No Confidence in the Flesh

Dear Reader;

May the grace, peace and mercy of God be with you, through His Son, Jesus, whom He has appointed King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords. Friends, it is astonishing to see just how anti-biblical some of the deeply held beliefs in our societies are. And it is even more troubling when we see that they are deeply held even by our own Christian brothers.

Take for instance, the notion that we need to believe in ourselves.

This commonly accepted belief takes many forms: We need to have faith in ourselves. We can do anything that we put our minds to. We have amazing potential that just needs to be unleashed. These are just some of the ways this belief is expressed.

We see this belief applied in every domain of our lives, all geared toward some “betterment” of ourselves, our loved ones or our community, whether it be physical fitness, career advancement, or wealth generation.

But look at how the Apostle Paul expresses one of the defining characteristics of Christ’s followers:

Philippians 3:3 – …we are the circumcision, the ones who worship by the Spirit of God, boast in Christ Jesus, and do not put confidence in the flesh

The statement…do not put confidence in the flesh…refers to the fact that Christians should believe that they are incapable of doing anything worthy of anything by themselves, through some form of inner ability that – as being widely believed today – all of us may possess (what the Scripture calls the flesh).

Romans 7:18For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.

This statement is perhaps even more troubling and echoes the sentiment of Philippians 3. Paul said that nothing good lives in him. It is incongruent to both believe that nothing good lives in you and at the same time believe that you have within you what it takes to accomplish anything worthy.

Now, you may at this point read these and call to mind the countless stories of success (your own, or of others) which attest to the contrary: Evidences which prove that indeed we have within ourselves the ability to accomplish whatever we put our minds into.

Romans 3:4…Let God be true, even though everyone is a liar

Man does indeed have an inner ability, but it is not to do anything good

How we do reconcile what the scripture says with the countless evidences which seem to affirm the opposite of what God says?

I submit to you that one may find the answer – among other places – in Romans 7:18 we just read.

Romans 7:18For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.

Whatever we can accomplish through the strength of our will, our inner strength (however that ability is labeled) is not good.

But what is “good”?

GOD defines what is good (unless we want to define for ourselves what is good, at which point we have made of ourselves our own God). And only things that can be accomplished through Him and Him alone are considered good. Everything else is not good.

Hence we may say, that if one desires to satisfy the passions of his flesh, he indeed has the ability to do so within himself, for his flesh is inside him. But the one who desires to do anything that is good – and hence, pleasing to God – is incapable to do so but with the help of God Himself.

Should we therefore hold onto the belief that we can do anything we put our minds to?

No, we run away from it, for that mentality only promotes the flesh, and its sinful desires, no matter holily those desires may portray themselves. Just think of the Galatians who thought it a good thing to circumcise themselves (Galatians 3:1-5).

And this applies to ALL of our aspirations in life. No matter how noble and right they might appear. If we are able to attain to them through our own strength, then we ought to know that they were nothing more than the sinful desires of our flesh.

In me dwells no good thing. I place no confidence in my flesh. I am incapable of doing anything that is good, for myself, my children or my community. I am wretched and miserable, destitute.  

Romans 7:24What a wretched man I am!

We should truly believe in our utter destitution so that we may truly believe in our utter dependence on God.

Only with the profound belief that we are destitute and incapable of doing anything good for ourselves or anyone will we cherish and hold onto our dependence on GOD, THROUGH WHOM WE CAN DO EVERYTHING THAT IS GOOD.

Philippians 4:13I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.

May the Spirit of Christ ministers to you the Word of Truth, for the glory of His own Name.

AMEN.

Burning Out in Search of Your Purpose

May the God of all grace, who is rich in wisdom, and abounding in mercy, be with you in the name of our Lord Jesus-Christ. I wonder how you would describe your Christian life. Has it so far been one of constant fire for the Lord? Or can you distinctly identify periods of drought, sometimes very long ones? Periods where you were – and perhaps still are – simply cold toward spiritual matters. May be even worse. Do you feel like you have simply run out of steam for God?

You can remember the days when you had all the zeal of the world. Perhaps that was at your new birth and the months that followed it. On fire you were to even preach the gospel. Volunteering at your local Church, even proposing new ideas of ministry. But now…

…You are exhausted. You feel like you have been doing everything you can, but now, you are tired, and that zeal is just not there anymore. At best, a routine has settled in, but spiritually and emotionally, you are somewhere else.

You, have burned out.

This burning out, is not like the one Paul is describing, where, precisely because of the Gospel, they were persecuted on every front.

2 Corinthians 1:8We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength—so that we even despaired of life itself.

No, the burning out I am describing is where your Christian zeal is gone. Your prayer life is all but nonexistent, and your active involvement in Church is a thing of the past.

And even worse…

It seems like it does not really matter whether you find in you the energy to jolt yourself back up. God Himself seems silent. Not a word from Him, not a word of encouragement from Jesus in your head that perhaps says “Yes, go ahead, I am with you, do not give up!”.

What is my mission? What is my ministry? What is my calling? Why can’t I seem to find it? Why am I just not on fire for Him?

These are just some of the questions you have been wrestling with.

You, have burned out.

What is Happening?

I would not pretend to have the comprehensive answer on the matter, nor presume that God would reveal such to me. But one potential big reason could be the mistake we often make of placing the carriage before the horse.

We are focusing on the ministry before focusing on ourselves.

When you look at the words of Jesus, and of His apostles after Him, by in large their focus was on our personal growth, rather than our ministry.

Jesus’ message was full of Do’s and Don’ts for our personal life. He preached so that our very character will change. You can read Matthew 5 to 7 for a good illustration of this. His focus was not for us to engage on a quest to find our “ministry”, but to embark on a life of internal transformation by getting rid of moral traits, habits and behaviors which keep us far from God.

The Apostles’ message echoed their Lord and Master’s. Very little – if anything at all – is found in their writings about how to get creative in the church, how to attract new members, or how to get children engage in Bible school. No, we do not see any of that. But what do we see instead? A call for personal transformation. A call for each of us to look inward, a call to fight old habits and put on new ones.

Galatians 5:19-25Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Fighting our old nature – the flesh and what it produces – is where our focus should be. The fruit of the Spirit is not described as a series of activities in the Church, or a series of personal ministries, but instead as a list of character traits that are in perfect agreement with the Laws of God.

It is God’s part to give you a ministry, not yours – It is your part to fight your old habits, not His

And so we find ourselves often focusing on something else that God would have us focused on. We want to work for Him, but we are not focusing on purifying ourselves as He commanded. And therefore often we move forward, with our temporary zeal and creative mind, only to run out of steam because the Lord, was never with us to begin with!

2 Timothy 2:21 So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

It is the Master’s privilege to judge us fit for use. Sure, as we fight our old nature and put on the new one supplied by the Spirit, we will find ourselves “doing” things that could rightfully be described as doing ministry work. But they are not the focus, for they are simply the natural product of the transformation that is taking place inside of us, which should be our focus.

And if God judges that we should spend the rest of our lives here on earth doing nothing else but transforming ourselves, rather than doing any kind of ministry, so be it, for it will all be worth it. For remember, only holy people will see God (Hebrews 12:14).

Matthew 5:8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

May the Lord Jesus live His life in You, through the Holy Spirit, for the glory of the God the Father.

AMEN

The Gift of Repentance

Dear friends;

I pray that the grace of God be with you, you who call Jesus LORD.  I hope that by His mercies, I may exhort you in a few words.

To those who have erred away from God, and are currently feeling the burden of their guilt.

Please consider the reaction of the Father whose son had grievously hurt him, as recorded in Luke 15. In essence, the son was impatient to get his inheritance. Put it bluntly, for him, his father was not dying soon enough. So he asked for his inheritance, left the house, indulged in a life of party, drinking and fornication, until he lost everything, became a beggar, and had to take a job to feed pigs. He was not even considered worthy to eat what he was giving to the pigs (Luke 15:16).

In a severe state of distress, the guilt of what he had committed caught up with him. We know it because he no longer saw himself as the son of his father. Instead, he said…

Luke 15:18,19 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’

However, when he did return, the reaction of the Father caught him by surprise…

Luke 15:20-23 –  So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast…

Some of you have wondered away from God, and some, for far too long. In fact, I would not be surprised that some of you are as guilty as this man. You have, by how you lived, hurt your Father, God to the same extent.

And among you, there are some who are now feeling that guilt. The guilt of your sin has caught up with you. I would like to encourage to run back to God. You may not feel that you deserve to be called the Son or Daughter of God…and THAT IS GOOD, for you are ready to offer true, real, genuine, repentance to God, which to Him, is the greatest of joy he can experience, after the pain you have inflicted Him.

Do not rob God of that Joy. Run to Him, your heart broken, your face covered in shame, and confess your sin before Him. He WILL NEVER refuse such a gift of repentance, and restore you into His fold. And you, will be a changed person!

In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Knowing Christ

My dear Brothers and sisters;

Oh that we need to have our eyes opened so that we may know what we ought to know, namely, the surpassing value of knowing Christ. I pray the Father, in the name of Jesus, that He may grant to us such blessing, for if we do not know Christ, and the value of knowing Him, we have no hope of seeing ourselves transformed. We will continue to be at the mercy of our sinful dreams and desires, at the mercy of the latest current of our societies. At the mercy of our many limitations as human beings. And we will simply not know what we should know, until it will be too late.

The Apostle Paul knew the “Value” of Knowing Christ

We see in his letter to the Philippians that the Apostle Paul had come to understand the surpassing value of knowing Christ. He came to realize that knowing Christ was the greatest treasure he had to possess, above – and actually in lieu of – everything else that He had.

Philippians 3:7,8 But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…

Knowing Christ was, for Paul, worth everything and more. He did not simply consider that everything that he had – and was in his society – to be little to lose in order to gain that intimate knowledge of who Christ is, but he also considered them to be a real waste, an encumbrance.

Philippians 3:8Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Christ.

One element that is very interesting to note is that Paul plainly declared that he did not yet know Christ, but that this was his goal, and that he was doing everything to reach it.

Philippians 3:10-12My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, 11 assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. 12 Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

But my question to my God is HOW? HOW Father may I KNOW THE VALUE of Knowing Christ?

If I know the value, my life will change. My desires will change. My pursuit will change. At this point, it matters more to me that know the value of knowing Christ, for if I do not know its value, how will I pursue that knowledge. Paul knew the value, hence he made “every effort to know Christ”.

Oh my people, the answer is right before our eyes! It is right there in the passage itself: CHRIST HAS TO TAKE HOLD OF ME FIRST!

Philippians 3:12 – Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

The verb translated “taken hold of” is katalambánō [Greek: 2638], and it has a forceful, almost violent connotation to it. It means to grasp something in a forceful (firm) manner; (figuratively) to apprehend (comprehend), “making it one’s own.”

Is that how the Christian life starts? I am not sure. Perhaps not necessarily. But one thing seems sure to me: Understanding the value of knowing Christ starts this way. Christ must take hold of me. He must apprehend me. He somehow must manifest Himself to me FIRST.

We know that the consequences of Christ taking hold of us are pretty severe, if Paul’s loss of everything is any indication. Could it be therefore that there is timing to when Christ does decide to take hold of each one of us, so that He does it when He knows it is the right time? I ask God for I do not know.

But one thing Paul does offer is the following. Whatever truth we DO know, we should strive to live up to it.

Philippians 3:16,17In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained. 17 Join in imitating me, brothers and sisters, and pay careful attention to those who live according to the example you have in us.

May God open your eyes and mine, that we may understand these deep truths, and the value of knowing His Son, Jesus, the CHRIST.

In Jesus name. AMEN.