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2:55 AM   [25 Aug 2013 | Sunday]

What Does Strait And Narrow Really Mean? (Part Two)

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (KJV).

As we recall, “strait” means narrow with the idea of having limited space, due to cramped quarters or conditions, and requires a squeezing through because of obstacles standing close about.  It holds the idea that because the gate is narrow, only one or two can enter through at a time.  “Narrow” means to press together, compress, squeeze, or afflict.  It has to do with pressure from circumstances or persecution from others.  As also stated before, it requires God’s grace, which is the ability to do the things of God on His terms, to press through the gate and walk the narrow road.  The encouraging thing is that God already gave us what we need to accomplish what is impossible for us to do in our own strength.

Psalms 18:30-36 As for God, His way is perfect: the Word of the Lord is tried: He is a buckler to all those that trust in Him.  For Who is God save the Lord? or Who is a Rock save our God?  It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.  He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.  He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.  Thou hast also given me the shield of Thy salvation: and Thy right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great.  Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip (KJV).  It is important to realize that God’s ways are perfect and He loves us perfectly. Notice that in this passage of Scripture, God does everything that relates to the strait and narrow.  He gives strength to those who wait on Him.  He raised us up and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 2:6).  Since He is the One who makes our way perfect, it is not up to us to perfect our way.  He teaches us to war in the Spirit, which essentially means walking in the Spirit, whereby we overcome evil with good (see Romans 12:9-21).  He gave us the Armor of God (see Ephesians 6:12-18) in which He wars through us.  As we humble ourselves before Him, He lifts us up (see James 4:6-10) and the devil flees before us.  As we follow Him, He holds us up and enlarges our steps so that we can walk steadfastly.  We do not have to worry about falling, if we do things His way.  In a nutshell: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.  Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:2-11, KJV).  Now that emphasis was placed on God’s part, what is our part?

To begin with, we must remember what Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (KJV).  In John 10:7-9 He also said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the Door of the sheep.  All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.  I am the Door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (KJV).  Clearly, we see that there is only one way to eternal life and that is though Jesus.  Without knowing Jesus, we could never know the Father.  That means we have to follow Him because He is the Way.  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  Again, lets begin with what Jesus says: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Matthew 16:24-26, KJV)?  This is where the strait and narrow comes into play.  Following Jesus is more than just reciting a prayer of repentance at an altar.  That is only the beginning.  To assume we can merely pray a prayer, then go about our business as before is a huge misunderstanding of what grace is all about.  We find this to be true when we read Hebrews 12:28-29, “Wherefore we receiving a Kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (KJV).  Before defining what it means to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus, we need to establish that is what Jesus did at the Cross, and not our works that gains us access to the Kingdom of God.  Do know, however, it requires endurance! James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him (KJV).

www.perfectfaith.org

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4:54 AM   [18 Aug 2013 | Sunday]

What Does Strait And Narrow Really Mean? (Part One)

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (KJV).

To begin with, the reason few find the narrow road is that many are offended by it.  The reason is that their hearts are hard, and they will not so much as consider the way.  A number of people will at least take a few steps on this road because they want the benefits it has to offer at the end. They want to go to heaven, but they still desire the ways of the world.  There is no depth in their walk. They say they love Jesus, but they do not want to be conformed to His Image.  They have no real interest in spiritual matters. They are shallow people who are easily offended when hardship comes their way, and eventually take a detour back to the broad way.  The ones, who find the way and endure to the end, love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.  They embrace the principle that Jesus laid out in Matthew 16:24, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (KJV).  They understand that grace empowers them to live righteously before God.  They have no interest in abusing it in order to live unrighteously.  They love God so much that they desire to be like Jesus. They will endure the process necessary to conform to His Image.  So what does strait and narrow really mean?

Before going into the actual textbook definitions of these words, we begin with a single textual clue.  That clue is the spelling of the word, “strait.”  It is spelled, s-t-r-a-i-t.  It is not spelled, s-t-r-a-i-g-h-t.  These are two different words with different meanings.  Therefore, strait does not mean that the road runs in straight line and has no curves or bends.  That would be easy to travel.  Nor does it mean that the road is equivalent to walking a tightrope, making it nearly impossible to make it to the end.  As we bring definition to their meaning, we will discover why grace is so important in traveling such a road.  Broad and wide shows us that destruction comes easy, so the road is not even worth considering.  Sometimes the most beautiful scenery can only be found by getting off “the beaten path.”  Another clue is found in Luke13:24 where Jesus says, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” which tells us that it is something to contend for.  It means conflict if we are going through the gate.

“Strait,” actually means narrow with the idea of having limited space, due to cramped quarters or conditions.  It requires a squeezing through because of obstacles standing close about.  It requires our pressing in, which produces pressure.  Figuratively, it runs counter to our natural inclinations, similar to having a sort of spiritual claustrophobia, which requires an ability greater than ourselves to push through.  This is where the grace of God comes to play in our lives.  Another way to look at it is because the gate is strait, only a few can walk through it at a time.  It restricts entrance to the other side.  The Greek word for “gate” refers to a main entrance in the wall of a city, palace or temple.  It usually refers to a leaf or wing of a folding entryway.  It is not a common door, where people come and go as they please.  Known also as a place of strength, gates were synonymous with power.  As a figure of speech, “gates” also stood for those who held government and administered justice there.  There are references in the Bible to gates of cities being used to accomplish legal matters.  That means we have to enter the strait gate lawfully.

“Narrow” means to press together, compress, squeeze, or afflict.  It means to suffer affliction, which refers to suffering due to the pressure of circumstances or persecution from others.  It relates to a woman in travail when giving birth.  This word is also rendered as, “throng”; “afflicted”; “troubled” or “that trouble,” and everyone’s favorite, “suffer tribulation.”  It ties in with Matthew 13:21 which refers to the Parable of the Sower, “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, by and by he is offended” (KJV).  That is the rub: most believers do not like to suffer tribulation or persecution along the way of their journey.  Therefore, we find that the strait and narrow points to what we do that makes us uncomfortable and that which circumstances and others do to cause us further discomfort.  Does this offend you?

www.perfectfaith.org

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7:08 AM   [11 Aug 2013 | Sunday]

Be Confident, You Are Made In His Image!

Psalms 139:13-16 For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.  I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them (KJV).

Each of us may also say, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  The reason is stated in the same verse, “Marvelous are Thy works.”  This is especially true for believers, which you see why shortly.  God’s works are marvelous because He is marvelous.  You are wonderfully made because He is wonderful.  Everything that God makes will be according to His nature; therefore, He did not make anything contrary to His nature.  Everything God does is holy because He is holy.  Now consider this, the Father said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26, KJV).  We go onto read in Genesis 1:27, So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them (KJV).  Being made in His image underscores that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Regardless of how you came into this world, God knew you and loved you before you were even born.  The Word clearly states you were already written in His book, which also means He has wonderful plans for your life.  It also declares that you were planned!  Know this, that the Lord takes great care in His plans, which means that He was very careful and intentional in your making.  The more confident you are that God is good, the more confidence you will have toward the works of His hands.  The more confident you are that His works are marvelous, the more confident about yourself you will be.  The counterfeit to this principle is self-confidence.  Instead of being confident in the Lord that dwells in you, you are solely confident in yourself.  Proverbs warns against having such an attitude: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, KJV).  Nonetheless, there is a confidence that comes with knowing that God is good, and we are made in His image.

Jeremiah 18:1-6 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear My words.  Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.  And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.  Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in Mine hand, O house of Israel (KJV).  While Jeremiah 18 primarily centers on Israel, there is picture we can take from these opening verses.  God as the Master Potter formed man from the dust of the earth, or clay as in this case.  When He made man, He made him perfect, but when sin entered, he became as the marred clay.  Like the potter in this passage, the Father did not see fit to leave us marred, or in our sinful condition.  Instead, He decided to make man new.  However, there is a major difference.  Unlike the clay in this passage, every individual can make the decision to be made new or continue in sin.  For us who said yes to the Potter, we experience the new birth from His Spirit, and find ourselves being conformed into the image of Jesus (see Romans 8:29).  Thus we read in Ephesians 2:10, For we are His workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (KJV).

The question is: do you believe you are His masterpiece?  Take in consideration that sin entered into the world by questioning God.  The enemy of our souls introduced rebellion by a question: “Did God really say?”  As you read Genesis 3, you will find that not only did Satan bring to question what God said, but His very character.  He has been using this method ever since.  He has sought to deceive many into believing that God does not exist, which in of itself has many implications.  One being that if we are not made in His image, there is nothing wonderful about us.  If God is not there to make us good, then we have to make something of ourselves, good or bad.  No matter how successful a person becomes with that perspective, deep down he will never believe he is good enough.  If the devil cannot get us to believe there is no God, he will accuse Him.  For example, “How can God be good if there is so much evil in the world?”  Even though, he was the one who introduced evil.  The earlier he can get people to question God, the better in his view, because he knows that the earlier a lie is planted in the person, the longer it will have time to grow deep roots.  The deeper the roots, the harder it is to remove.  If a person believes that God is not good, then he will also believe nothing that God makes is good as well; thereby, turning the wonderful news that we are made in His image into something to distain.  Furthermore, the enemy seeks to get us to dishonor God by dishonoring one another.  Thus, slander enters the scene.  He tries to goad us into judging other people for their shortcomings or even tell all out lies about them.  He seeks to deeply wound children by those they should be able to trust, so that when they grow up they are broken and hard to reach by the Good News that God loves them.  The devil needles them with their sins, so that they will turn away from God instead of turning to Him.  In those he succeeds in planting his poison, is the belief is that they are worthless.  In many cases, he succeeds in getting them to belittle or disapprove of their selves.  They cannot wrap their mind around the idea that they are made in His image.  Sin has wreaked havoc, but there is wonderful news for those who will receive.

God knew the ending before the beginning, and made a perfect plan to redeem us and truly make us into His image through Jesus Christ.  Thus, we read, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV).  In 2Corinthians 5:21 it says, “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (KJV).  That new creature is the new man who is made after His nature.  Ephesians 4:24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness (KJV).  Only a good God would do that!

www.perfectfaith.org

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7:14 AM   [04 Aug 2013 | Sunday]

A Child Of God Is Not A Burden

Until believers believe what God says about them, they will fail to live at their fullest potential.  Without proper perspective, they will never fully realize how precious they are to Him.  It does not matter how self-confident people are, their confidence will never carry them to the level God has called them to live.  Ironically, if they were to realize what that level really is, their self-confidence would be obliterated, as they become conscious that it requires a power far greater than themselves to achieve it.  Conversely, those with little self-esteem would realize they could live at the level proportionate to their calling by simply knowing who they are in Christ Jesus, and that is the sticking point.  A number of people consider themselves a burden to God and to society.  They fail to realize just how precious they really are in His sight.  They cannot get past the lies they have come to believe about themselves.  Ironically, the more they try to not be a burden, the more they feel like one.  Why is that?  They find themselves miserably failing to live up their own expectations.  Meaning, they get a picture in their mind of who they should be and how they should behave, yet find it impossible to be successful at it.  The harder they try, the farther away from the goal they get.  The more a person feels like a failure, the more of a burden he becomes in his mind.  The harder person tries not to be something or do something, the more he becomes and does what he tries to avoid.  This happens because people tend to gravitate to what they focus on.  The more you focus on the flesh, the more power the flesh has.  If this is you, it is time to allow God to raise you up to your appointed position.  At this point, you might say, “You don’t know my shortcomings.”  Fine, lets deal with those first.  On second thought, lets not, because God already dealt with your shortcomings at the Cross.

Romans 6:3-7 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death?  Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin (KJV).  The Blood of Jesus washed away your sin.  Because you are counted as dead with Christ, your past is dead as well.  That means it does not even come into consideration in the way the Father looks at you.  If He wanted to hold your past over your head, He would have never sent Jesus to die in your stead.  That means it is time for you to stop beating yourself over the head with your past.  Your past does not determine who you are in Christ Jesus.  Some might say, “I’ve got to make up for what I did,” or least feel that way from time to time.  First, realize that you cannot atone for the past because that requires the shedding of innocent blood, which fallen man does not possess.  If you want to make up for sin and shortcomings, do it God’s way.  Receive His forgiveness, repent (think differently), learn what you need to learn, and move on.  Become who God has called you to be by believing what He says.  There are no shortcomings in the Kingdom because Jesus resides in us through the Holy Spirit.  This is a spiritual truth that is confirmed in Galatians 2:20, 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 (KJV).  Pride says, “I have to pull myself up by the bootstraps”; humility says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (James 4:10, KJV).  Self-help cannot accomplish what only the Lord can do!

How can you be a burden if Jesus said to cast your burdens on Him?  Somehow, that does not fit.  Sons and daughters of God are not burdensome to Him because they are His delight.  Meditate on Romans 8:14-17, which says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (KJV).  The Father adopted you into His family because He wanted you.  He made you an heir; you did not earn the position of His son or daughter.  Though it cost Him dearly, He gave it to you freely.  You did not earn His love; He gave it to you.  You will never be able to do anything to make the Father love you more, nor any less.  He did not intend to leave you in your past or current condition, but to raise you to a higher place by conforming you to the image of Jesus.  He gave you His grace so you can live righteously, and walk by the faith of Jesus.  You are His, it is time to believe it and walk in it.  When you submit to the Spirit you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh (see Galatians 5:16), and you will accomplish what the Father desires of you.  All of this, because He loves you!  Remember, 2Corinthians 5:17-21 “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.  For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (KJV).

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