Grace Martial Arts received its name many years ago because of the Grace of God that blessed an atheist with the amazing gift of eternal life.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
It has been our joy and privilege to teach martial arts from a Christian perspective for almost 50 years. All credit to our God and King.
We have taught hundreds of Bible studies and devotionals to our students through the wonderful years God has given us the privilege to serve Him in Christian martial arts. Here are some that we hope and pray will be a blessing to you and your students.
The Mind of Christ
One of the primary opportunities in teaching martial arts in a Christian environment is helping our students become like Christ. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 2:5) How is that done? Building character qualities in the lives of our students that resemble the character of Christ.
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:1-5 … NKJV
Notice that the development of character produces hope in a Christian’s life. In this new year, we are starting a new column to highlight character qualities important for Christian martial artists to focus on and make part of their lives. Many Christian martial arts programs and ministries include learning Christian character qualities as an important part of the curriculum for students to advance in their martial arts studies and rankings.
Better Than A Warrior
Martial artists are part of an ancient legacy of warriors from every corner of the world and segment of society. Some of the greatest warriors of history came from Israel, God’s chosen people. One of the most powerful and influential warriors of Israel’s history was King David. He defended Israel against mighty armies and powerful enemies. David expanded the territories of Israel and made it one of the greatest empires on earth. So, why would the king’s son write this: “Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city”? How could a patient man possibly be better than a warrior who protects his people and has the skill to take a city?
Patience has a long history with God’s people. Patience is often connected to waiting on God’s promises. If God promises something will happen, it will happen. What God’s people have had to do is wait and have faith that God will do as He promised. Waiting is not something that is built into the natural character traits of human beings. We are born impatient. We hate to wait. We want what we want when we want it and we don’t want to wait for it. That’s our way. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s timing for everything is perfect because He is perfect. Our timing for everything is imperfect because we are imperfect. We experience success in life as we wait patiently and expectantly on Him. Waiting is never easy, but waiting on God is a sure thing. We know He will always live up to His promise.
Love Your Soul
The words of King Solomon in Proverbs 19:8 are powerful: “He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good.” Our parents teach us from an early age how to love them, ourselves and others, but what about our soul? The soul is eternal. The body dies, but the real you lives forever. We spend so much time taking care of our bodies and improving our minds and relationships with others, but shouldn’t be learn how to care for our eternal soul?
King Solomon was one of the wisest people who ever lived. The Bible tells us: “And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment … And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore … And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt … And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 3:28; 4:29,30,34
Solomon had a wise father. King David was not perfect, but he was wise. David loved God and wanted to do God’s will. David loved his son and wanted him to be wise. Solomon learned so much about wisdom from his father and from God. Solomon made the correct choice in his early years: to get wisdom.
Shine As Lights In The World!
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.” Philippians 2:12-16
God wants Christians to understand the importance of their role in the world. He is working out His Will through us. We are the sons and daughters of God living in the middle of a crooked and perverse nation. God has something to say to this world and He’s saying it through us!
Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi because the light they were shining in their world was not as bright as it could or should be. Unlike some of the other churches Paul wrote, the Philippians were not encumbered with sexual sins or falling into the trap of Judaizers. However, they were experiencing something just as dangerous as any of the sins of that day; they were losing their family unity.
Paul addressed this powerfully when he reminded them that they shined as lights in the world. Paul used the Greek word phainesthe to describe the Philippian Christians. It’s in the passive voice and means “are seen, appear.” Believers living in Philippi (and everywhere else for that matter) appear to unsaved people as “lights in the world.” The word lights is the word phosteres. It means “luminary, star, heavenly light.” Christians appear as “stars” to the unsaved in the world. The Apostles Paul and John each used the word one time in their letters. John used phosteres in Revelation 21:11 to describe the Light that lights the New Jerusalem. John learned that Light is Jesus Christ. The same Light that will light the Holy City of Heaven is the same Light the unsaved see in Christians!
The Philippian Christians were seen as “lights” in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation.” That’s a description of people living in the 1st Century A.D. – crooked and perverse (perverted, distorted, twisted). Are we any better 2,000 years later? I don’t think so. The human heart has been crooked and twisted since Adam plunged the race into sin thousands of years ago. Christians today continue to appear as lights in a crooked and perverse generation.
We’re going to ask and answer four extremely important questions for Christians in this study: (1) Why Do We Shine? (2) Who Do We Shine? (3) Where Do We Shine? (4) How Do We Shine? The study is designed for you to print these pages to add to a notebook. You can write your answers to each point and use it as a guide in your life and ministry. I promise you that the right answer to these questions will revolutionize your life and empower the Church in a way the world has not seen for a long time. We also invite you to share this study with Christian friends. Ask God to lead you to lead others to the greatest experience of our life on earth: Shining as Lights in the World!
The Foundation of Christian Martial Arts
The foundation of martial arts includes health, fitness, stance and movement. Martial artists would do well to concentrate on those four areas. If we are not healthy, we cannot defend ourselves or people we love successfully over a long period of time. If we are not fit, we cannot defend ourselves or people we love successfully over a long period of time. If we do not have a strong stance, we cannot defend ourselves or people we love successfully during an attack. If we cannot move quickly and effectively, we cannot defend ourselves or people we love successfully during an attack.
The four K’s of Karate speak well to the foundation of martial arts. They are Kihon, Kata, Kumite and Kime. Kihon is the fundamentals, the basics of the art. Kihon is as basic as yielding to oncoming force, clearing the midline from the direction of violence in a personal attack, connecting with the attacker from a position of safety, taking control of the attacker’s movements and redirecting the attacker to an empty place where they are no longer a threat to you or people you are protecting. Kata is patterns of self-defense. Bunkai is the application of Kata which leads to Kumite, the practice of self-defense against realistic attacks. Kime is the concentrated focus necessary to deal with an attack efficiently and effectively.
The foundation of Christianity includes Faith, Commitment, Power and Praise. Christians would do well to concentrate on these four areas. If we not have faith, we do not have salvation. If we do not have commitment, we do not have ministry. If we do not have power, we do not have blessing. If we do not have praise, we do not have fellowship.
Christianity and the Martial Arts
We are hearing from many people about the issue of Christians being involved in the Martial Arts. Many Christians believe we should not mix the two. Below is one response to the question.
God taught the people of Israel how to defend themselves against the warring countries around them. In fact, God taught Israel how to make war successfully. Thousands of words in the Old Testament are devoted to issues of war and success in self and national defense. The kind of war Israel waged under God’s Guidance and in His Strength is some of the most brutal warfare known to the world. Israel often wiped their opponents from the face of the earth. Many spiritual truths are hidden in the warfare of God’s people, but the point is that God taught them how to fight and destroy their enemies. They learned how to defend themselves, their families, their nation and kings.
Christians have been warriors for centuries as they served their countries faithfully. My Christian father studied and practiced the art of war and helped keep America free for all people during World War II. Hundreds of thousands of Christian men and women fought and died for our freedom in World and regional wars in the past 200+ years. Christians were an intregal part of using force to free our nation from the grips of a religious state in the 18th century. The great words of the fathers of our nation speak highly of the calling of God to defend one’s country and the people in it.
Thousands of Christians today serve in the armed forces of scores of countries around the world. They are trained to fight with their hands and with weapons. We understand their need to use this training in time of war or national unrest.
Thousands of Christians are police officers, sheriff’s deputies, security guards, federal agents, etc. They are trained in hand-to-hand combat and the use of weapons. They often have to use physical force to uphold the law of the land. We understand the need for public guardians and applaud them for their enforcement of the laws that protect us.
Hand-to-hand self defense is necessary in an evil world, even for people who are not soldiers or law enforcement officers. It might be called fisticuffs, boxing, wrestling, savate, karate, jujutsu, kung fu, or hundreds of other names. A punch in the nose is a punch in the nose. It has no religion. It has no philosophy. It is a punch in the nose. My ability to block that punch before it strikes my nose and deal compassionately with the attacker is important to me and my family. My ability to teach others how to block a punch to the nose and deal compassionately with the attacker is important to those I teach. Many Christian lives are saved each year because of some training they had in defending themselves.
We do not question the religious views of a boxing instructor, wrestling coach, or drill sergeant in the US Army. What they believe about God has little meaning in the essence of training to box, wrestle or kill the enemy. They could exert some influence on students or soldiers who would listen to them, however, I know of no serious effort in the Christian community to keep boxing and wrestling out of AAU, high school and collegiate athletics, even though trainers could exert religious influence on their athletes. In fact, I know of many Christian organizations (i.e. Fellowship of Christian Athletes) that specifically minister within high schools and colleges for the purpose of using athletics, including martial arts, to evangelize. I know of little serious effort in the Christian community to do away with the US Army, even though religious influence is certainly a possibility.
I do not advocate violence of any kind. That is not the purpose of Martial Arts. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The purpose of Martial Arts is to “stop conflict.” If we can stop a confrontation from escalating into physical violence, we have succeeded in stopping conflict. If we can walk away from a situation before it becomes a fight, we have succeeded in stopping conflict. The best thing that can happen to a martial artist is that no fight occurs. We will accomplish much in our lives if we stop conflicts and never have to fight.
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
Building Body, Mind and Spirit
“Mokuso.” “Muk Nyum.” “Meditation.” Many people say it is a vital part of martial science. Some call the martial arts “moving meditation.” Many young students are told meditation is important to achieving “enlightenment.” Zen meditation includes focusing thoughts on a single point, repeating a sound or word, praying to deities and practicing martial arts. What should Christians do when the teacher calls them to meditate? God has not left us to wonder! He has instructed us in the deepest form of meditation.
First, a little background on meditation. The idea of the word in the Bible is “to consider, weigh or ponder over something so as to be able to perform well.” Meditation comes from words that mean “to care for, to concern oneself, to speak to oneself.” What should a Christian martial artist consider, weigh or ponder? What should we care for and concern ourselves about when we meditate? What should we say to ourselves as we meditate? God’s Word gives us the answer.
Joshua was one of Israel’s greatest leaders and warriors. He and the army of Israel killed thousands of enemies and conquered more than 30 kingdoms. How did Joshua do it? Before Joshua fought his battles, God told him what to do. Here was Joshua’s secret.
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
When we meditate, we can and should meditate (consider, weigh, ponder) on God and His Word. Consider a verse or principle of God’s Word. Think about it, ponder it, weigh it in your heart and mind. Ask God’s Spirit to reveal deeper insight to you as you meditate on Him.
Other parts of God’s Word tell us the same thing.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
“Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees.”
“I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.”
“May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts.”
“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.”
“I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.”
“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.”
What else about God can we ponder during meditation? His Power, His Majesty, His Great and Mighty Deeds!
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”
“Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders.”
“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider wht your hands have done.”
“They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works.”
“I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.”
The greatest truth we can meditate upon is God’s Unfailing Love.
“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.”
The Apostle Paul directed Pastor Timothy in the art of Christian meditation. It is an excellent guide for us.
“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.”
1 Timothy 4:13-15
This concept gives new meaning to the idea of “meditation” as a Christian martial artist. When it’s time to meditate, consider the heighth of Truth in God’s Word. Weigh the depth of the Mighty Deeds of His Hands. Ponder the length and width of His Unfailing Love for you and others. See God seated on His Heavenly Throne. Hear His Loving Voice. Feel His Grace and Mercy on your life. See Jesus on the Cross. Hear His Words of forgiveness. Feel the pain He experienced on your behalf. See Jesus rise from the grave. Hear His Words of Love for all who would follow Him. Feel the riches of His Grace.
Should Christian martial artists participate in meditation? Absolutely! To the Praise and Honor of God our Savior!
May our prayer be that of the Psalmist.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
What’s Christian About Christian Martial Arts?
Someone recently asked us that question and it led to a lengthy and interesting discussion. That was not the first time we’ve heard the question. Many Christians, including pastors and youth and children’s workers, wonder about the wisdom of teaching martial arts to Christians. They have even bigger concerns about including martial arts in a church or evangelism program. Many Christians do not believe Christianity and martial arts can co-exist. They ask how something as gentle as Christianity can be part of a violent fighting art.
Let’s begin by looking at Christianity. What is it? Christianity is TheWay, The Truth, The Life. It is Christ. It is Christ in us. We are not Christians because we attend church or because we repeated a prayer after someone years ago or are followers of some way of acting or believing. We are Christians because we are in Christ and He is in us. How does that happen? How does someone go from not being in Christ to being in Christ? How does someone change from not having Christ in them to having Christ in them? What do we have to do to make that happen?
Nothing! We do nothing. God does everything. The Apostle Paul wrote Christians in Ephesus that they were “dead” in trespasses and sins. He wrote that all people are by nature “the children of wrath.” Dead people don’t do anything to gain life. They are dead and under the wrath of Almighty God. The only way a dead person can become alive is if a Living Person with Power over Life and Death gives the Gift of Life to the dead. That’s what happened to Christians. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Sounds great, but what did WE do to get this Great Gift? “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Nothing! We did nothing. My first Greek teacher, and every Greek teacher I’ve studied since, told me the grammatical construction of Ephesians 2:8 includes both “grace” and “faith” in what is “not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” The Grace that saves me belongs to Christ. The Faith that saves me belongs to Christ. Christ’s Grace and Faith awaken the “dead in trespasses and sins” and lead them to believe in Him. We have nothing of which to boast. Christ did it all. He showered us with His Love and Grace and was Faithful to do the Will of His Heavenly Father. We trust what Christ did and said and receive the Gift of Eternal Life freely. That’s why it’s Grace (unmerited favor) and not earnings (what we deserve).
Paul wrote the Romans that not one person from the human race was righteous, “no, not one.” He said no one “seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Wait a minute! I know lots of nice people who do good things for others. All I have to do is pick up a history book and read about all the wonderful people who have graced the face of the earth with their good deeds and law-abiding behavior. How can Paul say no one “doeth good?” What does he mean by that? Paul means that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” God’s Law is not how we know whether someone is good enough to go to Heaven after they die. God’s Law shows everyone they are not good enough to stand in God’s Presence, let alone remain with Him forever. Isn’t that a pretty hopeless thing to say? Not at all. Read on. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Christianity is all of Christ. He did everything. We did nothing. Christ receives all the glory. We receive all the spiritual blessings. I’d say that’s a great deal.
Even though we did nothing to deserve or earn salvation, God gave it to us “freely.” What we have now in Christ is “spiritual identity.” We were spiritually dead prior to God’s Gift of Eternal Life. The best a dead person can do is have a physical identity; a body lying in a coffin. They have a name, an address, a history, but they have no “real” identity because they are dead. They have a tombstone identity, but no living identity. Paul visited Athens, Greece centuries ago and came across a group of people who were searching for their true identity through philosophy, learning and knowledge of the world. They were constantly looking for some new idea because they had found no identity, no satisfaction in anything they had heard before. Paul addressed those gathered at the famed Mars Hill and said this about Christ Jesus: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” That is the primary essence of Christianity. It is all about The Person of Jesus Christ. Everything else surrounding our relationship to Christ is secondary. That includes what we “do” for Him. Our identity is not in what “we do,” but in who “we are” in Christ. Luke, the great Christian historian, gave us a beautiful picture of that truth in the story of Jesus, Martha and her sister Mary. Jesus visited the sisters in their home. Martha was very busy serving Christ and others with Him (“But Martha was cumbered about with much serving”). Mary sat at Christ’s feet and listened to Him speak (“heard his word”). Martha finally had enough of her sister’s inattention to the details of serving Christ and other guests and complained: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’” What a powerful lesson about the primary thing, the needful thing, in a disciple’s life. First and foremost we are “in” Christ and He is “in” us. Service is important, but it is secondary to Christ-relationship. We first, last and always “belong” to Him. In Him we live and move and have our being.
Christianity is not gentle in the way many people think of gentleness. Christianity is not weak. It is not afraid. It does not look the other way when wrong is done. Christianity is Christ living His Supernatural Life through us. That is a Strong and Courageous Life. But didn’t Christ say “Blessed are the meek, merciful and peacemakers?” Yes, He did. Well, then, how can a meek, merciful, peacemaking Christian take any part in fighting arts? That question, while well-meaning, comes from a misunderstanding of Christ and of what we call martial arts.
Christ is, was and will always be a Great Warrior for that which is Right. Who destroyed the earth and all but seven people with a horrible flood because of the terrible sins of the human race? Christ Jesus our Lord. Who destroyed hundreds of thousands of Israel’s enemies through bloody battles because they were infected with sin and opposed the chosen of God? Christ Jesus our Lord. Who will destroy millions of people at the Battles of Armegeddon and World End because of their allegiance to sin and Satan? Christ Jesus our Lord. Christians who see Christ as a mild-mannered religious leader Who would never do harm to anyone in the name of righteousness and justice are not seeing God’s Son clearly. He is a Mighty God capable of Great Terror and Destruction upon those who oppose Him.
Christ is “Balance.” He is Perfect and Balanced in all He does and says. He is Meek and Merciful. He is The Peacemaker. He is also The Almighty God of Heaven Who spoke the world into existence and will speak it out of existence one day. Christ had the Power to destroy every soldier who dared arrest Him. Christ demonstrated a small piece of His power when He answered “I am He” and the soldiers fell backward to the ground. Christ could have called angels to destroy everyone in Jerusalem, but He didn’t. Christ went to the Cross of His Own Will and Determination because that was the Way, the Truth and the Life for His future “children of Grace.” Christ has All Power and knows how to use it. Christ is the Great Protector and Defender of His people. He prayed to His Father that He had “kept” (tereo – preserved, protected) His disciples. Christ asked His Father to “keep them from the evil.” Paul wrote the Thessalonian Christians that God would “keep” (phulasso – guard, protect, keep safe) them from evil. Paul wrote the Corinthians that True Love “beareth” (stego – protects, preserves by covering) “all things.” Christ, Who is Love, Protects. He also Defends. Isaiah wrote that God would send Israel a Savior and a “great one” (riyhl – defender) “and he shall deliver them.” The Old Testament teaches us that Christ “defends” His people and the cause of the fatherless and widows. Christ’s Nature is to Protect and Defend the weak and needy. He has used many ingenious methods in doing that through the millenia, but His Nature is unchanged.
Many people, some of them Christians, also misunderstand “martial arts.” They believe it is a “fighting” or “killing” art. Martial arts is a “protecting” and “defending” art. The primary purpose of martial arts is to “stop conflict.” The spirit of a martial artist is to stop conflict and defend those unable to defend themselves. Soldiers and police exist in society to “protect and defend” the innocent. Most soldiers and police officers hope they never have to use their skills to injure or kill another human being. They learn many ways to stop conflict without hurting people. Martial artists do the same thing. We train in a variety of defensive skills. So why do some Christians have a problem with Christian martial artists when they don’t have a problem with Christian police officers or soldiers? Many Christians have told us it’s because of the Eastern influence on martial arts. Others have said it’s because of the emphasis martial arts has on teaching “maiming and killing” techniques. Whatever the reason, some Christians think we’re wrong in what we do to practice, teach and train others in the martial arts. How do we respond? What do we learn from these concerns?
Defending Like Christ
One of the more popular movements among Christians today is “What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD) Would Jesus defend an innocent person who was attacked by someone who meant them great harm? How would he respond to someone who attacked Him? What would Jesus do in the face of injustice? How would He deal with an enemy who meant harm to members of His family? We don’t have to go far to find the answer.
“Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him…And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war…And the armies which were in heaven folowed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God…And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army…And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wought miracles before him…These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”
Jesus Christ is a Warrior of the Highest Order and Greatest Skill. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, taught hundreds of thousands of Israelites across the centuries how to wage war against the enemies of God. Reading the exploits of David’s Mighty Men in 1 Chronicles reminds us of the outstanding skills of their Martial Instructor. One of them killed 300 enemy soldiers at one time armed with only a spear. Now that’s a martial arts warrior! In the future, Christ will fight Earth’s final battles with the Sword of His Mouth (The Word of God). He will kill hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of heavily armed soldiers with His Sword.
Jesus is also the One Who told those who would follow Him:
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God…Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also…Ye have heard that it hath ben said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Jesus also used physical force to drive out all who were buying and selling in the Temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the benches of the people selling doves. “And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Jesus defends and protects what is His.
Jesus had the power and skill to destroy every soldier who came to arrest Him. What did He do? He went with them like a Lamb to slaughter. Why? Because it was His Will. He came to Earth to die in our place. Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world and shed His blood for our forgiveness and righteousness. He gave Himself over to the soldiers for our benefit.
What do we learn from Christ’s Life about what He would do about using physical violence to defend and protect the innocent? We learn there is a time and place for fighting and for making peace. There is a time for defending and a time for sacrificing. Jesus Christ has the Power to create and destroy. He is the Lord and the Savior. He is the Master and the Servant. He is the Warrior and the Sacrificer. He always does the Right thing in any situation. We learn to do the same as we cooperate with His desire to live His life in and through us.
The Breath of Life
Jesus Christ is the “Cause” of all things. God’s Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write these words about Christ to the Colossian Christians. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:16-17) The Apostle John wrote this about Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4) Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life.” (John 11:25) Christ told Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
Jesus Christ is LIFE. LIFE is in Christ. Jesus created all living things with LIFE. How did He do it? “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalms 33:6) “And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it.” (Genesis 1:30) “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living
soul.” (Genesis 2:7) God created all things with the Breath of His Mouth. Within His Breath existed Life because God is Life. God formed the human being from the dust of the ground. Christ, Who is Life, breathed into the form’s nostrils the “Breath of Life” and the form became a living soul. It became Adam, the first human being. Job wrote “The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” (Job 33:4) We are alive today because God breathed LIFE into Adam thousands of years ago. Our original life and continued life depends on the “Breath of Life” God breathed into Adam. That original “Breath of Life” of God sustains our life now. It is our original Chi. It is our source of life, power, energy and health.
All living things have “The Breath of Life.” If they did not, they would not be alive. Job wrote “If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust.” (Job 34:1-15) God’s Breath is in every human being. Believers also have God’s Spirit in their breath. Job wrote “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils.” (Job 27:3) The Breath of God is in every animal and insect on earth, every bird above the earth, and every fish and creature in the lakes, rivers and seas. “The Breath of Life” is in every cell of our bodies. We have God to thank for it every day for our lives. Every living thing should worship God continually because He gives them “The Breath of Life.”
Paul explained this idea clearly to the people of Athens. “Him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.” (Acts 17:23-25)
Consider these things as you move and breathe during your martial workouts. We have a great Gift … THE BREATH OF LIFE!
Be Still and Know
“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Psalmist wrote these words in the context of believers experiencing great trouble in their lives.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.”
Everyone I know faces tough times in their lives. That includes Christians and martial artists. What is the secret to being calm during the storms of life?
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
What does it mean to “be still?” The Hebrew words for “still” have the meaning of being “silent, relaxed, quiet.” Definitions include “to recline, cease from troubling.” What a wonderful word is “still.”
King David was a man of great passions: physical, emotional and spiritual. He faced thousands of enemies in his lifetime and killed many of them in hand-to-hand combat. David was a martial artist of great skill. He was also a troubled man, like most men. The Old Testament writings about David give us great insight into how dependent on God he was during troubled times.
“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou has enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? How long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.”
David’s advice during distress and trouble? “Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” The word “commune” means to “speak with oneself, meditate.” David’s advice to God’s people who are going through tough times is to “meditate and relax.” The Hebrew concept of the “heart”was as the seat of feeling and affections in addition to the seat of intelect and included mind, purpose, intention, understanding, knowledge, insight, courage and spirit. David recommends that people meditate deeply in a private place (upon your bed) for a period of time that would allow them to”be still”.
About what should we meditate? “…know that I am God.” The word “know”in Psalm 46:10 means “to come to the knowledge of, by seeing, by hearing, and by experiencing.” How do we “see” God? How do we “hear” God? How do we “experience” God? “Be still, and know…” It is through quietness and relaxation of the mind and heart that we can “know” God. A deep knowledge about God will lead us to understand that God “will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” We have nothing to fear from our enemies. God will be exalted among the heathen. He will be exalted in the earth. That is what we “know.”
David began Psalm 46 with “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” David ends the Psalm with “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” That was a great calming factor for David and the people of Israel. It should have a calming effect on us today.
One of the most difficult things for people to do today is relax and meditate.
People search for physical and mental relaxation through drugs, alcohol, sex, , new age spiritism, escapism and other things that have negative results. Relax is a “secret word” in martial arts. We relax the mind, body and spirit before we practice. We learn that increased energy, power and speed come from being relaxed mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
As martial artists we can translate that ability to relax and calm our mind and body into every area of our lives. We can teach others to do the same. What a Christian martial artist can do that others cannot is lead people to “be still, and know…God.” It is a privilege and responsibility we celebrate with thanks to our Heavenly Father Who has taught us to quiet our hearts and minds and experience His Love and Grace in all its fullness.
Restore the Joy
Almost five decades of pastoring and counseling Christians have given me the opportunity to see deep into the hearts of God’s people at many stages of their lives. Most new believers have a great joy in their hearts because of the salvation God gives them in Christ. That joy continues for a time, but often lessens as the young Christian battles daily with the world, their flesh and the Devil. The battle wears on them. Sin scars them; sometimes hardens them.
King David experienced many joys in his life. He also experienced heartache. David sinned against God and man, so the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin. David’s reaction was what it should have been.
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” Psalm 51:1-4
Some Christians react to confrontation of their sin by denying it. Others get angry with the person who confronts them. Some hide. Some want to die.
God confronts His children because He loves them. It’s not because He wants to embarass or punish us. He wants us to acknowledge our sin and change our behavior. We have a great advocate on our behalf. His Name is Jesus. Christ died so we do not have to die. Christ exposed sin so we do not have to hide. Christ poured out His righteous anger on sin so we do not have to be angry. Christ finished the payment for sin so we do not have to deny it. We believe and receive. We believe in the power of Christ’s Sacrifice and receive Christ’s Life.
Every child of God has experienced the terror of sin in their lives. We all have said with David:
“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” Psalm 51:8
Sin in a Christian’s life steals their joy and gladness. They feel as if their bones are broken. They feel deep pain inside their bodies. They feel a million miles away from God. They want the pain to stop. They want the joy of their salvation restored.
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Psalm 51:12
That is the prayer of our hearts when we face the sin in our lives. We want to feel like we did when salvation was new and fresh. We want God to restore that feeling; we want Him to restore the joy we had once with Him. We need Him to uphold us with His Spirit.
The result of that desire and prayer is that God will restore us to the joy we had before. He will uphold us with His Spirit. God’s ministry of restoring our joy has many benefits. We are happy again. We are productive. We are back on the path. We are also ready to minister to others in a deeper way.
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” Psalm 51:12-13
It’s wonderful to see how things change for Christians who acknowledge their sin to God and are restored to joy. They serve God and others with renewed vigor and vitality. They are able to share with the lost in a new and powerful way – “and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”
That is one of our primary goals as Christian martial artists. We want to see sinners converted to Christ. The joyful servant will bear more fruit than one who has lost their joy because of sin in their lives. An amazing truth about sharing Christ from a joyful heart is that the ministry of sharing multiplies our joy.
“O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” Psalm 51:15
In Times of Trouble
The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God’s children will experience times of trouble. One of the picture ideas of the Hebrew words for “tribulation and trouble” is of a person being in a narrow place and pressed hard on all sides. Have you felt that in your life? I’m sure you have because God said that everyone would experience tribulation and trouble in their lives. Some Hebrew words for “trouble” carry the idea of being seized suddenly with fear, to tremble and be terrified, to shake by a sudden impulse, to be confused, to be agitated, burdened and distressed, to be bent down, bowed, depressed with calamities, to be cut off. Every man and every woman has been troubled.
Jesus cared deeply for His disciples. He spent more time with them than anyone else on earth. Christ gave them insights into life that no one else knew until the disciples began sharing those insights after the Lord returned to Heaven. Shortly before Christ went to the Cross to die for the sins of humanity, He told His disciples that He had spoken to them that they would have peace in Him. Jesus went on to say, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” (John 16:33) The Greek word for “tribulation” means a pressing, a pressure, anything which burdens the spirit. It means to suffer affliction, to be troubled because of sufferings due to the pressure of circumstances or the antagonism of others. The Greek word is similar to the Hebrew word in its picture of someone in a narrow situation being pressed hard on all sides. Christ told His disciples they would have that kind of trouble in the world. That’s a fact. Write it on a piece of paper and tape it to your refrigerator door: you will have trouble in this world.
What do we do about it? Complain? Fret? Freak out? Get angry? Quit? Leave this world? Those are some options, though poor choices for God’s children. Christ told His disciples, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” That’s what we do; we depend on Christ and His peace. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.”
“But,” you ask, “how do I experience Christ’s peace when I’m pressed upon hard in all directions?” Good question. The answer is easy to say but hard to do: “Trust God.”
What good is our Faith in Christ if we lose it when things get a little tough, or when things get a lot tough? We say we “believe” in Christ. What does that mean? It means we completely rely on Him, not ourselves. We don’t trust anyone or anything other than Christ. We don’t look to our families or our friends or our jobs or our recreation or anything else to give us peace. We look to God! He is our Peace. “But,” you say, ” my life is falling apart around me, how do I trust God in the middle of disaster?” That’s exactly when we NEED to Trust in God; when we are bowed by pressure and affliction. When our strength runs out, we’re ready to depend on God’s Strength. When I am weak, He is Strong. No one is closer to you in times of trouble than Christ Jesus our Lord. Most of us have seen the picture of the footprints in the sand and the question from a child of God about why they see only one set of footprints during some of the Christian’s most troubled times. We remember with tears in our eyes the answer from our Heavenly Father that it was during those most difficult times that Christ picked us up in His Arms of Peace and carried us through tribulation.
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so also our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
I believe God placed a special burden on my heart about this. I’ve felt deeply about it for some time now. That’s always been God’s way of telling me He has some children in trouble who need support and encouragement. If you are feeling pressed about on all sides, if you are distressed and troubled, hear God’s Gentle Voice speaking to you right now. He will support you during you these times of trouble. He will carry you through to Victory. He will give you His Peace which passes all understanding. Our prayers and our love go with you.
Unto Good Works
Why are we on Earth? Why aren’t we with Christ our Lord and Savior? What reason do we have for continuing life on this planet after we’ve tasted the Love and Grace of Almighty God and been given the desire for a Heavenly home?
God made it clear through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not by works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” God wants us to “W-O-R-K.” What does that mean?
It means serving God while on Earth. It means spending our time, talent, energy and money to do what God wants done. What is it that He wants? Jesus said it well: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” Christ is the Greatest Example of a Person committed to doing God’s Work. It was Christ Who told His followers to do as He did. God wants us to do His Will and finish His work. We are saved with a view toward doing good works.
God wants people saved. He wants them to grow in spiritual knowledge and wisdom. He wants them to obey His Word. He wants people to love Him above all others. God inspired thousands of words so we’d know His Will and what He wanted us to do. It’s not a mystery. It’s not something we have to think about for years until something finally becomes clear to us. God wants us to be busy doing His work. Study God’s Word, find out what God’s work is, then do it.
The Apostle Paul wrote many words about Christians busy doing God’s work. Paul was another excellent model for us of a Christian who was committed to doing the work of the Lord.
1. Paul spoke highly of the work of God and Christians who did the work. “Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.” (Rom. 16:6) “Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ.” (Rom. 16:9) “Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord.” (Rom. 16:12) “Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.” (Rom. 16:21) “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9) “Now if Timotheus come, see that he may be with you without fear: for he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.” (1 Cor. 16:10) “I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.” (1 Cor. 16:1-16 … what an interesting concept of being “addicted” to serving others!) “Whether any do enquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you.” (2 Cor. 8:23) “Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.” (Phil. 2:25) “And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Phil. 4:3)”And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.” (1 Thess. 5:12-13) “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer.” (Philemon 1:1)
2. Paul encouraged all believers to be involved fully in the work. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph. 4:12,16) “For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:10) “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24) “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:21) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousnes; That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
3. Paul wrote that every Christian’s work will be tested. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built threupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Cor. 3:13-15)
I cannot find anywhere in Scripture where God commends laziness or lack of direction on the part of His people. From the beginning of time, God has always had specific and important work for believers. He made it clear to each one, equipped them for the work and expected them to do it. Our time is no different. True, we are under Grace and not under Law. However, that changes nothing in God’s desire for His children to be busy doing good works. We don’t “have” to do it as far as Law is concerned, but God’s Grace works in our hearts to make us “want” to do His work. It is not a difficult thing. It is a work of Joy! We are not saved by works, but we are saved with a view toward good works. We have Christ, Paul and thousands of saints before us as examples of what God wants His children to do. It’s called “G- O-O-D W-O-R-K-S” and “S-E-R-V-I-C-E.” Work is not a bad four-letter word. It is a great OPPORTUNITY to be part of the Amazing Grace of God in our communities and countries. The work of God leads to the salvation of souls, the saving of marriages, the strengthening of young lives, the morality of leaders, the direction of nations.
Paul felt the Grace of God so deeply that he sometimes referred to his ministry as a “debt” he owed. May we feel the Love and Grace of God that deeply.
“I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians, both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.”
Dead or Alive
As large and complex as the Bible is, God has a way of getting to the point in a few words. He inspired the Apostle Paul to write in Ephesians 2:1: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” The word “quickened” means “made alive.” Paul was writing to people who had been dead in the past, but were now alive because of the Power of God.
Everyone in this world is either dead or alive. Paul taught that everyone is born into sin and death. Everyone is dead until something makes them alive. That something is God’s Love, Mercy and Grace.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” Ephesians 2:4-5
It’s interesting that with all the knowledge and information that is flooding the world today through high-speed computers, high-tech communication devices, satellites and the Internet, the Truth about people hasn’t changed an inch. People were dead in their sins 2,000 years ago and people are still dead in their sins today. While the world has learned so much, it understands so little. Great advances in knowledge and information don’t change the facts about a person’s spiritual position. They are dead or they are alive.
That is our message today. The Industrial Revolution didn’t change the message. The Computer Age didn’t change the message. The Communications Revolution didn’t change the message. The Information Age didn’t change the message. The world does not have the power or influence to change our Message. The Message remains the same through all time. People are dead or alive. They are dead in sins or alive in Christ.
We don’t need to concern ourselves with what’s going on around us. We don’t have to fear the next scientist’s discovery. We don’t have to worry that someone will learn something that will alter the Truth. Truth is Truth. It has always been Truth and it will always be Truth. People are either dead in sins or alive in Christ. The world will run itself absolutely insane trying to disprove the Truth, but it’s a waste of time. God said it, so it’s True.
Comfort yourself in knowing that the Message you share is True and unchangeable. Your Message of God’s Love and Grace and His Gift of Saving Faith and Eternal Life is what this old world needs. The world does need love. It needs God’s Love. You have it. Share it. Make a difference in someone’s life today. Most of the people you meet in an average day are dead in sin. Share with them that they can be alive in Christ.
Sin to the left of us — Sin to the right of us — Sin in front and behind — Sin above and below. Everywhere we look we see sin and sinners. We hear the shocking sounds of cursing mouths and lying tongues. Robbers and thieves wait around every corner for their next victim. Men beat their wives. Women murder their husbands. Children have sex with other children . Men and women live together without being married. Legal abortions kill thousands of babies. Divorce is on the rise. Government leaders lie, cheat and steal to increase their power. What’s gone wrong?
The events swirling around us every day should come as “no surprise” to students of the Bible. Satan’s power is growing. The Apostle Paul wrote the Ephesians more than 1,900 years ago that every person was born dead in trespasses and sins. All of us once lived our lives under the dominance of Satan. We made decisions based on the lusts of our flesh. We fulfilled the desires of our flesh and mind. What kept us from becoming just like everyone else around us was the Amazing Love and Grace of God. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” Even people who received Christ as young children had the terrible sin nature that could have led them into the depths of wickedness if they had become teens and adults without Christ. God’s Grace was just as amazing with a sinful little child as with the worst sinful adult you can imagine. “There but for the Grace of God go I” is a saying worth considering when we wonder how things in our community could have become so bad. Sinners have only one direction to go: “the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”
God does not want His children to participate in the sinful ways of this wicked world. In fact, God wants us to reprove them. “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.” (Ephesians 5:6-12) God does not leave us wondering what the unfruitful works of darkness are. His Word gives us a long list. Here are several examples from Ephesians and Galatians:
- “putting away lying”
- “Be ye angry, and sin not”
- “Neither give place to the devil”
- “Let him that stole steal no more”
- “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth” “grieve not the holy Spirit of God”
- “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice”
- “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings.”
These are things we should reprove rather than do. That’s a good thing, but something we shouldn’t do is to believe that being fortunate enough to have received God’s Grace makes us better than those who haven’t. That’s a bad thing. The Love of God will grip our hearts and minds and constrain us to share His Love with those who are dead in sin. Sin is not pretty. It’s not easy to be around when you’ve spent years having little or no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. A danger of being a “saint” is believing we are better than people who aren’t. That thinking can lead Christians to remove themselves from being around sinners. We learn what God thinks about that from the way He prayed for His disciples centuries ago: “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. ”
Christ wanted His disciples protected from evil as they went about ministering in the world. A key here is “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. ” Christ wanted His followers to do just as He did. Christ spent more time with sinners than He did the religious and self-righteous. Christ ate with sinners, walked with sinners, talked with sinners, touched sinners, prayed for sinners, wept for sinners. Jesus Christ loves sinners. Sinners were why He came into the world. He came to change their lives through the Amazing Power of His Life. He sent His disciples into the world with that same purpose.
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20
Every Christian has a ministry. It is reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ. We speak for Him on Earth. We are His representatives to all the people of this planet.
One thing we need to understand as ambassadors for Christ and ministers of reconciliation is what sin does to people as they continue in it year after year. We should not be surprised that sinners sin. We should not be repelled by it. We should go forward and serve God by telling sinners how they can be saved. Tell sinners how God saved you. That’s what Paul did. He told his story everywhere. He made sure everyone knew that he was the chief of sinners and had experienced the Amazing Love and Grace of Almighty God through His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul pulled no punches. He did not pretend to be better than anyone. He was not surprised by the actions of sinful people. He understood. He knew what sin had done to him and what it did to others. Paul told the Ephesians to imitate God as children imitated their parents. “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” Christ sacrificed Himself for sinners. Paul told Christians they should imitate that sacrifice. Paul went on to write that sin should not be part of a Christian’s life and that we should reprove the unfruitful works of darkness, but he always reminded saints of God to love sinners and to spend their lives in the ministry of seeing lost souls reconciled to God.
Let’s surprise some sinners in the coming year with our love and forgiveness. Let’s show the lost the Grace and saving power of God in the difficult days that are ahead of us. Satan’s power is growing. His hold on this planet is getting stronger. We may be living in the final days before Christ’s return. That possibility should push us forward with even more determination that we will serve God to the death if necessary. Satan is counting on Christians to grow weary, lose interest, give up. Let’s surprise Satan with our determination, our love, our desire to serve God and the lost. Great things are ahead for those who move with God. He is the Victor. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
One of our family’s favorite verses is Colossians 3:12: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” The New International Version reads: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Christians are “holy and beloved, holy and dearly loved”. The Greek word for “beloved” is agapao . It expresses God’s Attitude toward us: He loves us deeply and dearly. If we are honest with ourselves, which is not an easy thing to do but helpful at times, we will see how difficult it is to love us. Human beings are, well, not nice at times. We say bad things, do bad things, think bad things … in general, we’re a bad group. Paul said it perfectly when he described humans this way:
“There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:10-18
Not a pretty picture, but it’s the Truth. And it is that very Truth that makes Paul’s statement in Colossians 3:12 even more precious. Humanity is sinful. It is like rotting flesh on decaying bones. Yet, God dearly loves us! Why? Because of Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus makes all the difference in God’s Attitude toward us. Without Jesus, you and I would be just another lump of clay prepared for Divine judgment. “We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin…For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:19-20, 23) “…who were dead in trespasses and sins…and were by nature the children of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:1,3) With Jesus, we are dearly loved and protected for a great eternal purpose. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference…Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” (Romans 3:22,24-25) “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
Christians are the most fortunate of humanity. We have experienced God’s Love, Grace, Mercy and Eternal Kindness. We are forgiven and our nature has been changed from “children of wrath” to “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” However, before we gloat over our good fortunate, let’s remember what we were and what we would be without Christ. All glory belongs to God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) We owe God everything, including our lives.
So, what does all that mean? We are saved by Grace. We are dearly loved. We are forgiven. We have Eternal Life. Those are basics of our faith. But what does it mean today, in the real world?
It means we have responsibilities and obligations to God and others. It doesn’t mean we have to perform good work s to”earn” our salvation, because that’s free, but it does mean we do good works “because” of our salvation. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Our new nature as children of God includes a view toward good works. What are those good works? What is it we should do with our lives now that we are “saved,””free” and “in Christ”?
Let’s go back to our favorite verse in Colossians. “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” We have a special responsibility to our family and friends and other members of the Body of Christ. That responsibility is to have an attitude of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness and longsuffering. That attitude leads to the actions of forbearing and forgiving. We begin by putting on (enduno – to envelope in, clothe with) a Christlike attitude. Because we are holy (set apart for sacred service) and beloved (loved deeply and dearly), we are becoming “like Christ” in our thoughts and behavior. One Christian writer said we “become so possessed of the mind of Christ as in thought, feeling, and action to resemble Him and, as it were, reproduce the life He lived.”
The first action is “Forbearing one another.” The Greek is anechomenoi and means “to bear with, endure, put up with.” It’s a picture of the reality of relationships within the Body of Christ. The fact is that Christians are human and thus flawed. We are not always easy to put up with. It takes a “Christ- like” attitude to get along with some Christians. Before we get too proud, let’s remember that other Christians will need a Christlike attitude to put up with us. The word is used in Romans 2:4 and 3:25 (“the forbearance of God”) to describe God’s withholding of punishment against sinners while He gave them the opportunity to trust Christ for their salvation. God wants us to use that same attitude in our dealings with others. Not an easy job, but necessary.
The second action is “Forgiving one another.” The Greek is charizomenoi and means “to bestow a favor willingly and unconditionally.” The word comes from charisma (“a gift of Grace”) and tells us what we’ll need to willingly and unconditionally forgive Christians who sin against us. We will need special “gift of Grace” from God. Human beings don’t have a good record of forgiving others. If we’re honest, we’ve all had problems willingly and unconditionally forgiving Christians who did us wrong. That’s natural. What’s “supernatural” is “forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Yikes! That’s a tall order. God wants us to forgive sins committed against us in the same way Christ forgave our sins committed against Him. Whew! We’ll need a BIG “gift of Grace” to do that.
God’s Attitude toward us has been Mercy, Kindness, Humbleness of Mind, Meekness and Longsuffering. God’s Action toward us has been Enduring and Forgiving. Christ is our Example: “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
We are “dearly and deeply loved” by God. Let us now love each other “dearly and deeply.” By so doing we will demonstrate the reality of our Faith and the power of our Message.
Marching Through Treetops: Success with God
I have long been fascinated by the way ancient Israel waged war against its enemies. God’s people were always successful when they obeyed God’s Word about what to do and how to do it.
One of the most successful warriors of God was David. He was successful in battle long before he became King of Israel. God told the teenager David to face the heavily armored giant Goliath without wearing armor and armed with only a a slingshot and stones. David obeyed God and killed Goliath with a single strike.
We know from previous studies of ancient Israel that David is an example of the power of God’s Spirit in spiritual warfare when Christ is the King of our lives. Saul is an example of the lack of power of man’s flesh in spiritual warfare when we are our own king. Christ wins spiritual battles, not our flesh.
David was a mighty man of war. He killed many in hand-to-hand combat. He led Israel’s troops into tough military campaigns. Some of David’s top army chiefs were also mighty men of war. Jashobeam, a Hacmonite, was an expert in the spear and killed three hundred men in one encounter. Abishai was also an expert with the spear and killed three hundred men in one encounter. Benaiah was a great fighter from Kabzeel. He killed two of Moab’s best men, a lion in a pit and a seven-and-a-half-foot Egyptian who was expert with a heavy spear. Benaiah went against the giant using a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian and killed the giant with his own spear. Benaiah was a highly-skilled martial artist.
Thousands of talented soldiers joined David’s army after King Saul was killed and Israel made David King at Hebron. They marched against the Jebusites in Jerusalem and defeated them. They could have looked upon their great strength and training and believed themselves invincible against any enemy, but that would have been a great mistake. They were powerful because David obeyed God. “So David waxed greater and greater: for the Lord of hosts was with him.” (1 Chronicles 11:9)
One of my favorite passages about Israel’s battles is in 1 Chronicles 14.
“And when the Philistines heard that David was anointed king over all Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek David. And David heard of it, and went out against them. And the Philistines came and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim. And David enquired of God, saying, Shall I go up against the Philistines? And wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the Lord said unto him, Go up; for I will deliver them into thine hand.” King David defeated the Philistines and gave the glory to God. “God hath broken in upon mine enemies by mine hand like the breaking forth of waters.”
David then gave orders to his army to burn the gods of the Philistines.
The Philistines weren’t finished fighting David. They spread themselves abroad in the valley. David asked God what he should do. “God said unto him, Go not up after them; turn away from them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when thou shalt hear a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt go out to battle: for God is gone forth before thee to smite the host of the Philistines. David therefore did as God commanded him: and they smote the host of the Philistines from Gibeon even to Gazer. And the fame of David went out into all the lands; and the Lord brought the fear of him upon all nations.”
What a powerful lesson for us! Wait for God to go before us to fight our battles. I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to want to fight my own battles. That’s the flesh walking. We don’t have to think back too far for examples in our own lives of when walking in the flesh has made a mess in our lives and the lives of people we love. The flesh takes us in one direction: failure.
God told King David to hold back his troops from fighting until they heard the sound of going in the treetops. That meant God had gone before them to strike the Philistine Army. What was that sound? The Hebrew word for “going” is “s’adahl” and translates as “marching.” Who would be “marching” in treetops? “… for God is gone forth before thee to smite the host of the Philistines.” The sound of marching was God’s Army going forth before the army of Israel.
Imagine for a moment that you are a member of the Army of Israel. You know that an enemy is coming against you with a great hatred in their hearts and a desire to wipe you and your fellow soldiers and your wife and mother and father and children from the face of the earth. You are waiting for orders from your superior officers to go up against the Philistines. The orders come and they are to turn away from the Philistines, go over against some mulberry trees and wait for the sound of marching in the treetops. You are a good soldier, well-trained and skilled in the art of war, so you don’t ask questions. You trust that your superior officers know what they’re doing. You wait near the mulberry trees, then hear the sound of an army marching in the treetops. You look up but see nothing. You hear the sound, but do not see. Within moments of the sound of marching in the treetops, your superior officers give the battle sound and you rush forward with all your strength to engage the enemy. You look into their eyes and see a great fear which seems unnatural for seasoned warriors.
You pull your sword, raise your club or thrust your spear in front of you and find the battle to be an easy one. Philistines drop quickly as you strike them down with powerful blows of your weapon. Your shield staves off every attack of the enemy and the battle is yours. You look around at the dying and dead and watch the living Philistines flee for their lives. The word goes around the battlefield quickly that God won the battle. You smile, thank God and resheath your weapon, ready for the next opportunity to obey God’s Word and experience great success.
The battles Israel’s Army fought against the Philistines and scores of other armies of ancient times are no different than the spiritual battles Christians fight today. The Apostle Paul wrote: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” How do we succeed in spiritual battles? The same way God told David to win. “Go not up after them; turn away from them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when thou shalt hear a sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that they thou shalt go out to battle: for God is gone forth before thee…” We succeed in battle even as David did. We wait upon the Lord and listen for the marching of His Army going before us to smite our enemies. “David therefore did as God commanded him: and they smote the host of the Philistines from Gibeon even to Gazer.” We will also succeed in spiritual battle as we do what God commands us, wait on the sound of God going before us, and following through using the spiritual weapons of warfare.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13
What is your spiritual battle? Are you fighting it in your own strength? Have you gone up against the enemy alone? Are you tired and bruised? Are you frustrated and angry? Then go not up after them; turn away from them. Go over to the mulberry trees and wait upon the Lord. When you hear the sound of marching in the treetops, you will know that God has gone before you to smite your enemy. Your battle will be easy, your victory sure.
May God bless you richly this month, my friend and warrior of Almighty God.
Lover of Souls
“God is Great. God is Good. Let us thank Him for our food.” I remember that as being one of the first prayers I ever learned. It is a wonderful little prayer because it teaches us so much about God. He is Great. He is Good. He does provide our food and for that we should be ever thankful.
God does many fantastic things for human beings. He provides air, water and food to sustain our lives. He shows us mercy. He forgives our sins. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to sacrifice His Life on the Cross so that we can be forgiven. God is Gracious toward us every day in every way.
What motivates God to do these good things for us? What’s behind His generosity?
Why does He bother for a planet full of sinful, God-hating people? Why?
Because He Loves us! God is the Lover of Souls. He created us from a Heart of Love. He created us for the Purpose of Love. He created the human soul so He could shower it with His Eternal Love.
How do we know God’s Love is real? How do we know He’ll continue to Love us no matter what happens? How do we know God will live up to the Love promises He made to us?
God’s Love begins where it should begin; with Self-Love. God Loves Himself. Anyone who does not love themselves cannot truly love others. If God failed to Love Himself at any point in history or eternity, we could not trust His Love for us. I am pleased to report that God does now, has always and will always Love Himself.
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11
What powerful truth! God is love. Love is of God. Every one who loves is born of God and knows God. God demonstrated His Great Love for us because He sent Jesus Christ into the world so we can live through Him. Love is not our loving Him. Love is His Loving us first. If God loved Himself and Christ and us in this way, we should also love each other.
Jesus Christ is God made known to the world in Flesh. Jesus Loves Himself. He Loves His Heavenly Father. The Heavenly Father Loves His Son.
“But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.” John 14:31
“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou has sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” John 17:23
Jesus Loves His Father. The Father Loves His Son. The Father Loves us in the same way He Loves His Son. The Love the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have with Each Other is the foundation of God’s Love for us, our love for ourselves and our love for others. We are truly a people of Love.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13:34
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” John 15:12
“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” Ephesians 5:2
Jesus Loves you! Jesus loves your soul, your body, your mind, your spirit. He loves all of you. None of us are perfect. None of us do everything right. None of us are without sin. We all make mistakes. We all stumble and sometimes fall. But God’s Love is forever. It is unconditional. He Loves us no matter what. He Loved you before you were born. He Loved you before your parents were born. God Loved you before He created the world and He will Love you long after this world is gone.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself; according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Ephesians 1:3-6
You received a Perfect Love when you received Christ as Lord and Savior. Everything Christ does for you is Perfect. Everything He does for you comes from a Perfect Love. That includes things we might call bad.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
We can face life and all its challenges knowing we are Loved. God calls us
His Beloved. We are the souls He Loves.
Let the Love of God wash over you today. Feel His Hand upon your heart. Feel His Love fill your mind as you meditate on Him. Sense the Power and Joy of His Love in your life as you share His Love with others. Be strong in the knowledge that God’s Love is more powerful than the hate of the enemy. Go forth to do spiritual battle knowing that God’s Love in Heaven and in you is greater than the strength of your opposition. Do not fear. Do not give up. Do not look down. Do not forsake God or yourself. Do not turn away from those who are lost and in desperate need for the touch of God’s Love. Our opportunity to love others on earth is short. Use every moment, every opportunity, to demonstrate the Love of God for others.
“Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly; While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high. Hide me, O my Savior hide, Till the storm of life is past; Safe into the haven guide, O receive my soul at last.”
(Charles Wesley-S.B. Marsh)
Look around you today. What do you see? People desperately in need of God’s Love. Christians are surrounded by a sea of humanity; people who are sad, depressed and downtrodden. What can we do for them? What can we say to affect their lives for good? What can we give them to make a long- term difference?
Some say money is the answer. Give people money and they’re happy and fulfilled. Do we know any unhappy people who have plenty of money? Yes, we do; millions of them.
Some say position and prestige is the answer. Give people a good job with position and prestige and that will make them happy. Do we know unhappy people who have position and prestige? Yes, we do; millions of them.
Some say power and influence is the answer. Give people power over others and that will make them happy. Do we know unhappy people who have power and influence? Yes, we do; millions of them.
Some say sexual freedom is the answer. Give people freedom to have sex with anyone they want and they’ll be happy. Do we know unhappy people who have sexual freedom? Yes, we do; millions of them.
Some say alcohol and drugs is the answer. Give people all the alcohol and drugs they can swallow, smoke and inject and they’ll be happy. Do we know unhappy people who have plenty of alcohol and drugs? Yes, we do; millions of them.
Money is not the answer. Position and prestige is not the answer. Power and influence is not the answer. Sexual freedom is not the answer. Alcohol and drugs are not the answer. What is the answer?
Jesus Christ! He is the Answer to everyone’s need.
What is it that Jesus has that people need? Love! Love and Forgiveness. Christ Jesus is Love and gives Love. He gives Forgiveness and Eternal Life. Jesus is The Almighty Lover of Souls.
“Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1)
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you…This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:9,12-13)
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
“And walk in love, as Christ also loved us, and hath given himself for us an
offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” (Ephesians 5:2)
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Ephesians 5:25)
Jesus is not a sometime Lover of souls. He does not Love us when it’s easy or convenient. He does not Love us only when we obey Him. Jesus Christ loves us “unto the end.” He Loves us so much He laid down His Life for His friends (that’s us!).
Christ’s Love for us is Supernatural. It’s Eternal. It never ends. It never wears out. It never has a bad day. It never forgets. It never gets too busy. Christ will be with us always. His Love for us extends from the beginning to the end. He is always in a good mood with us. He always has time for us. He always remembers our needs. He always gives us His Best.
Jesus gave us His Love so we could do four basic things during our lives:
- Love God
- Love ourselves
- Love each other
- Love the world
Without Christ we can do none of these things fully.
“Jesus said unto Him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38)
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39)
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Galatians 5:14)
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen. And this commandment have we from him, That he who
loveth God love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21)
Jesus went so far to say “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:40) Jesus Christ taught that the primary directive of the Old Testament was to love God and your neighbor. Paul taught that the entire Law was fulfilled in one word: Love. That love was specifically toward others. What a message! What a challenge.
Many Christians are searching for a ministry. They wonder what God’s Will is for them. What does He want us to do? The answer is simple: Go forth and love someone. Love somebody; that’s our ministry. Many Christians look at their pastor or a missionary or an evangelist and think, “Oh, if only I had a degree from a Bible College. Oh, if only I had the gift of preaching. Oh, if only …….” Christians are wasting their precious time with the “Oh, if onlys.” You have all you need to begin a ministry. Look around you. See someone who needs love? Go love them. Show them the true power of God: love them.
How do you know God loves you? He gives you time. He speaks graciously to you. He forgives you. He listens to you. He cares for you. He meets your needs. He protects you. He gives you hope.
How do you know someone loves you? They give you time. They speak graciously to you. They forgive you. They listen to you. They care for you. They meet your needs. They protect you. They give you hope.
That’s what you can do for others. Give someone love today. Give them some of your time. Speak graciously to them. Forgive them. Listen to them. Care for them. Meet their needs. Protect them. Give them hope. It’s surprising how easy it is to have a ministry of love to another human being. That’s what God has called us to do. To use a common phrase: Just do it! Your home, your neighborhood, your town, your world will be a better place for it.
“But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Romans 6:6) KJV
“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 6:6) NIV
The Apostle Paul gives us tremendous insight into the Christian Grace Life in his letter to the Romans. He knew the concepts he promoted were not easy for Jews to understand since they didn’t know God was going to work with Gentiles the way He did. Paul used many illustrations from the Old Testament (i.e. Adam, Abraham, Moses, the Law) to give the Jews insight into the new way of God working in the world.
Paul made a powerful statement in Romans 6:14 when he wrote: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” KJV “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” NIV
It is powerful because of what it meant to Paul’s audience. Jews built their lives, their belief system, their economy, their future, their hopes, their dreams on the foundation of the Mosaic Law. Paul said believing Jews and Gentiles were not under (hupo) the power and authority of the Law, but under the power and authority of Grace.
That’s a huge change for anyone, but especially for a devout Jew. They were raised to believe they were under the authority of the Law. That was their belief and practice in every aspect of life. It was their moral and legal safety net. Paul said clearly to them that their life had changed completely. They were no longer under the Law. They were under Grace.
What’s Grace? How is that different from the Law? Grace (charis) is a favor done without expectation of return: an unmerited favor. How does that change a person’s life? It is a different path, a new way of living.
Paul spoke pointedly to Jews: “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that knoweth the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?” He used the example of marriage to help Jews grasp what happened to them when they placed their faith in Jesus Christ.
“So then if, while her husband liveth, if she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” Romans 7:3-4
Christians are “dead” to the old way (Law) and “alive” to the new way (Grace). What is the Grace Way? It is the Way of the Spirit.
“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Romans 7:6
Think about that for a moment: serving in the new way of the Spirit. What
does it mean to you to serve in the “new way of the Spirit”?
Martial artists are familiar with the “way” of something. The Chinese word for way is “tao.” The Japanese and Korean word is “do.” We have Karate-do, Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, Judo, Jukado, Jukido, Kendo, Iaido. Each is a “way” of living, thinking, speaking, working and defending.
So it is with “Spirit-Do” – the Way of the Spirit. Paul compared the “new way of the Spirit” with the “old way of the written code.” That was key to the Jews understanding and enjoying their life in Christ. It is key to us today, whether we are Jews or Gentiles. God calls on us to follow His Holy Spirit and walk the Spirit Path. He does not want us to walk the Law Path. That is not for us. “We have been released from the law.
If you are practicing with your partner and he grabs you and you move your body in a way that releases you from his grasp, you are free from his hold. Your partner no longer has power over you. He can no longer control you. He can’t move you because he does not have you. The same is true with the Law and Spirit. When a person is spiritually lost, the Law, sin and death have a powerful grasp on them. When the person receives Christ as their Savior, the Spirit moves them out of the hold of Law, sin and death. The Spirit makes them free from the power and authority of what once held them in a death grip. They are on a new path, the Way of the Spirit.
The Spirit Way is the way of freedom and truth.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2
Christians walk on the Path of the Spirit Way. We do not walk on the path of the flesh way. The Law of the Spirit of life in Christ has made us free from the law of sin and death. Nothing can harm us.
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Make this a great time in your life. Enjoy Spirit-Do. Discover all that God has for his children “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” It is an amazing life!
The more I study and practice T’ai Chi Ch’uan, the more I understand why someone would have called the exercise “Grand Ultimate.” It is a wonderful Internal exercise for health and self defense that meets the broad needs of the human body and mind.
However, while T’ai Chi is an excellent form of whole body movement with great personal benefits, there is something much grander and truly the Ultimate for every human.
Our “Grand Ultimate” is the Lord Jesus Christ!
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:15-20 (KJV)
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven, and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities: all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firsborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV)
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is above all others. No one is like Christ. He is the Grand Ultimate. He is the “image of the invisible God.” He is the “firstborn over all creation.” By Christ “all things were created.” That includes things in heaven, and on earth, visible and invisible. Look around you. Everything you see Christ created. He created the Universe. He created the Sun and the Moon. He created the sky and seas. He created the mountains and the valleys. He created humans and animals. He created trees and plants. He created birds and fish. Christ created all things and holds together all things. Someone said of Christ that He is the “Cosmic Glue.” Everything has its beginning, middle and end in Him. Christ also created everything you and I cannot see. He created angels and spiritual beings. He is above them all. He is the Grand Ultimate of Heaven, the heavens and the earth. Christ has supremacy, pre-eminence, in His Body, the Church, because of His supremacy in Life, Death and Resurrection. God was pleased “to have all his fullness dwell in him.” Christ is not part-God, He is God. He is the Fullness of God. He is the Image of the Invisible God. We know God, see God, hear God because of Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Greek word for “supremacy, pre-eminence” is proteuon . It means “to be first, chief, to hold the first rank.” Christ is First. He is Chief. He holds the First Rank. He is Number One. No one can be higher than Christ because Jesus is First, Highest, Chief, the Grand Ultimate.
It is God’s desire to reconcile to Himself “all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” He has done this “by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Peace is available to all people of the world through Christ Jesus. Christ is All, has done All and will be All forever and ever. We have nothing more to do but believe, receive, relax and enjoy Christ. Everything we need is in Christ. We add nothing to Him. He adds everything to us. We can add nothing to our salvation. He is our Salvation. What we can do is practice the Presence of Christ every day as we pray, obey, study, love, forgive, share, teach, submit, lead, show mercy, and make a difference.
May we today enjoy our Grand Ultimate: Jesus Christ the Lord!
I have been a freeborn citizen of the leading free nation on Earth for more than 70 years, but I have been “free indeed” for less than 50 years. How can that be?
We have much for which to be grateful in the United States. Our ancestors fought and died for their freedom. They bought our freedom from tyranny with their blood. We have so many blessings in America today because of what they sacrificed in 1776, 1915, 1945 and so many other years between. Our parents and grandparents and great-great-great-great grandparents had visions and dreams of freedom. They not only dreamed of freedom, they did something about it. They stood up to the evil that placed people and countries in chains, prisons and graves and won freedom for hundreds of millions of human beings, including you and me. But even their great sacrifice was not enough to truly free the world. It took another sacrifice to do that.
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.” John 8:31-37
The Jews who followed Jesus around in the 1st Century A.D. were a lot like Americans today. They depended on their nationality and heritage to protect them. “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.” Sound familiar? “I’m an American; I’ve never been in bondage to anyone.” What’s even worse are the people who tell us: “Of course I’m a Christian; I’m an American.” We’ve learned very little in the past two thousand years. We are still depending on nationality and heritage to save us.
Paul spent much time explaining this to Jews and Gentiles. People then, like people now, get it wrong. They hold up nationality, heritage, and obedience to rules, regulations and laws as their physical and spiritual salvation. Paul told them a story about two covenants; “the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem, which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all…Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.” (Galatians 4:24-31)
The birthplace of our flesh is of little importance in spiritual things. Unsaved people are born every day in every corner of the world. They are Jews and Gentiles. They are slaves and free. They are Africans and Europeans, South American and North American, Chinese and Russian, Korean and Japanese, English and Irish. They are every man and every woman, every boy and every girl.
“There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God…there is none that doeth good, no, not one…For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin…And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Where in time past ye walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Romans 3 and Ephesians 2
No human soul is born into freedom. We are all born slaves of sin. What is our hope?
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference…Being justified freely by his grace thorugh the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Romans 3 and Ephesians 2
The Truth will make us free, and if Jesus makes us free we are free indeed! We become “free” when we believe God’s Word about Jesus and about our sin and receive Christ as our Savior. The spiritual chains that hold us come off the “instant” we receive Christ. No prison can keep us. No grave can cover us. We are FREE INDEED! We are alive and on fire with His Love and Grace. Our lives are changed forever and ever.
If we live in a “free” country, like the United States, we should thank God every day for His blessings on us. However, living in a “free” country does not make us “free indeed.” Only Christ can do that.
How should we then live? “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1) We have a great responsibility that goes along with God’s Gift of Grace. We should protect the freedom for which Christ died. We should never turn to look at bondage again. We should never leave our present path to return to our past. It would not be God’s will that led us there.
“Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.” Galatians 5:2-8
“Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty!”
I was liberated from sin and death into the Wonderful Light of the Lord Jesus Christ when He forgave me and saved me 30 years ago. He wants us to experience the full Liberty of His Grace. That’s what it means to be “free indeed.”
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and teh opening of the prison to them that are bound.”
“For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Taking God’s Grace to the World!
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