Overcoming Temptation

It has been said that opportunity only knocks once, but temptation knocks continuously. This statement is only partially true because God gives us opportunities all the time. Temptation, however is always trying to find a way into each of our lives.

Temptation to sin is a snare set by the devil. Because Satan is a liar (John 8:44), the bait he uses often appears like something you need or desire, even something that seems sweet and pure. But once you yield to his trap, you will ultimately find the bitter, rotten fruit of sin.

Three Areas of Temptation
All temptations fall into one of three areas: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life (see 1 John 2:16). A problem with any of these areas will lead to a life of sin and bondage.

The lust of the flesh has to do with our bodily appetites. Drunkenness, drug addiction, gluttony, adultery, fornication and homosexuality are some of the sins of the flesh.

The lust of the eyes is an excessive desire for things of the world. Covetousness, greed, idolatry, love of money and financial dishonesty are the result of the lust of the eyes.

The pride of life is the desire for glory or fame. Someone who struggles with the pride of life is tempted by worldly honors, fame, reputation and position.

Jesus Overcame All Three
Luke tells the account of Jesus being led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil for forty days. When tempted with the lust of the flesh, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God'” (Luke 4:4). When Satan tempted Him with the lust of the eyes, Jesus responded, “It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve'” (Luke 4:8). And, when tempted with the pride of life, Jesus told the devil, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God'” (Luke 4:12).

People often ask if it is a sin to be tempted. The answer is “No”. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” That’s why He was able to say to His disciples – and us – “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Since Jesus overcame, you can too! Here are some Biblical keys to help you overcome the temptations you face:

Be Strong in the Lord
“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10 NIV)

All too often, people don’t take enough time to build their relationship with the Lord. They get busy with other things or are distracted by life’s demands. When temptation comes, they can’t withstand it because they don’t know how to operate in the Lord’s strength.

Becoming strong in the Lord is like performing preventative maintenance. No matter how close your relationship with the Lord is, it can always become closer. As you consistently read the Word, pray and spend time in worship, you will become much less susceptible to temptation.

Stand on the Word
“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded by choosing God’s Word over the temptation. He used the Word as a weapon each time He said, “It is written…” You can rise above the influences of the world, the flesh and the devil by doing the same thing, but it won’t happen until you are committed to God’s Word.

1 John 5:4 says, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.” Your faith is the victory. Where is your faith? Your faith needs to be in God and His Word. If there is a particular area where you are tempted over and over again, memorize scriptures that apply to that area. Get them into your heart so you will be ready to counter temptation as soon as it comes your way.

Don’t Love the World
“Do not love the world or the things in the world…” (1 John 2:15)

Every one of us is subtly influenced by the worldly things we are exposed to unless we protect ourselves. Much of today’s media (music, television, movies, books, magazines and the internet) is polluted, so you need to be careful what you let into your mind.

The psalmist wrote, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Psalm 101:3). If you don’t want sin and evil works clinging to you, you’ll have to say “no” to ungodly influences.

Flee Temptation
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

There are times when the best way to handle temptation is to flee from it. When Joseph was tempted to commit adultery with Potipher’s wife, Genesis 39:12 tells us that he fled and ran outside! It might sound extreme, but if you want to keep from sinning, you must develop a mindset of being willing to do whatever it takes.

Maybe you have a friend who is causing you to stumble. If so, it’s time to make new friends because, as we’re advised in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Decide what is more important to you: doing God’s will or having a friend who is influencing you to sin. You’ll have a better quality of life when you separate yourself from bad friends.

Resist the Devil
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

You’ve probably noticed that Satan doesn’t always leave the first time you quote a scripture! In fact, temptations often take place over a period of time as indicated in James 1:12 and 1 Peter 1:7. That’s why we have to be diligent in resisting the devil.

How long do you resist the devil? You resist him until he flees. You can be sure he will keep pestering you in an area as long as you let him. But when you become consistent at resisting him and his works, he will realize that you mean business. God’s Word is true. When you resist the devil, he will flee.

Finally…All of the above will help you overcome temptation, but the best advice I have ever heard on the subject is illustrated by the wisdom of an unknown woman who was admired for her purity.

Someone asked her, “Sister, what do you do when you are tempted?”

She replied, “When the devil knocks at the door, I let Jesus answer.”

Temptation of one kind or another will always knock at your door. Our prayer for you is that, when it does, you will let Jesus answer.

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Prayer is God Listening

We all know people who seem to have a hotline to God. Every prayer they pray seems to get answered. Still, many others are left wondering if God even hears them when they pray. How about you? Do you pray? Does God answer you when you do?

Most people pray – at the very least, a cry of “HELP!” now and then – but many feel their prayers are ineffective. They ask God for health, and sickness comes; they ask for help with their finances, and a financial crisis arises; they pray for the healing of a family member, and the condition appears to get worse. If God wants to communicate with us and help us, why do so many people struggle with receiving answers to prayer?

The source of the problem is identified in the fourth chapter of James, where it says, “You have not because you ask not. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss.” Clearly, the problem isn’t with God; it’s with us. When we don’t get what we need, it’s probably because we have not prayed at all or because we have not understood how to pray.

Faith Brings A Reward

Good communication is always important, especially in your relationship with the Lord. Simply put, prayer is a conversation between you and God. He speaks to you through His Word and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. You communicate by talking to Him just as you would talk with any close friend.

One of the reasons people don’t pray is unbelief. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” How can you converse with someone you’re not sure exists? And if you believe He exists, do you believe He is able to answer your prayers? You might say, “I know God is able, but I’m not sure He is willing.” You need to take Him at His Word and believe it when the Bible says He will reward you when you seek Him.

Two Keys

When Jesus spoke of prayer, He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you” (Jn. 16:23). Not only is this a great promise, but it also contains two very important keys to prayer. In fact, every prayer you pray should have these two things in common. Always pray to God the Father, and always pray in the name of Jesus. This comes as a surprise to many people because as children they learned prayers that ended with “for Jesus’ sake, amen”. I remember growing up praying, “Bless Dad and Mom and my sisters for Jesus’ sake” and “Bless this food for Jesus’ sake”. But it wasn’t for Jesus’ sake that the food needed to be blessed. It was for my sake! I was the one who had to eat it!

When we pray in Jesus’ name, we aren’t trying to trick God into thinking He’s doing it for Jesus and not us. We’re simply using a key God has given us to have access to Him. Just as your salvation is through Jesus, so is your communication with God. When you pray to God the Father in Jesus’ name, He hears you just as if Jesus were asking.

The Third Key

Here’s the third key to prayer. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have what we asked of Him” (1 Jn. 5:14-15). You can be confident God hears you and will answer when you pray “according to His will.” But how can you presume to know the will of God?

God’s Word is His will. If it’s in the Bible, you can be sure it’s what God wants for you. In fact, there are over 7000 promises in the Bible and every one of them is available to you! When you have a request, find the promise in the Word that applies to your situation and pray the promise. When you do, you will be praying according to God’s will, and you can be confident that He hears you and will bring it to pass.

God cares about the daily details of your life. Scripture tells us He is “touched by the feeling of our infirmities” and wants us to pray. His Word instructs us to “pray always, with all kinds of prayer” (Eph. 6:18). What are the kinds of prayer, and how do you know if you should pray once and stand in faith or keep on praying until you see the answer?

Kinds of Prayer

The prayer of petition is probably the most common type of prayer. It’s a prayer you pray for yourself. Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” When you pray a prayer of petition, you need to pray it only once. Believe when you ask, and God promises you will have it sometime in the future. Pray, then stand in faith expecting to receive what you requested.

The prayer of commitment is a prayer we often need to pray over and over again. Three times (in one night!) Jesus prayed the very same prayer. He was in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed, “O Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I desire, but as You desire.” He kept on committing Himself to His Father’s will. Likewise, we need to surrender and keep on surrendering areas of our lives to Him. When we are anxious or worried, we can keep on committing our cares to God again and again.

Intercessory prayer is prayer for other people. In Luke 11:5-10, Jesus tells of a person going to their neighbor’s house at midnight to ask for bread for a friend in need. He encourages us to be persistent in this type of prayer saying, “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you.” It is perfectly scriptural to intercede for someone over and over again until you see results. You can’t make unbelievers come to the Lord, but you can pray for their hearts to be softened. If they harden their hearts, you can keep on praying until they respond to God’s moving in their lives. Persistence pays off in intercessory prayer.

Matthew 18:19-20 says, “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” This is the basis for another type of prayer, the prayer of agreement. It requires two or more people in total agreement, believing the same thing, praying together. It is a very powerful way to pray because where there is unity, “the Lord commands a blessing” (Psalm 133:3).

Praying in the Spirit is often mentioned in the New Testament. Jude 20 says, “But you, dear friends, build yourself up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” This is a prayer that goes beyond the limits of our minds as is explained in 1 Cor. 14:14. “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” When we pray in the Spirit, according to Romans 8:26-27, “the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” If you don’t know how else to pray, it is always appropriate and effective to pray in the Spirit.

Worship is powerful as a form of prayer when it’s put into action as illustrated in 2 Chron. 20:20-24. As Judah headed into battle, King Jehoshaphat “appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army saying: ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.'” A great victory was won as a result of this inspired battle strategy, and not one of Judah’s enemies escaped! The same strategy is available to us today. As we offer praise and worship to God for who He is and what He does, He is moved to work on our behalf. Not only that, but as we worship, our hearts are changed to make us more ready to obey God’s voice.

Prayer is not about overcoming God’s reluctance to help you, but it is about taking hold of His willingness to perform His Word. He is listening and waiting for you to cry out to Him, and He is most willing to answer your prayers. When you pray in faith using Biblical keys, you can have a hotline to God and receive the answers you need!

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Family of Faith Teachings

family-of-faith2Below are 11 lessons designed to assist you in building a strong foundation of faith. Please e-mail us if you have any questions concerning these lessons

Lesson 1- Living a Jesus Lifestyle by Serving Others

Lesson 2- Being Right before a Holy God

Lesson 3- Living Right before a Holy God

Lesson 4- Learning to pray effectively

Lesson 5- Releasing Hurts and Forgiving Others

Lesson 6- Overcoming the Devil

Lesson 7- Walking in Faith

Lesson 8- Walking in God’s Provision

Lesson 9- Growing in Christ by Reading the Word

Lesson 10- Knowing what we believe

Lesson 11- Laying the Foundation

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Living a Jesus Lifestyle by Serving Other

Introduction: In this lesson you will discover who the Bible says is your neighbor. As a practical model, you will take a close look at the example of the Good Samaritan. An in-depth study in friendship evangelism will conclude our study. In this lesson you will learn how to:

  • Recognize your neighbor.
  • Be a servant to others.
  • Reach out to the lost.

I. Recognize your neighbor and your responsibility to him.

A. In the opening chapters of Genesis, Cain asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) Cain expressed the heart of sinful man, which wants to ignore responsibility for anyone but those closest to him.

B. In the Old Testament, your “neighbor” included those who were like you, your family, and your close friends. Jonah was very angry with God when God showed mercy to the people of Nineveh. Jonah viewed them as enemies because they were not his fellow Israelites. (Jonah 3:1-4; 4)

C. In the New Testament, Jesus teaches that your “neighbor” includes those who are not like you and those who are not related to you. Their relationship to you as a “neighbor” is a moral one, not a physical one. It is not based on kinship but on the opportunity and capacity to help others.

D. In John 3:16, Jesus tells us that He became a missionary to the whole world, not to a select few. He also tells us that “as the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” (John 20:2 1 NIV) You have a responsibility to reach out beyond your own circle of friends and across your borders. “And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b NIV)

II. Become a servant to others, like the Good Samaritan did. (Luke 10:30-37)

A. See and feel the need (verse 30).

1. “Stripped him” – humiliation

2. “Beat him” – devastation (emotional and physical)

3. “Leaving him” – abandonment

B. Don’t be callous (verses 31, 32).

1. A priest saw him.

2. A Levite saw him.

C. Express your compassion (verse 33).

1. A Samaritan saw him.

2. “He felt compassion for him.”

3. It’s one thing to see but something quite different to see and feel.

a) Today many times people see much and feel little. We are a desensitized and emotionally calloused generation.

b) The Samaritan is referred to as being “good” because he loved a man whom his fellow countrymen considered as an enemy. He was not influenced by their potential rejection of his action.

D. Be willing to sacrifice (verses 34, 35).

1. First aid (body ministry) was administered.

2. Time and financial resources were made available. (I John 3:17).

E. Be a true neighbor (verse 36).

1. “Which of these three…proved to be a neighbor to the man?”…”The one who showed mercy.”

2. “Go and do the same” (verse 37, see also Romans 15:1).

III. Live a lifestyle of friendship evangelism.

A. Model the example of Jesus (WWJD?).

1. Jesus, the true Servant, lived to give of Himself to others.

a) He did not come to be served but to serve. (Mark 10:45)

b) Jesus commissioned His disciples to do the same. (Matthew 7, 8) The call of God upon my life is to live to give.

2. With Jesus, serving was not a stepping stone toward greatness; it was the measure of greatness.

a) Jesus was free to wash His disciples’ feet. (John 13:5)

b) Jesus served and loved so freely that He was able to bless His own betrayer (John 13:26) and even referred to him as His friend. (Matthew 26:47-50)

3. Jesus bids us, “Follow me.”

a) We’re to follow Jesus by loving and serving others.

b) We’re to love with our hearts and eyes, speak words of peace and reconciliation with our mouths, and reach out to others with our hands.

B. Overcome hindrances to friendship evangelism.

1. The fear of man

a) Your acceptance is based on your identity in Christ.

b) Fear of rejection can paralyze you. “What will he or she think of me?”

2. Pride

a) Your ego hates to suffer; it always prefers to be puffed up.

b) Rather than humbling yourself, you prefer silence and exclusion, and many times even isolation.

3. Selfishness

a) We do not want to spend the time and energy.

b) “But they smoke, drink, take drugs, and live promiscuously.”

c) There is a price to pay to gain the lost as one’s inheritance. (Psalm 2:8)

4. Misinterpretation of Scripture

a) “Love not the world, nor the things in the world.” (I John 2:15) This does not mean you should not love your fellowman.

b) “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy with them.” (John 17:13)

c) “The field is the world.” (Matthew 13:38)

C. Getting started in friendship evangelism

1. Carefully consider how you invest your time energy, and financial resources. Do your investments show that you are truly committed to winning the lost? Be honest!

2. Ask God for a friend, a lost person with whom you can establish a relationship.

3. As you enter appointments and other responsibilities in your daily schedule, plan times of involvement with unbelievers you are targeting for friendship. Remember, you want to establish friendships, not immediate converts. Conversion and discipleship are goals. Friendship is the way to enter into the hearts and lives of those we want to reach.

4. Express true friendship.

5. Be friendly.

6. Be committed.

7. Be loyal.

8. Don’t be overbearing (tactless). Allow space for a normal growth process.

9. Be natural in expressing your faith in Christ.

10. “A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17) This verse expresses the heart of true friendship- unconditional love.

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Enduring Faith

Everyone has faith. You have faith that the lights will come on when you flick the switch, and when you turn the door knob, you have faith that the door is going to open. Christians and non-Christians alike have that kind of faith. However, not everyone has faith in God.

The kind of faith the Bible talks about is centered on believing in God. Hebrews 11:6 says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Here we see three elements of a faith that pleases God: (1) we must believe that He exists; (2) we must believe that He rewards; and (3) we must believe that He will reward us when we seek Him.

Faith Is
“Faith is,” Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” It is the confidence that things yet unseen will happen as God said they will. It involves accepting God’s perspective as He reveals it in the Bible.

When there was nothing, God created everything. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Colossians 1:16-17 builds on that same thought, saying, “All things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This is our God. He is the One who created the entire universe. He is all-powerful, and nothing is too difficult for Him; yet, He cares about you and will reward you when you earnestly seek Him. He holds the universe together, and He is willing and able to see you through the problems you face.

Faith Goes Through
No one has the luxury of going through a problem-free life. The psalmist wrote, “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19). Just knowing that God’s plan is to deliver you from every trouble you face should make it a bit easier to have an enduring faith.

In Isaiah 43:1-2, God said, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Water and fire are sometimes used in the scriptures to represent calamity; water, because it overwhelms and fire, because it consumes. Though these promises were spoken to Israel, they also have implications for us today. God wants you to know that no matter how overwhelming or consuming your problems are, He will be with you and will help you safely through to the other side.

Remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? They were the three Hebrew men who would not bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idol (Daniel 3:8-25). There is no doubt that God had the power to prevent these godly men from being thrown in the fiery furnace, but instead, He chose to join them in the fire. Not only did they all survive, but we learn from Daniel 3:27 that not a single hair on their heads was singed – and they didn’t even smell like smoke when they came out!

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego made it through the fire unscathed because they placed their faith in God. They said, “We know our God is able to deliver us…but even if He doesn’t, yet will we serve Him!” They were so steadfast in their faith that even the threat of a certain death could not persuade them to give up.

Faith Doesn’t Doubt
Your faith in God will help you rise above any hardship you face. 1 John 5:4 (NKJV) says, “…this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” Faith overcomes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that God will always immediately intervene when we call on Him. Sometimes God changes us on the inside first, helping us develop an enduring faith by focusing on Him and His Word.

There was a couple who wanted to have children. They had been married over nine years and had undergone years of unsuccessful medical procedures. Despite the fact that doctors gave them no hope, they didn’t give up on their faith. They believed that the same God who rewarded Abraham and Sarah’s faith by giving them children when they were well past childbearing age (Genesis 21:2, Hebrews 11:11), would reward their faith as well.

On a daily basis, this couple faced the choice that every believer faces when in the midst of adversity: “Do I believe what the circumstances say, or do I keep on believing God?” It was not always easy, but they learned to consistently rely on God’s promises rather than to give in to discouragement and doubt. God rewarded their faith and intervened where medical science could not. Their two daughters are wonderful testimonies of God’s faithfulness.

Just as their faith sustained them, your faith is designed to help you endure anything. That is how the Apostle Paul could say that he was “content” no matter what state he was in (Philippians 4:11) His faith gave him a vision of victory in his heart so he could endure until his circumstances changed.

Faith Endures Hardship
Speaking of Paul, his life is an excellent example of how faith in God can help a believer endure hardship. He wrote, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea, and I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

Even through the worst of all those circumstances, Paul did not lose sight of his victory. He even encouraged others saying, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Despite tremendous hardship, Paul’s enduring faith helped him remain confident in God through every trial.

Your enemy, the devil, wants to discourage you and make you doubt God. He does his best to convince you that your marriage will never improve… that your kids will never come back to the Lord… that you will always be sick… that you’ll never have enough money, etc. Far too often, we believe the devil’s lies.

Christians must resist the devil and develop an enduring faith in the God who can do the impossible. No problem, difficulty, or struggle that you face is bigger than God, so in the midst of trouble, draw even closer to Him. The closeness of His presence will enable you to remain strong through more than you thought possible. Rest assured that He will not allow you to be tried beyond the strength He gives you. Just as sure as the trial comes, you can be sure God will provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).

By faith, release your concerns, cares and worries to God through prayer. Trust Him. He is faithful to do what His Word promises, and He will give you the faith to endure until your victory is complete!

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Being Right Before a Holy God

Introduction: The amazing truth of the Gospel is that God takes broken sinners, cleanses them of their sin, transforms them into new creatures, and accepts them as sons and daughters. In this lesson, we will learn how, as a believer, you were made right with God. You will discover:

§ What happens when you are saved.

§ What it means to be “righteous” and to be “justified by faith.”

§ How being righteous enables you to live a victorious life in Christ.

I. What happens when you are saved?

Both you and God have a part to play in your salvation.

A. God asks you to:

1. Repent-turn from your sin.

2. Believe-turn to God (have faith).

3. Receive-God’s gift of life.

B. God acts to:

1. Regenerate you (“new birth”)-makes you a new creature.

2. Justify you-makes you righteous.

II. What is righteousness?

A. What is righteousness, or what does it mean to be “righteous”?

Three ways that righteousness is generally understood:

1. Some believe it is a standard that everyone must live up to (such as the Law or the Ten Commandments). If I am to be considered righteous, I must live up to the “standard” and obey all the commandments and expectations of God. (God does not accept us on the basis of this kind of righteousness. That is, perfectly keeping the Law or any set of rules does not make us acceptable to God.)

2. Some believe it is moral perfection (never having done anything wrong or evil). If I am to be considered righteous, I must not have ever done anything wrong. (Jesus is the only person who has been morally perfect.)

3. The Bible teaches that righteousness is living up to the terms of a relationship. (I must fulfill what is expected of me in a relationship.)

B. On your own, you cannot live up to the terms God expects from you.

1. As a sinner who has fallen far short of God’s expectations, you know that if God examined your life, He would not say that you are righteous.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV).

2. You can do good works and try to live a life according to good moral standards (the Bible calls this the “law”), but that will not make you right (justified) with God.

“. . . by observing the law no one will be justified” Galatians 2:16 (NIV).

C. Knowing your life, how can God honestly “justify” you, or make you righteous?

1. Being made “righteous” is more than forgiveness (cleansing you from your sins).

2. God also gives us Christ’s righteousness (views us as having lived a life of righteousness by “crediting” us with Jesus’ perfect life).

3. You are one with Christ.

a) This is not something that is going to happen or something that you should expect to happen, but it is something that already happened when you were born again!

b) “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

c) “He has clothed me with the garments of salvation; He has covered me with a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).

d) Paul says that his goal is to be found in Christ, “not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).

III. How can you stand right before a holy God?

A. You believe in Christ.

We have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law shall no one be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

We are justified by faith” (Romans 5:1).

1. Faith is an instrument through which justification is given to us (like a conduit).

a) Faith is not simply mental agreement, but a firm reliance, trust, and a leaning and depending upon God and His promises.

b) Faith shapes my character and affects my decisions and actions.

2. Why did God choose faith? Why not love, joy, contentment, wisdom, or humility?

a) Faith is the one attitude of heart that is the exact opposite of depending on ourselves.

b) With faith, we are saying essentially, “I give up! I can’t do this on my own!”

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God-not because of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

B. You receive the gift of righteousness.

Those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness (will) reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17 NIV).

IV. Live in victory as a righteous child of God!

A. Take your place as a child of God.

1. You don’t have to earn your standing before God-in fact, you can’t earn it-it is a gift.

2. Your motivation for what you do has changed. You are not working to earn God’s approval through prayer, Bible reading, witnessing, or other good works. You do these things because you love God, you thirst for His presence, and you want to please Him. You are not trying to earn His favor (John 20:31, 1 John 5:3-5).

B. Latch on to the promises of God.

1. You are now the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (II Corinthians 5:2 1).

2. You are seated in “heavenly places with Christ” and have victory over sin and the devil (Ephesians 2:6).

3. You can approach God with confidence, knowing He accepts you (Hebrews 10:22).

4. You can live at peace with God (Romans 5:1,2).

5. You are set free from sin and are now a servant of God, Who gives life (Romans 6:22-23).

6. Tribulation and hardships are not signs of God’s disapproval, but opportunities to have Christ-like character developed in you (Romans 5:1-5).

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Overcoming Offenses

Everyone has opportunities to be offended from time to time. For those who are quick to forgive, such offenses are no big deal; but those who are unforgiving often live with continually hurt feelings. Some walk around like time bombs, ready to explode – or implode – whenever their short fuses are lit.

So many people are affected by the bitterness that can result from unresolved offenses that I was prompted to write the book, “Get the Junk Out of Your Trunk.” God has used it to help many people receive healing from the crippling effects of bitterness. It’s my prayer that this article, written in the same spirit as the book, will help you live your best life: a life that is free from the pain of past, present and future offenses.

Offenses Will Come
In Luke 17:1, Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come.” He wanted us to know that stumbling-blocks, traps, and hindrances are inevitable so we would be quick to forgive when we are criticized, mistreated or abused.

Jesus also addressed the serious side-effects of allowing ourselves to be offended. He said that in the end times “…many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10-12).

There are always consequences when we don’t forgive. Did you notice the progression that Jesus said accompanies being offended? After the offense comes betrayal, then hatred, lawlessness, and finally, love grows cold.

No one wakes up one day and says, “Today, I’m going to hate them,” or “Today, I’m going to let my love toward God grow cold.” But gradually, the spiritual consequences for harboring offenses will take a toll.

James 3:16 says, “Where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” Believe me, you don’t want to live with “confusion and every evil thing” in your life! That’s why the Bible instructs us to “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14-15 NIV).

As you strive to live in peace with God and those around you, God’s grace can keep offense from dividing your family, wrecking your friendships, breaking up your marriage, or destroying your church.

Dealing With Offenses
Matthew 18:15-17 instructs us what to do when someone offends us: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

As we follow the steps Jesus outlined, it is possible to live a peaceful life. Let’s study these steps:

1. Go to the one who has offended you. Jesus said in Matthew 18:15 that we should go to them. Our motive should not be just to seek justice, but to believe the best and seek restoration. Remember, “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]” (1 Corinthians 13:7 AMP).

Notice that Jesus told us to go by ourselves. Often, what seemed like an offense may have simply been a misunderstanding. By not involving others, we show God’s love and concern for the offender. If they repent, their reputation will have been spared. At that point, express your forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4) and let the matter be forever settled in your heart. If they don’t repent, forgive them anyway, and continue to seek restoration.

2. Go again, taking someone with you. This fulfills Matthew 18:16 which tells us to take “one or two more” with you. Having an impartial witness helps bring out the truth. If they repent, only the two of you and one other person know what has happened, and their reputation has still been salvaged.

3. Talk with church leadership. If the offender still has not repented, Jesus said in Matthew 18:17 that we should “tell it to the church.” This does not mean that we should talk about it with everyone we meet! Jesus was referring to us going to a pastor or church leader so they can help reconcile the offender with God – and you.

When You’ve Offended Someone
Even though you are seeking to live a pure and godly life, people will sometimes be offended by your words or actions. As soon as you become aware that someone has been wounded, you should do what you can to initiate reconciliation.

We read previously that Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come…” but He continued on to say, “…woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:1-2). The consequences for offending others are severe, and those who habitually offend others will eventually reap what they have sown.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23-24 that our relationships should be reconciled before we worship. It says, “…if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Even if it was a misunderstanding and you did not mean to cause harm, it is Biblical for you to go to them.

It’s important to remember that you are not responsible for their response. Whether or not they choose to forgive you, your part is the same: go to them with a sincere heart for restoration.

We should always remember that love is the answer for offenses as we’re told in 1 Peter 4:8 that “love will cover a multitude of sins.” It’s unfortunate that offenses occur, but Isaiah 26:3 indicates that when we keep our focus on God and His Word, He will keep us in perfect peace.

It’s our prayer that you will resolve issues quickly with the following points in mind:

Peace and Unity. In Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV), Paul urges us to “…live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Issues left unsettled destroy marriages and families, keep people from coming to the Lord and even grieve the Holy Spirit. That’s why Ephesians 4:30-32 commands us, “…do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Spiritual Well-Being. In 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 (NIV), Paul wrote, “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven – if there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Forgiving others is vital to our own spiritual well-being and can affect the well-being of others. When we resolve issues quickly, we shut the door on Satan.

Restoration. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” God’s heart is always for restoration, so we should always do our best to restore those who are offended.

It’s obvious that hurtful things will still occasionally happen, but we don’t have to let ourselves be offended by them. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive…and let the Lord be your source of peace in every situation. Remember: “Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165 KJV).

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Week 3 – Living Right Before a Holy God

Introduction: God’s goal for us is to become like Jesus. If you are a believer, He has already given you Christ’s righteousness, and now He wants to conform you into Christ’s image. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29 NIV) The Lord also wants us to be blameless and holy. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified… .” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 NIV) In this lesson we will learn:

§ The meaning of holiness (sanctification).

§ How you can become holy or live holy (practical steps to living holy).

I. What is holiness?

A. Holiness literally means “to be set apart for God.” (John 17:17-19)

  • It is the same word as sanctification.

B. A definition of holiness is “the continuing work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and more like Christ.”

  • God’s intention is for believers to live free from the bondage of sin. Why? Sin prevents us from living the abundant life that God has designed for us. (1 Peter 1:14-16)

C. Holiness has two stages.

1. It begins when we are born again. “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NIV)

a) We are called “saints.” “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be saints, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-their Lord and ours.” (1 Corinthians 1:1-2 NKJ)

b) We have been set free from sin!

“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:18 NIV)

2. Throughout life, you are to continue to be transformed into Christ’s likeness by the sanctification process.

a) It begins at the “new birth” but is also a process throughout our lives.

b) We are being changed from one degree to another.

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, Who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV).

D. The key to your sanctification is knowing who you are in Christ.

1. Holiness is not a negative process, but a positive one.

a) Some think of it as a list of “don’ts.”

b) Scripture views it as a way of sharing Jesus’ life.

2. Jesus is God’s “working model” for your life as a believer.

a) We are inseparably linked with Jesus.

1) “Just as the living Father sent Me and l live because of the Father; so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” (John 6:57 NIV)

2) Just as a baby’s umbilical cord connects it with its mother, we are connected with Jesus and share His life.

b) If we abide in Jesus, we “ought to walk in the same manner as He walked.” (1 John 2:6 NAS)

II. How do you become sanctified or live holy?

A. Believe that God is good, created you with purpose, wants a relationship with you, and has given you His Word. (Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-8)

B. Know who you are and where true life is to be found.

1. We are aliens in this world.

“I have given them Your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” (John 17:14 NIV)

2. The values of the world are not my values.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12 NIV)

C. Be convinced that God’s expectation for his children is that they do not sin.

1. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense-Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1 NIV).

2. “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:9 NIV)

D. Repent and confess any sin in your life, and drink in God’s forgiveness.

1. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)

2. We grieve the Spirit when we sin, but when we come “clean” with God, He rejoices over us. (Luke 15:24)

3. We must maintain a clear conscience.

E. Renew your mind.

1. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)

2. The mind is the part of the body that needs the most discipline.

3. We take every “thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

F. Continually admit that you are dependent on the Holy Spirit to help you live a life like Jesus.

1. Developing an ongoing friendship with God does this.

G. Place yourself in situations where holiness can grow.

1. Drink in God’s Word.

2. Maintain regular prayer times.

3. Get busy with the tasks God wants you to do.

4. Physically remove yourself from places of temptation.

5. Refuse to entertain thoughts that could lead to sin. Choose instead to think “Philippians” thoughts:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

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Miracles in Your Mouth

For years, the world’s largest circulated magazine, Reader’s Digest, has offered its valuable feature, “IT PAYS TO ENRICH YOUR WORD POWER.” The column has stood the test of time because everyone always has room to expand their vocabulary. The editors once quoted H.D. Hoover, director of the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, as saying, “A well-developed vocabulary is at the heart of all learning and at the heart of every test.” It is true in the natural, and it is true in the supernatural.

When it comes to our faith, it is not the size of our vocabulary, but the source of our vocabulary that is important. Think about the common expression, “words fail me.” In the natural, this happens when the speaker has a thought to convey, but just cannot seem to find the right way to communicate it fully to his audience. In the supernatural, our words fail us when they do not reflect the thoughts of God on any given subject.

The words we speak are like the rudder of a ship and will determine the direction our lives take. When we learn to agree in our hearts with God and say what He says about our situations, we will pass the tests of life with flying colors!

Power to Change Situations

When people are in situations where breakthrough is needed, they often hope for a miracle. Really, what they are looking for is a quick fix to a problem they are stuck in as a result of their words. Fortunately, if they turn their hearts in the right direction and align their words with what God says, a miracle can begin in their mouths.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 4:12, “the Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword.” The Word has the ability to change situations. In fact, that is exactly what happened when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. If you remember, Lazarus had been dead four days by the time Jesus came to the place where his body lay. After the stone had been rolled away, Jesus acknowledged the fact that His Father always heard Him, and then cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” John 11:44 records the result that “he who had died came out!” It was the power of God’s Word that changed the situation.

Your church, your pastor, your doctor, or your friends cannot change you. You can even pray for hours, but if you are only telling God the details of your problem, change will not come. When you pray, agree with what God says and pray the solution instead of the problem. Just as it was the Word of God that brought Lazarus out of the grave, it is the Word that will affect your situation. God’s Word is more powerful than any problem or bondage, and it becomes powerful in your life when it is spoken.

You Get What You Say

Spiritually speaking, words are always powerful. Proverbs 18:20-21 says, “A man’s stomach shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; from the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” In James 3:5, it says our words act like dry wood to a fire when he wrote, “Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!” You need to understand and harness the power of what you say.

When you speak negatively, you are helping the devil strike the match to bring about destruction in your life. Sometimes people even die as a result of their words. They say things like, “Everybody in my family dies of cancer. My grandfather died of cancer, my uncle died of cancer, and my brother died of cancer. I’ll probably get cancer and die just like they did.” However, when you speak positively, agreeing with what the Word of God says, you are lighting the fuse of God’s dynamite power to bring about victory in your situation. Now, faced with the same family medical history, you can proclaim, “He Himself took my infirmities and bore my sicknesses,” and “by His stripes I’m healed!” The choice is yours.

What you say opens or closes the door to God’s promises being fulfilled in your life. Jesus said, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘be removed and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says.” (Mark 11:22-23) He literally said, if you believe in your heart, and don’t doubt, and you keep your confession right, you will have it. Think about this: God says in Isaiah 57:19, that when you speak something, He creates the fruit of your lips. Imagine that! God literally makes what you say happen!

Abraham’s Example

Abraham is one of my favorite examples of God’s faithfulness, but the thing I want you to notice is that God’s promise didn’t “just happen” in his life. As you may recall, Abraham and Sarah tried diligently for seventy years to have a child – with no effect. God had promised him he would be the father of many nations, but all the physical evidence was stacked against him. Only a miracle could bring God’s promise to pass.

The miracle didn’t come until Abraham began speaking forth what God promised. He openly declared that God was going to make him the father of many nations, and he stood firm as is written in Romans 4:20, “Abraham did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief.” He agreed with what God had spoken in spite of all the circumstances that seemed against him. Then, despite the impossibility of the situation, God “called those things which were not as though they were.” (Romans 4:17) Isaac was born, and Abraham received his miracle!

Receiving Your Miracle

Here is how miracles happen:
1. You receive a promise from God.

2. A situation arises saying what God has promised can’t come to pass. (The devil is trying to steal the Word.)

3. You choose to believe God’s promise.

4. You stand on His promise and confess His promise.

5. God brings the promise into manifestation in spite of everything that was opposed to it.

God has a promise for everything you will ever need. The devil has a plan to try to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) – he’ll do whatever it takes to keep you from receiving God’s promise. If you do nothing, the devil will get his way. But if you choose to believe God and stand on His promise, saying what He says, God will bring it to pass and you’ll experience abundant life.

Suppose your checkbook says, “You’re broke!” and your financial advisor tells you that you’re going to have to file bankruptcy. Yet, you know God says He will provide for all your needs. Who are you going to agree with? What are you going to say? What if the doctor tells you there is no cure for what you have, yet you know the Bible says God will heal all your diseases? Who will you believe, and what words will come out of your mouth?

The next time you are faced with adverse circumstances, remember God is faithful, He loves you, and He is watching over His Word to perform it. Open up your Bible and find the promise God has in place to cover your need. Believe it and begin speaking it. Don’t let your words fail you – the miracle you need is in your mouth!

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