Righteousness

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Every believer wants to be considered “righteous”. Even though the bible reminds us that our righteousness is like filthy rags before God, we all want to be justified in his sight. In as much as possible, we all want to be “right” before him. Faith is one way we can please God. The bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. But as James tells us, we are not justified, or thought of as righteous, by faith alone. In chapter 2, verse 24 it says:

"You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."

James gives examples of Abraham and Rahab to highlight his point. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son out of obedience to God and Rahab put her life on the line to harbor Israelite spies. James says that these acts were credited to them as righteousness. So, if we want to be considered righteous, or credited with righteousness, our faith has to be accompanied by deeds. So, I encourage you to examine your deeds. Does your faith express itself in action? Do you obey with action, love with action, or sacrifice in step with your faith? If not, I challenge you to consider how you can.

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James reminds us that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. Believers should be people of action, not just people of prayer. We are not called to stay safely in our comfort zone and hope that other believers will do the heavy lifting by putting themselves in harm’s way, or by giving of their time and resources for the cause of Christ. I believe that God has a plan for every believer, a plan that involves some form of action. And when our faith is accompanied by action it will be credited to us as righteousness. If you don’t know what God’s plan is for your life, if you don’t know what you are being “called” to do, I encourage you to ask God and to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. When we are willing, God can use us. And when he uses us, our faith accompanied by action can be credited to us as righteousness.

Remember

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I find it amazing that we, as humans, are at times quick to forget events that should otherwise define us or shape who we are. Maybe it is human nature to stay on an even keel and not let our highs or lows drastically affect us, but at times that could be to our detriment. We see this with the Israelites as they were quick to forget the amazing miracles that God performed for them in Egypt and in the desert. What God did should’ve been branded on the heart of every Israelite, shaping their trust in God for whatever was to come next. For some it did, and for others it didn’t. But Moses reminds them in Deuteronomy 10:21:

"He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes."

For some of the Israelites, even the incredible miracles; the 10 plagues against the Egyptians, parting of the red sea, sending mana from heaven, and producing water from a rock did not seem to affect their faith. For every hurdle that came next in their journey, they seemed to forget the truth; that nothing is too great for our God. I encourage you not to be like that. If God has answered your prayer, remember what you saw with your own eyes. Let that experience change you. Let it grow your faith. Let it shape and define you. Use it the next time you cry out to God as a reminder of who he is.

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When God answers your prayer, when he shows up in a miraculous way, when he intervenes on your behalf, use that experience to boost your faith. Remember what he has done the next time you cry out to him. Faith is necessary in every believer’s walk. Hopefully, your faith and my faith increases over time, and that God’s faithfulness shapes our view of him. Remember to give God high praise when he comes through for you. And the next time you cry out to him, remember what he did for you and know that he will come through for you again.

Heart and Soul

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I’ve found that many believers aren’t too keen on reading the old testament. And even if they journey there every once in a while, books like Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are often avoided. But I encourage you to give them a look. You might find that there are a lot of powerful accounts that help us to better understand our God and his character. We can also learn from the Israelites and in many ways, apply what God says to them to ourselves a well. One such example comes from Deuteronomy chapter 10 verses 12 and 13 which says:

"And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?"

In this, Moses describes an attitude of total reverence for God, total obedience to God, and total dedication to God. He says that we are to walk in his ways, to love him and to serve him with all of our heart and soul. And although he is talking to the Israelites here, I think that we today, should adopt this same attitude. I encourage you to follow God with everything that is in you. To pattern your entire personality, your goals, your thoughts and your life on a submitted and dedicated relationship to our created. And to serve him with all of your heart and soul.

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To love and to serve God with all of our heart and soul means total commitment. It doesn’t mean serving him half way. It means going all in. In my mind, I picture someone literally throwing off everything that doesn’t matter in life and running hard after him - kind of like the parable of the pearl found in the field. He sold everything he had to buy the field to obtain the pearl. That is the attitude that every believer should aspire to. That is the attitude that God seeks in his people. He wants followers who will worship him in spirit and in truth. And there is no stronger evidence of that than to serve him with all of your heart and soul.

Crucified Flesh

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Do you ever wonder why Jesus tells us that we need to take up our cross daily and follow him? I believe it is that we need to be reminded that our life is not our own. That our desires, whether fleshly or otherwise, need to conform to his desires. That we no longer live for ourselves but we take on the mission that Jesus has set out for us. When we take up our cross and follow him, we realize that by doing so, we prove that we belong to him. And as such, Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:24:

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires."

The verse just prior to this one talks about the fruits of the spirit. And one of the fruits of the spirit is self-control. All the others are things that we are to do, to exude or to practice. But self-control is something that helps us avoid sin. Self-control doesn’t mean willpower. I think it means discipline. The discipline of filling our minds and our hearts with the things of God. The bible tells us to think on heavenly things. And I believe the more that we do, the more our hearts and minds fall in alignment with the Spirit and the more successful we are in crucifying the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

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“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires”. We can only accomplish this if we take up our cross daily, if we know that we are not our own, and if we keep in step with the Spirit. As a matter of fact, the very next verse says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” To keep in step with the Spirit means that we have to be on the same page as him. His page, not ours. So, I encourage you to remember this verse and to make it real in your life. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.

God Rescues

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Faith in God means everything. Faith is basically trust. Do you trust God? Do you trust that he listens to your prayers? Do you trust in his sovereignty and his authority to answer them in his way and in his timing? Do you believe that he is powerful enough to intervene on your behalf no matter how impossible things may seem? Well, I’m here to tell you that it all starts with faith. It all starts with our trust in the only one who can rescue us when we are in trouble. Daniel knew that as it says in chapter 6, verse 16:

"So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, 'May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!'”

And if you know the story of Daniel, you’ll know that God does rescue him miraculously by shutting the mouths of very hungry lions, saving Daniel’s life in a way that defies the laws of nature. Please believe that God listens to your prayers and that he has the power to do the impossible. He knows what you’re going through, but it comes down to faith. Do you trust him? The bible warns us about not having faith. It tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and if we doubt we are like a reed blown by the wind. No, we need to have solid faith. And the bible tells us that we gain faith by reading his word.

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God knew Daniel’s faith and saved him in a miraculous way. If you remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo, you’ll remember that he miraculously saved them also from being burned in a fiery furnace. But in knowing God’s sovereignty, they said that “God can save us, but even if he doesn’t we will not worship the image of gold”. We need to remember that not all of our prayers will be answered in the way that we want or expect. They knew that in God’s sovereignty he could choose to let them die, but that fact didn’t weaken their faith. I encourage you to always pray in faith and to trust God no matter what the situation. We see with our own human eyes, but God sees the entire picture. Trust that he knows best, trust that he has immense love for you, and trust him to take control.