The scriptures are clear that God loved us first, we didn’t go out searching for Him. “We love, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) If you question that truth, dwell on these verses which are written in both the covenants, “as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” (Romans 3:10-12) (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3)
How would we even be able to know what to “take hold of”? It would all be based on our understanding of what we envision the “kingdom” to be and what needs to be done. It seems to me that this is a very dangerous path as it depends on each one to use his/her own judgment based on personal desires. We actually do see this played out in scripture. When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a young colt the people lined the pathway and were laying down garments for the animal to walk on. They were waving palm branches and crying out “Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest”. I am intentionally not quoting the remainder of the verse because I want you to look with me at what the scriptures actually record. We are blessed to have three accounts of this historic entrance into the city so we can understand with greater discernment what was really taking place. “The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9) “Those who went in front and those who followed were shouting: “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David; Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10) “took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” (John 12:13)
The Jewish people were looking for the Messiah, the Son of David, which the scriptures spoke of. “then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’” (1 Kings 9:5) As Jesus went about the cities teaching, healing and casting out demons, He was referred to as the Son of David by the masses. So they were rightly honoring and praising Him as He entered the city. But there was a problem, a huge problem. What kind of king was David? A mighty warrior! The people of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas were under great oppression from the Romans. They were looking for a Messiah who would be as King David, a warrior, to deliver them from the Romans. Jesus had not come to set up His kingdom on earth at that time. The people were right to worship Him, He was the Messiah, He was the Son of David, but He had not come to be the reigning King of Israel. Can you see the subtle ways we can be lead astray by the vain imaginations of our own thinking?
So what does it really mean to have the Kingdom take hold of you? There are many references in scripture to “those who dwell on earth” and “those who dwell in the heavens”. Our natural understanding would say that the meaning in those phrases is quite clear, that the two groups are those who are alive on earth and those who have passed away and are in heaven. But I challenge you to search this out for yourselves. Those descriptions are reflective of where our hearts reside, or more accurately who we are actually living for. If we are living for ourselves we dwell on earth and are concerned about our personal needs and wants. However, if we are “blood bought” or “purchased and redeemed by the blood of Yeshua” our home and heart is already focused on the things of God and His plan for our lives. “for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ “ (Acts 17:28) “even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:5-6) “...so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:18) “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2-3) “For our citizenship is in heaven,...” (Philippians 3:20)
Again, let me give you an example from scripture that will illustrate how subtle it seems the difference is, when in actuality it is a major difference. “My beloved is mine, and I am his; He pastures his flock among the lilies.” (Song of Solomon 2:16) The bride here excited that she has received salvation. Maybe for the first time in her life she is receiving a kindness and affection she has longed for. This tender care is being given to her by the Bridegroom. Never has she known such love! All she can think of is how wonderful it is that He is hers! She understands that she can talk with Him and fellowship with Him but it is still on her terms. After she has gone through many experiences, both valley and mountain top experiences, she has matured and has fallen “in love” with her Bridegroom and learned to fully trust Him with her life. Now, listen to the bride’s declaration later in the Song. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, He who pastures his flock among the lilies.” (Song of Solomon 6:3) The second scripture reveals that sanctification (holiness) is growing and a change has taken place in the bride’s heart, but more importantly, in the bride’s life. She has submitted her life to the Lord. What is important now is His plans for her life. She desires what He desires, she has become a bondservant who joyously allows the life of Christ to flow through her so that others will be touched by Him. Everything in the life of the bride/surrendered believer/bondservant is ordered by the desire and will of God.
So let’s make it personal and each one of us place ourselves in the shoes of the bride we just spoke of. When you were confronted with your sin, confessed the sin, asked for forgiveness and accepted the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for salvation, you were justified (made clean and in right alignment with the things of God). However, that “new creation” that you have become must continue to grow, to desire, to hunger and thirst for the things of God to be made manifest in your lives. You have not only seen the sin in your life but no longer desire to live as you had. All things were made new, And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:5) The things of old have passed away, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Is this new life a reality in your own life? Are you growing in Christ’s righteousness and experiencing a growth in sanctification? (Sanctification is being set apart as a vessel to be used by God, as well as the progressive desire to be made holy and not have sin in our lives.) (1 Peter 1:15-16) “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;” (1 Peter 2:9) Is your life being lead by the Holy Spirit in the things of God? Are your decisions made by God’s direction? Are you in God’s will? Does your life reflect His plan for you according to Scripture?
These may be difficult questions for some. If that is you, there is no reason that cannot be changed today. Jesus never promised that following Him would be easy or that life would be without trials and persecutions. As a matter of fact, He promised we DEFINITELY WOULD have trials and tribulation! (Matthew 24:9) There definitely are situations in our lives that God has ordained and placed us there for a specific reason. We cannot lean on our understanding but are to seek Him so that He is glorified. Sometimes, however, many of the situations and problems in our lives are ones of our own making because we have not been obedient to the Word of God. In other words, there is sin in our lives, and it needs to be repented of so we can move forward. Is there unforgiveness in your heart towards others? Have you taken an offense and won’t let it go? Are you jealous of others? Is pride a problem? Is money your motivator? Is your lifestyle keeping you in bondage?
These are only a few of the questions that could be asked, but I know that if you truly are seeking the Lord then you will stop right now and allow the Holy Spirit to speak. Come into agreement with God about the condition of your heart. Allow Him to minister to you. He will reveal the “root” of the problem so that true healing and deliverance can be experienced. Repent and ask forgiveness. Then LISTEN. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) Listen to this statement, which is also noted at the beginning of this devotion, which the Apostle Paul also stated to the disciples at Ephesus, “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24) That is the bottom line, isn’t it? Are you living out the ministry that you received from the Lord Jesus Christ?
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. his wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” (James 3:14-17)
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” (Ephesians 4:30-31)
“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,” (1 Peter 2:1-2)
If you have spent any time really studying the scriptures you will have seen that the teachings of Jesus are no different than those spoken by God in the Old Testament. So as we continue in this next portion of study please weigh these words carefully. Jesus told His disciples that the first two listed here are the foundation on which all the Word of God stands! (Matthew 22:38)
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
“AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH. “’ (Mark 12:30)
‘“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
The prophet Isaiah gives us a beautiful description of our position in Christ as well as the joy that we are to experience in our lives because of this new life we are to embrace. “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, my soul will exult in my God; for He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10) Does this describe you? If you answered “no” then you most likely have not allowed the Kingdom to take hold of you.
The Apostle John gives us a clear understanding, through the words of Messiah, of why we are adorned with a robe of righteousness. “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:8) The righteous acts of the saints are the plans that God has already established for us. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) If there is a conflict between our lifestyles and walking in the plans of God, we are not in God’s will and we are not clothing ourselves in fine linen, bright and clean.
My life was a total disaster before I surrendered everything to Jesus Christ. I know, very distinctly, when I gave my life to Him but it was not for many years later that I let go of that life and put it in His hands. It has been a wonderful journey since that time, full of joy, sorrow, struggles, challenges, trials and heartaches but because of trusting Him through it all I am no longer the same person that began this journey. I can attest of God’s faithfulness in every situation. He had led me into positions of employment that paid well and then He would call me out and I had to trust Him to provide for us because the loss of income was a large portion of our budget. We prospered during those years because of being obedient to His Word and trusting Him in all areas of our lives. He placed me in positions that without total dependence on Him I would drown. In other words, He was glorified, it was all about Him, not about me. I had the privilege of seeing lives changed through His Word because I was surrendered.
My greatest lesson in all this? Falling in love with Jesus and depending on His Word to guide my every step. Will others always be there to cheer you on and tell you that you are doing the right thing? Absolutely not! (As a matter of fact, you will probably have more people telling you that you are NOT being reasonable and that you shouldn’t be doing what God called you to do.) Trusting God and His ways are a very foreign thing to most people in this world. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
As I read scripture the Holy Spirit has always challenged me to examine myself and see if my life lined up with the Word. I’m not perfect by any means, but the desires of my heart are to please the lover of my soul! “With all my heart I have sought You; do not let me wander from Your commandments.” (Psalm 119:10) “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) Psalm 119 has so many verses that I’ve highlighted that I’d have to write out the whole Psalm! A couple to entice you to pursue this Psalm in your personal time are: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) The Holy Spirit reminds me often that the way will only be lit for a step at a time, He isn’t going to give me the roadmap beforehand! And I believe that is a real stumbling block for many, they aren’t willing to trust God for one step at a time, they want to see the entire plan laid out. Ever wonder why He won’t do that? Because you will take a shortcut or think you have a better plan and change it! “Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10)
“How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103) Are the words of God sweet to you? If you struggle in this area, stay in the book of Psalms and let His Word begin to transform your heart! “Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.” (Psalm 119:133) This verse is the beginning of surrender! We acknowledge that we need His guidance, His protection, His wisdom and His mighty Hand to lead us in the paths of righteousness! Our wisdom is no match for the enemy!
“Your word is very pure, therefore Your servant loves it.” (Psalm 119:140) Only God is righteous, He is holy, He is pure and He wants me (and you) to be transformed into His likeness! “The LORD is my portion; I have promised to keep Your words.” (Psalm 119:57) As His light begins to open our eyes, the cry of our hearts is to proclaim that He is our portion, He is our life and without Him there is no life.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20) This is a daily walk. We will be confronted with situations, sometimes it seems as if a semi truck shows up and unloads all of its contents on us, but we take it to the Lord in prayer and He will guide our footsteps and He will be glorified.
“that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;” (Philippians 3:10) You usually do not hear this entire verse quoted. Most will quote the beginning because it is positive and uplifting. Who doesn’t want to hear “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection”? But the “fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death”? I challenge you to read of the lives of the 11 Apostles and how they died as well as the Apostle Paul (who truly was selected by God). You will not see one of them saying that he was unwilling to go where God lead him, or to follow the written Scriptures! Read the letters in the New Testament, they were sold out for the love of Messiah! (Also note that all of the writers in the New Testament extensively quote the Torah, Tanakh and the Prophets (all of which we call the Old Testament). These were the written scriptures that the apostles used in teaching. God’s plan and His message has never changed! (Hebrews 13:8)
I am so thankful for the transparency of the writers in the Scriptures. They do not hide the struggles nor do they hide their emotions from us. With the leading of the Holy Spirit we can feel their joy, their pain, their struggles and their victories! They give me hope and encouragement because I know that they have already walked in the path that I am now walking! These verses give me encouragement daily as I navigate through this life, knowing that it’s a temporary place, “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.” (Philippians 3:12) “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
We must come into agreement with the Word of God and let it “take hold of us”! I love what the Holy Spirit imparted to Luke, the physician who was among the believers in the Upper Room and journeyed with the apostles on their missionary journeys. “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) If God has willed it for your life and you come into agreement with Him, He will lead you into the fulfillment. Do you want it? Are you willing to trust Him to walk in it? Are you willing to sacrifice the “success” of this world for the “fulfillment” of God’s achievements? A measuring rod that Jesus taught His disciples is also our measuring rod today, “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)
My dear brothers and sisters, it is not a difficult thing that God has called us to be. But we MUST allow Jesus Christ to become Lord of our lives. Set aside our pride, take ourselves off the throne and submit our lives to the One who gave His all, we are to be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) What joy is the writer speaking of in this verse? You and me! We are the joy of the Lord’s heart!
I find this verse to be perfect to end this devotion, so with the Apostle Paul, I pray these words for you today that you will receive them and be encouraged that nothing is impossible through Jesus Christ! (Philippians 4:13) “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
Thank You Lord God that You continue to stir us up and by the power of the Holy Spirit draw us to You. Your love flows over us as a river bringing refreshing waters to grow us and sustain us. Thank You that You never give up on us. Even when we stumble You are there waiting for us to draw near to You and ask forgiveness for our sins and help to turn away and walk in the new life that You have given us. Thank You for reminding us today that greater are You in us than he who is in the world! (I John 4:4) The enemy has been defeated by Your Son Jesus Christ. We know that the enemy has raised up an army to send deception and cause defeat among those who believe. We are being led astray by the tares that are in our churches. Open the eyes of our hearts to see You clearly and to hear the truth of Your Holy Spirit so that we might not stumble. We stand today willing to walk together on the narrow road, knowing that You are our Guide and that You will never leave us or forsake us. Our lives are not our own. We are humbled that You would call us Your heirs. May we be worthy in Your sight. We love You and bow down and worship You! All this we pray in the blessed name of Your Son, Messiah Yeshua, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Sent One who is God With Us! Amen and amen!