The Apostle Paul is an example of a changed man. He was religious before he met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. On the road to Damascus he encountered the Living God and entered into a new life. The words he penned to the Philippians are words that have greatly impacted my life and explain this change so clearly. Listen with your heart to these words, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 3:7-14 emphasis mine) Please do not rush through these verses. Jesus Christ did not willingly sacrifice His life so that you and I may enjoy a life of pleasure! A true believer knows that life while on this earth does not mean that they can live however they want, doing whatever they want, living for themselves and then expect to be part of the Bride of Christ. This truth is so important that both Matthew and Luke included the words of Jesus in their gospels so that you and I would know if we were on the right path. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25) "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27) Jesus’ words give us a clear understanding of these words which He gave to us as guidance for our lives, "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 emphasis mine)
Have you found it? If not, a question that needs to be asked is, “do you want it?” Right here, my friend, is the crucial moment of decision. Either you enter in or you don’t. If you don’t, you are lost. You can fool yourself but you cannot fool the Lord. Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness." (2 Timothy 2:19 emphasis mine)
The picture that comes to mind as I hear these words in my spirit is the bride in the Song of Solomon. The whole book is about her journey of becoming who God created her to be. At first she is so excited that the Bridegroom belongs to her. "My beloved is mine, and I am his; He pastures his flock among the lilies.” (Song of Solomon 2:16) She desires to be with Him but on her terms and in her timing. She despairs when He is not there at her beckon call and goes searching for Him. That is a milestone in her life, maybe we could call it a marker of growth. Rather than being mad that He wasn’t there she realizes that she needs Him and will not stop until she finds Him. As you read her journey you see how she is abused by the authorities (representing church leadership and Laws), she doesn’t find help through mankind. Read that sentence again. Mankind has nothing to offer through ourselves. The only thing of value we have to give is the gift of Jesus Christ. We need to point the lost and the hurting to Him for healing and deliverance. Then part way through her journey she discovers the “secret”. "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine,.. " (Song of Solomon 6:3) Notice the change? Her life is no longer her own, she has entered into a new life. "I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10) She has drawn intimately close with her Beloved and realizes the truth that His desire to be with her is strong and sure! By the end of the Song we see a beautiful picture of the Bride, "Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?...” (Song of Solomon 8:5 emphasis mine) She looks to Him for guidance, she is surrendered. Then we hear Him speak these words to her (and you and me), "Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; If a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, it would be utterly despised." (Song of Solomon 8:6-7) These words give us a picture of a surrendered Bride. She is sealed with His love, nothing can separate her from His love. “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) He is a jealous God and wants all of her! “--for you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God--” (Exodus 34:14) "For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24) The Song of Solomon is a beautiful study that I highly recommend. For the full study please click on this link which will take you to a study that will change your life, www.songofsolomondevotional.com.
“Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:15-21 emphasis mine)
When I was a new believer I remember being struck by the word Paul used, “as many as are perfect” and immediately disqualifying myself. I was not perfect, I was a long way from being perfect. I still am not perfect and have a long way to go. But that is understanding “perfect” in our modern day expectations of being without flaw or complete. However, let us look at the Greek word for perfect so that we understand the true message that the apostle was relaying. The Greek word is “teleios”. It can mean being brought to an end, finished, lacking nothing, complete, full grown, mature. In terms of human beings, and in agreement with all the Scriptures, a believer is to be a disciple, a student. A student continues to learn and to grow in knowledge and wisdom. He is to become mature. That doesn’t mean that he has learned everything there is to know, but he has grown into a new person and has a firm foundation. He does not waiver when he hears “new” doctrine or “new ways” to follow Christ. He stays firm to the end in the full word of the Lord that is found in Scripture. He doesn’t discard certain Scriptures because they are “hard” or “not popular”. He isn’t swayed with each new idea that he hears. The Apostle James gives us further understanding in these verses, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 emphasis mine) In other words, we should be growing (being perfected) by each trial and with each trial becoming more solid in our faith knowing that the Lord is in control and we are in His hands and in need of nothing additional.
Does that describe you and your relationship with the Lord? Please do not confuse the word of “perfect” in the Scripture with being sinless or without sin. That is another Greek word and is not used here.The word used for sinless or without sin is only used one place in all of Scripture and that is in John 8:7, “But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’'" (emphasis mine)
So let’s go back a minute to something else the Apostle Paul warned us about in our walk. “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” I’m sure many of you are thinking that it is very obvious who is the enemy of the cross of Christ, but do you really? Yes, there are obvious people who operate in the ways of Satan and want to destroy those who follow Christ. But there is a much more subtle group that operates within the social structure of the church. They have introduced cultic practices and idol worship and New Age practices and middle eastern practices and false teachings and the ways of the world into the church and have turned the church into religious practices that do not point the way to Jesus Christ, do not glorify God nor draw the attendees into a place of desiring a relationship with the Lord. We also have “social justice warriors” who have made their “religion” fit their political beliefs, this is not the Christ of the Scriptures! We have prominent well known preachers who teach that Israel has no right to inhabit Jerusalem, that they “occupy Palestinian land” and therefore the people of God are to boycott Jewish made products and to hate the Jewish people, God’s chosen people! These preachers have chosen to pick and choose which Scriptures they want to build a case that is totally in opposition to Scripture!
We have preachers who do not even use the name of Jesus Christ in the pulpits! They preach a “feel good” message so that the person feels good about themselves, they exalt themselves, not God. Our churches have opened their doors to teachers who promote and teach yoga and contemplative prayer which both open up portals in the spiritual world to demonic activity. These same teachers, and many more, teach that those who teach strict adherence to the pure word of God, the Scriptures, are heretics. They are teaching that if you speak out to show the heresy being taught, that you are the problem, not the false teacher. Need I go on? Now read our Scripture at the beginning of this devotion again, “So My people are bent on turning from Me. Though they call them to the One on high, none at all exalts Him.” (Hosea 11:7) Believers today cannot rightly say that this Scripture only applies to the Israelites during Hosea’s day. It is a timeless picture that repeats itself in every generation it seems. It is heartbreaking to see that even those who call themselves believers and actually read the Scriptures fall to the wayside. But weren’t we warned about that too in the New Testament? Listen to these words of Jesus, "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another.” (Matthew 24:10)
Actually, we need to read the entire message of Christ that was His response to His disciples asking when He would return. “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, `I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.’” (Matthew 24:4-14 emphasis mine) Now we can see how the words that the Lord spoke to Hosea are applicable to our lives as well. They are living and full of truth. They give us warning but do we hear the warning? Do we repent? Do we turn from our wicked ways from idols and turn to the Living God and receive the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and allow His blood to wash us clean?
Do we seek to grow in intimacy with Him? Are we living stones? “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: ‘BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.’ This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,’ and, ‘A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.” (1 Peter 2:1-10 emphasis mine)
You and I have a calling from the Lord and it requires a response on our part. A response to hunger and search for His truth, a hunger to be like Him, a hunger to be a vessel for His glory! Many believers today are like the rich young ruler. Let’s read the entire account, “And someone came to Him and said, ‘Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?’ And He said to him, ‘Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ Then he said* to Him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ The young man said* to Him, ‘All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” (Matthew 19:16-22 emphasis mine)
I find this conversation very interesting because it is timeless. The young man’s response to Jesus when he was told to keep the commandments is no different than what a person would ask Jesus today if he were honest enough to admit it. ‘Then he said* to Him, ‘Which ones?’" Seriously? We actually think that Jesus would tell us not to worry about following certain Scriptures because it might be difficult for us? What do the commandments have in common that Jesus used to reply to the young man? They ALL point to putting others before ourselves! That is one of the foundations of our faith. If we are to be bond servants of the Lord we must put others needs before our own. What a difference from what we are taught today! Even Christian organizations are big into teaching that we need to have “self-esteem”. We are important! Others must treat us better than anyone else! We are the center of attention! Others should respect us! Others must think like us! I am the most important person, my needs come first! I am “entitled” to (you fill in the blank). That is the world we live in today.
But, maybe you are more like this young man. You were raised to be nice to your elders, care for others needs, be a good samaritan, respect others possessions and have good morality; you are a “good” person. You give to the poor and help your elderly neighbor. Those are all good things, they are necessary in order to have an orderly society. But there is a problem when we stop there, we are the supplier of not only our own needs, but of others. We become “gods” in our own eyes. Self-esteem tells us how “good” we are. We know that others watch our actions and that we look good in their eyes. But where is God in all this? Jesus was leading this man into the heart of the matter. All of those things are good and can be used to glorify God but often are done without the Lord’s presence. But when it comes to our possessions and giving of something worthwhile to us, that is another issue. We are proud of what we’ve accumulated, we are “secure” in what we have accumulated for our future. Give it all away????? Depend on the Lord to provide for us? Follow the path where the Lord calls us? Wait! I like being in control!!!!! That was the Lord’s point! We can do good things through our own efforts as long as we are making the decisions of how and where we spend our money. We like to accumulate wealth and possessions.
Let me be clear, Jesus isn’t saying we all need to be poor and destitute. Jesus and His disciples may not have owned much of anything in the way of possessions but they were rich in love and were always provided for. Maybe not in luxury or according to our definition of suitable accommodations, but they were lacking in nothing. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul above where he encouraged us to be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”? The more we grow in the mercy and grace and love of the Lord, the more satisfied we are. When Jesus told the young man that there was something he needed to do “to be complete” he was referring to “entering in” to a new life with the Lord. Surrendering his heart and his possessions. The problem was the young man’s idol was his riches. They were his security, they were his identity. Jesus didn’t need his possessions, but He does need our whole heart.
Today begins the new year on the Jewish calendar. It is a time of personal reflection of our walk with the Lord. Do we exalt Him? Do we really understand what it means to worship Him? Are we surrendered to His ways? I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to set aside some time with the Lord and allow Him to reveal areas of your lives that are not pleasing to Him. Enter into HIs presence. Make yourself ready to be presented to your Bridegroom. If He returns tomorrow for His bride, will you be among the chosen?
There is a Scripture which says, "For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:14) All of us are called to enter into the Kingdom of God, but very few actually are His. The majority are like the five virgins who were not prepared when the Bridegroom came. Out of the ten maidens, only five were able to enter into the Kingdom.
The time is now, today is the day to reveal where you stand. Are you part of the group that loves to put on a display of what looks like you are following the Lord, or are you really one of the true remnant that exalts the Lord in holiness? The one who walks the narrow road?
Abba Father, You alone are great and greatly to be praised! Like Your servant David, “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalms 61:2) Your words are sweeter than honey, they sustain me. Your ways are perfect and I desire to be more like You. Your ways are higher than mine and I need You to lead me in the everlasting way. Your words are life to me. Life without You is nothing. Search me, O Lord, and show me what is undesirable to You. Cleanse me of my sin that I am pleasing in Your sight. You are my strong tower and I rest in Your presence. I am my beloved’s and He is mine! All this I pray in the blessed name of Jesus Christ, amen!