COMMITMENT AND SACRIFICE..

Acts 18:18

“So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.”
NKJV

Paul had taken a Nazarite vow that he would not touch a dead body; he would drink no wine, eat no grapes, eat no raisins, and allow his hair to grow before cutting it off as a sign of purification (see Numbers 6). But wait, you say, isn’t Paul the one who told us that those under grace should not be under bondage? In Galatians 5:1, he wrote, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” This was not bondage for Paul because it kept the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ relatable to the Jews. It was also profitable in that it gave Paul the opportunity to model service and sacrifice as an example for other Christians. Friends, I am going to let you in on something that may surprise you, commitment is not bondage. It is by God’s grace that we have been given the opportunity to serve Him. How do we serve God? We serve Him by serving others and His church. Is commitment service or sacrifice? It is both. Every Christian should be ready to serve and be ready for sacrifice. What was the model set forth for us by Jesus? It was one of service and sacrifice. If we are to be “Christ-like” then we must be ready and willing to commit ourselves to live by the example He set for us. We hold ourselves to commitments every day. Commitments we make at our jobs, with our family and friends. What about our commitment to Jesus and to His church?

Proverbs 16:3 reads, “Commit your work to the LORD, and then your plans will succeed.” NLT

Service or sacrifice, whichever it may be, I’m ready. That is the mindset of a true servant of God.

Life Lesson: We should be committed to God and to the church.

VICTORY BEGINS WITH OUR THINKING..

1 John 1:5-9

Whether we have recently become believers or have followed Christ for years, the Devil seeks to attack our faith and cause us to relapse into disobedient ways. We are warned to be alert because our Enemy is like a roaring lion seeking to harm us (1 Pet. 5:8).

His intentions are to enslave us to sin. When we succumb to temptation, Satan presses in to trap us so that we will feel estranged from our heavenly Father. Then the Enemy will try to convince us we cannot return to God in our current state. Some of us become so miserable that we buy into the lie and embrace the world’s ways.

Since our Father knows both the Devil’s tactics and our weaknesses, He has planned a way of escape for us. It is called confession. Genuine confession means telling the Lord what we have done and agreeing that it is wrong. Then we express sorrow over it, acknowledge inability to rescue ourselves, and declare the heartfelt desire to turn from our sin and live for Him again. God promises to forgive us and cleanse us so our fellowship with Him is restored (1 John 1:9).

The Enemy is cunning, but Scripture offers a sound strategy for avoiding entrapment: “Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is” (Rom. 12:1-2). Notice that victory begins with your thinking. The more you apply this principle, the greater your success will be.

BROKEN FOR HIS GLORY..

We’ve all seen restored furniture. Restoring furniture involves stripping away old varnish or paint with strong chemicals. This reveals all the nooks, crannies and original spots on the piece. The sanding takes place next – the wood is rubbed with coarse sandpaper in order to level out its imperfections. Then the furniture is ready to receive a new stain or paint color – it’s ready for a new look. New glory can be given to old furniture. And God can do the same thing with us. He can put new glory inside an old life, but He must first strip away our old nature and sand away our sinful strongholds.

We shouldn’t run from being broken. It’s not pleasant or happy, but it will produce a better life. Brokenness is a blessing because it puts us on the road to a breakthrough. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3) Those who are spiritually broken will be blessed because they will see God and experience His reality flowing through their lives.

Scripture promises that God remains with those who are broken and makes them stronger than before. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Isaiah 61:3 teaches that God would give those who mourn and are broken “a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” 

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH SIN..

Matthew 18:8-9 provides an important insight into how to deal with sin,

“If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”

The eye represents the thought life, where sin is conceived.  The hand represents that sin actually being carried out.  And the foot is where it becomes a walk, a pattern, an entrenched habit of life, a sinful lifestyle.

When Jesus says, “Cut it off,” He is speaking of ruthless self-judgment.  And He didn’t stop there.  He said, “Cut it off and cast it from you.”  In other words, get as far away from the source of your sin as you can.

I remember one day I walked right into a spider web.  As I did, I caught a glimpse of this huge orange-colored spider out of the corner of my eye.  As I hit the web, I felt it get on my neck.  I started doing a war dance, hitting myself and ripping my shirt off, trying to get that thing off me.

And you know what?  The moment a sinful thought lands in your mind, you ought to do the same thing, go on the warpath!  Start batting that thing away!  Start quoting Scriptures.

Do whatever you can to keep it from sinking its teeth into your life.  As Jesus said, it will be better for you if you do!

GOD HAD TO TEAR ME DOWN FIRST..

GOD TORE ME DOWN AND REMODELED ME…

The process of remodeling transforms the inside of a house or business in order to update it, make it more modern and effective, and save the cost of buying something new. Remodeling takes what already exists and reconfigures it into something different. If any of you have remodeled your home, you know how disruptive it can be. Dust, dirt, and chaos seem to take over. But in order for the new to be made manifest, the old must be dismantled.
Many Christians are looking for a blessing but don’t want to go through the remodeling process in their lives. Yet, brokenness is the key to your break-through – to your knowing God in a deeper, more glorious, more amazing way. God is not going to bless you if He can’t remodel you. In order to remodel you, He has to tear old, sinful character qualities out and put new ones in.
Brokenness is not an emotional experience of an event. Brokenness is an act of the will – surrendering your will to God. To be broken means to say yes to what God wants despite what you want. To be broken is a decision to humble yourself and acknowledge your need for help. Brokenness occurs when God strips you of your self-sufficiency and gets rid of your pride so that the life of Christ can be made manifest in you.
Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 4:11, “We who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” We undergo problems, difficulties, and frustrations so that the life of Christ may be made known through us.

I WANT TO BE IN GODS PRESENCE..

Psalm 84:10 gives us an important perspective of God’s presence,

For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

When the psalmist talks about “a day in Your courts,” he is not talking about being in some building or admiring some bit of religious architecture.  He is talking about enjoying the presence of God.  As verse 2 of this psalm says,

My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.            

God is so good that just one day with Him is better than a thousand anywhere else.  Just to be on the threshold, just to be on the doorstep, just to feel the slightest fringes, if you would, of the presence of God, is better than spending a thousand days anywhere else.

I think The Message Bible conveys the idea of verse 10, 

One day spent in your house, this beautiful place of worship, beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.  I’d rather scrub floors in the house of my God than be honored as a guest in the palace of sin.

Not long ago, I was walking through the neighborhood (I do this from time to time) just having a prayer walk.  I walked for maybe 45 minutes and just prayed and worshiped God.

As I started thinking about all of the good things He has done for me, I began to sense His presence, and I started to cry.  Now, I don’t know what the neighbors thought if they happened to look out their window, but I didn’t care, because I so appreciate His presence in my life.

I encourage you today to learn to cherish the presence of God!

WE SHOULD GIVE THANKS EVERYDAY..

In Psalms 63, the psalmist makes an incredible statement,

O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.  So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.  Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.  Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.

What does the psalmist mean when he says that God’s lovingkindness is better than life?  Let me try and explain.

First, lovingkindness literally means merciful love.  It is God’s unfailing, merciful love.

And this is the love the psalmist says is “better than life.” This merciful and unfailing love of God is better than life at its best without that love.

When I think of my life without Christ, I can remember many high times, laughter I shared with people, and great relationships.  But the least of God’s mercies far outweighs the best of those times.

My life before coming to know Christ was chasing shadows.  It was doing the best with a counterfeit because I had never experienced the reality.  It was eating freeze-dried food when the Master Chef had prepared this sumptuous feast with the finest ingredients. 

His lovingkindness is indeed better than the best of life without it.  The natural response to such merciful love, to such an abundant life, is praise.  Which means that every day, until your dying day, should be a thanksgiving day.

THE JOY OF TRUSTING IN THE LORD..

He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him]. (Psalm 126:6)
Our Father is so faithful to lift us up from our grievous trials and temptations! He stretches His hands before us and makes all things new and beautiful in His light. Though weeping may last for a night, there is always a shout of joy in the morning for those who trust in the Lord.

GOD DOES NOT SLEEP..

Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. (Psalm 121:4)
Take heart O believer in the Lord your God who never slumbers and never rests! Always will He hear you and always does His eye watch over your steps. Naught will take Him by surprise and nothing occurs outside His knowing. He knows intimately the desires of your heart and the difficulties of your life. Trust Him to seek the best for you and praise His name for His goodness!

GLORY TO GLORY..

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, [even] as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
From the moment we placed our faith in Christ, He began to transform us into His loving and gracious nature! What a joy it is to be one of His children! We are transformed from glory to glory into His marvelous image.