reveals God’s attitude regarding imagination.  It is God’s expressed desire that every believer is free of thoughts that bring harm and hurt sin and corruption.  He wants us to be able to bring every thought captive and into obedience to Jesus Christ.  If a thought produces anxiety, distress, or depression it is not a wholesome thought and needs to be rejected. 

It would be easy to allow our imaginations to become rogue and trust them more than God’s Spirit or Word.  That would be a terrible error.  Our imagination must always be closely guarded by the Holy Spirit.  It is important that we continually submit and subject our imaginations to Him and allow the Word of God to guide us in all things.  Imagination is never to be for manipulation. 

An Old Testament passage that is powerfully revealing is Genesis 6:5, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and every Imagination of the Thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  The corrupted imagination caused the destruction of the race in the Flood of Noah.  In Genesis 8:21 we read, “The Imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”  Unregenerate imaginations are destructive and lead us away from God and His purposes.  Call to mind the Tower of Babel and the confusion of the languages of man.  God said in Genesis 11:6, “Now nothing will be restrained from them which they have Imagined to do.”  Then in Deuteronomy 31:21, we discover, “Many evils and thoughts have befallen them…for I know their Imagination.”

Imagination is God’s Gift, but as in all the gifts, it can be abused and misused.  God has not been silent on the misuse of this gift.  He said in Proverbs 6:16 that there are six things God hates and seven that are an abomination to Him.  What are those?  In verse 18 one of the chief things is “a heart that devises wicked Imaginations.”  In Jeremiah 23:17 God declared through the prophet, “They say unto every one that walks after the Imagination of his own heart: no evil shall come upon you.”  Imagination can lead you into error and cause you to suffer the judgment of God.  It is a Gift to be used for God’s purposes and good not to satisfy the flesh.

The prophet Jeremiah warned in Jeremiah 23:24, “Can any hide himself in the secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the Lord.  Do not I fill heaven and earth.”  We must never forget the Omnipresence, Omniscience, and Omnipotence of God.  He knows all, sees all, and is in all places.

I do not want you to fear using your Imagination, but I want us to always be conscious of the need to keep it under the guidance and directive of the Holy Spirit and in harmony with the Word of God.

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

IMAGINATION AND THE BELIEVER…


Proverbs 23:7 – “For as he thinks within himself, so he is…”  NASB

I want to address something in the next few devotionals that always has a cloud of suspicion hovering over it and is often thrown out because of the misuse and abuse by Eastern Mysticism and the New Agers.  What am I talking about?  The Imagination.  I can hear some whispering, “Be careful, you may drift into error.”  I am always cognizant of that potential and always seek the Face of my Heavenly Father and the help of the Holy Spirit to guide me to Truth through the Word of God.

Imagination falls into the same class as meditation because it is practiced by various Eastern religions.  I ask, “Why should the Christian community be bereft of a blessing God has granted because of the perversion of the devil?”  We should never allow the existence of counterfeit or error to prevent us from seeking the blessing, benefit, and truth of God’s provisions.  If we do that, we will become ‘fort holders’ who are hiding and awaiting the return of our Lord, living in fear and hoping to just hold one somehow.  I won’t live that way because that is not God’s way.

There is incredible power in the mind of man.  God put it there and the documented facts are, we use so little of it.  Sometimes, it seems we use none of it, but that is another story.  The human mind and especially the mind of the believer is like a computer.  Every thought that we think flows through the mind.  Every image that we create in our minds is indelibly inscribed on the cells of our brains.  There is unleashed and untapped power and potential that I desire to tap into and would like to lead others into that realm so we can see God’s Kingdom Come and His Will done on Earth and in us powerfully and consistently.

If you were to recall some of the thoughts and images that you created in your mind, in times past they are vivid and real.  I can recall some experiences and thoughts from decades ago and they are alive as though they were happening now.  I can feel the feelings and have the sensations that I had then.  That is the power of the mind and imagination.  It can be good or terribly bad depending on how it is used and who is guiding us through the corridors of the mind and our memory banks.

Webster’s dictionary defines Imagination – “The act of creating mental images of what has never been actually experienced.”  That is interesting.  It goes far beyond memory into creativity which can remain fantasy or become reality depending on how we utilize those images and thoughts. 

I believe God considers the ability to “Imagine” a good thing and a gift.  In fact, I would argue that it is one of our most valued assets and is incredibly powerful.  I can sit at my desk and imagine a beautiful lake or stream with shimmering water on the surface.  I can see the beautiful trees and flowers along the shoreline.  If I close my eyes, I can see it as vividly as if I were standing there.  It is powerful!

I am not an artist and have very little artistic ability when it comes to painting pictures or drawing but, in my mind, I can produce a picture Rembrandt would be envious of.  Why is that possible?  Where does that ability come from?  Is that gift or ability wrong or right, good or evil?  That’s what I want us to consider.

We are created in the Image and Likeness of God.  We are, according to scripture, a special treasure to Him.  He created us with more talent and ability than we have tapped into or even imagine possible.  That’s why Jesus could say, that with God all things are possible and then declare that all things are possible to those who believe.  In that sense, we can create! 

Have you ever day-dreamed?  Has your imagination taken you off the beaten path and if you allowed it to continue would have led you into a dangerous or difficult situation?  When I was in school and would become bored my mind would wander and it caused difficulties from time to time.  One teacher said, “Roy, you are a million miles away, come back to class.”  I wasn’t that far away but I was in another place and another time and it was invigorating.

I contend that God values the gifts, talents, and abilities He has placed in us more than we do.  He created the power and ability in us not only to imagine it but to design and created more things than we imagined.  Not only in physical structures and tools, but in ministry, business, relationships, and life. 

Imagination is an exciting subject to me and the Gospel Song, “I Can Only Imagine” reminds us of the beauty that awaits, and although we do not see it in the natural, we can see it in the mind through the revelations of the Holy Spirit.  Allow God to release the Gift of Imagination in you and use it for His Glory. 

God bless you as you enjoy this day!

SETTING THE MIND ON CHRIST – – Part 4


Colossians 3:1-5 – “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”  NASB

The idea of salvation affecting the mind came up a few days ago in our consideration of this subject and I want to address that today.  If God’s Law is in our minds, then we will think God’s will.  His will becomes our thought process.  We will begin to evaluate life and make decisions based on the fact that the Law of God has been written in our minds and our hearts.

Therefore, if I am a Christian, then I am responsible for what I think about.  I am responsible for the thought processes in my head.  I want to lay to rest the contention that we are not responsible for the thoughts that come into our minds.  Let me address it this way and hopefully, it will have meaning and be enlightening.  If I am not responsible for my thoughts, then I am not responsible for what I do.  Why would I say that?  Because all my actions begin in my thoughts.  Most would insist, “That’s wrong, we are responsible for our actions.”  Okay, if I am responsible for my actions then I am also responsible for my thoughts because that is where the actions are birthed.

I am serious.  If we are not responsible for our thoughts where our actions begin, then we cannot possibly be held accountable for our actions.  I contend that we must be consistent and honest with the word and truth.  I have had people argue, “I could not help what I thought, it just came over me.”  I do not believe that and do not believe the Bible teaches it.  We are Christians and we know that actions do not just come over us.  We believe we are responsible for our actions and that we make choices in life, both good and bad.

Therefore, I contend that we also ‘choose’ the way we think.  That is the beginning of action.  Actions begin in our heads, not our emotions. They really do.  As a man thinks in his heart.  Jesus said, that “if I hate my brother, I have begun to commit murder in my heart.”  That is incredibly powerful and worthy of note.  The act of murder begins in the heart, in the thoughts of hate.

It begins in thoughts, then becomes words.  Words are our spirits coming out and being released into the atmosphere.  Therefore, if I have thoughts of hate, a ‘hate spirit’ comes forth.  Once it has moved from thoughts to words it is capable of moving to our hands and take a tool or weapons and commit the actual act of murder.  But, the action of murder began in the head.  I hope you see that and if you do you will realize how vital it is that we ‘change our thoughts’ and learn to ‘set our minds’ on things above.

Every action we have ever performed began in our thoughts.  For that reason, we are responsible for our actions and our thinking.  In 1 Peter 1:13, we find the apostle Peter calling on believers to bring their lives together and to begin to live as Christians ought to live.  He says, “Gird up the loins of your mind for action…”  That is powerful.

Let me give you the Eastern background and understanding of that statement and thought.  The Easterners wore long flowing robes.  Those robes always got in the way of what they were doing.  I suggest that you bring that visual into your mind or put on a long flowing robe and try to do various chores.  They were incredibly difficult to work in.  When they would go to work, they would ‘gird up’ their robes.  They would bring them up and tuck them into their waistbands to keep them from getting in the way.  That’s the expression that Peter uses for the mind.

Basically, he was saying, “Don’t let your thoughts just wander all over the place unrestrained or undisciplined.  Don’t trip over your thoughts and let them get in your way.  Rather, you, gird up your mind for action.  Get ready for action.”

It is our responsibility to ‘set’ our minds on things above and to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  It is God’s responsibility to help us achieve the fullness of the Christian life as we take the steps He has mandated and as we learn to ‘think differently’ we will also begin to ‘live differently.’

God bless you as you begin the journey of developing a new way of thinking!  Have a great day in Jesus!

SETTING THE MIND ON CHRIST – – Part 3


Colossians 3:1-5 – “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”  NASB

As we continue this journey let me suggest that there is a genuine problem in all of this.  Can you relate and say, “Why is it that we can relate when it is argued that it is too high and lofty a goal and it does not work in normal life?”   We can because we failed to move to verse 3 and gain the needed understanding.  We became so thrilled with the promise of verse 1 that we forgot that verse to informed us that it is imperative that we ‘change our thinking.’

Inside the believer’s heart, Jesus lives and brings His infinite wisdom, understanding, and joy.  He is ‘in’ us.  Our problem is that we continue to think the way and about the things we used to think.  We still evaluate things the way we used to evaluate them.  We still consider life the way we used to consider it.  We are stuck in Stinking Thinking.

That is a real problem.  We are not the person that we used to be, but we still have an old head or thought process at work.  We have a ‘new heart’ but an ‘old head’ and that is a problem.  We continue to think about and in the manner of the person that used to live in this tabernacle, but that person is dead and doesn’t live there anymore.  We have a heart that is crying out, “Let me be who I really am.”  That presents a real problem.

It would serve us well to remember in Proverbs 23:7, “…as a man thinks in his heart…”  How one thinks is reflective of how he is and how he lives, but as a ‘new person’ in Christ, we don’t want to continue in that kind of thinking.  That brings to mind the words of Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am.”  We, have a battle inside that cries out, “what is wrong with me?”  We don’t want to think that way or live that way because we have experienced Christ in the new birth, but we do.  Something is terribly wrong, what do we do?

I agree with the declaration of the apostle Paul that ‘because’ we have been raised with Christ and because He ‘is’ our life and His inexhaustible sufficiency is ‘within’ us we can do this.  We are enabled by the Holy Spirit to begin the process of reprogramming our minds and developing Kingdom Thinking or Christ Thinking.  It is a process and it is up to us to determine that we are going to direct our thoughts along different paths.  We choose to ‘set’ our minds on things above, the Kingdom of God, and Christ.

The Christian has a different mental outlook from the world.  The Believer has a certain way of thinking biblically.  Before the Christian life becomes a Way of Living it must be a Way of Thinking.  Christ must become the Lord of our thoughts!

I have had people, push back, and insist, “I can’t help the way I think.”  I say that is wrong!  God says, “set your mind on things above.”  That is a command, not a suggestion!  God never commands us to do something that we cannot do, that would be diabolical, and He is not diabolical.  Therefore, when anyone argues, “I cannot help what I think” that is the wrong position. 

I contend that all the Old Testament prophecies spoke of the miracle of salvation and identified that it would affect the mind.  It would not be written in stone but in the heart and the mind.  That opens another thought that we will address in a couple of days but until then, I pause and pray that you will have a fantastic Independence Day!

Have a Great Day in Jesus!

SETTING THE MIND ON CHRIST – – Part 2


Colossians 3:1-5 – “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”  NASB

I hope you were able to digest what we began to unearth in the last session and will join me as we embark on the next leg of our spiritual journey.  In light of the fact that we are dead to the old and alive to the new in Christ and He is our life we now adjust our thinking.  That’s the ‘therefore’.  Therefore, you do this you reprogram your mind and begin to disallow some thought patterns of the past.  Your focus changes and in that change your actions change too.

That brings us to another word found in verse 5, “Consider.”  Consider what?  He says, “Consider the members of your earthly body dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed.”  We are to think a different way now that we are ‘in Christ’ and we are to ‘set our minds on things above’ not on earthly things as before.  The focus is no longer us but Him and His Kingdom.  We are dead to sin and alive to God. We are new persons and Christ is our life.

I am not speaking to everyone but to a certain classification of people. I am speaking to the believer, the Christian, the born-again.  Because, unless a person is ‘born-again’ there is not as significant a benefit in thinking differently.  All the self-help books in the world tell us we can ‘change our lives’ just by ‘changing how we think’.  I contend that they left out the most important element, I do not begin in my thoughts, I begin in my spirit!

Thus, if I have a dead spirit (dead in trespasses and sin), all the positive thinking in the world will do nothing but leave me positively dead.  Positive but still dead.  It won’t change me or make me whole. 

I hope that resonates with everyone.  It is because we are the people who have been ‘raised up with Christ’ that we have hope.  It is because we are now ‘dead to the old’ and ‘alive to the new’ that we have hope.  Christ is now united to our spirits and we are joined to Him as “One Spirit.”

We are the people to whom Jesus Christ has come by His Spirit.  Jesus sits on His throne in Heaven and we are His Body on this earth.  He is ‘in us’ by the Holy Spirit.  He is the comforter and teacher.  He is our guide into all things true and right.  It is to that group of people that God says, “Change Your Thinking!”

Being united to Christ means that we are united to Love Himself.  Love lives on the inside of us and flows out of us.  We are united to Gentleness Himself and we are wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  We are united to Joy and Peace through our being united with Jesus.  We are no longer on the long religious road looking for virtue we have been united to Virtue Himself.  We have Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness in the Person of Jesus Christ living in us.  We are ‘new persons’ in Him. 

Now, that we are that new person we need to develop some thoughts that go with that new person, new spirit, and new life.  We have become new and now it is time to be new! 

It is time that we begin thinking of ourselves as who we really are – United with Christ!  Stop thinking of yourselves as how and what you used to be, that person is dead.  Get a whole new set of thoughts and an entirely new pattern of thought.  Because “if” Christ lives “in” me there is nothing to difficult for me.  This is a new life that can face any situation and handle any difficulty.  We have that ability because it is “Christ in us.”  We can forgive the unforgivable.  We can do the undoable.  We can dream the impossible dream and walk in Perfect Peace and Be Who God Says We Are!  No more moaning, groaning, and complaining.  We now embrace life and live it to the fullest because we are learning to “Change our Way of Thinking.”

I will deal with this again, but for now, I will pause and hope this resonates with you and enables you to abandon some deadly or stinking thinking and embrace the newness of life.  May you bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Have a Great Day in Jesus!

SETTING THE MIND ON CHRIST…


Colossians 3:1-5 – “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”  NASB

I want to venture into a subject that some, in various Christian circles, avoid like the plague fearing drifting into mysticism or missing the theological mark and falling into doctrinal error.  What is that subject?  The Christian mind and how we learn to set our minds on Christ and meditate on spiritual things productively. 

I consider this passage in Colossians incredibly interesting.  I would invite you to join me in examining some of the words used.  Words link sentences.  That is a basic principle and I have no desire to attempt a lesson in English grammar.  However, I believe God uses ‘normal language’ to communicate with us.  In that communication, He uses grammar and obeys the laws of grammar.  Therefore, sometimes it becomes very important to note the grammar of various texts for clarity in understanding.

Two words that I bring to the table for consideration are ‘for’ (v.3) and ‘therefore’ (v.5).  Both are incredibly important words here and in the English language.  They are important because they link us back.  It is very interesting how sometimes even the smallest things hold a vital key to understanding.

I ask that you walk through the passage with me as we consider these words and use them as a springboard to our subject.  He said, “If then you have been raised with Christ…”  If that is the case, there is a truth to be gleaned.  This is not an ‘if’ of question but an ‘if’ of since this is the case.  Let’s translate it, “Since you have been raised with Christ.”  If that is the case, then, the question is “What are we to do?” 

In verse 2 we have a powerful injunction and instruction.  If we have or since we have been raised with Christ, we are to ‘Set our minds on things above not things beneath.’  If we have been born again, raised with Christ spiritually, if that is the case, then there is something for us to do.  We keep praying for God to do it all for us, but He frequently enjoins us to our part in the process.  Here we realize that we are expected to ‘do’ the work of setting our minds on things above.  This is something we do not just something He does for us.  We are not robots!

The word ‘for’ indicates that this is not a new idea or a new super discovery.  The word ‘for’ brings us face to face with the question, “Do we know why we must set our minds on things above?”  The ‘for’ here is ‘because.’  We do this because we have died and now our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

I hope you are tracking with me.  When Christ, who is our life, comes to us in this relationship He says this is what you must do.  You are expected to change your thinking because you have a different life.  You do not think the old way because you are no longer that person.  You are a new creation, a new person, therefore, start thinking differently.  For, you have died! 

You left spiritual Egypt and have passed through your Red Sea.  You have died.  You said farewell to the world.  You announced your burial.  You have been buried and that life is over.  You are now alive with God in Christ Jesus and Jesus is now your life.  You are united with Him. 

That’s why you ‘set’ your mind on things above.  The fact that you have set your mind on things above, therefore.  Therefore, always looks to discover what it is there for.  What is therefore there for?   It is to call our attention to our part in the process.  However, we must never lose sight of the reality that God will help us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  He will help us to bring every thought captive and into obedience to Christ Jesus.  The renewed mind is not automatic at conversion, it is a process.

I want to deal with this more but will tap the brakes here and put this on hold until the next devotional. 

God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!