Aggressively Loving the Brethren

John 13:34-35(NKJV) 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This week we are continuing in our study of how to drive out the enemies that are keeping us from possessing our land of promises. Driving them out requires that we become aggressive in our actions concerning a number of areas of our Christian life. None is more important than our love walk.

Yesterday we focused on Romans 13:8 and the debt we owe as Christians. We do not owe this debt to people but to God. The Lord paid our debt of sin by acting on his love for us and sending Jesus to die for our sins. God has given us a mandate on how to repay this debt. We must pay it by loving other people with that same love.

Yesterday we talked about aggressively loving the Father. Today I want to talk about extending that love to our brothers and sisters in Christ. The scripture above gives us some insight into how important the Lord considers this. Jesus is coming to the end of his time with his disciples. The things he tells them in the final chapters of John are very important. Here we see his attitude toward loving the brethren.

Yesterday we saw love as a debt. Today we must understand it as a commandment. Jewish people in that day were very conscious of the commandments of God. The law was a major focus of their whole culture. Jesus understands this and gives them a law that supersedes the whole of the Mosaic Law. He gives them a commandment to love one another.

What is a commandment? It is something about which you have no choice. It is not a suggestion. It is a mandate from the God of the universe and the only possible response to a commandment is obedience. We are commanded to love one another.

I believe if we want to drive out our enemies in 2012 we are going to have to get aggressive in obeying this commandment. We cannot have a theoretical obedience to the love commandment. It must be an actual love that is practiced in our daily interactions. That is why it is so important for us to be part of a local family of God. It is in the relationships we develop there that we have the opportunity to practice aggressive love.

Often God’s love or walking in love is thought of in grand principles. They are grand principles, but love by nature cannot be approached as just a principle. It is good to study what the Bible says about God’s love and what it means. Faith to walk in love comes from the Word. However, the only way to actually do love principles is to do them to and for someone else. Love must have an object.

We are willing to talk about loving God, but the Apostle John understood that this was not enough. It is easy to talk of loving the invisible God, but how do we prove our love for God? John tells us how.

1 John 4:20-21(NKJV) 20If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

It is by our love for one another that we prove our love for God. We cannot say we love the members of the body of Christ if we do not have any interaction with them. The place God has designed for this to happen is the local church.

I am part of the universal body of Christ. In some circles, it has become popular to think that is the more important thing. It is important to know that the whole church is the body of Christ and that we are all part of that one body. However, we do not practice love to the “universal body of Christ.” We practice love to those with whom we interact every day.

The first place we must apply loving the brethren is in our own personal families. If we do no start there, we will never love the body of Christ. However, the church is meant to be another dimension of family truth. A real local church is built upon relationship. The same rules of love that exist in family must be practiced in the church. It is in these two places that we learn to obey the commandment of love.

Often people use this excuse to avoid being a vital part of a local church. “I love Jesus, I just don’t believe in organized religion.” To those people I would say, “Neither do I!” I hate religion of any kind, organized or not. If you are part of a local church that is nothing more than a religious institution where people go to fulfill religious obligation, you are not going to a church that represents what Jesus intended to establish.

A true local church is not a place to practice religion. A true local church built upon the rock Jesus described in Matthew 16:18 is a place to practice love. It is a place where you must interact with other people. It is a place where we learn to work together, to pray for one another and to help one another. Paul tells us it is a place where we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15) In other words, it is a place we live life together and practice loving one another through labors and trials; through good times and bad times, until we begin to look more and more like Jesus every day.

In today’s verse, we find another reason loving one another is so important. It is by observing this love that the world will believe we are disciples of Jesus. John says the will know we are his disciples by our love one for another. Conversely, when we do not practice love to those who are already in the body of Christ, those outside have no reason to believe we are different.

God promised in Mark 16 that the Holy Spirit would work with us confirming the Word of God that we preach with signs and wonders. However, Jesus tells us in John 13 that the confirmation must begin before we say a word. It must begin with our demonstration of love to one another. This love will lead to a demonstration of the power of God.

We might think that the priority area for us to walk in love would be with the world. We should demonstrate the love of God to unbelievers. That seems like it should be more important and somehow more spiritual. However, what the Bible teaches is that love begins with God’s love for us (1 John 4:10) and progresses to our love for the brethren. Once we learn to practice God’s love on each other, we can practice it on those outside the church.

We are all flawed in our humanity. We will all fail in our love walk at one time or another. However, if we choose to consider others more highly than ourselves and decide to love each other through our weaknesses, something wonderful will be released into our families and our local churches. The presence of God will occupy our love for one another. The power of God will become more and more available and people who look on from the outside will begin to see something that will be so attractive to them that they will be drawn into the family of God by our love.

Do not minimize the importance of walking in love, first within your personal family, and second within the framework of the local church. You will find that this walk of love is the most important and powerful ministry you will ever do during your time on earth.

The Debt We Owe

Romans 13:8(NKJV) 8Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The assignment for our church in 2012 is to possess our land of promises. The people of Israel were delivered from Egyptian bondage for a purpose. That purpose was not the wilderness, although many wonderful things happened in the wilderness. When they came to the borders of the Promised Land of Canaan God told them they were to possess the land. That word means to take complete control of the land. I believe we have been delivered from the bondage of the devil and given a mandate to possess our land of promises as it is laid out in the Bible.

In order to do this, we must drive out the enemies that keep us from our possession. Those enemies come from three basic arenas: The world, the flesh and the devil. The world involves all of the outward influences, such as culture and the pressures of life that come against us. The flesh is speaking of the inward things, such as emotional wounds and bad habits that keep us from receiving the blessing of God. Finally, we do have an active enemy, the devil, whose goal is to hurt God and his family in any way he can. If we defeat these three enemies and drive them out of our lives, we will walk in victory.

We have taken the actions of Jesus when he drove the money-changers from the temple as our pattern. He was aggressive in his actions against those who were keeping the temple from fulfilling God’s purpose. We must begin to apply aggressive action in a number of areas if we are going to drive our enemies out of our land of promises.

Today we want to begin to look at another area I believe we must become more aggressive in our actions. We must become more aggressive in our love walk. The love of God as expressed by Jesus Christ is one of the most revolutionary concepts ever introduced to humanity.

In today’s verse, I want to begin by pointing out that we do not just love by choice. Paul said we should owe no man anything except love. We can look at this from many points of view. In context, Paul is talking about honor and respect. In the verses before verse 8 he is talking about those in authority and how we should relate to them. We should not “owe” them submission or the honor due their office.

It is certainly possible to use this statement as a general principle when it comes to financial debt. The Bible has much to say about keeping ourselves free from that kind of debt. Certainly, in our day it is a lesson we need to learn. However, I want to focus on what Paul says we do owe, not on what we should not owe.

Paul is very clear. Owe no man anything except love. If we read this correctly, the emphasis is on the fact that we do owe love. I believe we must recognize that we owe a debt to the world around us. We owe a debt to our brothers and sisters. The love we must walk in as Christians is not something we do out of generosity. It is something we must do out of debt.

To whom do we owe this debt? It really is not a debt to the people in the church or the people in the world. This debt is owed to the Father and His son Jesus. Look at the most famous scripture in the world.

John 3:16(NKJV) 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

No matter who you, are at one time, you were part of the world that God so loved His love caused him to give his only begotten Son so you could be have eternal life. That is the debt we owe. It is a debt we can never repay. There is nothing we can give to God that will repay him for that kind of love. The only thing we can do for him is love him in return.

However, God has given us a way to repay the love he gave us in salvation. In John 17, Jesus said that he was sending us into the world in the same way the Father sent him into the world. Jesus was sent to pay a debt of sin he did not owe. We received the benefit of that payment. Now we have been sent into the world pay a debt we do not owe in the natural. However, it is one we do owe it in the spirit. Jesus paid my debt because God loved the world, now I must pay the debt of love I owe God by giving the world the same love.

I believe we repay it by becoming aggressive in our acts of love towards those around us. I believe we must become aggressive in our love towards the Lord, the Body of Christ and the world. If we begin to look at our actions towards those three areas, I believe we will begin to drive out our enemies.

How do we become more aggressive in our love actions toward God? We must begin by loving his word. We have looked at this from a number of aspects in this study and our love walk is no different. If we do not choose to act in love towards the Word, we will never act in love towards other areas. How do we love the Word of God? We read it. We spend time with it. We give a place of priority in our lives.

We must also love God’s ways. We must make a quality decision that we are going to find out how God wants us to live and make the necessary changes. If you truly love someone, you will do what you must to please them. In marriage, for instance, selfishness will not work. If we are not willing to consider the ways of our partner, we had best not get married. We must be willing to actively conform to God’s way of doing things.

Finally, we are going to have to love God’s will for our lives. We must be willing to say as Jesus said, “Not my will but yours be done in my life.” When he was faced with the decision of whose will he was going to follow, he had to choose God’s will. If we love God, we must get aggressive in our pursuit of the will of God.

Many times in my life, I would have said, “But I don’t know what that is.” I have learned that the way to begin learning what the will of God is is to decide you will choose it over your own will. There is not much point in God telling you what he wants if you have not made the decision to follow it no matter what.

You might say, “If I knew what it was I would be able to choose it. How can I choose to follow God’s will if I don’t know what it is?” The answer is simple. You must choose to follow it no matter what it is. Knowing his will is irrelevant in deciding to follow it. He is God!

All of this requires decision. There are emotions connected with loving God. However, emotions cannot lead. Most of the time we do not feel an overwhelming sense of love for God. That does not mean we do not love him. Anyone in any true relationship has times when they feel love and times when they do not.

This is certainly true in marriage. However, we love because we choose to love. We walk in love actions because we know that love is there or we would not have married. Love actions will lead to love feelings. The same is true of our relationship with the Lord. We must aggressively act on our love for God.

When we do, wonderful things will happen. The enemies who want to keep us from our land of promises will lose their grip on our lives. They cannot function in a person dominated by the love of God.

Acting on the Promises of God

James 2:17(NKJV) 17Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Mark 11:24(NKJV)
24Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

As the church rises up to possess the land of the promises of God, we must drive out the enemies that have kept us from receiving those promises for years. To accomplish this goal, we must become aggressive in our actions in a number of areas of Bible truth. One of those areas is action in faith on the Word of God.

This week we have majored on the idea that acting aggressively in faith on the promises of God, we must first become aggressive in acing on the commandments and requirements of the Bible. It is not always popular to talk about commandments and requirements. We like talking about the love and acceptance God has for everyone and that is certainly a powerful truth.

God loves us no matter how weak or strong we may be in our Christian walk. He even loves the lost. In fact, the bible says that he “so” loved the lost that he gave his only begotten son in order to save them. However, we know that he does not expect them to stay lost. His love for the world will not keep him from condemning those who do not receive Jesus as Lord and savior to eternal punishment. In order for the world to reap the benefits of God’s love, they must meet God’s conditions. Those conditions are not hard or complicated. They are, however, absolute.

As believers who have partaken of the promise of salvation, we must understand that God still has commandments and conditions. If you do not meet those conditions or even if you were to break one of his commandments, God will not stop loving you. However, breaking commandments will open the door to the enemy and failing to meet conditions will keep you from receiving the benefits the Lord wants you to have. We must cultivate obedience to the written word of God.

There is another dimension of action on the Word of God that we must also cultivate. James 2 tells us faith without works is dead. We have established that faith in God and the Word of God are connected. To do works of faith also means to put a corresponding action to what we believe. This means obedience to the commandments and conditions in the word, but it also means to act as though the Word of God is true.

In the second scripture I have quoted today, we see another type of faith action alluded to. When we pray, we should believe we receive. In the due course of time, we will eventually have the thing for which we have prayed. However, we do not consider the prayer answered after we see the manifested result. When we pray we must believe we have already received. This is actually a condition for eventually having the thing we prayed for in our hands.

We need to begin to cultivate an aggressive belief that the Word of God is true. That aggressive belief will require some kind of action. Let me give you an example.

I live in the Northeastern section of the United States. In the winter, we often have snow. If a storm is forecast by the weather service, we will turn to media outlets for information as to the progress and severity of that storm. We also want to know if the storm will strike our local area. Many times the predictions are inaccurate, however if we learn from the media that heavy snow is likely, many of the people in our area run to the store to stock up on groceries and essentials.

Why do they do this? Although weather forecasting is better than it used to be, at least half the time the storms are not as severe as predicted. However, we believe these predictions to the point that we will take action even though they are at best 50% accurate. We do not want to take the chance that they might be right.

When we approach the Word of God, we are talking about something that is not only accurate but it is truth. It never changes and it is never wrong. Sometimes our interpretations can be wrong. Sometimes we do not understand all the conditions related to the promise, but it is always absolutely true and accurate. Yet we treat the promises of the Bible like we should treat the weather report and the weather report like we should treat the Bible. We act as though one is true all the time and the other may or may not be true at least in how it affects us personally.

We need o cultivate a lifestyle of acting as if the Word of God is always true. That starts with obeying the commandments and conditions of the Word. However, it extends to the promises as well. We read a promise like 1 Peter 2:24 and we act like it could be true sometime, but not like it is true for me now. Let us look at this promise.

1 Peter 2:24(NKJV) 24who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.

In this promise, we have two areas of life addressed. He bore our sins in his body so we could be free from the eternal effects of that sin. He bore our sickness in his body so we could be healed. This promise even puts physical healing in the past tense. Peter says, “by whose stripes you were healed.”

We can accept that we are saved from eternal separation from God when we receive Jesus as savior. We know that the salvation part of this verse happens immediately. If we were to die the moment after we receive Jesus as savior we know that we will go to heaven. However, when it comes to the promise of healing, we do not act as though that is true. We will believe it when we see it, but we do not act as though healing is an accomplished fact now.

There have been many problems with people doing things they did not really believe in an attempt to “make God” do what his word says he will do. I am not talking about that. I am talking about cultivating an attitude that says, “The promises of God are true right now. How can I order my life to act in correspondence with my faith?”

Look at the promises of God that apply to your life. Do you need financial breakthrough? His word says give. Give by faith knowing he will meet the need. Do you need healing? Do what you can to cultivate actions that say I am the healed instead of giving in to actions that say, “I know God heals but he won’t heal me.” Do you need restoration of relationship? Forgive. That action releases the power of God into relationships.

I do not have space to explore fully what this means. However, take this thought and meditate on it. How can I cultivate in my own heart and mind the attitude that the word of God is at least as true as the word of the weatherman? Then find ways to put action to what you believe. You will see a release of the power behind the promise. As you act on the promises of God, you will possess your land of promises.

The Bible is the Physical Connection to Spiritual Power

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

Yesterday we talked about the necessity of aggressive action in key areas to drive the enemies out of our lives. I believe we need to be more aggressive in resisting the devil. I also believe we need to get more aggressive in acting on our faith in the Word of God. We read in James 4 that faith without action is dead because it is alone.

When we speak of acting in faith, I think we must look at Romans 10:17, which tells us that faith and the Word of God are connected. To be aggressive in acting on our faith means to be aggressive in acting on the Word. Yesterday we focused on simple, first time obedience to the Word of God. All other types of faith actions must begin there.

By this, I mean we must cultivate an aggressive approach to doing what the Bible says we should do and not doing what it says we should not do. We cannot expect to act in faith on the promises of God if we will not act in faith on the commandments of God. We will not obey the voice of God if we will not obey the written commands set before us in the Bible.

The Bible has a unique place in our spiritual life. We serve an invisible God. We believe in the new birth as the means of salvation from sin. This implies that something has happened to us in a realm that we cannot see.

2 Corinthians 5:17(NKJV) 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

If you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ, you must believe that an invisible God has done something in a part of your being that you cannot see. You must believe that the thing which the invisible God did has changed you fundamentally in ways that have eternal impact. That is what the Bible teaches.

We also believe that this invisible God wants to cultivate a personal relationship with us. We believe that he speaks to us, leads us and comforts us with a power that those around us cannot see. We must believe that this invisible God is at work in our lives in real ways. This is what it means to have faith in God.

Hebrews 11:6(NKJV) 6But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

With so much of our Christianity focused on things we cannot see, hear or feel in the natural world, how we can possibly maintain our faith. God knows we are physical beings as well as spiritual beings. He knows that physical awareness is much more natural to us than spiritual awareness. Therefore, he has given us a physical thing that bridges the gap between the natural and the supernatural. He has given us his written word, the Bible.

I like computers. I am writing this blog on one right now. Every computer, whether it is a desktop or laptop, a PC or Mac, a tablet or a smart phone comes with something called a GUI. That term stands for Graphical User Interface. This simply means the thing you use to access the power inside the machine.

Some people have more knowledge of computers than others do. Those who are advanced users often have an understanding of what is inside these wonderful machines. However, not all power users understand the hardware in a computer. The hardware is the power, but the user really only needs to know how to access that power.

There are those who understand the hardware, but do not know that much about using the machine. They are the people who fix them. They must have detailed knowledge of how the machine produces the power to do what it does. However, it is not necessary to know anything about the insides of the machine to get the most out of it.

What you do have to understand fully to get the power out of the computer is the GUI. The GUI differs from one machine to another. However, every computer has one. It may involve touching the screen and “swiping” to do certain things. It may involve using a keyboard and mouse. Whatever the interface, you must know what to “click” to make the machine do what you want it to do. You must know how to access menus in order to use the higher functions of the machine.

The more proficient you are in using the interface the more you are able to access the power of the machine. Today, most of us have more power in our cell phones than they had in the computers that were used to land on the moon. Yet we do not send rockets into space. We play solitaire, write E-Mails, write documents and do many other tasks that do not use a fraction of the power of the machine in our hands.

Why could NASA engineers do so much with their rudimentary computers and we do so little with our power machines? They could do so much with so little because they were able to squeeze every bit of the power out of their machines through knowledge of the interface.

What does this have to do with the Word of God? In a way, the Bible is he GUI of faith. It is the physical interface that God has given us to access the power of the invisible realm. We cannot see God. We cannot see his Spirit. Jesus said the Spirit of God was like the wind. We cannot see where he comes from or where he is going, but we see his influence. What we can see is the Bible.

We can touch the Bible, we can see it with physical eyes, smell it with a physical nose, and even taste it if we wanted to. It is just as much a part of the physical world as we are. However, it is also a part of the spiritual world just as we are. Today’s verse says it is a living thing. It can affect us on all levels of our being. Nevertheless, it is also a physical thing that we can access any time we want to.

The Bible never changes. It is always there. Some would say there are flaws in the translation, and this is sometimes true, but this is God’s book. I choose to believe he can work around any flaws. He thought it was so important for us to have this physical manifestation of the invisible world that he was willing to expose it to things like flaws in translation. The Bible is still the Word of God and he is still able to back it up with his power.

Understanding the bible is like understanding the interface of your computer. The more effort you put into knowing what the interface can tell the machine to do, the more you can access its potential. The same is true for the Bible. How well do you understand this GUI of faith? How much time do you put into studying it?

Some people try to make computers do things the interface will not allow them to do. They may find that they have erased their precious information or exposed their machine to dangerous viruses if they do not obey the interface. We must obey our interface. We must understand that the rules in the Bible are there for our protection not to hinder us.

If we learn how to use the wonderful Word that God has given us, we will drive out our enemies. If we obey it and follow its directions, we will begin to access the power of God on a deeper and more profound level. We will find a power that can change us and the world around us. We will find a power to possess our land of promises and drive out any enemy that tries to keep it from us.

Obedience to the Word of God

1 Samuel 15:22-23(NKJV) 22So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”

As we look at the need for the church to rise up and become the force that Jesus intended us to be, we have been studying how to drive out the enemies that keep us from accomplishing this goal. To drive out our enemies we are going to have to resist them according to James chapter 4. Resistance involves aggressive action. I believe we must begin to take aggressive action in a number of areas if we are going to be successful in 2012.

One of the areas we need to become more aggressive in, is acting by faith in the Word of God. In James 2, we learn that faith without works is dead. What are the works of faith? In the context of James 2, we can conclude that one aspect of our faith works is helping those in need. However, I do not believe that is the only thing James is talking about.

In verse 17 of chapter 2, James uses the term, “thus also is faith.” This would indicate that the example of helping someone in need is an illustration of how faith and works are related. The actual principle James is conveying here is bigger than the one illustration of how it works. The principle is that real faith requires a corresponding action to be effective. What actions correspond with faith? We will look at two this week.

The first action that must come as a result of believing God is obedience. There was a prophetic word in our church recently that exhorted us to cultivate instant obedience. In the context of what the prophecy was saying, I believe it was speaking of obeying the voice of the Lord. God speaks to his children in many ways. Sometimes it is through circumstances, sometimes it is through specific verses of scripture that he quickens to our hearts and sometimes it is through the still, small voice of his spirit with us. When we recognize his voice, we need to obey what he is saying.

I believe it is vital for all believers to cultivate instant obedience to the voice of God. I also think that most Christians do not understand that cultivating instant obedience to God’s voice must start with instant obedience to his written word. How can we expect to obey his voice when we will not obey the word that is right in front of us? I do not believe we can.

We are talking about aggressively acting on our faith in God. What does obeying the word of God have to do with that? I believe it has everything to do with acting in faith. We established yesterday that Romans 10:17 links the word of God and faith in God.

Romans 10:17(NKJV) 17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

To put the action of works to our faith, we must begin by putting action to what the bible says. The first way we do that is cultivating obedience to what the bible teaches. If it says we should do something, we must do it. If it says we should not do something, we must not do it. If the bible says we are something, than that is what we are. If the bible says we are not something, than we are not that thing. It is just that simple. We must aggressively cultivate first time obedience to the written word of God.

In today’s scripture we see this truth illustrated. In the days of Samuel and Saul, there was no written word God except for the first five books of the Old Testament. Therefore the word of the Prophet was equal to the written word of God. Samuel had given Saul a word and Saul was expected to obey.

What was the “Word of God” that Saul was supposed to obey? Let us read it.

1 Samuel 15:3(NKJV) 3Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

To our modern ears, this seems like an extreme thing for God to ask Saul to do, however we must remember that this was a different age. God told Saul to do this as punishment for what the Amalekites had done to Israel. We might not understand this command to Saul, but Saul did. If Saul believed Samuel was a prophet then he believed his words to be God’s words. If he believed that, then his faith required action. The action required was obedience.

When Samuel came upon Saul after the battle with the Amalekites Saul tells him, “Look, Samuel, I have done everything you told me to do.” Samuel responds with a question.

1 Samuel 15:14(NKJV) 14But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”

Saul’s response was that he had only kept the best things from what the Amalekites had in order to sacrifice them to God. Samuel was not impressed. He tells Saul to “shut up” and proceeds to explain God’s attitude toward such things. We read that explanation in today’s scripture.

Sacrifice for God is a wonderful and often necessary thing. However, higher on God’s list of priorities is obedience. If he says to sacrifice something, we should obey. That was the case with Abraham and Isaac. God told him to sacrifice Isaac and he was ready to obey. God provided a different sacrifice before Abraham could kill Isaac, but the point is Abraham obeyed.

However, if God does not ask for a sacrifice but some other kind of obedience, we must give him the obedience he requests. Nothing else is satisfactory. It was Saul’s idea to withhold some of the best of the spoil for a sacrifice, not God’s idea.

As we look at Saul’s actions, we can see how he came to this conclusion. It seems logical. It seems like something God would want. However, logic does not trump what God says. We must learn to obey God whether it seems to make sense or not. That begins by obeying the written word of God when it does not make sense or when we do not agree with it. Obedience is better than sacrifice.

In today’s scripture, God speaks of two other things. He says that rebellion is like witchcraft and stubbornness is like idolatry. How do these things relate to the faith actions of obedience to the Word of God? The word witchcraft here implies manipulation.

When we try to justify our disobedience, we are trying to manipulate God into seeing our point of view. This will not work. It is important for us to understand that when we try to rationalize our disobedience, God sees that as a form of witchcraft. We will never drive out our enemies that way.

Stubbornness is called idolatry because when we stubbornly resist obeying God, we are setting ourselves up as higher than God is. We make our opinion of what needs to be done more important than God’s commandment to do what he says needs to be done. We cannot drive out our enemies that way either.

If we are going to drive out our enemies in 2012, we must begin to aggressively obey God. This begins with aggressive obedience to the Word of God. Examine yourself in this area. We are all growing in our obedience. God knows we are not perfect. Nevertheless, I believe we need to take stock right now of our obedience level. What one thing in the Word of God are you not obeying that you know you should obey? Get aggressive about dealing with that and see if there is not a change in your ability to drive out the enemies that are keeping you from God’s best.

Faith and Works

James 2:14-17(NKJV) 14What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

In 2012 the church is called to possess its land of promises. In 2012 the church is called to drive out its enemies. In 2012 the church is called to begin to occupy until Jesus returns. I believe that is our assignment. I believe it is necessary for us to do these things because of two main factors. First, it is the will of God for this time. Second, the world needs us to be what Jesus called us to be.

We live in a time of crisis and the church is the only institution on earth with the answers people really need. In order to make them available to those outside the church, we have to be living them first. To fully live in the power of Biblical truth, we are going to have to make a commitment to Christian maturity. We are going to have to grow up in our walk until we can fully possess, drive out and occupy in the spirit.

As we began this year, we have been looking at various aspects of this process. We have determined that possessing involves an attitude. We must begin to act as if the promises of God belong to us. We are not beggars asking for something that is not ours. The Bible tells us that all the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ Jesus. They belong to the church. They belong to you and to me. When I know something belongs to me, I will not let someone take it away from me or keep me from obtaining it.

Driving out the enemy is an action. We need to take a hard look at our actions if we are going to drive out our enemies and make 2012 a better year than 2011. If we expect different results, we must put forth different actions. I believe those actions we must change involve becoming more aggressive in a number of areas of our Christian walk.

The first area we discussed was becoming more aggressive in resisting the Devil. This requires getting more aggressive in submitting to God, cleansing our hands of sin and cleansing our hearts of double-mindedness. It also means being more aggressive in our walk of humility before God. We must not consider ourselves more highly than we ought. We must be realistic in our evaluations of self on the basis of the faith God has given to us. (Rom 12:3)

I want to say this before we move on. Every area of life in which we are not fully submitted to God is an open door the devil can use against us. These open doors may not come into play right away. We may go days, weeks, months or even years and see no effect from our lack of submission. However, at a time when we can least afford it, the enemy will take advantage of that open door and bring harm to us. It is important that we close as many of these doors as we can if we are going to go to war against the enemy.

Today let us move to the second area in which I believe we need to become more aggressive if we are going to drive out the enemy. That is the area of faith in the Word of God. James tells us in today’s scripture that faith without some kind of works is dead because it is alone. What does he mean by this?

In the context, we see that he is talking about helping someone in need. Certainly, meeting people’s needs is one kind of work we should do if we really have faith. In another way of saying this same thing, John exhorts us not to close our ‘bowels of compassion” when we see someone in need.

1 John 3:17(KJV) 17But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

However, I do not believe James is speaking only about works of charity. Look at verse 17. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” The little word “also” says something very important. James is illustrating a larger principle with a specific application. Though good works can be a manifestation of our faith, the general principle is this. For faith to be seen in our daily living, it must have some kind of actions, or works, that correspond with what we believe.

To drive out the enemy we are going to have to become more aggressive in putting corresponding action to our faith. In his exhortation to the church, James points out that the fact that we say we believe is good, but it does not mean we are walking in real faith.

James 2:19(NKJV) 19You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

Even demons believe there is one God. They know he exists and there is no God greater than he is. Nevertheless, there actions do not declare that faith. Their actions declare opposition to who he is. If we truly believe in the reality of a loving God who is involved in our lives, we must order our actions to reflect that faith.

What kind of actions do people of faith do? We can see from James that we should reach out to those in need. However, what other actions does faith require? I believe we must look at another scripture for insight to that question.

Romans 10:17(NKJV) 17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Faith is a product of the written word of God. Faith in the Word produces other dimensions our faith experience, but it all begins with believing the written Word of God. Even salvation comes via the word of God.

In Ephesians 2:8 it says that we were saved by grace through faith. This verse also says that the faith itself was a gift from God. Where did this gift come from? Romans 10:17 is specifically talking about salvation. Although I believe the relationship between the Word of God and faith extends beyond salvation, Romans 10:17 tells us the faith gift in Ephesians 2 comes from the Word of God.

If we are going to become more aggressive in faith, we must begin by being more aggressive in our approach to the Word of God. We must become more aggressive in reading it, studying it, meditating in it and finally acting on what it says. If we do not increase our aggressive action in relation to the Bible, the written Word of God, we will never fully drive the enemy out of our land.

More on this tomorrow.

Humble Yourself Under the Lord

James 4:10(NKJV) 10Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

This week we have been talking about driving out the enemies who keep us from receiving all that the Lord has for us. Last week we spent our time in Mark 11, learning how Jesus applied the principles of possessing the land, driving out the enemies and occupying for the Lord. We want to remember the image of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the temple. He did not ask them to leave. He was not polite to them and he did not try to accommodate them in any way. He turned over their tables and pushed them out the door. When they attempted to return, he would not let them back in. He was aggressive and unforgiving in his resistance of the enemy.

We need to take the same actions against the enemies that hinder us. Those enemies include the world, the flesh and the devil. The world refers to everything in our outward life that keeps us from being what the Lord wants us to be. It involves everything from finances to entertainment. Anything in our culture that pushes us away from God and his Word must be resisted.

The flesh refers to those inward forces that rob us of our inheritance. These include emotions, memories, and wounds we may have suffered. It can also include our personality weaknesses such as laziness or arrogance. The flesh is anything in our psychological or emotional life that hinders our relationship with the Lord.

The devil refers to the whole satanic kingdom. This kingdom takes its nature from Satan himself and is committed to destroying God and everything he loves. When we speak of the devil we are talking about all the ways Satan and his kingdom hinder our efforts to live for God and fulfill his destiny in our lives. This takes many forms, but the key thing to remember is that when we say “the devil” we are implying that it is not just our weaknesses or even sins involved in the problem. There is an outside and active force at work trying to keep us from God’s will in our lives.

We must aggressively resist in all three of these areas. We must make it a goal for 2012 to drive these enemies out of our lives as much as we possibly can. We must recognize them for what they are. They are roaring lions seeking to devour our effectiveness in life. (1 Peter 5:8) Together they make up the thief that “comes only to kill, steal and destroy.” (John 10:10)

James 4:7-11 tells us that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us. Then it tells us how to resist him. I find it very interesting that much of what James tells us in these verses has nothing at all to do with the devil and everything to do with our relationship with God. If our relationship with the Lord is what it should be, resisting the devil will be both natural and effective. However, if we are not right in our relationship with God, we will never be able to drive out the enemies of our soul.

So far, James has given us two basic things we need to do in order to resist the devil effectively. We must submit to God and we must draw near to God. He has given us two avenues to accomplish this. We must “cleanse our hands” of sin and we must “cleanse our heats” of double-mindedness. We have covered how to do those things in the previous posts for this week.

Today I want to look at the last thing James tells us we need to do in relation to God. We must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Humility is one of the main characteristics of the kingdom of God. Conversely, arrogance is at the heart of everything the devil has ever done. We can neither submit to God nor draw near to him if we are not humble. It will be almost impossible to cleanse any part of our being if we are not humble enough to admit we need to be cleansed in the first place.

What does it mean to humble ourselves? Let us look at some definitions. Thayer’s Bible Definitions defines the word translated humble this way; 1b) metaphorically to bring into a humble condition, reduce to meaner circumstances. 1b1) to assign a lower rank or place to; 1b2) to abase; 1b3) to be ranked below others who are honored or rewarded

Holman’s Bible Dictionary says, “The person with humility does not look down on others.” It also says, “one who has humility will not be overly concerned about his or her prestige.” What can we glean from these definitions?

If we are humble before God, we assign a lower rank to our needs and to our position than to God’s needs and his position. We are willing to lower our opinion of our importance in relation to God’s importance. John the Baptist speaking of Jesus said, “I must decrease and he must increase.” If we are going to drive out our enemies, we must decrease in importance and he must increase.

We can also see that someone who is humble does not look down on other people and he or she is not overly concerned with his or her position or prestige. To someone walking in humility, the needs of others are more important than his or her needs. A humble person would rather lift up someone else than lift up themselves. Does that describe you?

Holman’s also points out that the Greek world saw humility as a weakness and abhorred it. Jesus taught that it was one of higher qualities of human existence and we should pursue it above most other things. He said if we exalt ourselves we would be humbled, but if we humble ourselves, we will be exalted. (Luke 14:11) Humility is absolutely essential to successfully driving the enemy out of our lives.

James 4:6 says God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. We cannot successfully resist the devil if God is resisting us. I believe our culture tends to exalt the arrogant over the humble. There is nothing wrong with being confident, but I believe we need to watch our attitudes to make sure we are maintaining humility.

Since James uses the phrase, “humble yourself” we must recognize that humility is our responsibility. We must find ways to practice humility. It is healthy to look for ways to serve others. It is healthy to actively appreciate others and find ways to lift them up instead of lifting up yourself. It is important to remind ourselves that Jesus is everything and, in comparison, we are nothing. I did not say we were nothing. The Father paid the blood of Jesus for you so you have great value. However, in importance we are nothing compared to the greatness of God.

The promise connected to humility is simple. If we humble ourselves, God will lift us up. When God lifts a person up there is nothing that can bring them down. The only thing that could bring that person down would be if pride returned.

On the other hand, if we exalt ourselves, God will be faithful to help us with our humility. I do not know about you, but I think the former would be much easier than the latter.

As we follow the exhortation of James in the 4th chapter of his letter, we will find ourselves in conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil. However, do not be afraid. We will overcome the enemy. We will drive him out of our lives and we will possess the land of our promises. The Word of God guarantees it.