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The Hand that Binds Burdens Lifts Them Not

Matthew 23:4 “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

The burden of living under someone’s ruling presence does not usually get as much attention as it deserves.

As Christians, we are to be constantly under the wonderful ruling presence of Jesus Christ, who is worthy of our devotion, obedience, love, and respect.

Under this leadership of love from the Good Shepherd, we have no reason to complain because “his commandments are not grievous”; yet when faced with the burden of living under some human’s expectation of you, it can be daunting indeed.

This verse shows just how the Pharisees of Jesus’ day made this a reality in the everyday life of the Jewish community.

Have you ever been to the place of feeling as if you are underneath a heavy weight? I am not speaking of simply the stress of some physical labor, but more specifically a complete lifestyle of fearing what others will say about your every decision?

Here are a few thoughts on the passage:

  1. People (yourself included) can burden others without their consent

While we go through this life, it is a nice thought (albeit false) to believe that our actions do not affect others and that we are free from burdening other people.

Others impact us within the context of our everyday existence. Whatever the relationships may be in our lives, those relations with others impact our decisions in either a positive or negative way. 

No matter the circumstance, we are personally responsible for our actions and reactions, and while this may be true, this does not mean that we can always stop the influence of others on our lives.

Some people in our lives have a positive effect. They strengthen us – sometimes through encouragement or sometimes rebuke – but always in love. Others not so much.

What are the people in your life like – positive or negative?  What kind of person are you? There are two people in this passage – one who burdens others and one who becomes burdened by others.

  1. Those who lay burdens on others are characterized by the following traits: extreme, intentional, hypocritical.

They are extreme in the fact that they are not content with smaller burdens and petty weights, but heap upon their victims the full force of their restrictive power.

They do not simply remind people of their existing burdens, but according to the verse, they are the ones who bind or create the burdens themselves – ones that are “grievous and heavy”. They look for burdening opportunities.

They are intentional by having to perpetuate the act of burdening someone. It is not some accidental happenstance that occurs.

We all hurt those that are close to us and many daily simply because of our sin nature, but this kind of harm is different. It is a willful power over another person for the sole purpose of self-gratification. These weights are born out of thinking too highly of oneself and thinking too lowly of those nearby.

They are hypocritical for they would not dare consider even lifting a finger to do the same thing that they require from the other individual. They are not willing to experience the pain of the burden they place on others.

We might feel free to acquit someone that has burdened us if he has first burdened himself. For example, if Christ were to tell us to go out to love the world through sacrifice and humility without being willing to first show us an example then we would be less likely to follow his path. It is in the direct opposite for the hypocrite. He expects complete conformity to his list of duties but will not show an ounce of effort in living up to the same standard.

  1. All burdens are not bad.

In the context of this passage, we find that Jesus tells his followers and those listening that they were to listen to what the Pharisees and scribes were teaching and observe and do the things that they were putting forth.

But he told them to not do those works like the Pharisees did them – to be seen of men. The problem was not with the list of things that were being taught but with the unmerciful enforcement of them and the hypocrisy of those teaching.

Many will take a passage like this and begin to decry all ideas of right and wrong and use these wrong examples as excuses to get rid of all burdens in life. Jesus offered a burden. He offered a cross of self-denial to all who would accept it, but he also gave his burden with a few promises as well.

He promised that he would be with us in the burden – that by His side it would be light. He promised never to leave us or forsake us. He promised us true and eternal life.

“That the righteousness of the law should be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:4)

He gave us the power to live according to the law without being under the weight of it. He took the weightiness and grievousness out of fulfilling the law. He took the burden upon himself, and that is why he continues to call upon you to cast your burden upon Him [God}, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Do not burden others, and cast your own burdens on Christ. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Evangelistic Seeker Sensitive Sunday Service

The New Testament church is becoming an obsolete idea in our modern American Christianity. Much of this is due to the lack of Biblical principles being taught and the increasing desire for a man-centered approach to church ministry. If certain topics are not addressed and taught then local churches will become extremely nice places to visit, but will posses no real power. They are rapidly becoming places that “have a form of godliness” but that “deny the power thereof”. Even if one should desire to attack the many different questionable avenues of reaching people that are being instituted in local churches today, the root issue remains of why these oppositions to the clear teaching of the Bible are occurring. The subject to be addressed here is this idea of making the church “services” an evangelistic tool to be used in reaching people with the gospel. Many will take such a notion and simply dismiss it as irrelevant. It is crucial for a church (the people that meet in a church service) to be aware of why they gather together every Sunday.

The church is understood to be a gathering of believers in Jesus Christ. Pastor Clarence Sexton gives a good definition for a church when he declares, “A church is a body of baptized believers who voluntarily have joined themselves together to carry out the Great Commission”. With this understanding comes a grave responsibility of the church to reach others with the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ. This good news of Jesus is the power that leads people to repentance and faith in Christ and grants them the eternal life that God has offered freely to all who will believe. The question entering then is how is this to be accomplished? Does it matter how we reach people as long as we are reaching them? Yes, the Scripture teaches us that it does indeed matter.

The Scripture itself is our guide to understanding what we determine to be the correct way to reach people. The greatest problem of reaching people in our generation is our tendency to go outside the written revelation of God, whether that be in traditional or contemporary ways. When we do not begin with Scripture and work from the revealed truth then we have successfully placed our faith in someone or some thing other than the God of heaven and earth. Here we see that we can place our faith to evangelize, which is supposed to be in God the Holy Spirit, in something that is man-made and man-centered.

What is the Sunday service and why do we meet? According to Acts 2, the church has met from the beginning to “continue steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” They met with each other to pray, to build one another up in faith and in love, to exhort, to charge, to teach, to help – to simply be the body of Christ in this world. We see this all throughout the New Testament. When the church is operating as a functioning body of Christ through the unity of the Spirit, then and only then can it become every thing that is is meant to be in this world. Then and only then will we see the evangelism that so many are striving for. Anything short of this, is not power of God, but merely a form, a false imitation of the real thing. Too many churches in our culture have an “invitational evangelism” mindset and think that the gathering of believers (church service) is for the salvation of the lost and therefore they invite their unbelieving friends to come to church and hear the gospel and get saved. The main problem here is one of focus. A church member that is focusing, whether consciously or subconsciously, on getting unsaved people to come to church will do just that. If a church consists of a body of believers and baptized at that, then why would you ask a non-believer to be a part of a gathering of a specific body of people that does not include them? This is contradictory and really does cause more confusion than accomplish anything.

This does not mean that we are not to allow unsaved people to come into the church services. Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 14 that if an unbeliever comes into the meeting of the believers that the unbeliever should be conscious of the fact that God is in the midst of these people, the church. The real problem is that “going to church” is a cultural tradition that has been passed down and adhered to by many people in our culture. Biblically, the church is not something that you go to on Sunday, but is something that a body of believers is. We are not called to go to church, but we are called to BE the church. In Colossians 1:18, God says that Christ is “the head of the body, the church”. Believers are the church. The church is not “ to forsake the assembling together, as the manner of some is”, but is to gather to be edified, so that the church can be witnesses unto God of the power from on high “.. to the uttermost parts of the earth.”

In the book of Acts, after the disciples had seen their Lord appear into the clouds, they were gathered with one accord and one mind in the upper room doing two things – praying and reading the Scripture. It was in this environment that the Holy Ghost came upon them, and not until the Holy Ghost came do you see three thousand souls added to the church in one day. Many hypothetical situations could be applied to this scenario to ask what about all those people that needed to be reached? Why were the disciples not out proclaiming the gospel as soon as Jesus ascended? They could not do the evangelism without the power of God on them as a body of believers who had voluntarily joined themselves together to fulfill the commission that Jesus had given them.

When churches make the focus of their meetings on reaching the lost, then they are opening up the body of Christ for all kinds of worldly “diseases” and philosophies that “will eat as doth a canker” as Paul put it in 2 Timothy 2. When reaching souls outside of church’s gathering has been displaced by trying to reach them within the church services, then a church is focusing on the wrong thing. They have successfully become a seeker-sensitive church – a place of light that is full of darkness. In 2 Corinthians 6:14, God says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God , and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord,…” A church that makes the focus of their gathering together the reaching of the lost will ultimately lose sight of this passage of Scripture. Why do we see the influence of the world in the church today? Because we have invited them in. We have made it all about reaching man instead of knowing God. To know God requires holiness, but to gather man only requires personal invitation and not much sacrifice. If we sacrifice to know God, then we will reach man, but if we do not come to know God, then we will not truly reach man, but merely bring him into an environment where he can feel as if he is worshiping a God he cannot know. This is not to say that a person cannot get saved in a church meeting, but it was not that church meeting that got the person saved – it was “the gospel” that was “the power of God unto salvation.” When believers are not sharing the gospel outside of the meeting of the church then they are saying that the gospel that they have to give is not powerful enough to save the lost, but that the way for someone to hear the gospel is to come into a meeting of the believers, a church. They are then depending upon external religion to accomplish something that only internal transformation by the Spirit of God can.

The sum of it all is that if a church meets for the purpose of reaching the lost, then it is taking the responsibility away from the individual Christian to be a witness outside of the gathering of believers and makes a generation of people sick and tired of playing church week after week. “Going to church” has grown old and is why church-attending statistics within the Bible belt of America are so pathetic. A man-made system of reaching people has in the end failed to reach people. We are “reaping the harvest where we have placed the emphasis” as Pastor Sexton so wisely has stated.

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Paths

There is something to be said for the “paths” and “ways” found in Scripture. There are many different ones – there are paths of righteousness, judgment, wickedness, and the list goes on and on. I have been really studying this recently, and thought of something while driving down the road. As I was driving down the road to my left hand side were two bright orange lines. They were loud and noticeable boundaries that could not be mistaken. To my right, there was was white reflective strip that kept me from the ditch. Now if you could allow for some representation into the American 21st century…our Christian life can be compared as a car driving down the path that is before it. The white line represents the legalistic one who shifts from their relationship with Christ to a life based on the rules of a moral person. The orange in the middle of the road represents confusing the wonderful gift of grace as license to live unholy. Both are strictly talked about by Paul in Corinthians and Galatians.    The safest place is the center of the right side of the road. The safest place in a Christian’s life is the center of God’s will. If one dares veer to the right, maybe by drif
ting to sleep in routine, he will end up in the ditch. Now, this is not the worst thing in the world, but it is a life that has stopped moving forward. It is stagnant to growth, and is hindered from making the turns (opportunities) that are on the road ahead. The alternative is to veer to the left, cross the orange lines just a bit, and the car (life) is now on its way to a head-on collision. These are never pretty, and much damage is done, and although it can be fixed up, there will most always be scars, not only on the exterior, but also the internal parts of the ones involved.  So, how to we keep a good balance? That, my friend, is the most beautiful thing about this illustration. 🙂 Our All knowing, all-sufficient God has given us a perfect chauffeur. This is the Person of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! As an individual yields every part of his life to Christ, and allows Him to take take the wheel and drive, he will see that Christ will keep him safely down the lane of life. He will make all the necessary turns. (Opportunities) He will direct the vehicle to its intended destination. (Heaven) He will pick up whatever passengers chosen for the ride (life’s mate?). He will even flip the headlights (The Bible! – thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path 👈 that is so cool! Like headlights, you may not be able to see all the way down the road, but rest assured He can see way ahead of you! ) on when the darkness (heartaches, discouraging things) of life settles around us. The road might get bumpy, the rain, snow, and fog may come but our Jesus knows the way. 🙂 Lord, I trust you in with my life. I will be content to sit with wide-eyed, child-like faith in the passenger seat, and watch you control my life however you see fit. 
– just a side note,  Psalm 16:11, “Thou wilt show me the path of life…at thy right hand are pleasures ever more.” Where is the passenger seat located?? 🙂 🙂 – May we all let the Lord Jesus Christ drive our car and stay out of the ditch and away from head-on collisions. 

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Walking in the Spirit

As I have been letting the Holy Spirit take control of my life, I have come across so much more whenever I read my Bible! If you have not made the decision of complete surrender to God, and are trying to read your Bible just because or because it is right or a good study, I encourage you to surrender! The words of the Bible come alive to you! Here is a simple verse that explains much of the struggle that many mediocre Christians face:

Galatians 5:16-18

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye SHALL NOT fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

 

Reading that was so simple for me, and is what drew me to the passage. When we walk in the Spirit, we have the power granted us to say no to temptation, to live how Christ would have us to. Many like to pick and choose what they should or should not do, but when you are fully surrendered to the Spirit’s guiding in your life, then you are GOING TO DO what is right. It is when we let the flesh get in the way that we start to lose ground. Ever made a commitment to not do something anymore? In the flesh, what usually happens? I have found out that before I fully committed EVERYTHING to God that the one thing that I was not letting go of always had the most influence in dragging me down! Do we honestly think that we can give God only what we want to give? HE, the One who created us, but not only that,  but sent His Only Begotten Son to die for our wretched condition, THAT GOD of the universe – think about HIM for a second… We are not going to give HIM everything? I am sick when I think of how long I held on to my own way before such an One as HE; it is only by the marvelous grace of God that HE still accepts the meager offering of my life. That alone is enough to be thankful for for a lifetime! Anyways… This is why it does come down to a decision, a daily decision, of whether or not I will live by my flesh or by the Spirit. Galatians goes on further to explain the vast difference between the two walks of life:

The Flesh:

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, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal 5:19-21

The Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Gal 5:22-25

If you read these, the difference is really eye-opening… I found myself many a time in that first list…BUT something even more amazing is that when I make that hard but simple decision to walk in the Spirit, then I acquire this Fruit of the Spirit! You know, as a child growing up in a Christian home, I memorized this passage on the fruit of the Spirit, I knew it, but I have finally began to experience it! They are real things that come with the decision. Much of the world wants the fruit of the Spirit, but are not able to have it, thus, our world is racked with the works of the flesh. As the Christians of this world step up and allow the Holy Spirit to take control of their walk, you will not only see a continual increase in happy Christians, but also, a desire from the world to know what is different about them! Think about the possibilities! All because God has provided us with His Holy Spirit! Something that I have found interesting is that as a Christian not fully surrendered, I would constantly find myself walking in the flesh, and looking back I can see how some people probably got a bad taste of Christianity – all because I was not walking in the Spirit. More is at stake than just our pride with these decisions that God places in front of us in His Word.

To all those Christians walking the walk of the flesh, I pray that you take this decision seriously, and ask the Holy Spirit to take over your life. Start listening to the still, small voice. Get alone with God. Give Him everything in your life.

Thanks for putting up with what God has been speaking to me about.

 

 

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A New Beginning

This is my first post on here, and is something that will be the kickstart to all my writings in the future. Here is a little testimony that I recently shared on Facebook:

Although some might not have the time to read this, I would still like to just share a change of heart that God has given me recently, and that He is still giving me. First and foremost before I talk about me and what this has done for “me”, I would like to give glory and honor to the One who has done this work in my life. My all-powerful, all-knowing, all-sufficient, and loving God and glorious Savior, Jesus Christ, has done this work in my life and is capable of doing it in the life of any believer. I have been attending Crown College of the Bible, and am a Sophomore this year. It is a great place where the Bible is preached, taught, and lived out by the faculty. More important than any of that though is that it is a place where one can truly come face to face with their Creator, and grow the relationship that began at salvation. Sadly, even in an environment so focused on God, human nature tends to through the busyness of class, work, and multiple other activities neglect spending the time with God to have a healthy relationship. We sometimes forget that God did make us to be creatures that communicate and this is something that he desires from us. He yearns to be close to His children, not only for their sake, but for the sake of those who are not His children yet. If Christians are close to their Creator in such a way that Christ is living through them, then those around them cannot help but notice the difference in them, and in that marvelous way come to know the Lord God on a personal level as well. With this in mind, I would like to begin my story of how God has given me a “renewing of my mind”. Late Thursday night, some guys and myself in the dorm began to play a silly and meaningless game that had been played the previous night. It was fun to say the least, and therefore we found ourselves playing late into the night and early morning. Once we finished however, four of us guys sat on the couches in our living room, and simply began to talk about God. I do not know how many of you have had a truly real meeting with God before, but I know for a fact that God met with us that night. This was very amazing to say the least. In a little bit, the Holy Spirit began to convict me personally for sure (cannot account for the others although it seemed very evident the Lord was doing the same thing with them) about how I was messing around with my Christian life, and how that my selfishness and pride was hindering not only myself from revival, but also those fellow Christians around me. Pretty soon the talking about God with each other became talking WITH God with each other. He answered our prayer asking Him to take complete control of our lives personally. We made a pact with each other to help each other in this new life of full surrender to God and to help keep each other in check with the things that we struggle with. Once God had accomplished this in my life and had full control of my life, I find it extremely difficult to find the right words to truly explain the freedom, joy, peace, and contentment that I had found and am still discovering. When the Bible speaks of the fruits of the Spirit, they are a real thing! I guess that is why I am so excited. It is real! With this decision comes an incredible attack from the devil by way of temptation, and although I cannot say that since then I have been completely righteous, I can say that I do have the constant help of the Holy Spirit. There are few things in this temporary life, well, nothing really, that can compare to the feeling of being led by the Creator of the universe through the Holy Spirit. It is amazing the power that God can bring to your life if you simply let Him. I want to make clear how this is all and all an act of God on my life. With all of this I have come to the realization of how every single thing that happens good in or through my life is a direct result of God’s light shining through me. I realize that in order for me to do anything for God, I must accept that really I am not doing anything, I am simply letting Christ have my life, my body, soul, and spirit – completely. I am not my own. I AM bought with a price. That price was Jesus Christ’s blood shed on a cross and the taking of my sin upon His shoulders. I guess what I am trying to say is that anything less than complete surrender is pure selfishness and would constitute a life of misery and meaningless. It is such a privilege to know the Lord Jesus Christ in such way. Anyone who does not know Him personally as Lord and Savior, I encourage you with all my heart to do so. He is waiting to give you everything that you have ever needed or dreamed of. And for those of you are afraid of standing up for right and are waiting on God to send revival, I encourage you that it is worth every bit of struggling it takes to get to that point. The Lord has been preparing me for this season in my life for a long time, and He has done the same in your life. He has brought you to read this all the way to this point, so you are faced with the same decision I was. Please do not walk away from God and what He wants for you! There is so much to find in Christ and such a security and pleasure in serving Him. Trust me, I know what it is like to go through the Christian life as dead as, well, I don’t really have a great analogy, but as an extremely dead Christian. It is a hard life, because you are constantly wanting to make a difference and change, but at the same time are apprehensive of what might happen if you give it all away. I am writing this right now as living proof that IT IS WORTH IT! Just Do It. You will be more than glad that you did. I am praying for all who read this or who in some way are searching for this concept and life-changing surrender that I have found. Thank you for taking the time to read what was on my heart tonight, and I feel as though I could write on and on, but I should probably take a break. The last thing I would like to encourage you to do is to surround yourselves with some godly friends who want the same thing that you are trying to obtain with Christ. They will only strengthen you. God sends people in your life for a reason, so do not overlook the opportunities that He presents you with. And one more thing to clarify, is that the amazing thing is that I do not have to struggle with sinning on my own. I do not worry about all the Do’s and Don’ts – I simply let Christ have my everything, and that, my friends, leaves no room for sin. God is good. I love Him so much. I want every Christian to experience this light and fire. May God send the revival fires across Christians all around this nation and among our churches! (we are the church, so it is up to YOU! And ME!)
I love everyone of you with only a love that God can give and can only hope that He is manifested in my life. I am excited for what God has planned.
Praise the Lord for His goodness!