I love journeys with the Lord, don’t you? Yes, sometimes they can seem a little scary because we don’t know where He is leading us. But isn’t that the point? If we knew where He was going, we’d run ahead of Him and miss out on all blessings (and growth) along the way. We would never grow in our understanding and relationship with Him. And we’d never know the plans that He had for our lives.
This week’s journey is meant to be challenging to every one of us. So are you ready for our adventure? The first question is “Who do you say I am?” VERY important question and even more important is our answer. Why do I say our answer is even more important? Because it will reveal our spiritual condition. That’s a scary thing. We all want to believe that we are spiritually fit and in tune with the Lord. But the honest truth is, we all fall short of where we should be. There are times we are very strong and walking in faith and allowing God to be in control. But we invariably end up taking control at some point.
If we are honest and truly desire to hear from the Holy Spirit we will see this new journey as an opportunity for God to thoroughly examine us so that we can see the errors of our ways, repent and turn away from the path we are on and get on God’s path. You will better understand this in a few minutes.
The second question is even more personal and revealing. “Who am I to you?” At first glance they may seem to be the same question but they are VERY different questions. See, the first question can be answered in the intellectual mind. In other words, in our head knowledge we can give an accurate answer based on what we have read or heard. However, the second question is personal and shines a light into our soul. Oh, we can still try to give the “right” answers but we will not get a confirmation in our spirit that we are in right standing with the Lord. That, my friend, is a place we do not want to find ourselves!
Scripture tells us that none of us are righteous, we have all fallen short of the glory of God and that none of us searched for Him. “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)
It may be tempting to just go to scripture to answer our first question and use the same response that Peter gave. Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) A more accurate translation would be “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” I think that it is important for us to understand that the Jews were expecting “the Messiah” to appear at any time according to the Scriptures. The Messiah was the “sent One”. So Peter was actually stating that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Sent One, and the Son of God. I love the response from Jesus because He is affirming Peter while teaching him a powerful truth. And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17) Wouldn’t you love to hear Jesus say this to you?
You may want to go back and read the scriptures before you get too excited. It is absolutely wonderful that Peter was able to hear our Father speak. God the Father gave him revelation but if you understand the scriptures correctly you will find that Peter still didn’t understand the truth of this revelation. Today we would say that “he just wasn’t getting it”. In the account in Matthew, immediately following this revelation, Peter is an open vessel for Satan to work through when he tells Jesus that he won’t allow Him to be killed. Jesus is very strong in His response to Peter, But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matthew 16:23) Jesus wasn’t calling Peter the devil. Jesus was actually speaking to the demonic spirit that was filling Peter’s mind with thoughts. The reason that Satan was speaking this through Peter is that Peter (and the other disciples) were all reasoning with their natural minds (in other words, operating in the flesh of man). We need to be very careful what and who we are allowing to fill our minds because it will determine if we are walking with the Lord or if we are aligning ourselves with demonics. And whenever we walk according to the flesh we are walking in sin. What is the sin? I hope you catch this because it will open up your understanding of the scriptures in a whole new level of understanding. The sin is idolatry! Whenever we walk in the flesh, according to the desires of our hearts, we are worshipping ourselves and telling the Lord that we do not need Him. “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7) “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
Let me ask you a question. Was Peter wrong in not wanting Jesus to be killed? Of course not! The problem was that he didn’t understand what Jesus had been teaching all this time. Yes, he had been given revelation of the true identity of Jesus, but he had not applied any of the prophetic truths of scripture to the revelation. This is just one of many instances I could use to demonstrate this point. So just like you and me, we can give the same answer as Peter did to the first question, but we too, like Peter, can still be spiritually bankrupt!
Remember I just said that the Jews were actually on the alert for the Messiah’s appearance? They knew the scriptures and were spiritually hungry for Him to appear. That is why there were always large crowds coming to hear Him teach. They brought their sick to Him because they knew He would heal them. Please notice the order, they came first to hear Him teach and His teaching was with authority they had never heard. (Mark 1:22) Therefore, they believed and brought their sick to be healed. But what they didn’t know, or understand, was that He was not coming to be their immediate King, nor was He there to defeat the Romans. They were looking for a conquering King who would make their lives easier and protect them from their enemies. So we also, like the Jews, don’t always know the purpose of the revelation we’ve been given. The only way we are going to get that understanding is by going to the written Word. The Holy Spirit is faithful to open up our understanding and to reveal the truth of scripture. The real question is, do we really want to know the truth? If we know the truth, we are held accountable to walk out the truth. When we walk out the truth we are set free of the bondages that have hindered us in our daily lives. Most people want to be set free, however, they don’t want to submit their lives to the gospel of Jesus Christ because they would be serving the true God and not be lord over their own lives. That isn’t meant to sound harsh, go back to Romans 3:10-12 which is quoted above, it is just bringing the Word into our personal lives.
So now we are faced with the second question. “Who am I to you?” Well, we can pull out our A-Z Praise List and begin listing all the wonderful characteristics of the Lord. It’s a wonderful list and one that I’ve used for years. The list can be used in many different ways. The first is obvious, it is a praise list of names from scripture of God. That is a great place to start because you will be quickly reminded, and hopefully, convicted of the many areas of our lives that we do not allow God to be in control. Every one of those names points out an area of sin in our lives which we now can repent of, turn away from and give over to the Lord for control and to begin walking in faith. That list should convict you of all the areas you have not given over authority to God. He is sovereign (Psalm 103:19), He knows your needs (Matthew 6:8), He knows your thoughts before you do (Psalm 139:4) “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.” (Psalm 139:13-18)
Take your time when reading this last passage, allow it to penetrate into your spirit. THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY created us! He had a plan for our lives from day one. He loved us, He pursued us, He died for us! Can you, with David the Psalmist declare, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.”? My friend, if you are struggling and acknowledge that you cannot praise God in this manner, there are one of two things going on in your life. The first is that you may have been walking in the flesh for so long that you have allowed your heart to become hardened and, therefore, you do not have the desire to KNOW the truth and APPLY UNDERSTANDING to God’s Word and walk in it. The second thing could be that you truly never truly received salvation. If that is you, repent and receive His salvation today! Salvation cannot be received without true repentance.
There may be someone right now who is going to say I am wrong because scripture states, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.“ (John 3:16) That’s absolutely correct! I completely agree. However, the word “believes” is the key. Let’s look at the definition. The Greek word is “pisteuo” and means to have faith in (a person in this instance), to entrust one’s spiritual well-being to Christ, commit to trust. When it refers to God it means to believe IN Him and trust IN Him as ABLE and willing to help and answer prayer. It is not being passive, it is an action that is taken. Does this describe your relationship with the Lord?
Do you remember the parable of the sower? In the Gospel of Mark we learn that when the disciples asked Jesus to explain the parable He spoke something very important before explaining the parable. And He *said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13) Jesus was teaching the disciples that if they were not able to know the truth by experience they would not be able to have understanding of any of the scriptures. This is true for us today. If we are not willing to apply the written Word of God to our lives and respond to His guidance, we will never know the truth. This is exactly what happened with the disciples. They were with Jesus, listening to all His teachings, seeing Him heal people and even feed over 5000 men, women and children with a few fish and a few loaves of bread. But they never applied any of His Word to their lives.
So let’s look at the teaching of Jesus. “The sower sows the word. These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:14-20)
There are four groups of people. The number four represents global application. Salvation can only be received through Jesus Christ. This parable plainly illustrates who the true believers are. That why it is so important to understand this parable. If we miss this, we will not be able to correctly discern the rest of scripture. The first group are those who hear but don’t apply it to their lives, they are continuing in their sin so Satan easily steals away their hope. They remain exactly the same as they were before hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.
The second group are those who get really excited and are full of joy when they hear the good news of Jesus Christ but they do not take the initiative to study the Word of God and become intimate with Him so as soon as they have a problem they naturally turn to the way they always have to handle it. Again, these do not grow or ever have a relationship with the Lord; they liked what they heard but quickly forgot it.
The third group represents a large portion of the believers today. They received the Word but still remain in control of their lives. Their focus is clouded by how to survive, making money, material goods, status, etc. and there is absolutely no fruit in their lives. They do not seek God to direct their lives. They don’t pray to seek direction in their jobs or in their marriage or family situations. They are consumed often with outward appearances. They dress to impress others, they may live in a house they can’t afford, they may be consumed with having luxury cars, boats, the newest phones, electronics, etc. They may be consumed with climbing the social ladder or getting that next big promotion. There is never going to be any biblical peace in their lives because they are always thinking how to obtain the newest thing to bring them pleasure. They are always worried about money or status. This group can also be those who have experienced many disappointments or hurts in their lives and they cannot move past their hurt. They hold onto it rather than to surrender it to the Lord and allow Him to heal them. These may even attend church and groups but there is no fruit because they are spiritually bankrupt.
Unfortunately, many believers today are asleep because they have felt the need to compromise the Word of God in order to stay in their jobs, keep their children in public schools, live in their chosen neighborhoods, not fight or be in disagreement with other family members, etc. The list goes on and on. Are you beginning to realize there may be areas in your life that you have compromised? If so, you have denied scripture and that brings spiritual death. Are you feeling defeated in your walk with God? This is why.
You may even be attending church, in a Bible study group, serving in a ministry and still feel like you are going through the motions. Listen to these next questions closely and be willing to honestly answer them. Does your church teach the PURE word of God? Or have they watered it down so that there is no power in it? When was the last time you heard a message that conviction was brought into your life? When was the last time you heard about the on-going need for repentance in your life? When was the last time you heard that you needed to repent of sins in order to receive salvation? When was the last time the Spirit of God was giving revelation and life to your spirit? Please do NOT confuse emotion with spiritual experiences! They are totally different. Emotional responses are from the soul of man and are apart from the Spirit of God. Do you spend personal time in the Word? I’m not talking about a two minute devotional to start off your day or end your day. That devotional was written by a person, even this one. I have always encouraged you to take every word written and compare it with scripture. Does it line up?
Then we have the fourth group who HEAR the Word, ACCEPT it with understanding, surrender to the authority of Jesus Christ and produce much fruit. They are a blessing to others, they trust the Lord to lead them in their finances, their employment, raising their children, etc.
This does not mean that God is going to make you rich and give you a big house! If you are hearing teaching declaring that giving of finances to evangelists or ministries is going to “bless you” by making you financially prosperous, this is a lie! Scripture does not teach a prosperity doctrine, it is a doctrine of man and is deception and leads to the path of destruction.
We are taught in scripture that when we are saved we are a new creation. “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) “and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Ephesians 4:24) We cannot stay in an unregenerate state if we are truly saved. There is evidence of our new birth! We will never be sinless as long as we are in this earthly body but we will DESIRE to please the Lord, to serve Him and walk as He walks. When we receive salvation we are sanctified, set apart for the Lord. Hebrew 10:10, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Acts 26:18, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” These are those who fell into the fourth group which Jesus taught about.
Which group of people represents your life? This is no time to let pride stand in the way of your salvation or developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. If the Holy Spirit is convicting you right now, please stop and RESPOND. Listen to gain understanding, repent of anything in your life that is out of alignment and receive the free gift of salvation. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 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, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For 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.” (Ephesians 2:4-9) And now walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), “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)
Now, going back to our A-Z Praise List, I would highly encourage you to take a few names each day and look up the scriptures where the character of God was revealed and allow the Holy Spirit to search you. Do you really know Him in such a way? Do you trust Him in that way? Do you honestly worship Him in that way because there is a testimony of Him in your life? You may discover that at one point in your life the testimony of the Lord’s sword fought off the enemies in your life, but now you do not bother to pick it up. Repent! Jesus didn’t come to condemn. He came to bring light into a dark world. And the world is getting very dark. Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (John 8:12)
I have to admit that if you are spiritually bankrupt and needing some good solid Bible teaching, your options are becoming very limited. That is one of the reasons for this blog, to bring us back to the pure Word that was given from the beginning of time. God spoke through Ezekiel these words for the children of Israel and they are the same ones He is speaking to us today, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations.” (Ezekiel 14:6) Many of the major pastors and teachers we are familiar with have greatly compromised the Word of God. What is being taught in most churches today is apostasy, false teaching. Unless you are in the Word (the whole Word from Genesis to Revelation) you will be lead astray. God does not change His mind from what He revealed to the writers of the Old Testament to that which is given to us in the New Testament. There are no conflicts! If you think there are conflicts you are not understanding the teaching given in the Old Testament. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) “But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.” (Psalm 102:27) “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.” (Micah 7:18)
If we are going to be spiritually strong we need to confront some truths that may cause us to become uncomfortable. We find it much easier to ignore scripture and continue on the broad path of destruction. That statement alone will cause many to want to ignore this warning. The majority of believers do not believe that their lack of obedience to the Word of God is something that God will judge. Is that what you believe? “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) I said to myself, “God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,” for a time for every matter and for every deed is there. (Ecclesiastes 3:17) “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) “Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
Let’s define sin. Sin is everything that is in opposition to God. Eve was deceived by the serpent and ate of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and it was sin because God had specifically said that they could eat of every tree EXCEPT that one. It looked good to her so she followed her OWN desire, sin entered the world through her. Because man is to be the head of the family, scripture refers to it as the sin of Adam because he was standing right there with her and didn’t even try to stop her and then ate of it also!
Look around you, look at your life, what is in opposition to the Word of God? “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” (Mark 7:21-22) In other words, all conflict is between the commandments of God and the traditions of man. This is true of the believer and the unbeliever. The only thing that separates us is our belief in Jesus Christ. Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) As we addressed in the beginning of this devotion that belief is an action word. It demands a response from us and that response is that we have right alignment in our lives where we submit to the authority of Jesus Christ in our lives.
So, again, the Lord asks you today “Who am I to you?”.
Abba Father, thank You for challenging us today! Your love is so deep that You continue to declare Your love for us over and over again. Forgive us for our being so short sighted and following after the things of this world rather than trusting You to supply those needs as we pray to You and submit our lives to You. You are the One and only true God and You supply all of our needs according to Your riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Your Word is Jesus Christ and through Him we find life everlasting. You instruct us in Deuteronomy 30:14, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.” How much more can we ask? You sent the Holy Spirit to live in us to direct and guide us in Your paths of righteousness! I pray for every reader of these words to have their eyes opened and their hearts softened that they may receive Your truth and walk in the newness of life through the transformation of their minds which we received upon our salvation. I pray all these things through the precious name of Yeshua, Jesus Christ. May You receive all the glory and honor! Amen.