Ecclesiastes 7:10Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.
Some often talk about “the good old days” with great fondness. To some, those days are better than the present. Is it wisdom to long to go back and camp there? There are great testimonies from the past that should be shared in the present. There are great lessons from yesteryear which help us today. And yes, there were great movements of God that took place back in the day. However, we really cannot afford to take on a past-present paradigm.
Trying to capture past movements of God, and turning them into some sort of present moment is backwards.
Even our opening text tells us it is not wisdom to ask why the past is better than now. That way of thinking actually is an illusion. It is counterintuitive to Scripture. Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Grammatically, “proceeds” is a present-future tense; not past tense. It is important to take on a present-future viewpoint.
It is true that you needed your past to build on for your future. Some might say, “There some things in the past I didn’t need;” but rest assured, God uses them for stepping stones as well. It’s all part of the process of becoming more Christ-like. If you try to live in the past, it would be possible to lose sight of your true identity in Jesus Christ. You may tend to view yourself from your past, and miss the way Father sees you today. Living in such a way stymies growth and hampers new revelation from God. New revelation is an already existing truth that is new to us. It is hard to find new treasure by looking in old previously dug holes. You will not find a better time to live than the present while having a view to the future. How can you enjoy new adventures with Jesus while trying to keep doing the old ones repeatedly?
God moves us from glory to glory. To say the former glory is greater than the latter is foolish.
God does not change, but He is in the process of changing us. The new you is far more superior than your old self. Jesus encourages us to go for the greater, instead of the inferior. As great as His earthly ministry was, He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). Of course the greater works are not done apart from our Lord; rather, He accomplishes them through us by Holy Spirit living in us. For the sake of the Kingdom, we must advance forward; not retreat to the past.
But the righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1). Why do some feel timid, even though they are righteous in Jesus Christ? There are a number of reasons, but we’re going to address one, and it has to do with integrity. Jesus is the Truth and apart from truth there is no righteousness. It is one of the things the enemy attacks with a vengeance. He seeks to disseminate his lies, which is often very subtle. Part of integrity is the desire for the truth, regardless of where it leads you. Truth always destroys the lie, just as Light always obliterates the darkness. The moment someone steps away from the truth, the less bold he will find himself. As long as you seek the truth in its purest form, lies will not be able to take hold of you.
Even if you have been deceived, the moment you receive the truth, the shackles of deception will fall off you.
John 8:31So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Your integrity with the Word of God is crucial. Many are deceived into believing false doctrines because of their personal lusts. They are idols of their heart, which they prefer over the truth. When truth “supports” their lust, it becomes perversion of the truth. Even the enemy supports his lies with elements of the truth. Factual statements are not necessarily the truth; however, truth will always be factual.
Part of truth is being true. This is where integrity comes to play. For example, in the work place, a person with integrity does not require the boss to stand over him in order to do his job right. “Right” includes doing the job correctly, but simply doing the job correctly may preclude intensity. Doing the job right means it will not only be done correctly, it will be done robustly. The employee with integrity may actually accomplish more without the boss’s presence than when he’s there. How confident are those with the boss when he returns after they have been slack in his absence? Faithful are those whom the boss finds busy about their work. Why is this important? What kind of influence will we have on others for the Kingdom if we’re not being true? The idea is to be trustworthy; regardless of whether someone sees you that way.
Wouldn’t you rather be trusted because you are trustworthy than to have people trust you because you talked them into it?
If people cannot trust you, you will never be in a position to be their confidant when they need a listening ear. If you do all things as unto the Lord, and not with mere eye-service, you will never need a taskmaster to keep your nose to the grindstone.
The enemy will attack your integrity in numerous ways. Obviously, he often uses people. To be clear, we have the victory in Jesus Christ Who has overcome the world. Therefore, let’s not overemphasize the devil. Besides, such emphasis can lead to not taking responsibility. If you are in the palm of the Lord’s hand, how could the devil be there? He only gets in by invitation, which is why he tries to deceive us into inviting him into our lives. He will not openly knock at your door because he knows you will not knowingly let him in. The devil can only entice someone to sin if they have something in his heart with which to entice him. James 1:13-15Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Satan tried to tempt Jesus, but could not succeed in the temptation. Why? Because Jesus had nothing in Him by which to be tempted.
Integrity allows for an honest assessment of one’s heart, and that assessment requires Holy Spirit. God never tempts anyone with evil, but He does try our hearts. If you blew it, do not despair. God knew what you would do before you did it. He made a provision for it. 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (see also 1 John 2:1-2). Allow the incident to expose whatever is going on in your heart. Let the Lord reveal it to you, which is one of the reasons we ask for wisdom. He not only forgives us, He cleanses us. His kindness leads us to repentance. When our heart comes under the Light of truth, we will repent if we’re genuine with Him. His grace empowers us to be free of lust. Sometimes, when exposure comes, He’ll ask you, “What do you want to do with this?” It is a great opportunity for freedom. With clarity comes repentance. With repentance comes integrity, and with integrity comes conviction. Are you bold as a lion?
The Cross of Jesus Christ is central in the lives of His disciples, but it can lose its significance when it becomes merely a symbol. At the same time, it is important to guard our hearts, so we worship Him Who was crucified, and not the Cross itself. Having said that, the Cross can serve as a reminder of the death and Resurrection, and help us stay in agreement with God. Part of worship is agreeing with Him. Without agreement, there’s no true worship, nor praise. So what are some things it symbolizes we should agree with, or at least come into agreement?
The Cross does not symbolize our sin and shame; it symbolizes our Father’s love for us, in spite our sin.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. It underscores His desire to have fellowship with us. It reveals a love that cannot be earned. In fact, His love is not based on our performance, but it is revealed by the performance of Jesus Christ. Who do you know who loves humanity enough to sacrifice his or her child for the sake of the world? For some, it is time for you to agree that He does love you. The Word clearly says it is impossible for God to lie (see Hebrews 6:18). The Cross declares you are precious in His sight. 1 John 4:16We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
The Cross declares the death of our old carnal nature.
His death is also our death. Romans 6:3-7Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? . . . knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin (read the entirety of chapters five through eight for full context). While on the Cross, as the Son of Man, Jesus took our sin upon Himself. Why do you think the sky went dark from the sixth hour onto the ninth while He we being crucified (see Matthew 27:45)? Why do you suppose He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Matthew 27:46)? He took our sin, so we wouldn’t have to be forsaken by Father. Jesus fully dealt with our sin issue, which made it possible for us to be formed into His image. When we were baptized into Jesus, we were counted as dead with Him, so we could also live with Him. His resurrection is ours as well. Galatians 2:20I 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.
A third thing the Cross reveals is our righteousness in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. This means if God declares you righteous, then you are righteous. Instead of being sin-conscious, you can now focus on righteousness. By taking this approach, sin will not be an issue for you. In other words, if you focus on not sinning, your focus is still sin. However, if you realize sin is no longer an issue before God, and you focus on living righteously, you will gravitate to righteous living. When you walk in the love and faith of Jesus Christ, you also walk in righteousness. By deciding to love well, you will also live well. 2 Peter 1:5-10Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.
These are only a few things the Cross represents for us. Truthfully, there is so much it does symbolize that it would overflow a library if it were written, which means there is so much more that could be said than what would fit into a single blog. The bottom line is that Jesus made the Cross about Father and us, and in turn, we make it about Him!
2 Corinthians 3:17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Do you feel stuck and cannot move forward, and even though the Word of God declares Jesus set you free, you don’t feel free? What’s going on? In some cases, it’s a matter of belief. Not in the sense of some mind game that says if you think or believe hard enough, you will somehow overcome your obstacle. Rather, it is an issue of what you believe to be true; but, before you can believe the what, you have to believe the Who. There’s an old song that says, “Whose report will you believe? We will believe the report of the Lord.” It goes on to say what His report says. If you don’t believe Him, it won’t really matter much what His report says, because you’re not in faith at that point. Not only do need to believe in the Lord, you need to believe Him.
Now, if you are having trouble believing Him, please don’t condemn yourself, and get sucked into the shame vortex. There’s something hindering your decision to believe.
Ironically, it ties in with what you believe about God. Sometimes, life experiences interfere with the way you see life, and yes, God Himself. Those who lived a hard life and experienced betrayal from those closest to them, tend to be cynical. That cynicism comes with them into the Kingdom. Granted, upon conversion, many immediately lose a great deal of it, or even all of that cynicism. Nonetheless, it can be difficult for some to even trust the One with Whom it is impossible to lie (see Hebrews 6:18). The shorter one’s history is with God, the more applicable this may be. However, it is up to the individual to make the decision about trust and how to see things. If you start with the principle God is good all the time and all the time God is good, you will be able to move to the next step: believe He absolutely loves you! There’s more proof of this fact than you will ever be able to see; but, you must decide to look for it. Read your Bible and see if there’s a passage of Scripture that says He loves everyone, but you. Time to squash that one! Remember, you cannot equate a negative past with a very good God. There’s another lesson to examine in relation to that one, but we’ll continue with this one.
Let’s address one more area of belief before going onto some of the things the Word actually says about freedom. We briefly touched on it: do you believe God loves you? If you don’t, then you won’t fully embrace His freedom and the gift of grace He has given you. There is much that could be said about this, but we’ll only address a couple things at this point.
One is stop viewing yourself from the past. As long as you see yourself as who you once were, you’ll fail to see yourself the way our loving Father sees you today. It is difficult to accept love if you believe you’re unlovable.
2 Corinthians 5:17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. New means new as in prototype –the first of its kind. Something that never previously existed. It’s far better than a remake or do-over. If God says you’re a new creation, then you’re a new creation. And you’re a new creation because He loves you. The Cross is a symbol of His love; not your sin, shame and failure. If you love Him, it is because He loved you first (see 1 John 4:16-19)! The death of Jesus Christ totally underscores this fact (see Romans 5:8).
Okay, what about freedom. Whose report will you believe, the Creator’s or His creation’s? Whose report is greater?
If you put more faith in what man says than God, your faith is misplaced. Man says, once an addict, always an addict. Once an alcoholic always an alcoholic and so on. You’ll just have to learn to live with your addiction (whatever that addiction may be). That is so not Bible! Even our opening verse of Scripture clearly says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord there is freedom!” Guess what, if Holy Spirit lives in you, you’re free if you believe it. As a man thinks, so is he. Even Jesus said, “So be it according to your faith.” If you decide to believe you’re in bondage, then you’re in bondage. You will continue to be in bondage because you will live like you are in it; even though, spiritually you are free. Obviously, some think their belief is greater than God. Yes, you can put yourself back into bondage; but that too is another lesson.
Ephesians 2:8-9For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Question: what is grace? It is God’s unmerited favor that empowers you to do and be what you could not do or be on your own. The word, “saved” means to be delivered, protected and healed. It means to make whole. The grace of God gave you power to live in freedom and righteousness. Ephesians 4:24And put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Holy Spirit is our Comforter in Whom we have comfort. If you allow Him to comfort you, your old habit of finding it in other things will disappear. Even though we’re no longer sinners, we still have the freedom of choice. God’s grace actually gave you the choice in that without it, you could not make the decision to walk in righteousness, much less with total freedom. Apart from God’s grace, people are in bondage to sin. It is self-deception to think otherwise. That being said, make the decision to be comforted by Holy Spirit. You now have a right to decide.
Decide to believe that you are righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. In Jesus Christ you are righteous and holy. By receiving this truth as your own, regardless of how you feel, your behavior will follow. Moreover, your emotions will follow suit.
“I don’t care what I feel right now, God’s Word is true! His Word says I am free!” Say this out loud right now, “I am free because God said so!” “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so . . .” (Psalm 107:2)!
Proverbs 18:13He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him. The Bible has much to say about listening. There has to be intentionality behind it; otherwise, so much is missed, gets misunderstood and conflict often ensues.
Something to consider in relation to listening is this: how well you listen to others reveals the value you place on them. Someone who loves well, listens well.
Our most important relationship is with God, or at least is should be for disciples of Jesus Christ. For those who struggle to hear His voice: what value do you place on your relationship with Him? How interested are you in what He has to say? Part of intentionality as it relates to listening is taking genuine interest in the other person. If you’re more concerned about him or her knowing and understanding you, more than likely they won’t. Think about it: how much do you listen to those who don’t show any interest in you? As the saying goes, “People don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care.
An important principle in good communication is checking your bias at the door.
Viewpoints and opinions interrupt listening when they’re not in check. It’s not necessarily bad to have a viewpoint in the conversation; unless, it is a bad lens through which one sees. Some may discover that their viewpoint is skewed, and it takes someone else to help clarify things. If they’re more interested in keeping it (flawed or not) than they are about the truth, they may be creating strongholds. Obviously, in such cases, pride, ego, envy and the like may be at the heart of the issue. Secondly, it is important to come into the conversation without a hidden agenda. To be sure, there are times when agendas are necessary to get things accomplished; however, they should be clearly stated ahead of time. The Bible tells us to do things openly (see 2 Corinthians 4:2). Those with hidden agendas often are master manipulators.
A good listener looks beneath the surface. If you truly value people, what’s in their heart, and what’s going on their life will be of interest to you.
In order to listen well, we need to see beyond someone’s words, because they don’t always reveal what’s going on. While it is true that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (see Matthew 12:34), the way people speak and how they’re behaving are also indicators of what’s in their heart. By now, you may have heard the phrase, “The issue is not (necessarily) the issue.” For example, mild-mannered Clark never gets upset about anything. He’s always calm, cool and collected. He never complains. Then one day while at work, you notice he’s griping about everything, even what you might consider insignificant. Then suddenly, Clark lays into a co-worker about the way he’s doing something; even though, he’s been doing it that way for years. In fact, it was Clark who trained him to do it in that manner. Are the little things and the co-worker’s performance the real issues? No, something’s going on at home, and it came to work with him. This is a simplification of this principle, but if you apply it to life in general, you might be amazed at how much patience you will have with others, and how far you can go with loving them well. Words and behavior do not determine who a person is; they reflect what’s in his heart. A jerk is not jerk simply because he’s a jerk. Things happened in his life to help mold his disposition. Whether it’s his childhood environment, his current one and everything between are contributors. Of course, if he doesn’t know Jesus Christ, he has no power to help himself. In short, more than likely the “jerk” is actually someone with deep wounds, who uses abrasiveness and anger to cope.
Proverbs 20:12The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made both of them. Not only do you need to be willing to see beneath the surface, you absolutely need Holy Spirit to discern the heart and its intents. A couple reasons are that you may “misdiagnose” the individual, and you may put something there that is non-existent. A quick example is when a person falsely accuses your friend to be a certain way, when you know better. He misunderstood your friend, while you know your friend’s heart. Without Holy Spirit, we tend to assume to know what’s going on. Jesus basically said it is important how we listen (see Luke 8:18).
Be willing to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
In other words, try to see his point of view. Pay attention to what set of lenses he sees through. Everyone has different backgrounds, upbringing and life experiences. They all influence the way they see things. It is easier to listen without being defensive when you consider from where someone comes. What makes sense to you may not make sense to him, and vice versa, because your lenses differ. If you don’t at least try to consider a different point of view, you will never listen well; much less, be a good communicator.
One final thought: if you find it difficult to listen to others in general, you may want to ask the Lord to reveal what’s in your heart that’s interfering. We’ve all had those one-sided conversations that are more of a monologue than a dialogue. Why are some people so self-absorbed?