Stop the Spiritual Fluff – 1 John 4:1

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 ESV

Who are you listening to? What preachers and speakers do you regularly follow? Do you take what they tell you as gospel truth or do you regardless test what they are teaching against the Word of God? John wrote to the early church warning them about false teachers and he wasn’t the only person to warn the church. Paul in his farewell address as well as when writing to Timothy warned against those that would come in teaching what people want to hear rather than teaching the Truth.

Today in the world of televangelists and mega churches we find ourselves in a similar situation. Crowds gather more to where they are being told what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. They want the what amounts to being spiritual sweets while neglecting the spiritual nutritional substances. The problem is much like with our own diet we cannot live on only cakes, pies, and ice cream as our nutritional intake, a spiritual diet of nothing but spiritual fluff is also unhealthy.

That is why we need to test the spirits. We need to be sure that our spiritual diet is healthy. We do this by making sure that the teaching we listen to is firmly grounded in the Bible and not taken out of context. We need to remember that just because it sounds good doesn’t make it true. So let me leave you with this, what does your spiritual diet look like? Do you test the spirits to make sure what you are taking in is healthy or do you just settle for spiritual junk food?

What Really is our Welfare? – Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

This is one of those verses we often look to when we feel to be facing hard times. We look at verses such as this and believe God will never let us suffer, in fact doesn’t this verse indicate that God will help us to prosper? So is this what this verse is actually telling us or is it something more? Is this even a promise that is universal that can be applied to all believers or was it given to just a specific group or person?

When we look at verse 10 we see that this promise was given to the Israelites during the Babylonian Exile. This promise was made to them for after being in exile for 70 years and then being allowed to return to the Promised Land. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God was telling the Israelites that no matter how it may seem, He was not done with them. There would always be a remnant as He had plans for salvation to come through them, specifically through the line of David.

So does this verse have any application for us today? Well we can still gain some insight and value from it. The problem is when we try to put our desires into the meaning of this verse, for you see as a believer sealed by the Holy Spirit we can apply this promise to us. The problem is when we use our desires and understanding for welfare into the verse. We often want it to mean we will be financially stable, never face any hardships, and never suffer in any way. Our welfare is something completely different, it is our salvation and restored relationship with God. It is the offer of everlasting life provided to us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. You see our future and hope is not something in the here and now, but rather it is in spending eternity in the presence of God.

To Know God – Ephesians 1:17

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Ephesians 1:17

Do you know God? I don’t mean an intellectual knowledge of God; knowing and understanding the concept of God. To know God is not just stating that God is the creator of all, or even just to state that He exists or that He is our savior. As a Christian our knowledge of God should be something much deeper than just a surface level belief.

When Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians, he was not writing to unbelievers stating that he was praying that they would gain knowledge of God; but he was telling fellow believers that he was wanting them to gain a knowledge of God. In other words this was written to people that knew of God so far that they understood Him to be the one to offer salvation, what Paul is getting at is a more intimate knowledge of who God is.

We see this intimate use of knowing played out many times in our Bible, Adam knew Eve, Abraham knew Sarah, Isaac knew Rebecca, when Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of Christ she stated she never knew a man. While this use is more sexual in nature it drives home the point that a true knowledge of God is something deeper than just being a surface level abstract thought. It is a learning of His likes and dislikes, finding out what He desires and being obedient to those desires. It is having a relationship with Him; when we are born we don’t have just an abstract knowledge of our parents, we form a relationship with them and interact with them, knowing them on a deeper level.

This was Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church, and I will add probably his prayer for all believers; and it is also what God desires from us. What parent doesn’t want their children to have a relationship with them and know them? You can bet our Heavenly Father desires it even more so.

Healing Our Hearts – 2 Chronicles 7:14

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

If you have gone to any of our Becoming God’s Man conferences or remember the six month radio show we had at one time you are know this is a verse we use a lot, and there is a reason for that. This is one of those verses that says many things in a compact little package. Think of it as one of those little pills that you can get at the dollar store that when put in a glass of water turns into a sponge dinosaur.

So what is so significant about this verse, well if you look at it there is a promise from God, the only thing is that the promise is conditional. While originally written in context regarding the ancient nation of Israel the principles of this verse are just as applicable to today’s Christians. The first thing we need to take notice is that this promise is for the believer, whether it was the Jew back in the days of Solomon when the promise was given or a Christian today, we are all those people called by God’s name.

So what must we do in regards to this promise? The first thing is that we need to humble ourselves. This means we need to realize we are not the most important thing and place our focus rather than on ourself or our situation but rather focus on God. Then once we focus on God we can in fact fulfill the other conditions. That is because we won’t truly be praying or seeking God’s face if we are self absorbed. We also aren’t able to turn from our wicked ways either, as we usually fall into those ways because we are focused on self and how to best please ourselves rather than how to please God. In essence it is once we humble ourselves that the other conditions we need to fulfill will just naturally start to fall into place.

So what is being promised? God’s part of this promise is that He will forgive our sins and heal our land. What all does this mean, well with the second part in the times of Solomon agriculture was the source of income for many and if crops couldn’t grow financially many were hurt; but this is not saying that God will make you rich in material means if we fulfill our part. What it does mean is that God will make sure our needs are met, with the most important need being that of our salvation. You see the land that we need healed is none other than our hearts.

Does your heart need healing? Have you surrendered your life to Christ? We all need both, so what is keeping you from humbling yourself and turning to God in order to bring healing to your heart?

Fear Not – Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 ESV

Don’t be afraid, fear not. Those words are said to be in the Bible 365 times and this is probably one of the most famous verses containing that phrase. Here in Florida we have recently experienced a time where this verse was put to the test. A couple of weeks ago we were looking at the good possibility of facing a Category 5 hurricane with 185 mph winds. To say that we had a legitimate reason to have fear would have been an understatement. To say here in Florida we were lucky that it weakened before making landfall in southwestern Florida is not to mean that God favored us over the Caribbean nations that experienced Irma at full force. What it does mean is that we should be praising God and thanking Him that it did weaken and pray for those in the Caribbean that did face Irma at full force.

In this verse God is commanding Joshua to not fear the task before him as he leads Israel to take the promised land, as God promised to be with them the entire time. Much like as Christians when we face times of trials and tribulations we should not worry or fear, because God is also with us. Now this does not mean we won’t come out unscathed, but regardless of what happens God is the one in charge and because of that our faith should be that we can state God will either deliver us for His glory or we will be with Him in paradise, that nothing happens against God’s plan. So when the storms of life come at us, whether they are actual storms like Irma or some other tribulation, take no fear because God is the one that is in control. So are you experiencing a situation where you are facing fears and anxieties? Put your trust and faith in God that He will see you through whatever it is that you’re facing.

Are You Looking For Your 15 Seconds of Fame? – John 3:29-30

He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom’s friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine is complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.
John 3:29-30

How often do we want to find greatness, or to be the center of attention? How often do we get into the mindset of thinking that everything should revolve around us? We often look for what can put us into the spotlight, to have that next viral video or post on Facebook; to be the next chicken nugget tweet, which if I remember right that was one of the most retweeted tweets on twitter. In this world of reality TV and social media, where anyone with a camera has the potential to become a star, that is what many people focus on. They ask how can I become greater, how can I get more likes, more retweets, more followers; they fall into the trap of pride, where all of their focus is on themselves.

Here we see John the Baptist talking to his disciples when they came to him complaining about Jesus becoming more popular than John. You see John had no problem with this as he knew who Jesus was and that he was only there to prepare the people for Jesus, much like an opening act preparing the crowds at a concert for the headline band. John understood that his role was fulfilled once Jesus started His ministry and thus needed to diminish while Jesus’ ministry was to become greater.

In this time of YouTube and Instagram stars, and everyone looking for their 15 seconds of fame we need to take a page from John the Baptist’s playbook and realize that it is not about us. We need to look less at how we can bring ourselves fame and glory and look at how we can point people to the one who deserves all glory. We need to decrease while God must increase. In other words we need to tell ourselves that “I got nothing.”

What are you teaching? – 2 Timothy 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 CSB

 

What are you teaching?

 

How often do we remember people either telling us to “do as I say and not as I do?” Or perhaps we are the ones making that statement to someone else. The problem is our actions say as much about what we believe and sometimes more so than what our words do. When you see that someone’s actions and words don’t line up, how likely are you to listen to the advice that they give you? If someone were to tell you not to drive fast all while going ten over the speed limit would you listen to them? I know when you look at a child they are more likely to imitate what they see adults do over that an adult will tell them to do; that is why the saying “actions speak louder than words” is so true.

 

In this verse Paul is encouraging Timothy to keep a check on his actions, telling him to work towards living in such a way that when he comes before God he won’t be ashamed of how he lived, much like an employee standing before their boss during a performance review. If you worked hard, trying to meet the expectations of your employer there is nothing to be ashamed of; but if you slack off and don’t do anything there is plenty to be ashamed of. Our Christian walk should be like that of an employee looking to get a good review, and how do we know what the performance expectations are? That is where the last part of the verse comes in. In the Christian Standard Bible it states “correctly teaching the word of truth,” however other translations mention dividing or handling the word of truth. What this means is that we should be measuring our actions against what we see in the Bible, but not only that we should as John mentions test the spirits to make sure what we are doing and listening to is truth. That is because there are some out there that will use the Bible to teach what they want, but take verses out of context or twist their meaning to support their personal agendas rather than to promote God’s will.

 

So again I will ask what are you teaching? Are you living in such a way as to promote God’s message?

Temptations beyond you can handle – 1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 CSB

 

God will never give you more than you can handle. The people that claim this usually reference this verse; but is that what is really being said right here? Let’s take a look and see just what Paul is stating.

 

“No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity.” First we see that all temptation we face is nothing new, any temptations and trials we encounter are essentially just the same as they faced thousands of years ago. What this means is that what you struggle with in regards to temptations is no different than what the first century Christians faced, or even the ancient Israelites. This means even sins that are related to issues that seem to be modern issues, like sins related to the internet, are just the same old sins just with new packaging. So what does this mean? It means that there are no sins that we will be tempted with that will surprise God.

 

The next part is where the concept of God not giving us more than we can handle comes in. “But God is faithful; He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.” If we were to just leave it at this then yes God will not give us more than we can handle in regards to temptation. The thing is with the next part, “but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” In other words God expects us to turn to Him when we face temptations, that is why Paul can state God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able. God wants us to rely on Him, to keep our eyes and focus on Him in all circumstances; just look at Peter when Christ was walking on the water, as long as Peter kept his eyes on Christ he was okay but once he lost his focus Peter started to sink.

 

So will God give us more than we can handle? If we keep our focus on God then no we will never encounter more than we can handle because we are relying on God; but if we are relying on ourselves and doing things in our own power then we will constantly finding ourselves in situations where we are encountering more than we can handle.

The Greatest Commandment – Matthew 22:38-40

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:38-40

When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was He answered by stating it was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” He then followed it up with “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Stating that the Law is summed up by these two commandments.

When you look at the Old Testament Law and more specifically the Ten Commandments you can see that the motivation and driving factor is all wrapped up in love. The reason for the Jews to keep the law was not to make them righteous but to express their love for God who had declared them righteous and set them apart from the other nations.

The laws and commandments dealing with our relationships with others illustrates the concept of having love for our neighbor, to treat them as we would want to be treated. If we are of a healthy mind we wouldn’t want others to lie to us, steal from us, hurt us in any way in the long term. The concept of love for our neighbors fulfilling the law is much deeper than this however. When we love our neighbors, we are essentially showing our love for God. John tells us that we cannot love God if we don’t love our brother, and Jesus states that keeping His commandments is how we show our love for Him. In other words to love God with our whole being we first need to love our neighbors. This is why Jesus gave the two commandments when asked about the greatest commandment, because you can’t fulfill the greatest commandment without the other.

Are You A People Pleaser? Matthew 6:3-4

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:3‭-‬4 ESV

What’s your motivation? Why do you do what you do? Are your actions done so that others’ may see what you are doing and so you get praise for it, or would you rather not be recognized for what you do?

In these verses placed within the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is touching on this subject. You see the religious elite of the day were known for publicly displaying their righteousness. If people were watching they made sure to make themselves look good. They would pray elaborate prayers, throw large sums of money into the offering, if it would get the people to look at them and comment on how “good” they are they would do it. In Matthew 6:1-2 Jesus steers the people away from this thinking, telling them not to act this way, but rather as mentioned in verses 3-4 to do it in secret.

What Jesus is getting at here is not to do the seemingly impossible of keeping one part of your body from knowing what another is doing, but rather our actions should be done in such a way that glory and praise is focused on God. The pharisees were all “look at me, look at me!” While Jesus tells us that we should be going “look at God, look at God!”

Jesus states that those seeking the praise of the people already have their reward, that is because rather than seeking God’s glory and God’s favor they are seeking the praise of the people and to have their egos stroked. So they have gotten exactly what they are seeking; but those that seek God’s favor, those that do good in secret, will receive God’s grace as a reward.

So I ask again what is your motivation? Do you seek the praise of others or do you seek to please God?