THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (4)/ THE GIFTS OF HEALINGS

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The gifts of the Holy Spirit (4)/ Her main scriptures were taken from the Books 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; John 4:46-54; and Jer 17:14

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – INTRODUCTION

These gifts are special supernatural abilities given by God, the Holy Spirit. They are royal family gifts. By using them we resemble Jesus and God, our Father. They are a witness that our salvation is supernatural. These abilities are not natural. The Christian is not born with them. They are not gained thru the study of the Bible or education in general. A pastor or an elder can pray and lay hands on a believer who desires gifts. But no man can give these gifts. They manifest the atmosphere of heaven on earth. These are Grace-Gifts. In Greek, the word ‘gifts’ is ‘charismata’. The word ‘charis’ means Grace. These gifts are not rewards for labor and are not merited. They are free gifts from King Grace! The Holy Spirit is sovereign in distributing these gifts. He gives them according to His will and depending on the need in the local church. God can give them to baby Christians or to the mature ones! The gifts give glory to God! They increase the unity of the Body and the manifestation of miracles.

THE GIFTS OF HEALINGS

“To another gifts of healings by the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:9).

Healing is a great subject in the Bible. Healing was part of the ministry of Jesus. His disciples also healed sick people. The gifts of healings are powers given by the Holy Spirit to heal any form of sicknesses, spiritual, mental, or physical, acute, or chronic, without using any visible means. Healing is defined as restoration back to health of one who was sick. Restoration is a return to the former, normal, original state of health. It also means restitution, bringing back something (health) that was stolen or lost. Sickness is going astray. Health is coming back to the God given state of wellbeing. This is what God says: “Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; And all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; Those who plunder you shall become plunder, and all who prey upon you I will make a prey. For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds,’ says the Lord, ‘Because they called you an outcast saying: “This is Zion; No one seeks her” (Jer 30:16, 17). A good verse about recovery of lost health is found in the story of David. The Amalekites have stolen his wives and all his goods. He prayed to God and God answered him: “So David inquired of the LORD, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?” And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all” (1 Sam 30:8). Many who are sick are too lazy to pray and pursue the devil, to recover their health. They settle for second best. They accept sickness as part of their ‘portion’ in the land of the living. Let us do like David!

Healing through this gift happens without the use of medicines or surgery. The believer who prays for the healing of another does not need to know the name of the sickness, prognosis, or what type of treatment should be used. The Bible does not explain the meaning of this gift. It is difficult to explain. This gift appears only in 1 Corinthians 12. It is the only gift that appears in plural. It seems that there is a gift for each sickness. Some say that the gift was only temporary and now, it does not manifest. Others say it continues to manifest. Jesus healed people miraculously. He gave the power to His disciples to do the same, in His name. Even after the death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven of Jesus, miraculous healings continued to manifest. The gift of healing is not the same as the gift of working miracles, which is greater and wider in scope. Physical healing was a sign of the authority of Jesus and of His compassion. It is a form of advert to attract people to Jesus and to the Gospel. God’s miraculous healing is the only healing that is total, painless, free of charge, without any complications and brings all the Glory to God! Healing happens thru faith in Christ alone. This faith may be supplied by the sick man, by the believer who prays, or it is a combination of both. This gift is not given to become rich or famous. The gift of healing is given by God, the Holy Spirit, who is sovereign. It is given to heal the poor and weak brethren, to strengthen them, to increase the unity of the Body. The Holy Spirit is sovereign in the distribution and manifestation of this gift. The believer cannot control the gift. He must be led by the Holy Spirit to know when the gift will manifest. For example, Naaman was healed of leprosy by the prophet Elisha. But the same prophet could not heal his own servant Gehazi from leprosy (2 Kings 5). The Apostle Paul healed many people but could not immediately heal his friend, Trophimus, whom he left behind sick (Ac 19:11, 12; 2 Tim 4:20).

When it comes to the exercise of this gift, someone who has medical experience has no superiority over others. For example, Luke, the theologian also called ‘the beloved physician’ (Col 4:14), has no advantage over Peter, an illiterate fisherman. The source of the healing is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord Jesus Christ, and thru the Holy Spirit. The only method for healing is speaking the Word and prayer! God alone takes all the glory for the healing! For example, both Paul and Luke arrived on the Island of Malta, after the shipwreck. It was Paul who healed some sick people over there. It was not Dr. Luke (Ac 28:8, 9). The exercise of this gift should not make us look down on medical science, and the medical personnel who have helped people greatly over the centuries. It is true that all healing comes from God. But it is good to know that medical science is the world’s way of healing. But God’s way of healing is though miracles, by exercising the Gift of Healing. The medical treatment of sicknesses done by doctors or nurses, using medicines or surgery, is not recommended in the Bible. The Word of God does not recognize modern medical treatment. In heaven there is no sickness. Therefore, there are no doctors, nurses, or hospitals! Selah!

For healing, there are only two ways the Bible recommends that we should us: 1-THIS GIFT OF HEALING and 2-PRAYER OF FAITH!

We obey God’s Word by praying for this gift or by praying for the sick, by laying of hands, and by anointing with oil, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (Jam 5:14-16). As you can see, James does not tell them to look for a brother who has the gift of healing. He tells them to go to the leaders of their own local church The leaders are spiritually mature brethren. They will pray with faith and God will heal the sick person.

Prayer: “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise” (Jer 17:14)

JEHOVAH RAPHA

This incident in the wilderness reveals for the first time that God is the Healer of His people. He introduces Himself and Jehovah Rapha, God the Healer. “Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore, the name of it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So, he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you” (Exo 15:22-26). After God’s people celebrated the crossing of the Red Sea, just three days later, in the wilderness of Shur, they started complaining because they saw no water to drink. They found a pool of water, but it was bitter. The people complained but Moses prayed to God. Prayer is always the key to move on. God tells Moses to cut down a tree planted by the Bitter waters. Please observe that the solution is not far. It is ‘planted’ in the problem. Once Moses cut down the tree and threw into the bitter water of sin, the water became ‘sweet’. The word ‘tree’ also means ‘carpenter’. This is a picture of the Cross of Christ. At the Cross, there is salvation and healing. God tested them to see if they obey Him or not. Obedience to His Word prevents sickness and leads to many blessings. When you are sick, pray for a fresh revelation of God’s Word.

Years later, when he got sick, King Asa failed the test of Jehovah Rapha. “In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa developed a disease in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his illness he did not seek the LORD, but [relied only on] the physicians. So, Asa slept with his fathers [in death], dying in the forty-first year of his reign” (2 Chr 16:12, 13). In this story, King Asa, developed a sickness in his feet. He did not seek God during his sicknesses. He put all his trust in the physicians. Lesson: n all situations, even when we suffer or we are sick, we should seek God’s face through His Word. Godly wisdom is found during times of trials. Then the healing may come. To trust man is a curse (Jer 17:5). During your sickness, if you trust only the doctors, they will take the glory for your healing. But if you trust God alone, then God will take the glory!

JESUS’ COMMAND: PREACH THE GOSPEL AND HEAL THE SICK!

“Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere” (Lk 9:1-6).

Jesus gave His disciples ‘power’ to preach, heal and deliver. In Greek, the word ‘power’ means delegated authority, privilege, freedom, or mastery. It means that Jesus expects His disciples to study how to be successful in ministry. This does not mean to attend a regular Bible school, or medical school. It is a lifestyle, a walk of faith led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. You may start as a spiritual ‘apprentice’, but with time, faithfully applying the Biblical principles, you become a master in the field of faith. Jesus trusts you with His authority over sin and sickness. Jesus promised to pay for all expenses concerning your ministry. The healing must be purely by prayer of faith or through the gift of healing. It applies to all types of ‘sickness or disease’, anything that troubles or weakens the body or the mind. If any man or family rejects the ministry of preaching or healing, it will be a sin against that one. God will call those to account.

Healing the sick, together with teaching and preaching the Gospel is part of the believers’ responsibility. “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Mt 9:35-38). Compassion for the weak and sick is the basic motive of the healing ministry of Jesus. We believers are laborers in His field. We need the same compassion to be like Jesus. Compassion means to be emotionally moved with pity, to feel the pain of another. The word ‘weary’ means to be troubled, frustrated, harassed, or annoyed. The word ‘scattered’ means to be harassed by enemies, to faint from fear, or to shake. Sheep that have gone astray, are under attack by wolves or by sickness. These sheep cannot defend themselves. Their only helper is their Shepherd. That Shepherd is Jesus. We the believers are shepherds under the Great Shepherd. We need compassion, love, and faith to help God’s flock. Pray that more believers take their responsibility seriously and help others.  

PEOPLE’S REACTION TO MIRACULOUS HEALINGS REVEALS THEIR HEARTS

People reacted to the miraculous healings in two ways: some were amazed and gave glory to God. Others gave glory to the devil. The Pharisees attributed the power of Jesus to the devil (Matt 12:22-24). After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the Pharisees wanted to kill both Jesus and Lazarus (Jn 12:9). Paul and Barnabas healed a lame man at Lystra. The people around thought that they were gods. They wanted to worship them. When Paul discouraged them saying that they are only men like them, they beat them and almost killed them (Acts 14).

PETER HAD THE GIFT OF HEALING

Peter had the gift of healing. He healed the lame man who was asking for money, Aeneas, and brought Dorcas back to life. This gift helped him in his ministry as an evangelist. “Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength” (Ac 3:6, 7). “Peter found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately. So, all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord… 40 But Peter put them all out and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. Then he gave her his hand and lifted her up; and when he had called the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord” (Ac 9:33-35; 40-42). Praise the Lord!

THE CROSS IS THE PRICE FOR SALVATION AND HEALING

There is a price to pay for divine healing. The price was paid at the Cross. Jesus died and rose again for me, for the salvation of my soul and for the healing of my body. The devil hates that you should know the truth. Healing removes suffering and destroys the works of the devil. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Ac 10:38). “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8). What are some of the works of the devil? He steals the Word from men’s heart (Matt 13:19); he teaches men to kill and to lie because he is a murderer and a liar (Jn 8:44).  He blinds the minds of people to the truth of the Gospel. He keeps them ignorant to the power of God’s Word to save, heal, and deliver. The devil is the agent of doubt, fear, and unbelief. He blinds men’s minds to the truth (2Cor 4:3, 4). Because of the devil’s works, people become wicked, liars, deceiving one another, spiritually blind and insensitive. They hate God and humanity. What do we do? Take the whole armor of God and do spiritual warfare. As disciples, we pray for the healing of men’s souls, minds, and bodies. The devil will fight back protecting his prisoners. But in the name of Jesus, our victory is sure! Praise the Lord!

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3Jn 1:2-4)

Apostle John wishes the beloved believers good health and prosperity, spiritual and physical. In Greek, the word ‘health’ means sound body, without any corruption (no viruses or parasites). God can allow sickness to discipline us when we are unfaithful to Him. But sound health is better. We need a strong body to do God’s Work. The word ‘prosperity’ means to find help along the way to succeed in business. Knowing God’s Word which is truth, is the sure way to live a good life in this world, to prosper in body, soul, spirit, and business affairs. Selah!  

HEALING IS A SIGN OF FAITH IN JESUS, AND CONFIRMS THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS AND HIS WORD  

*Healing the sick is a sign of faith in Jesus; a sign that you preach the right Gospel, and that you are a co-worker with Jesus in ministry! Jesus said: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen” (Mk16:15-20). Apostle Paul confirms that wherever he went, he preached the Gospel, and miracles followed his ministry (Rom 15:18, 19).

*In the early church, the believers prayed for boldness to preach God’s Word and for miracles to follow their preaching. “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Ac 4:29-31). This request was necessary to confirm their ministries and increase their confidence as servants of God.

*Healing of the body confirms the authority of Jesus as The Savior. Jesus forgives sins, to save men. He also heals their bodies. There was a sick man who was paralyzed. The religious rulers opposed Jesus. Then He said: “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men” (Matt 9:4-8).

*Healing confirms the Gospel. It is one of God’s methods to prove that Jesus died and rose again for sinners. “But you denied the Holy One and the Just and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Ac 3:14-16).

*True faith in Jesus should be in His Word and also in His works (healings). “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (Jn 10:37, 38).

*Healings and miracles were signs done by Jesus to attract people to Him, to listen to His Words. “A great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased” (Jn 6:1, 2).

*Healings are performed so that God is glorified. “Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:12).

HEALING AND THE WORD PLANTED IN THE HEART

Healing in the Bible is always connected with God’s Word and prayer! The more you study the Person of Jesus (The Living Word), the more your faith in His healing increases. This faith is thru the Holy Spirit, and thru faith in the written Word of God! “He sent His word and healed them and delivered them from their destructions” (Ps 107:20). God sends His Word as an injection from heaven! You must receive the injection so that you are healed! This is an unfailing spiritual law: the more you feed on the Word, the more your faith in healing will rise. “The seed is the word of God” (Lk 8:11). For the seed to grow and become fruitful, the seed must be planted in the heart. “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet 1:23). God uses His Word that is thought or preached to bring salvation, healing, or deliverance. The Word of God is living, incorruptible, indestructible, and immortal. It brings eternal life. The Word abides forever. The word ‘abides’ means to stay in a spot, waiting for you to believe it. The heart is the field. The seed must be watered with prayer. It will grow. It will produce salvation, healing, deliverance, and other miracles.

God’s Word must be planted in the middle of the heart and kept there for it to manifest the healing. It works on all organs. It becomes health to the whole body. “My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (PV 4:20-23). To give attention and to incline your ear mean the same thing: to stretch out your head to listen to something important. Do not let God’s Word depart from you. Be careful not to lose it. Watch it because it is a light guiding you through the darkness of sickness. It is your responsibility to keep the Word ‘in the midst of your heart’. The word ‘keep’ means to protect, to surround with a hedge, to attend to. It is your responsibility to protect the Word of God in your heart. Who can steal God’s Word from your heart? The devil. Read the Parable of the Sower (Lk 8:11-15). The devil steals the word from hearts that are not deep, not spiritual. They hear the Word but make no effort to retain of understand what they have heard. So, the Word does not penetrate the heart. The demons love to steal the Word away. If there is no deep root, the Word cannot grow. If there are weeds of anxious care, love of money and pleasures of life, the Word also cannot grow. The only fertile ground/heart where the Word stays and grows is a noble and a good heart. In this good heart, the Word grows and multiples.

“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (PV 4:23). The heart/field is to be kept with all diligence. It is your responsibility to protect your heart from strangers and from Word killing weeds. Out of the heart proceed the issues, the rivers of life. The heart is like a pump, like a fountain. Like the natural heart pumps blood into the arteries of the body, so the spiritual heart. The unconverted heart is the seat of sin. The spiritual heart is the seat of the Word of God. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45). Speak life!

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye (envy), blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk 7:21, 22). The word ‘defile’ means to become unclean, and incapable to worship God. A defiled heart is a sick heart and speaks sickness to others. Faith in Jesus cleanses, heals, and opens the heart. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38). Faith cleanses the heart and opens the rivers of life to flow to others. This is therefore the path of blessings and healing: Receive God’s Word! Keep and guard it in your heart. Confess the Word by faith! Pray over it! Repent of every known sin. The heart will become cleaner, and the Word will grow. Healing of the body and soul will be the result.  

BY HIS STRIPES, WE ARE HEALED

“Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, everyone, to his own way” (Is 53:4-6). “When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses” (Matt 8:16, 17). “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Pet 2:24, 25)

On of the greatest verses about healing in taken from the Book of Isaiah 53:5. “By His stripes, we are healed!” With the eyes of faith, the prophet Isaiah saw Jesus crucified. Please observe that all the words are in the past. Salvation and healing are works that have already been fulfilled. On the Cross, Jesus purchased both the salvation of our souls and the healing of our bodies. We must have faith in both. The salvation of the soul is a greater miracle because it is immediate, personal, and eternal. The healing of the body is less important because it is temporal.  Sin still dwells in the body and sin leads to sickness and death. Peter says that Jesus died and by His stripes we are healed so that we too die to sin and live sanctified lives. The healing is not for its own sake. It is to help with our sanctification. The final healing of the body will manifest when Christ comes back the second time and resurrect our bodies, to be like His Body, spiritual and eternal. On the Cross, Jesus ‘took our infirmities’. It means He received our moral and physical weaknesses. He ‘bore our sicknesses’. He ‘carried away’ our sicknesses.  It is the same verb saying ‘He bore our sins’. ‘By whose stripes, you were healed’. The word ‘stripe’ means wounds or bruising done by scourging.  The word ‘grief’ is anxiety. The word ‘sorrow’ is anguish. He borne and He carried means to be pregnant with grief and sorrow.

“Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified” (Matt 27:26-31)

This is a glimpse of the suffering of Jesus just before He was crucified and died. You can see the wickedness of men, taking advantage of their victim. The soldiers did not have to add their mockery. They did not have to spit on Jesus or strike His head with the reed. But they did that. This revelation is the root of your faith in the healing of your body. Jesus paid for the salvation of your soul with His blood shed on the Cross. But for the healing of your body, Jesus suffered terrible pain, mentally and physically. You must feel His pain to be able to believe in your healing. Selah!

Jesus was beaten and wounded so that we can be healed. He was wounded by the crown of thorns, by the nails in His hands and feet and by the spear of the Romans soldier. The death of Christ upon the Cross was a painful, shameful death. It is His pain that is the source of our healing. That chastisement was for our peace. In Hebrew, shalom, means peace, prosperity, health and wealth, friends, and favor. Jesus suffered on the Cross for our healing, peace, and prosperity. He shed His Blood and died for our salvation! What a Savior!    

THE BRONZE SERPENT

“They journeyed from Mount Hor… to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore, the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.” So, Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived” (Num 21:4-9).

The international sign for doctors, medicine and hospitals is a snake on a rod. It is taken from this story in Numbers 21. God leads the people on a longer, circular path. They just discover that now, the Promised Land is behind them. They became angry with God’s leading. The word ‘discouraged’ means impatient, or restless. They expected to enter the Promised Land faster. The people started complained against God and Moses. God became angry and He sent poisonous serpents to bite them. Many died. The people repented. Moses prays for them. God gives His prescription: He commands Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. Anyone who is bitten by a serpent and looks to that bronze serpent shall live.  The vision of Christ crucified brings healing and life!

The people got addicted to complaining. God warns them many times, but they still continued. In the past, they grumbled against the manna, God’s bread from heaven. They said: “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (Nu 11:4-6).

Some Egyptians followed God’s people thru their exodus. It was these unbelievers among them that started complaining against the Manna. It is known all over the world that poor unbelievers cannot endure the lack of their favorite food. They miss their Egyptian’ vegetables. They claim that they have lost their appetites for food because of looking at this Manna. They have no faith in God’s Word!

Question: Where do you look? What do your eyes see? If you see God’s Word, then you shall be healed and you shall live!

God judges their sin. Moses prays for them. Then God shows mercy. At the Cross, you see God’s holiness and love combined. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life“ (Jn 3:14-16). Jesus is the One lifted on the Cross. The sinner needs to look with faith to Christ. Then he will be saved and healed.

Lessons: God is holy, and God hates sin.  Complaining and grumbling are serious sins. Be careful not to become impatient with God’s leading you thru life, especially when trials seem longer than you expected. Be sensitive to the temptation of grumbling. Pray against it! God answers the prayer of an intercessor. We should always pray. God gives Moses the wisdom that leads to healing. There is no natural connection between the bite of the snake and the bronze snake. The only connection is faith in the God who kills and makes alive. The Look of faith unto Jesus is life and healing! This was God’s treatment prescription. It was easy. Just look! It was the same for all, the rich and the poor. The same applied for the bad cases and for the mild cases. It was free of charge. If any man bitten by the snake refused to apply God’s treatment, he will die. If he refused to look at the bronze snake and only look at his wounds, or pay doctors to cure him, that one would die. The Gospel is the only cure for all sinners. Its power is immediate and eternal. Jesus is the only Way to life! Look and Live!

FAITH HEALERS

There are many false brethren who claim to heal by the power of God. These are not even saved. Most are found in the Philippines and Brazil. They claim to perform surgery with bare hands. Many are deceived by these charlatans. Then there are others, who may be saved but they have very few fruits of the Spirit. Their moral character is weak. They are called ‘faith healers’. They claim that the only gift they have is to heal people from physical sickness.  In the early church, the gift of healing was working to attract people to the preaching of the Gospel. There is nothing like healing for healing’ sake. The following are some of the famous American faith healers: Alexander John Dowie, Jack Coe, A. A. Allen, and William Branham. These all had many followers and claimed thousands of healings. They became rich and famous through this gift.  They became proud and died untimely deaths. Most churches that used to sponsor these massive tent crusades got tired of the religious entertainment and the price to pay for the flashy lifestyle of these healers. But these sad stories do not cancel the fact that God gives the gift of healings to believers.

THE HEALING OF THE NOBLEMAN’S SON (Jn 4:46-54)

Jesus started His public ministry. The first miracle sign was done at Cana of Galilee where He changed water into wine. He did this sign to reveal His glory. His disciples put their faith in Him (Jn 2:11). This is the story: Jesus goes to Samaria. He does not perform miracles there, but the people believed His Words. He comes back to Cana of Galilee. A Jewish noble man who was living at Capernaum has a need. His son is sick almost to death. He has a high fever. He hears of Jesus that He performs miracles. At this time, Jesus has only performed the miracle of water turned to wine at Cana. But the nobleman believes that Jesus can also heal his son. He immediately travels from Capernaum to Cana to meet Jesus. This distance is about 20 miles. This is the first time we see someone seeking Jesus for a miracle of healing. It is also the first time that we see the direct connection between faith and healing. There were some Jews gathered there when the nobleman came. Jesus said to them: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe”. Jesus was comparing them with the foreigners, the Samaritans, who believed His Word alone, without waiting for any signs of confirmation. “For Jews request a sign” (1 Cor 1:22). A sign is a supernatural event that points to something else. Wonder is a miracle. Jesus was confronting the Jews that their lust for miracles is a proof of their lack of faith in Him. The nobleman called Jesus ‘Sir’. This is true humility. He wanted Jesus to ‘come down’ to his house to heal his son. His faith was real but small. Compare his faith with the great faith of the Centurion and of the Syrophoenician woman, who were both foreigners. Jesus told the nobleman that his son will live. This time, he ‘believed the word Jesus spoke to him’. Having only the word in his heart, he went back to Capernaum. Arriving home, he discovered that his son was healed at that very hour when Jesus said: ‘your son lives’.

IN CONCLUSION…

Jesus cares for the needy humanity. At Cana, Jesus did miracles to bless families. He made wine for a wedding. He healed a man’s son. He brought joy to families! This nobleman hears of Jesus and travels 40 miles to receive his miracle. He received the Word that produced the healing. Faith has feet. Faith seeks Jesus and His healing. That word was enough! Jesus appreciates faith. It is not the miracle that produces faith. It is the faith that produces miracles. Jesus is always sensitive to the faith of the people who desire miracles. If their faith is small, He will increase it. If their faith is big, but not focused, He will help them to adjust it. Jesus could not perform miracles where pride and unbelief were predominant. “He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matt 13:58). If faith is small but it is focused on Jesus, it will work miracles. If the faith is big, but its focus is outside Jesus, it will not work miracles. The object of faith is extremely important! It is more important than its size. Faith in God’s Word is enough for the miracle to happen! The nobleman had faith. He was not in a hurry to run back home. He arrived home to Capernaum the next day at 7 pm. It seems that he slept in Cana before going home. His son was healed. This healing has three effects: the physical healing of the son; the spiritual healing of the father and the third effect is that his household now all believe in Jesus. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). Jesus rewards faith and rebukes unbelief! Religion is a hindrance to faith.

This is a reminder, man’s soul is more important than his body. Even if he is healed from sickness, even if he comes back from the dead like Lazarus, he will still become old and die. But salvation of the soul is eternal. Even death cannot destroy that. Sin is the real problem. Sickness is only a symptom. It is clear that the Bible gives priority to the spiritual problems of man. Jesus healed a man who was paralyzed for 38 years. Later, Jesus found him and said to him: “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (Jn 5:14). Jesus said that something worse than sickness can happen to an unrepentant sinner. Selah!

We are commanded not to be discouraged by the breaking down of the body. We focus on eternal things which are eternal. “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor 4:16-18).

When sick, repent of any known sin. Then pray for healing. If you are still sick, then call your leaders in the church (James 5). We are not told to look and call the faith healers who are traveling from place to place to heal. We are told to call the leaders of the local church we attend. These leaders will pray with faith and anoint with oil if it is possible. Then God will heal the sick person. Worship the Lord!

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (3)/ TONGUES AND INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The gifts of the Holy Spirit (3)/ Her main scriptures were taken from the Books 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 13:1-13; 14:1-25; Genesis 40.

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – INTRODUCTION

These gifts are special supernatural abilities given by God, the Holy Spirit. They are royal family gifts. By using them we resemble Jesus and God, our Father. They are a witness that our salvation is supernatural. These abilities are not natural. The Christian is not born with them. They are not gained thru the study of the Bible or education in general. A pastor or an elder can pray and lay hands on a believer who desires gifts. But no man can give these gifts. They manifest the atmosphere of heaven on earth. These are Grace-Gifts. In Greek, the word ‘gifts’ is ‘charismata’. The word ‘charis’ means Grace. These gifts are not rewards for labor and are not merited. They are free gifts from King Grace! The Holy Spirit is sovereign in distributing these gifts. He gives them according to His will and depending on the need in the local church. God can give them to baby Christians or to the mature ones! The gifts give glory to God! They increase the unity of the Body and the manifestation of miracles.

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – 1 Corinthians 12 (continued…)

*Each believer has at least one gift of the Holy Spirit. It is his responsibility to identify it and use it for God’s glory and for the good of the Body. Once you receive God’s gift, God expects you to use it. You need to increase your skill in using it. The more is given; the more is expected. “To whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Lk 12:48). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not luxury, nor decorations. They are tools, weapons, and powers from God to be used in ministry! If you receive a gift from God and you are not using it, God will call you to account. God will not withdraw that gift. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable [for God does not withdraw what He has given, nor does He change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call]” (Rom 11:29. AMP). Take responsibility for your gift!

*The spiritual gifts are to be desired and prayed for. When you see a need in the church, and you desire to help, pray that God will give you His gift so that you don’t use your natural resources, but God’s power. All gifts are not the same in value and visibility. But God is one! And the Body is one! Do not be angry, envious or despise another’ gifts. Be grateful to God for what you have received and use that gift! To refuse to use what you have, and coveting what you do not have, that is sin! All believers, no matter your gifts, must care for one another! Selah!

*The greatest gift of all is the Agape Love of God. Love is a gift, a fruit, and a way of life. It is the basis for all success in ministry when using any other gift! “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor 12: 31; 13:1-3). Without the gift of love, no other gift works well. “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14:1).

*The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the strengthening and the unity of the Body of Christ. The manifestation of the gifts produces miracles. It is a pity that many believers are ignorant, and many churches quarrel over these gifts. Many churches have divided because of disagreement about the role of these gifts, especially the gift of tongues. We are to desire the greater gifts so that the whole church will benefit, and not only ourselves. Pray with faith. If God gives to you the gift you asked, thank Him! If not, still thank Him! God is sovereign!

THE GIFT OF TONGUES

“to another different kinds of tongues…” (1 Cor 12:19)

The gift of tongues is defined as supernatural utterance of the Holy Spirit in a language that is unknown to the speaker.

*The gift of tongues is similar to the gift of prophecy, but it is spoken in a language not learned by the speaker, and not understood by his mind. Most of the time, even the hearers do not understand the tongues, except somebody with the gift of interpretation of tongues interprets the message. The devil does not understand the message spoken in tongues, but God understands it. After a session of speaking in tongues, the believer feels like he has prayed through! He feels stronger spiritually.

*Speaking in tongues, like all other gifts of the Holy Spirit, is supernatural. It is a miracle. It is not a miracle of revelation of the Word but a vocal miracle. It is a miracle of prayer and worship. If interpreted, it is a prophetic word to the church.

*All people who do not believe in miracles hate this gift and mock it.

*The gift of tongues and the sister gift of interpretation of tongues are the least of all gifts. This is because it helps only the speakers and not the whole Body. They are more common than all other gifts. They are vocal gifts. They cannot be hidden. They are evident to all in the church.

*This gift is most misunderstood by many people. Christians have separated into denominations based on their understanding of this gift.

*The devil has attacked the gift of prophecy and tongues more than all other gifts.

*Like with prophecy, God takes control of the mouth of the believer and speaks thru him. The mind is passive. The mind does not understand what the mouth is saying. But the human spirit is edified and comforted.

*Jesus confirmed the gift of speaking in tongues. He said that it is a sign of faith in Him. Unbelief and hardness of heart are stumbling blocks to any gift including speaking in tongues. “Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mk 16:14-18).

*Tongues is a Worship/prayer language. We must worship God in Spirit and in Truth.  Tongues are like drinking wine. On the Day of Pentecost, the people thought that the worshippers were drunk with wine. Baptism with the Holy Spirit has a similar effect. It makes people joyful and strong. “But the vine said to them, ‘Should I cease my new wine, Which cheers both God and men, And go to sway over trees?” (Jdg 9:13).

*Generally, speaking in tongues should be limited to personal worship language at home or in groups of friends where all understand this gift. 

*God does not force anyone to pray in tongues. Like with any gift, you need to seek it, to desire it. The Holy Spirit brings it to your heart and your mouth, but you need to welcome it and use your mouth to speak it out.

*Tongues are a special intimate communication between the believer’s spirit and God. Praying in tongues edifies the believer!

“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” (1 Cor 14:2-4)

Salvation is a miracle. Often, the believer finds it hard to pray. He is in love with Jesus, but he cannot find the right words to express his love in prayer or in worship. It is this holy frustration that brings him to the place where he is filled with the Holy Spirit. The first filling is called ‘the baptism with the Holy Spirit’. Suddenly, the fountain of the deep floods his soul. He feels strong, one with His Lover. At that time, the usual words in a known tongue were just useless to express newfound love. Speaking in tongues is a natural way of expressing the deep love within. All men become romantic poets when baptized with the Holy Spirit. “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me” (Ps 42:7). Tongues, therefore, are the vocal expression, mysteries spoken by a heart deeply in love with Jesus.

Like the gift of prophecy edifies the church, speaking in tongues edifies the individual believer. The word edifies’ means to build a strong house. Tongues work like an injection of strength in situation of trials that weaken the spirit of man. The strength is a sign that God is pleased when we make time to pray in tongues, to God who alone understands our hearts.

*Apostle Paul prayed in tongues more often than other people. This is not surprising for he suffered more than many others. This is his testimony of Grace actively working in his spirit during trials. “He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:8-10). This mighty mysterious exchange happens when you pray in tongues. The power of resurrection changes the picture and the weak becomes strong. Praying in tongues is like a river suddenly springing out in the desert. “Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beast of the field will honor Me, The jackals, and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen. This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise” (Is 43:19-21). This is God’s promise to do the impossible, to make rivers in the desert, so that the animals will be happy and praise Him. Praying in tongues has the same effect. It feels like a thirsty dying man who drinks water. He suddenly feels strength coming into his body. He knows that he will not die but live and declare the works of the Lord!

*Do not ignore the power of tongues to edify the believer. You can edify the church through preaching, teaching, and prophesying. But you have to learn to edify yourself, thru the study of God’s word, and praying in tongues.  For example, David knew how to strengthen himself in the Lord. “Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Sam 30:6). In Hebrew, the word ‘strengthen’ means to bind himself to the Lord, to restrain and conquer his fears and weaknesses; until he become strong by God’s power. It means that David found courage in weakness and encouraged himself. This is the work of Grace found in Christ alone. Praying in tongues strengthens the believer.

*Some people say that God sent the tongues so that we can use them to evangelize the unbelievers. They say that at Pentecost, Peter and the other believers spoke in tongues and the people understood what was spoken. But in the History of the church, tongues have not been used to preach the Gospel to foreigners. Peter himself, after speaking in tongues, preached his first sermon in Aramaic, the language most Jews spoke at that time. He did not preach Christ in tongues. The believers declared in “tongues the wonderful works of God”. In other words, they were worshipping God in tongues. This attracted the attention of people and they gathered to see this new behavior. But when Peter preached to them, he preached in Aramaic. 

*Tongues are like prophecy but spoken in an unknown tongue. Its origin is not in the human will. It is not a human choice. “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21). The believers praying in tongues did not say what they like. Tongues are a gift of God the Holy Spirit. Its origin is heaven. Men speak as ‘moved’ by the Holy Spirit. In Greek, the word ‘moved’ means to carry along, to lead, or to bear. Prophecy and tongues come from the Holy Spirit who moves on. They are a sign that the believer is making spiritual progress that is evident to all.

*Tongues are a sign to the unbelievers. The unbeliever is shocked to hear a man speaks like a baby, in a language that is mysterious and strange. The unbeliever may mock the believer, but he cannot avoid feeling that this is God working in the believer. It surely attracts attention to the unbeliever like the burning bush attracted Moses to go closer, until God spoke from the fire.

*For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Cor 14:14, 15).

When you pray in tongues, your spirit prays but your mind, your understanding is passive. It is ‘unfruitful’. You cannot pray in the Spirit except you pray in tongues. You must pray or worship in both ways: with your mind and with your spirit. Each form of prayer has its own function. Praying and singing only in a known tongue will limit your expression. Praying and singing only in tongues is also not spiritually healthy. You must combine these two for the best effects to you and to others. 

*Singing spiritual songs in your heart is done mostly in tongues. ”Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph 5:18-21). When you are filled with the Holy Spirit your heart and speech changes. You speak and sing spiritual songs. You become extremely grateful to God. You become humble and submitting to others.

*Praying in tongues is also called praying in the Spirit. “Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26, 27). The Holy Spirit helps us because we are weak and do not know what to pray about. These groanings of the Holy Spirit in the believer who prays are almost always expressed as tongues.

One of the curses of disobedience is to be conquered by a nation whose speech you do not understand. That is why to an unbeliever, tongues remind him of war, of the killing of the elderly, and the children; tongues are a spiritual sign of poverty and failure. “The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you” (Deut 28:49-51). To an unbeliever tongues remind him of exile, suffering, and poverty.

When used in public, in the church, The gift of tongues should be regulated. It has the same value as the gift of prophecy. It truly edifies and strengthens the church. But tongues must be interpreted. If there is no one with a gift of interpretation of tongues, the believer who speaks in tongues should keep silent. But when used in your private worship with God, tongues do not need an interpretation.

“Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues” (1 Cor 14:39). We are commanded to preach the Word. We are encouraged to desire to prophesy. But with tongues, we are not to forbid them. Many speak in tongues during the time they got baptized with the Holy Spirit. After that, they stop speaking in tongues. Many feel shy about tongues in public. Some have mocked them, and they have been hurt. But we are commanded not to forbid, hinder, or prevent speaking in tongues. Tongues require self-control. If the conditions are fulfilled, praying in tongues is good. Everything must be done in order and peace must reign in the assembly.

TONGUES ARE A SIGN OF BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

When receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit most believers manifest that holy experience with the gift of tongues. It is the only gift that proves the baptism of the Holy Spirit Note that not all believers manifest the baptism of the Holy Spirit by speaking in tongues. In the early church, any believer who spoke in tongues, all knew that he has received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. It should be the same now, but the devil has corrupted this beautiful gift and there are many false brethren who speak in false tongues. The following are some examples of baptism of the Holy Spirit manifested as speaking in tongues:

At Pentecost, the believers spoke with new tongues and people laughed at them saying, ‘what could this mean’?

“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance… And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? …  Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine” (Ac 2:1-12)

About ten years later, when Peter went to the house of Cornelius, the new Gentile converts, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in tongues and magnify, praising God. “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God” (Ac 10:44-46). Tongues are a worship language used to ‘magnify God’. The words ‘to magnify God’ means to enlarge, to increase, to extol or make God great. This was a great audible miracle because these people were Gentiles. They did not know the Old Testament psalms. But suddenly, they were openly praising Jehovah God with tongues and with words of exalted praise.

When Paul went to visit the brethren at Ephesus, he prayed for them and laid his hands on them to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. They spoke in tongues, and they prophesied (in a known tongue). “Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So, they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So, they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Ac 19:1-6)

*The scripture about tongues that Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 14:21 is taken from the book of Isaiah. “For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, To whom He said, “This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest,” and, “This is the refreshing”; Yet they would not hear” (Is 28:11, 12). God says that the people of Israel have rejected the ‘refreshing’ message of His prophets. For doing that, God sent them into exile where they will hear orders given into an unknown speech, which is the Babylonian language. They do not understand the foreign language of their conquerors. They suffer punishment through people who speak ‘in tongues’. Paul compares God’s judgment of His people and their painful exile to Babylon, to speaking in tongues. Each time an unbeliever hears a believer praying in tongues, he will not think of heavenly things. He will think of God’s judgment, like living in a land where he is a foreigner among foreigners. Symbolically, to an unbeliever, tongues is the language of a man without God, without family or friends. He will panic and reject the tongues. Only a believer will appreciate and receive the gift of tongues of the Holy Spirit.

THE INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES

“… to another the interpretation of tongues…” (1 Cor 12:10).

The gift of interpretation of tongues is the supernatural ability given by the Holy Spirit to understand a language that you have not learned.

Some people know more than one language. They can translate from English to French, for example. That is not the gift of interpretation of tongues. This gift is not a translation from one known language to another. It is not a gift of translation word for word. It is a gift of interpretation of tongues. Speaking in tongues is a miracle. The interpretation of tongues is also a miracle. Both are utterances coming from the Holy Spirit and using the mouth of the speakers. Their minds are passive. These gifts are connected but they come separately. Not every tongue has an interpretation. The gift of interpretation of tongues is necessary only when the believer speaks in tongues in a church, or in a prayer meeting. The purpose is so that the church is edified. Praying privately in tongues does not need interpretation. The individual believer is edified even if he does not understand what he is saying.  

*In Greek, the word ‘interpretation’ also means ‘explanation’. An interpretation is a declaration of the meaning of something. It means to clarify something that is hidden. It is not a word for word translation. The interpreter has more freedom to use his own words to describe the meaning of the message in tongues. He can even interpret it through proverbs, poems, or songs. Tongues is like instrumental music. Interpretation is adding words to the music. Together, the instruments and the voices make a beautiful worship song.     

*To Interpret tongues is to explain mysteries. Tongues are received from God. They are a ‘vertical’ divine gift. No man understands the conversation in tongues between the believer and his God. The interpreter of tongues must also be a believer who has access to God’s presence. He receives the interpretation from the author of tongues. Then he can tell people what God speaks thru the message in tongues. 

*Tongues and interpretation are twins. They can live separately but they work better together. They are divine gifts of the Holy Spirit. They bring the atmosphere of heaven down to earth. They should not be despised or ignored. They should be desired and prayed for. It is our duty and responsibility to pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are not for fame or fortune. We are not to become selfish with our gifts. They edify the church and prepare the way for revival. We should not be shy in speaking out, through tongues, interpretation of tongues, or prophecy. “6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:6,7). In Greek, the word ‘stir up’ means to rekindle a fire that is dying down. God gave the fire! It is our duty to keep it burning stronger!

*God conceals and God reveals. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter… God is praised for being mysterious; rulers are praised for explaining mysteries” (PV 25:2; NKJ, CEV). In Hebrew, the word ‘glory’ is ‘kabod’. It means the heaviness, and the splendor of God. God is all powerful and mysterious. Man cannot totally know God. To whom God reveals a little from His riches of glory, that man becomes a royal priest in Christ. Men discover that they are too little in the presence of God. They need to humble themselves because they are totally depended on God. This humility is the result of God’s hiding Himself. Overfamiliarity with God is sin. His mysterious power and grace increase God’s glory. That is why we worship Elohim, God. The kings ‘search out matters, understand and explain mysteries so that they rule over men with wisdom and justice. Men are happy when their rulers fear God, are wise, faithful, and protect them from enemies. The wisdom and the discerning of the good kings increase their honor. This honor is God’s gift to them and to the people under them.   

No man can know God without God’s help and revelation. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29). God hides Himself by His glory. No man can see God and live. The prophet exclaimed: “Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!” (Is 45:15). God cannot be discovered by man, no matter how intelligent man is. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom 11:33).

*Some people ask, if God sends a message in tongues to the church, and another interprets it, the result is the same as a prophesy. Why does God not just give a gift of prophecy to one believer? That will simplify the matter. First, I am not God. I do not know why God decided to give these different gifts. But my personal opinion is to speak a prophetic word in public requires greater faith and more courage. God warned His prophets not to draw back from prophesying exactly what He is saying. By giving the same message in tongues, the speaker does not know the gravity of the message. And the interpreter may ‘blame’ the speaker for the ‘strong word’. In this way, God can warn, discipline, and say any difficult word even thru immature believers who are shy to speak in public. God’s wisdom is unsearchable! To Him be all the glory!   

HOW DOES THE DEVIL ATTACK THE GIFT OF TONGUES AND INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES?

There are various ways in which Satan works. Generally, he attacks believers when he thinks it will be to his advantage. This includes the time after a great spiritual experience, or right before someone is going to begin a new spiritual venture. He also attacks when believers are weak and vulnerable, either physically and/or mentally. Satan also likes to attack believers when they are alone. The devil attacks the gift of tongues through ignorance or confusion of their value and power. The devil also gives a counterfeit gift of tongues to his agents. If a believer imitates that fake gift, he may speak in tongues, but his tongues do not edify anyone. This is a practical test, if after a session of praying in tongues you do not feel stronger, then it was fake tongues. Just religious drama!  Remember this: true tongues always strengthen you spiritually!

The devil attacks the believers with selfishness and pride. The believer speaks in tongues to attract attention from others. Remember that these gifts are from God, given to strengthen and edify all the believers in a local church. These gifts are not a reward for labor, they are gifts of grace. These gifts do not prove that God has approved your ministry. They are not given to make money or fame. They are gifts given to God’s servants! We are to serve God and the Body of Christ with our gifts. Reject ignorance, confusion, pride, doubt, and selfish ambition! Watch and pray! God will help us stay humble, faithful, and useful to Him!  

MY TESTIMONY

I was saved in March 1986, and Spirit filled a month later. Because I did not attend a church and did not know the Bible, I had no idea that there are gifts of the Holy Spirit. I have not heard of tongues until about 5 years later. I did not understand the gift. I thought that I did not need it. Slowly, the Holy Spirit helped me to see its value. I prayed for it. It did not come immediately. I had to cooperate with the prayer request and truly desire it in my heart. I also needed to surrender my mouth and tongue to God and have faith that He will take control and use it. I did that. Then tongues came. I did not understand what I said, but I felt good, happy, and spiritually stronger. I now pray in tongues and in English about 50-50. When I feel like praying, when the push to pray comes on me, but I do not know what to pray for, I pray in tongues. I continue to pray until I feel the burden has left me. If I did not have the access to the gift of tongues, I will feel very uncomfortable and frustrated, like a man who is constipated (sorry for the example, but as a medical doctor, it is the best I have). Each time I pray in tongues, I forget people and I feel closer to God. It is not a show for men to see and admire. It is an intimate language of love between Jesus and me. I love it! To God be all the glory!

THE CURSE OF BABEL (Genesis 11)

When God made Adam and Eve, He gave them a heavenly language. Even after they had to leave the Garden of Eden, Adam carried with him the language God gave to him. This was the only language humanity used until the Tower of Babel. At that time, men wanted to gather in an unholy unity to rebel against God. The fact that they spoke only one language helped them to gather together. The heavenly language God gave Adam became the source of man’s strength to fight against God. God came down to see what men were doing. He did not destroy the tower. God destroyed the language that kept them together. Men started speaking many languages and could not understand one another again. There are about 7000 languages in the world today. These many languages separate men from one another. At Pentecost, with the birth of the Church, God restored the heavenly language He gave to Adam. That language is the gift of speaking in tongues. This gift unites the believers. God can trust His children with His heavenly language once more. Believers now understand one another in the Spirit. Tongues, therefore, are a blessing to the church, the reversal of the curse of Babel. Praise the Lord!

JOSEPH THE INTERPRETER (Genesis 40)

“And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.” So, Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please” (Gen 40:8).

Joseph was a dreamer and an interpreter of dreams. These gifts are similar with the gifts of tongues and interpretation of tongues. 

Read Genesis 40. We find Joseph in prison. He interprets the dreams of two royal servants. This chapter about dream interpretation seems long. We feel like we do not need it. But God appears here in the center of the chapter. It gives us a glimpse of a true believer living in hard times, but faithful to God and to God’s gift to him. The last time Joseph interpreted dreams it ended in painful rejection and hatred from his brothers. Will Joseph talk about dreams again? Yes! Joseph has forgiven his brothers. He believes that he has a responsibility to stir his prophetic gift of interpreting dreams to men.

Joseph was a gifted man. He was also a faithful man. God gave him dreams and the gift to interpret dreams. As a young man, Joseph had two dreams in which his family was bowing to him. His brothers hated him because their father Jacob loved him more. They also hated him for his dreams and for the interpretation of his dreams. They sold him to Egypt as a slave. He was innocent of Potiphar’s wife’s accusations, but he was put in prison. The prison officer saw that Joseph was gifted in administration and put him in charge of the welfare of the king’s prisoners. Two of Pharoah’s personal servants, the baker, and the cup bearer, offended their master and were thrown into prison. These two men were not ordinary servants. They were high rank personal servants to Pharoah. They each had a dream. They were worried that in prison there was none who could interpret dreams. Interpretation of dreams was the unique work of the magicians at the royal court. Only the king could use them for his personal spiritual needs. But Joseph, a prisoner like them, interpreted their dreams accurately. In three days, both their heads ‘were lifted up’. The cup bearer was reinstated back to his position. The baker was hung and died. happened as Joseph said.

Two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams and no magician could interpret them. The cup bearer remembers Joseph and recommends him to Pharoah. Joseph’s gift of interpretation brings him before the king. He was faithful to stir his gift even when forgotten by men. Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharoah and gave advice how to protect Egypt from the coming famine. None was wiser or more discerning than Joseph. Pharoah promoted him to be the Prime Minister of Egypt. Thru his wisdom, faithfulness to Jehovah God, and to application of his spiritual gifts, Joseph saves Egypt from destruction and his family from death.

Lesson from Joseph: Joseph helped the cup bearer when he was in trouble. But the cup bearer forgot Joseph. Ingratitude is sin. Be humble, and faithful to God! Never forget ‘God factor’. God speaks to men thru His Word, thru dreams, prophesies, or tongues. God gives men the gift of interpretation of dreams, prophesies, or tongues. Joseph was a man of faith and noble character. His gift of interpretation of dreams may seem like a small gift but it brought him before great men. Joseph told them that only Jehovah God can speak and interpret dreams to men. None in Pharoah’s palace could claim such a thing. These gifts are not for sale. But using them faithfully God will open the door for your promotion. Joseph’s gifts could not be used by him. Joseph sees the future of these two men. It is clear to him. But he cannot see his own future. For 13 years Joseph waited in slavery and imprisonment. The man of God knows only what God wants to reveal not what he wants to know! Even when the interpretation is good or bad, Joseph is a faithful interpreter. Lesson: be faithful to God’s Word and vision for your life. Stir the gift that is in you. In God’s time, the gift will make room for you to meet your destiny helper. “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men” (PV 18:16).

The test of obscurity: lessons: God is with you and will not forsake you. Even when men forget you, God will not forget you! How is God showing mercy to Joseph? Potiphar put Joseph in the special side of the prison where the king’s prisoners were. There are times when it seems that we are forgotten by God and man. But God does not forget. True success is not a matter of where you are. True success is a matter if God is with you. God’s blessing is not always connected with pleasant circumstances. You must pass the test of obscurity. All people that God used in the Bible have learned to pass this test. Look at Moses, David, Apostle Paul, and others. Jesus lived in obscurity for 30 years before He started His public ministry. Serve God without self-pity. God blesses us with times of obscurity. The character is prepared in the desert. Serve God always. Be faithful to God to the end! Your hope must be in God alone! God’s Word tests us in obscurity! Your labor for God is never in vain!

“He sent a man before them— Joseph—who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons. Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the Lord tested him. The king sent and released him, The ruler of the people let him go free. He made him lord of his house, And ruler of all his possessions, To bind his princes at his pleasure, and teach his elders wisdom” (Ps 105:17-22).

Worship the Lord!

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (2)/ DISCERNING OF SPIRITS AND PROPHECY

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The gifts of the Holy Spirit (2)/ Discerning of spirits and prophecy. Her main scriptures were taken from the Books 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 13:1-13; 14:1-25; Matthew 15:21-28

I HAVE ETERNAL LIFE

“This is what He promised us, even eternal life”(1Jn2:25).

Eternal life is more than life without end. It is more a quality of life than quantity. It is a new type of life, found in Christ alone! As a Christian, I experience it now, even before I go to heaven. It is taking each moment to do God’s will and not mine. Each day is an opportunity to pray and ask God: ‘What is Your plan for today, my Lord?’ Once He tells me, I obey it. New adventures manifest that are beyond my imagination. Each event, good or bad, be sickness or meeting people, become doors to the Spiritual realm that bubbles with life, light, peace and joy. Miracles become as ‘normal’ as my daily bread.   

In the past, as I do my will, life becomes boring and tiresome. But now, as I obey God’s word every moment, He reveals to me new ways of progress, peace, and prosperity I never dreamed about. My life becomes a sweet powerful spiritually romantic adventure with Jesus as my Lord. It is indeed much more than I can ever think or desire on my own. Eternal life is an overcoming victorious and all satisfying life because it is the life of God. This is a fact none can deny: because in Christ I have eternal life, I can never be a loser. I am an eternal winner. I never need a ‘plan B’. This eternal life is a wonderful promise to all His children. Money cannot buy it and man cannot give or take it away from you. If I forget any another thing, I can never forget this: I am a Child of God! I have eternal life! In Christ alone! To God be all the glory!

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – INTRODUCTION

These gifts are special supernatural abilities given by God, the Holy Spirit. They are royal family gifts. By using them we resemble Jesus and God, our Father. They are a witness that our salvation is supernatural. These abilities are not natural. The Christian is not born with them. They are not gained thru the study of the Bible or education in general. A pastor or an elder can pray and lay hands on a believer who desires gifts. But no man can give these gifts. They manifest the atmosphere of heaven on earth. These are Grace-Gifts. In Greek, the word ‘gifts’ is ‘charismata’. The word ‘charis’ means Grace. These gifts are not rewards for labor and are not merited. They are free gifts from King Grace! The Holy Spirit is sovereign in distributing these gifts. He gives them according to His will and depending on the need in the local church. God can give them to baby Christians or to the mature ones! The gifts give glory to God! They increase the unity of the Body and the manifestation of miracles.

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – 1 Corinthians 12 (continued…)

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor12:4-7; 11).

There are different gifts, ministries, and activities in the church. In Greek, the word ‘ministries’ is ‘diakonion’, from which the word ‘deacon’ comes. It means a helper, a servant waiting to serve his master at the table. The word ‘activities’ comes from ‘energy’. It means that there are many ways of working in the church to produce an effect. The common denominator is The Holy Spirit, who is the source of all these gifts. 

*These gifts ‘manifest’ openly for the good of all the members in the Body of Christ. The word ‘manifest’ is like a light shining in the darkness. Once the light shines, people see and everybody in the church rejoices. The gifts are not for the profit of only one person. They are not given to make the recipient rich or famous. They are for the benefit of all people in the church. No one should be envious of other people’s gifts. The Holy Spirit knows best who to give to and what particular gift to give, all for the common good and for God’s glory!

*The Holy Spirit is sovereign in distributing these gifts. The word ‘sovereign’ means to have the highest power and to be independent of others. Man can pray for the gifts, but The Holy Spirit gives these ‘as He wills’. You see that the Holy Spirit is a Person and not just an influence! Selah!

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). The Holy Spirit is One. The Body of Christ is One! But there are many ‘members and many gifts’ in the Body! Even with so much diversity, there is no confusion or division in the Body. The Holy Spirit is the only common Unifier. All the members of the Body need one another for the Body to function well. Some members seem ‘weak’, less honorable, or unpresentable. God gives them special covering and help. Others are stronger and more presentable. They do not need special attention. But all the members are flexible and care for one another. This cooperation between all the members is the explanation why the Body is one! If one part suffers, all others suffer. If one part is honored, all others rejoice and congratulate that one. This unity of the Spirit is supernatural and extremely powerful!

*A common mistake about the gifts is that they represent God’s approval upon the people who have received them. This is not true!

*Finally, the devil cannot counterfeit the fruit of the Spirit, but he can fake some of the gifts. There are false prophets and false miracle workers. The devil loves the gift of prophecy, miracles, and the gift of tongues in particular. Be careful! Look for the fruits and not only for the gifts!

*This is a reminder that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit are supernatural. Be careful not to ignore them or reduce their power to the natural level!

DISCERNING OF SPIRITS

“… to another discerning of spirits…” (1 Cor 12:10).

The gift of ‘discerning the spirits’ is the supernatural ability to know the spiritual source behind prophecies, teachings, preaching, and miracles. The word ‘discerning’ means ‘to pass judgment’ like a judge in his court room. This gift has a smaller manifestation than the Word of Knowledge and the Word of Wisdom. Through this gift, the believer suddenly knows what spirit is behind that preacher, that teacher, that prophet, or that miracle worker. It is not just a form of ‘common sense’, or a natural ‘discerning’ of a situation. It is the ability to know that the person speaks by the Holy Spirit or by evil spirits. The gift is totally supernatural. This gift removes the mask that covers the person. The believer knows and sees the spirit motivating the speaker. It is not a natural gift of fault-finding. It is not discerning the character, attitude, or what a person is thinking. For example, it is not observing that a person is greedy or selfish. It is discerning the spirit behind the person. Only God can reveal such a spirit.

The purpose for this gift is to give power to see the spirit behind the person and to make the right decisions based on truth. It is useful in prayer and deliverance. The discerning of spirits does not immediately result in deliverance. You need to be led by the Holy Spirit to do that. The gifts of prophecy, tongues and interpretation of tongues have a human component. They are under the control of the believer. But the gifts of the word of knowledge, wisdom and discernment are totally independent of the believer. They come suddenly as The Holy Spirit gives them in His sovereign will. Once you see and you know God’s revealed truth, you are free from deception, and you win the battle!

Some sicknesses are natural. Others are demonic, especially mental afflictions. Jesus applied this gift especially when dealing with evil spirits:

Ex. “He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease” (Matt 10:1).

Ex. A woman is delivered from a spirit of infirmity: “And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God” (Lk 13:11-13)

This gift is necessary to know how to pray, or how to relate to people. For example, a pastor may look good outwardly, but behind the good presentation, there may be an evil spirit of religion. We are too easily deceived by appearances. To know that truth, you need to test the spirits because they are not all from God. To test the spirits, you need time. The gift of discernment of spirits reveals the truth in an instant. Never forget this: the devil is God’s enemy. He uses his agents of darkness to perform miracles. Many are deceived by that. “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thess 2:9, 10). Loving God’s Word, which is truth, is the sure protection against the devil’s agents who perform fake miracles to bring you into bondage.  

There are three kinds of ‘spirits’: There is God the Holy Spirit, there are many evil spirits, also called demons, and there are the human spirits. Man has three parts: the body, the soul (his personality) and his spirit. When he becomes saved, the Holy Spirit activates, quickens his human spirit which is neutral in nature. The human spirit can be influenced by the Holy Spirit or by evil spirits. The gift of discernment of spirits gives the believer the power to see what spirit is behind the human spirit: God or demons. Once you see the truth, your relationship with that person changes immediately.

In the story of King Ahab and King Jehoshaphat alliance for war, prophet Micaiah displays the gift of discerning spirits. God opens his eyes to see that the false prophets of Ahab speak by the power of a lying spirit. “Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right hand and His left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So, one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.’ Therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you” (2 Chr 18:18-22). His prophecy based on the gift of discerning the spirits proved to be true. The gift of discernment gave The Prophet Micaiah boldness to stand and not be intimidated by the royal court false prophets. King Ahab rejected Micaiah’s gift of discernment. He went to war and died the next day.

There are people who are involved in witchcraft. They claim to see spirits behind events or people. Such information is from the devil who is a liar. Reject that! What the witches claim to see, is false information. The gift of discernment of spirits is the real gift that reveals the truth. Selah!

EXAMPLES OF THE GIFT OF DISCERNING OF SPIRITS

*Apostle Paul went to minister to Sergius Paulus, the governor of the island of Paphos. He has an assistant called Bar-Jesus or Elymas. Through the gift of discerning of spirits, Paul suddenly knows that this man is a sorcerer. Elymas withstood Paul, preventing him preaching to the governor. Then Paul withstood Elymas and placed a temporary blindness on him. This miracle helped the governor believe that Paul is a true man of God! “When they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord” (Ac 13:6-12). Here you see Apostle Paul manifesting the gift of discerning the spirits and the gift of miracles. The blindness that came upon Elymas was a miracle performed by Paul. Its purpose was to slow down Elymas in his wicked work of deceiving the governor about salvation in Christ.

*By the same gift of discernment of spirits Paul identifies a (python) spirit of divination in a girl at Philippi. Paul confronts and rejects the demon. The girl became free. “Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities” (Ac 16:16-19).

In both these stories, the gift of discernment of spirits prepares the way for the Gospel to be preached.

WHAT SHOULD BE OUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS EVIL SPIRITS?

Totally avoid occult practices. Do not go to places where they invoke evil spirits. For example, do not read the daily horoscopes in the newspapers. They claim to tell your destiny based on the movement of the planets and the stars. This information is not just useless. It is evil and dangerous.  Also, do not attend the so called ‘prophetic’ meetings where the name of Jesus is not honored. Do not listen to people who tell you that they can read your future. Do not go to shrines or ‘native doctors.’ Do not be curious about sin. Test the spirits before you trust men with your soul. Study the Word of God and apply it in your life daily. Fast and pray if you are confused. God will reveal the truth to you! Trust God alone! There is freedom and power in the name of Jesus!

THE GIFT OF PROPHECY

“… to another prophecy… “ (1 Cor 12:10).

Prophecy is a divinely inspired and anointed utterance, in a known tongue. It is a gift given by the Holy Spirit. It is totally supernatural. It comes with heaven’s authority. It changes lives. The way a blind man receives sight, prophecy is a miracle. The effect is as powerful.

In Greek, the word ‘prophecy’ is prophēteia. It means the gift of communicating revealed truth with authority. It also means prediction, which is a statement about the future. In Greek, prophecy means ‘to speak for another’. In other words, when you prophesy you speak for God. Your mouth becomes God’s mouth. For a moment in time, you are God’s spokesman. In Hebrew, the word ‘prophecy’ is ‘naba’. It means to speak or sing under the influence of a spirit. The true prophets spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The false prophets spoke by evil spirits. The word ‘naba’ describes a fountain of water that bubbles up from the earth. It also means to go down, to let drop thick honey or rain from the clouds. The third meaning of the Hebrew word for prophecy is to lift up banners with mysterious words on them. As you can see, prophecy is a speech from God, words that go up, or go down, passing thru a human vessel. The word ‘prophecy’ appears 22 times in these 4 chapters (1 Corinthians 11 to 14). From among the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the word ‘prophecy’ appears more often than all. This is to tell us the importance of this gift and why we are told to desire it.   

Out of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the devil loves to attack prophecy. The attack comes in many forms. The most common is ignorance. Many Christians are ‘ignorant’ of the value, power and need for prophecy in the church. This ignorance is often a spell from evil spirits. The devil also attacks by producing false prophets. He gives a counterfeit prophetic gift to his agents. These entertain people with stories about the present or the future. These preach false doctrines. They do not honor the Lord Jesus Christ. Many believe them. Later, they discover that they have been deceived. This deception ends in bitterness and regret. The result is that from that time on, they reject all prophecies, even the true ones.

We are commanded not to despise prophesies. To despise it means to reject, ignore, or regard prophecy with contempt. Prophecy seems a useless or a bad thing. It is our duty to test all spirits and to differentiate the true from the false. The true prophecies should be received with thanksgiving as a gift from God. The false prophecies should be rejected. Being careless with prophesies quenches the Holy Spirit. This is a serious sin. The Holy Spirit will stop moving in a church. Ministry is affected. The supernatural signs and wonders cease in the assembly. No more miracles. That is a sad and dangerous situation in any church. “Do not quench [subdue or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit. Do not scorn or reject gifts of prophecy or prophecies [spoken revelations—words of instruction or exhortation or warning]. But test all things carefully [so you can recognize what is good]. Hold firmly to that which is good” (1 Thess 5:19-21; AMP).

A false prophet may enter into a trance to be able to prophesy. This trance can be ignited by smoking marijuana or taking some drugs. During the trance, the prophet is only partly conscious of his environment. False prophets are entertaining but extremely dangerous. They cause disorder and confusion in the church. It is not so with the gift of the Holy Spirit. When a believer exercises the prophetic gift of the Holy Spirit, that action does not take over his will or his personality. He prophesies and he remains himself. He can stop the prophetic speech at will. True prophesies unite the brethren in the bond of peace. “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (1 Cor 14:32, 33).

There is a difference between the office of a Prophet and the gift of prophecy given by the Holy Spirit. Any believer can receive prophetic words to give to the church. But not every believer who prophesies is a prophet. There are many believers who prophesy but there are few prophets. In the Old Testament, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, these were true prophets.  In the New Testament, a prophet is a gift given by the Resurrected Christ to the Church (Eph 4:11). But the gift of prophecy is given to the believer. A prophet prophesies more often and more accurately than a believer who has the gift of prophecy. His words affect cities and nations. In the church, especially during prayer meetings, ‘all may prophesy’. But not all are prophets. “For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be encouraged” (1 Cor 14:31).

The office of a prophet is second only to that of an apostle. It is intimately connected with the person. But the gift of prophecy is only a tool in the hands of any believer. Many believers who have received the gift of prophecy became proud, selfish, and ambitious. They expect honor from others thinking that they are prophets and leaders in the church. This attitude will always bring trouble at last.  

PROPHECY AND PREACHING

This is another error: many people say that prophesy and preaching the Word are the same. They are not. Preaching is the result of preparing a sermon. The mind and the emotions of the preacher are involved. “Preaching is communicating truth though personality” (Philips Brooks). The preacher follows a pattern he has prepared in his mind. Preaching is done with the power and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. But it is not the same as prophecy. The gift of prophecy may interrupt the preaching of a sermon, but it is separate from it. As the preacher goes on preaching his sermon, suddenly, the congregation has this impression that God is speaking directly to them. The preacher feels a sense of God carrying him and his words. The prophecy is not part of the sermon he has prepared. Suddenly, the wind of the Holy Spirit starts to blow, and His fire starts to burn. A sermon that seems boring, suddenly, it becomes fresh and exciting. The congregation feels the presence of the Holy Spirit and they are revived. Prophecy is always supernatural. The command is to preach the Word, not to prophesy. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). We are not commanded to prophesy. That is the gift of the Holy Spirit and can come anytime as God wills it.

Like the rest of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, prophecy is a grace gift. Grace is given only to the humble (Jam 4:6). The more you humble yourself, the more you become available to receive this gift. Prophecy is connected with the faith of the believer. Faith regulates the level of prophecy. To prophesy above the level of your faith is sin. “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith” (Rom 12:6). Doubt is a sin. It brings guilt upon the one who prophesies outside the boundaries of his faith. “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23).

THE THREE MAJOR BENEFITS OF PROPHECY IN THE CHURCH (1 Cor 14:1-5) – BUILD, STIR AND CHEER UP

The gift of prophecy has three major benefits in the church. It is given for the edification, exhortation, and comfort of the people in the church.

*Edification means to build a strong house. The gift of prophecy builds the church, by giving strength to grow spiritually in the unity of the Spirit.

*Exhortation means to stir up, to encourage the brethren in the church. This word is similar to the office of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter!

*Comfort means to cheer up, to bring joy in the time of trouble.  

In other words, the gift of prophecy from the Holy Spirit is given to build, to stir and to cheer the church. Amen!

A prophecy is a sign and a gift given to all people in the church, but especially to believers. Thru prophecy, the believer is encouraged that God is in the midst of the church. The unbeliever is convicted of sin and repents and worship God saying, ‘God is truly among you!’ (1 Cor 14:21-25).

On the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down and formed the church, the gift of prophesy was given to many, both men and women. Peter preached his first sermon. He quoted Prophet Joel’s prediction.  “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy” (Ac 2:17-18).

It is possible that you have heard prophetic words in the past. What did you do with them? It takes faith and boldness both to prophesy and to believe prophecy. May we desire to speak for God, so that the church will be strong, stirred and encouraged! Praise the Lord!

A GENTILE SHOWS HER FAITH (Matt 15:21-28)

“Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour” (Matt 15:21-28)

This story of this mother looking for help, for healing of her daughter, is one of the sweetest in the Bible. She was from Canaan, a descendant of the people Israel met in the Promise Land. She was from an accursed race. She was to be killed by Israel. But against all odds, she survived. She is a mother. Possibly, now a widow. Her daughter is severely possessed by an unclean spirit. That means the girl is totally useless, physically, and mentally. The girl was ‘a psychiatric’ case. Even today, there is no medical cure for such an infirmity. The girl needed deliverance. The only Person who can deliver her is Jesus. This woman hears about Jesus. We know that Jesus ministered to people from Tyre and Sidon (Mk 3:8). It is possible that others told her that Jesus is the Savior. He has the power to heal and deliver. She sees Jesus as her last and only hope to help her and her daughter. They both need help. If the daughter is healed, the mother will be free from anxiety and depression. Jesus wanted to rest in someone’s house, close to the region of Tyre and Sidon. These were pagan cities. These are ports in today Lebanon, along the Mediterranean Sea. Queen Jezebel was also from Sidon (1 Kg 16:31).

This woman comes to Jesus knowing that she has nothing to impress Jesus with. She also knew that she has nothing to lose. She is asking for mercy.  She comes crying for help and falls at His feet. She honors Jesus and calls Him, Lord. She also calls Him by His prophetic Jewish Messianic name: Son of David. She is a Gentile woman but, in her heart, she is like a Jewish woman. Through her cries she disturbs everyone. The disciples get angry and urged Jesus to send her away. They do not care for the pain of a pagan mother.  Initially, Jesus keeps silent. The woman does not take that as rejection. She continues with her cries. Then Jesus tells her that she is not in the area of His ministry. The Jews call the Gentiles ‘dogs’. She does not take offence at that. She continues to worship Him and pleading for help. She accepts the negative word ‘dogs’ and answers Jesus that even the dogs need to eat something. Because of this answer of faith, Jesus heals her daughter. How did Jesus heal the daughter who was far away? Just by His will and power. The woman believed Jesus, went home, and found the daughter healed from that hour, ‘lying quietly on the bed’ (Mk 5:30). Glory!

What are the lessons for us?

The woman came to Jesus knowing that He is merciful and all powerful. She totally believed that. She walked to Jesus asking for help. She knew the principle of common grace, that God blesses even His enemies. She was a humble woman. She knew that she is an enemy to Jehovah. She had nothing to offer to Jesus. Like Rahab in Jericho, she came as an enemy who had faith in the conqueror. She knew the Word of God. She believed that Jesus is the Great High Priest who is merciful (to sinners like her) and faithful to God (Heb 2:7). She decided to obey the invitation that was given to God’s children. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). She needed help in her time of need. The word ‘help’ describes the action of frapping a ship. During storms, the sea men go under using chains to tie the ship so it will not scatter. At the throne of mercy and grace we find the merciful Great High Priest who is able to gather the broken pieces of our heart and make us whole. This woman needed the mercy offered by the merciful Great High Priest, Jesus. Mercy is kindness offered to an enemy when he falls into your power. She got that. She got mercy. Her daughter’s healing was a product of mercy.

God rewards the prayer of faith, humility, and perseverance. God rewards prayer made in an attitude of worship. God rewards an attitude of holy ‘boldness’ in prayer (Heb 10:35).  

Lesson: Do not be offended by Jesus! When Jesus called this woman ‘dog’ she ‘barked’ in agreement. She did not argue with Jesus. She believed that He must be right even if He insults her. This is great faith! Do not draw back. Have faith! Even if men reject you, Jesus will help you. He cares for people who suffer. It is wisdom to overlook an offence. “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (PV 19:11; NIV). This woman ignored the offence because she loved her daughter and wanted her healed. Jesus said: “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Matt 11:6). In Greek, the word ‘offended’ is ‘skandalon’ from which ‘scandal’ comes from. The word means a stumbling block, the reason you fall into sin and backslide. The Jews were offended by Jesus; by His birth without a father, by His lack of formal religious education, by His simple appearance in public, by the company of people that followed Him, whom they called ‘sinners’, by His doctrines, especially claiming that God is His Father. They hated His Grace, by which He forgave sinners. They hated it when he said that only by His Blood they can be saved. The disciples of John the Baptist were offended also because Jesus did not fast like their master. Even today, many Christians are offended by Jesus during times of pain and persecutions. They are offended when Jesus keeps quiet and does not answer their prayers. Jesus says that you are blessed, happy, if no matter the trials in life, you abide in Him and His words abide in you.

It is only two times that Jesus recommends people of Great faith and both of them are not Jews. One is this woman and the second is the Centurion whose servant Jesus healed (Matt 8:10). This Gentile woman teaches us that staying with Jesus, even when you do not understand His words or His ways, is still the best place in the universe! That place at His feet, is the place of answered prayers and miracles. May we find the strength to abide in Him always! Worship the Lord!

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1)/ WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The gifts of the Holy Spirit (1)/ Wisdom and Knowledge. Her main scriptures were taken from the Books 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 2 Kings 5:1-27

WE ARE FOR SIGNS AND WONDERS

We shall study the gifts of the Holy Spirit as a point of contact for more miracles in our midst. To God be all the glory!

“Here am I and the children whom the Lord has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel From the Lord of hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion” (Is 8:18). In Hebrew, the word ‘sign’ is a flag, a monument. The word ‘wonders’ is a miracle. Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts, the Captain of the heavenly army, is the Father of these supernatural children. God’s children are courageous and strong soldiers, just as their Father. They are supernatural miraculous children. Zion is a place of worship. The children are all worshippers, and they make visible progress!

 “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: “I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly, I will sing praise to You.” And again: “I will put My trust in Him.” And again: “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me” (Heb 2:10-13). Jesus Christ is Jehovah Sabaoth. He is the Captain of our salvation. As God He is already perfect. But as Man, He was made ‘perfect through suffering’. Our Savior and Captain has suffered on earth and died on the Cross, to gain complete authority as Man, to lead us to glory! Salvation is more than forgiveness of sins. Salvation is a relationship with God. It is becoming one with Jesus. In suffering, in sanctification, in praises, and in faith, we are one with Christ and share in His glory!

God told Moses to use his rod as a point of contact of miracles. “The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders (miracles) which I have put in your hand, but I will harden his heart and make him stubborn so that he will not let the people go” (Ex 4:21). Doubt sees just a wooden rod. Faith sees the miracle power in it. Doubt uses the rod only to lean on it. Faith uses the rod to separate the Red Sea. Doubt sees just a hand. Faith sees the miracle in that hand. What do you see?

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:2-4). When we become saved, we are not just sinners that have been forgiven. We have been adopted by God. We become truly children of God. We receive the same divine nature as our heavenly Father. The relationship is as real as the earthly relationship of parents and children. But the difference is that our relationship with God is eternal. God’s divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, and His precious promises, so that we may become partakers of His divine nature. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are heavenly miraculous powers given to us so that we resemble our Savior even more!   

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:1, 2). In other words, ‘like Father, like son’. We are supernatural in nature. God has given us gifts so that we are like Him. We are the gifted children of the Eternal, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, Omniscient God!

“Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Heb 2:1-4). We are commanded to meditate upon this ‘great salvation’ paid for by the Son of God with His Blood. The miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit bear witness to this wonderful salvation!

As Jesus was baptized in Jordan, the Holy Spirit came on Him like a visible Dove. He gave Him all the supernatural gifts needed for ministry. Before the Baptism, when He was working as a carpenter in Nazareth, Jesus did not need the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But now, as His public ministry started, He needed them and He used them in full force. The Pharisees became jealous on Him not because of His theology, but because of the supernatural wisdom and power He displayed. “When He had come to His own country (Nazareth), He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?” (Matt 13:54). It was the gifts of the Holy Spirit that attracted the people. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Ac 10:38). Everything Jesus did was thru the Holy Spirit and His gifts.

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1 Corinthians 12)

*These gifts are special supernatural abilities given by the Holy Spirit, so that we resemble God, our Father. They are a witness that our salvation is supernatural. These abilities are not natural. The Christian is not born with them. They are not gained thru the study of the Bible or education in general. A pastor or an elder can pray and lay hands on a believer who desires gifts. But no man can give these gifts. They are always gifts from heaven. They manifest the atmosphere of heaven on earth.

*The gifts of the Holy Spirit are Grace-Gifts. In Greek, the word ‘gifts’ is ‘charismata’. The word ‘charis’ means Grace. Therefore, these gifts are not rewards for labor; are not merited. They are free gifts from King Grace! God can give them to baby Christians or to the mature ones!

*The Holy Spirit is sovereign in distributing these gifts. He gives them according to His will and depending on the need in the local church.

*We are commanded not to be ignorant about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To be ignorant means to lack knowledge or awareness of something that is relevant. Ignorance is never a virtue to boast about! An ignorant man does not know something that he should know. He lacks knowledge that is useful. Other words similar to ‘ignorant’ are to be dumb, foolish, or illiterate.  The opposite of being ignorant means to be educated, experienced, smart, well-informed, or brilliant. Why this warning? It is because many Christians are ignorant about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They don’t know what these gifts are or their value. They think that they do not need them. Many believers do not properly understand their power in serving God. Paul says that in the past, the Corinthians were led by ‘dumb idols’. The word ‘dumb’ means to be mute, speechless, or ignorant. The religious unbelievers were ‘carried away’, led into error by these mute idols. It gives the picture of a young man, seduced by a beautiful but foolish woman. He is led by his eyes. He walks in the flesh and not in the spirit. The young man is ignorant of the dangerous path he has entered. This is the ‘walk’ of all unbelievers. But the believers, “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). Faith comes by hearing God’s word. We should be led by the voice of the Holy Spirit that comes thru the reading, preaching, and teaching of God’s Word. Spiritually speaking, the ears are more valuable than the eyes. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17).

*The gifts of the Holy Spirit do not remove from the basic knowledge of Christianity. The gifts are addition and not subtraction to your Christian life. No one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. Paul warns the believers that some things are basic to true faith. They should not be confused by vocal gifts. The Holy Spirit came to earth to glorify Jesus. He can never make anyone insult the name of Jesus. Before He died, Jesus said this: “He (The Holy Spirit) will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (Jn 16:14). No man can believe in his heart and confess with his mouth that Jesus is his Savior and Lord except by the power of the Holy Spirit. One of the Ten Commandments is not to take God’s name in vain. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain [that is, irreverently, in false affirmations or in ways that impugn the character of God]; for the LORD will not hold guiltless nor leave unpunished the one who takes His name in vain [disregarding its reverence and its power]” (Ex 20:7; AMP). In Hebrew, the word ‘vain’ means to call God’s name jokingly, and without the due respect for His Person. No matter how great a prophet is, or how much he speaks in tongues, anyone who disrespects the Lord Jesus Christ, is of the devil. This warning is necessary because the gifts can be so attractive that people forget the basics. Doctrine matters! Gifts are an addition to preaching and teaching good doctrine! Selah!

*These gifts are from God, the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they do not come with sorrow or regret. “The blessing of the LORD brings [true] riches, And He adds no sorrow to it [for it comes as a blessing from God]” (PV 10:22; AMP). In Hebrew, the word ‘sorrow’ means hard labor without profit; this is the work of a slave who works without seeing any progress in life. These gifts are not for unbelievers. They are royal gifts for God’s children. These are always profitable to the members of the Body of Christ, and to the recipient of the gift. These gifts connect you with important people. It opens the door for you to meet people who will help, favor you, and become your friends. ”A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men” (PV18:16). “Many will seek the favor of a generous and noble man, And everyone is a friend to him who gives gifts” (PV 19:6; AMP). You become a blessing to many in your generation!

*The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given only to the members of the Body of Christ. Everything God does has a purpose, and it will not fail. That means Christ wants us to have and use these gifts for two basic reasons: for unity and miracles working in His Body. These gifts are different. But they do not divide the Body. They in fact unite the Body. These gifts are profitable to all the believers in the Body. Christ needs us to use them so that the supernatural will manifest in the church. Being ignorant of the gifts of the Holy Spirit limits the manifestation of miracles!

*The fruits of the Holy Spirit are common to all. The Christians have different levels of maturity, but the fruits are the same to all. Because the fruits depend on our paying the price for spiritual growth, in a way, the fruits are not supernatural. But the Gifts are always supernatural.

*Some believers say that once you are born again and Spirit filled, you do not need gifts. They do not press on to receive and function in these gifts. That is a mistake. It grieves the Holy Spirit, and it hurts the Body. The supernatural element is missing in the local church. Even if the pastor preaches the right doctrines, the lack of the supernatural presence of God is damaging to the Body. Because of mistakes in the past, and some extremes behaviors, many pastors fear the manifestation of these gifts. They quench the Holy Spirit thru their fear and ignorance!

*The gifts of the Holy Spirit manifest greatly during seasons of revival!

*See these gifts as the eyes of Jesus, and the hands of Jesus. By using these gifts, you see what Jesus saw when He was on earth. You touch the way Jesus touched the needy and the sick. The power that flowed thru Jesus 2000 years ago, is now available thru the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Gifts always come with supernatural power. They are not just human talents. God gives His power thru the gifts so that heaven will come down to earth. You say that you don’t need these gifts? In other words, you say that you don’t need eyes. You are still alive, but you are blind. Is that the life you want?

*When Peter healed the lame man at the beautiful gate, he was conscious of having the gift of healing. He was confident that this gift was more valuable than silver and gold. Why? Because money is from the earth, but the gift of healing is from heaven. “And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength” (Ac 3:4-7). This gift of the Holy Spirit is what Peter calls ‘what I have’.

*Eagerly desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that you bless the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:31; 14:1). The words ‘eagerly desire’ mean passion in pursuing these gifts. If you believe in God, then you believe in miracles. If you believe in miracles, then you believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit!

*There are three basic lists of gifts of God. We find them in 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, 14:1-25; in Ephesians 4:11-16; and in Romans 12:3-8. These lists are not exclusive. The Holy Spirit is very creative in giving gifts that help the Body of Christ!

NINE GIFTS IN 1 CORINTHIANS 12

1-GIFTS OF REVELATION AND INSPIRATION (VOCAL GIFTS)

*Word of wisdom *Word of knowledge  *Discerning of spirits  *Prophecy  *Tongues *Interpretation of tongues

2-GIFTS OF POWER (ACTION GIFTS)

*Gifts of healings  *Working of miracles *Faith

FIVE GIFTS IN EPHESIANS 4 (Eph 4:11-16)

*Apostles *Prophets  *Evangelists  *Pastors *Teachers

SEVEN GIFTS IN ROMANS 12 (Rom 12:4-8)

*Prophecy  *Ministry (serving) -deacons  *Teaching *Exhortation  *Giving money *Leadership  *Showing mercy

THE WORD OF KNOWLEDGE

“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:7, 8).

Knowledge is generally defined as knowing facts and truths, in a particular field, acquired through education and experience. The ‘Word of Knowledge’ is different. It is a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit by which the Omniscient God reveals a truth to you directly from heaven. This knowledge is not general. It is a revelation of knowledge that applies to a particular situation. God knows and sees all things. God tells you something about a person or a situation. You do not acquire this revelation thru your wisdom, the study of the Bible or prayer. Like a flash in the dark night, this word comes to you. Light shines in the darkness and suddenly, you know the truth. For example, you know where a man is, or what is in his heart. This gift is useful in making the right decisions in life, in ministry, and during prayers.

EXAMPLES OF THE WORD OF KNOWLEDGE

*Elisha tells the King about the positions of the Syrian army. When the Syrian king became angry, one of his servants said to him: “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom” (2 Kings 6:12).

*John the Baptist said about Jesus: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29).

*Peter suddenly knew who Christ was. “He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt 16:15-17)

*Peter knew what Ananias and Saphira did in secret. “Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Ac 5:3, 4).

*While on the Island of Patmos, John received word of knowledge about the churches in Asia Minor. He then wrote it in the Book of Revelation.

Because the word of knowledge is from God, using it in ministry humbles you. You give God all the glory for using this knowledge!

THE WORD OF WISDOM

Wisdom is generally defined as the ability to apply knowledge and experience to make the right decisions. The Word of Wisdom is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the ability to use divine knowledge to make correct decisions according to God’s will. Therefore, the word of Knowledge and the word of Wisdom are connected. Supernatural wisdom is not an increased natural wisdom. It is a separate gift given by the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, you know something, and you also know how to practically apply that knowledge for the glory of God, and for the common good. The Word of wisdom is given by God who is all-wise. The Word of Knowledge shows past events. The Word of Wisdom shows future events. The Word of Wisdom gives the believer a glimpse of the future, of the plan and purpose of God for that future.  Both gifts are divine and miraculous.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:33-36).

God’s wisdom is deep, rich, and unsearchable. The word ‘deep’ means profound, mysterious. It is not found on the surface of things. It takes great effort and sacrifice to dig the hills to find gold. The casual seekers, the mockers of divine things, can never find God’s wisdom. This wisdom is rich. The word means abundant wealth and prosperity. Men look for money. But God invites us to appreciate His wisdom and to desire it. God’s wisdom is richer than gold. His wisdom is ‘unsearchable’. His ways are ‘past finding out’. God’s wisdom cannot be found by man thru exploration or education. His wisdom has no limit. Only God can give a Word of Wisdom, by His grace, to whom He wants.

“Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure” (Is 46:9, 10).

God knows everything. His knowledge is perfect, the eternal truth. When God judges a matter, He never makes mistakes. He applies the truth in the way that it will give Him all the glory! God’s wisdom never fails because He is the only One who knows the end from the beginning. For example, when Jesus called His 12 disciples, one among them was a traitor. Even from the beginning, Jesus knew that Judas would betray Him. God’s wisdom is connected with God’s sovereign will, and His everlasting purpose for His creation. It manifests clearly in the calling of His elect.

EXAMPLES OF THE WORD OF WISDOM

*The Word of Wisdom is given to warn about future danger. Noah was warned about future judgment with water. He had faith in this word. He built the ark that saved his family. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb 11:7)

*The word of wisdom came to Lot through angels. He believed it. His sons-in-law did not. They were mockers. They perished in the fire (Gen 19)

*Joseph interpreted the dreams for Pharaoh. He gave him a word of wisdom about the future. He told him what to do, to avoid tragedy. Joseph says to Pharaoh: “And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. “Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine” (Gen 41:32-36). Through this word of wisdom, Joseph became the prime minister. He saved Egypt, himself and also his family.

*All the prophets received warnings and words of wisdom about the future of the nation (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel etc)

*Paul was going on the sea to Rome. He warned the captain of the ship not to go at that time. His word of wisdom was ignored. Then there was a great storm. They all lost hope. An angel of God comes to Paul with a second word of wisdom: “After long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ Therefore, take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island” (Ac 27:21-26). This time, the captain obeyed Paul. Just as Paul said, the ship was destroyed but all were saved on the Island of Malta. Ignoring a Word of wisdom has consequences. Obeying it ends in safety and victory.

WASH AND BE CLEAN – THE HEALING OF NAAMAN (2 Kings 5).

Naaman was a great Syrian general. Tradition says that he was the one who drew an arrow at random that killed King Ahab (1 Kg 22:34). Hamman became famous in Syria. He was as famous as Joseph and Egypt or David in Israel. His name means ‘pleasant to look at’. Probably Naaman was a handsome man. But he has leprosy. It is like saying that this is a beautiful wife but she is a prostitute. Leprosy was a terrible deadly disease. It disfigured the handsome Naaman. Soon, he had to stop leading the armies. It ended into a slow and painful death. There was no cure for it. During a war with Israel, he had captured a Jewish girl who became his wife’s maid. She told him to go and meet the prophet Elisha who would heal him from this incurable and terrible disease. The Syrian King gave him a letter of introduction to the King of Israel. Naaman went to the King of Israel but was openly refused. No king can heal leprosy! Then Naaman went to the house of Elisha with all his chariots and great entourage. He was waiting at the door when Elisha sent him a word of wisdom! Elisha did not come out to greet him. The prophet’s word should be enough for Naaman. The prophet sent a message thru Gehazi that Naaman should go to the Jordan River and deep himself seven times. Then he will be healed. This is a Word of Wisdom. Naaman was angry that Elisha did not come out to greet him and to do some religious acts. He had his own ideas of what a prophet should do. His ideas were taken from idols. Now, he has to learn that Jehovah and His prophets are different. He could lead an army, but he could not control Elisha. To be healed, he had to humble himself. He obeyed Elisha and he was healed. Elisha refuses payment for this miracle. Gehazi, who is Elisha’s servant, coveted the money and ran after Naaman. He lied to him. Naaman gave him money and some expensive garments. Elisha, through a Word of Knowledge, confronts Gehazi about his sin. He and his family became leprous.

As you can see, there are at least three gifts of the Holy Spirit manifesting. Elisha is a prophet. He receives a word of wisdom for Naaman and a word of knowledge for Gehazi. God told Elisha that Naaman shall be healed in the future if he obeys this word. Because it applies to a future action, it is a Word of Wisdom. In Gehazi’s case, God gave Elisha a word of knowledge about an event that has happened already. The purpose of these two words is to give miraculous power to Elisha, to deal with both situations instantly, and according to God’s will. He healed a foreigner who had faith and he judged a Jew who did not have faith. This is a picture of the church of God. In Christ, there is no Jew, no Gentile. We are all one, saved by Grace and through Faith. Both gifts manifested by Elisha show the power of God in action. After being healed, Naaman said: “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel” (2Kings 5:15). What impressed Naaman was not just his healing but the power of God’s Word spoken by Elisha. Naaman was not only healed physically, but he became saved too. He promised that he “will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord” (2 Kg 5:17). The prophet’s word and the healing gives glory to God!

These are some lessons:

*The slave Jewish girl was not bitter with her situation. She advised her master who has captured her how he can be healed. She had faith that God will use Elisha the prophet to perform a miracle. Her faith was proven to be true.

*The King of Israel behaves as a man without faith. He gets angry when he sees Naaman’s need. He does not even think of Elisha the prophet.

*Naaman is proud and rich. He comes with money and gifts. When Elisha did not come out to greet him, he got very angry. His pride and anger almost destroyed his chance of receiving his miracle. The clean rivers of Syria stand for human wisdom. The muddy waters of Jordan stand for God’s power. This is the foolishness of the Gospel. He who believes, shall be saved, and healed! Selah!

*Naaman’s servant was humble and wise. He convinced his master to have faith in the word of wisdom from the mouth of Elisha!

*Elisha has no money and no titles. But Elisha has the power of God! That is all that matters!

*This is a proof that God is a God of miracles. Naaman repented of unbelief, pride, and anger. Naaman finally believed. Then he was healed.

*Elisha refused payment from Naaman. He wanted to prove to Naaman that salvation is by Grace, not by works or money. A servant of God should be careful when to receive and when not to receive gifts from people. Selah!

*Gehazi’s greed cost him his health. He received the leprosy that departed from Naaman. His sin affected his descendants. If Gehazi wants Naaman’s money, then he should want his leprosy too. This was divine justice. By asking for money, Gehazi grieved the Holy Spirit and injured Elisha’s testimony as a man of God. Elisha could not heal Gehazi. God always punishes greed and lying. Gehazi lost his health, his testimony, and his ministry. He joined the rank of Ahithophel, Judas, Ananias and Saphira.

*There are two miracles performed by Elisha: one is divine judgment and the other is divine mercy! This is a great contrast between the servant of pagan Naaman (who had faith in God’s Word) and Gehazi, Elisha’s servant (who sold his birthright for money).

*God takes all the glory for the conversion and healing of Naaman and also for the punishment of Gehazi!

*Jesus uses this story to preach about faith. He tells the Jews that a foreigner like Naaman had faith but the Jews who had leprosy did not have faith to be healed. “And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian” (Lk 4:27). The Jews got angry at this word and drove Jesus away from Nazareth. It is possible that Jesus never went back to Nazareth. After living with them for 30 years, they still did not believe in Him. Faith is not a product of familiarity. It is the gift of God.

“Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chr 20:20).

Believe (confirm, support) in Jehovah Elohim, and you shall be established (upheld, confirmed, stand still). Believe in His prophets and you shall prosper (be successful, you will win the victory, you push forward, make progress in life)

Naaman was proud. It was hard for him to trust Jehovah’s prophet. Elisha was probably living in a simple house. He may not have been a wealthy man. But with all his money, fame, and status, Naaman could not find a cure for his leprosy. His boss, the Syrian king could not help him. The king of Israel could not help him too. When the rich and famous, could not help Naaman, it was hard to believe that a poor, simple man like Elisha can help. But trusting in God’s prophets is the key to breakthrough and progress in life!   

Naaman had to experience the withering power of the Holy Spirit. “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is 40:6-8). This is the experience of all the saints. Once the Holy Spirit starts the work of convicting of sin, the pride of the flesh starts to ‘fade’. It is an extremely painful experience. Like the wind, the breath of Jehovah blows upon the flesh and its pride-flower falls. The Word of God ‘stands’ forever. The word ‘withers’ means to be disgraced, ashamed, confused and disappointed. The pride of life cannot endure the Wind and Fire of the Holy Spirit. It must bow! But in the midst of this fading glory, one thing stands unshakable: it is the eternal Word of God! Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity! God is no respecter of persons (Ac 10:34).

Generally, God uses people that seem foolish to the men of the world. The message they preach, the Gospel of Christ Crucified and resurrected in seen as foolishness to the world. The worldly wise ask themselves: how can a carpenter who died naked on a cross 2000 years ago be able to save my soul today? Or be able to heal my incurable sickness? They do not see the truth about Jesus. Their wisdom acquired through education and philosophy has failed them. God has destroyed their wisdom and exalted the wisdom of the humble believers in Christ. Why? To humble the proud, so that they shall not glory (boast) in God’s presence!

With all his wealth and fame, Naaman did the right thing. He took the road a sinner must take to make peace with God! First, he did not hide his leprosy. Everyone knew he is leprous. His wife, his household servants, his king, his soldiers and servants under him, they all knew that this man is sick unto death. At that time, leprosy did not have a cure. Leprosy was not just a headache or a toothache. It was like a sin unto death. It was a slow and painful death. Soon, Naaman could not be a soldier again. Leprosy was like sin; it had no human cure. Only God could heal him. But which God? Naaman decided to find that God. He openly came to Elisha. It was not at night like Nicodemus. It was in the day with all people to see. Naaman was not ashamed to seek God for salvation and healing!

God was working in Naaman’s life, but he did not know then. He allowed the leprosy to afflict his body. God shut down any form of help from the wise and the rich. Until Naaman arrived at the end of himself, until he humbled himself, he could find no solution to his problem. God humbled him. He saw his need as a sinner. The Holy Spirit convicted him of sin. Leprosy is a symbol of sin. For as long as Naaman stood proud, in defiance against God, he could not find peace or healing. “God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble” (Jam 4:6). Humbled, he went to Jordan River and dipped in its muddy waters 7 times. Seven is the number of Perfection. It was not the water that healed him. It was the God of Elisha who spoke the Word of wisdom. He got healed, body, soul, and spirit. The guilt and shame of leprosy left him instantly. He has a new mind of peace with God! Here we see that God helps those who cannot help themselves! Naaman had to bow to Jehovah, to the God of the country he has conquered with his army. He could conquer the people, but he could not conquer their God. Naaman had to bow not only to Jehovah God, but also to Jehovah’s prophet, Elisha. Once he humbled himself, the healing was instant! He then openly praises Jehovah God! May his story humble us too! Come to Jesus! Receive His total salvation! Be born again! Be healed! In Jesus’ name! Worship the Lord!

WALK IN THE SPIRIT

MY PROGRESS IS EVIDENT TO ALL (8 )/ WALK IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled My Progress is evident to all (8 ). Her main scriptures were taken from the Books of 1 Timothy 4:12-16; Gal 5:16- 26; 1 Samuel 1:1-28; 2:1-11.

MAY YOUR PROGRESS BE EVIDENT TO ALL

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:12-16)

Prophetic word: We declare that in Christ, we have entered our Promised Land and our progress is evident to all!

Spiritual maturity manifests as ‘progress’ that can be seen by others. Progress is defined as a slow forward movement towards a goal, to an improved condition in life, on the path to perfection. It means to advance in life, closer to the place where your dreams are fulfilled. The opposite of progress means to go back, to become worse, to sink, to lose benefits, or to waste away. May we pay the price for godly success!

WALK IN THE SPIRIT

“But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law” (Gal 5:16-18; AMP).

In Greek, the word ‘walk’ means to follow, to behave. It is your lifestyle. Walking is progress. The word ‘fulfill the lust of the flesh’ means to gratify, to accomplish, or to please your flesh. The Holy Spirit is always the Leader. You are the follower. Like the sheep follows her shepherd so you must listen, trust, obey and follow the Holy Spirit. This is the holy road to progress and eternal life. For that, you need to know the Word of God! Like a spoiled child, the flesh is rebellious, restless, foolish, stubborn, and never satisfied.  It cannot be led by the Spirit. The flesh moves in the opposite way, out of a natural impulse, and without thinking. It does not care about God or His Word. Selah!

Following the Holy Spirit brings freedom from two terrible unmerciful masters: The flesh, with its never satisfying lusts, and God’s Law, which cannot be totally obeyed by man. It is only the Children of God that can ‘walk in the Spirit’. Flesh is the totality of man that is not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. The body is not evil in itself. But the body is the seat of evil because of its natural desires corrupted by sin. Only the Holy Spirit is able to conquer the flesh. This process is called sanctification. It is done by faith in God’s Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit and under His leadership. The desires of the flesh and the desires of the Spirit are not just different. They are opposing and contrary. The flesh and the Spirit are constantly at war with one another and there is no possibility of making peace. If one wins, the other loses. It is only the child of God that experiences this conflict between his flesh and the Spirit. It is an unpleasant feeling, but it is a proof that you are born again. Selah!

JESUS HAS DELIVERED ME FROM THIS BODY OF DEATH

“But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:13-25)

When God sent His Law thru Moses, it was not to be a means of salvation. No man can completely obey it. God does not accept partial obedience to His Law. The function of God’s Law is to expose sin. If it is not for God’s Law, man cannot believe that he is a sinner in need of a Savior. In practical experience, it means that once I read the Bible and know God’s Law, my life became worse. Thru the law of God, my mind, my conscience became convicted of sin. I now want to repent, to change. But I discovered that I do not have the power to change myself. The Law convicts me but does not help me and does not have mercy on me. This battle between flesh and spirit starts. For the first time in my life, I now discover that I live in ‘a body of death’. This body is a slave to its lusts. I cannot become free. I do the very things I now hate. I become a hopeless and ‘a wretched man’. I struggle like a man drowning in the ocean. Conviction of sin is a terrible time. The fire of God burns all flesh. All saints testify to that. At last, defeated by God’s Law, I discover my need for a Savior. The Holy Spirit leads me to Jesus. I now see that Jesus died for me, for my sins. I cling to Jesus like a desperate dying man. As I surrender my whole life to Jesus, He reveals Himself to me in His power and His glory! I bow at His feet as a dead man. His Spirit comes into my heart and takes over my life. This is the miracle of salvation. I am now born again! I now have eternal life! Jesus is my Savior and my Lord! From now on, I will learn to walk in the Spirit and crucify the flesh. Glory!

THE WORKS OF THE FLESH

“The practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:19-21; AMP)

The works (practices) of the flesh ‘are evident’. In Greek, the word ‘evident’ means to be obvious, visible, shining like a light. The sins of the flesh cannot be hidden. Look for them and you will find them. See the difference: The flesh ‘works’ like a slave, and the Spirit produces fruit like a prince, just by abiding, and without working. The flesh is restless and impatient. The Spirit is calm, peaceful, powerful, and fruitful.

The works of the flesh are divided into four parts: sexual sins, religious sins, uncontrolled excessive sinful emotions, and social sins.

SEXUAL SINS

*Adultery and fornication are sexual acts done outside the bond of marriage. These also include lustful imaginations and pornography. Paul wrote these words about 2000 years ago. God’s Word does not change. Even now, adultery is a serious problem. One out of four marriages end in divorce. Adultery is one of the main reasons for divorce. Before Christianity, the pagan cultures accepted fornication as normal. It was Christianity that brought the idea of being sexually faithful in the marriage between a man and a woman. This sexual purity is revolutionary.

*Uncleanness means to be morally impure. Impurity means something dirty, unclean, a mixture of two components. As there are healthy and sick people, so the Bible recognizes spiritually clean and unclean people. This word describes a wound infected with pus. In the Old Testament, touching the dead, or leprosy made a man spiritually unclean. That man has to live an isolated life so that he will not affect others with his impurity. This is God’s law: Sin pollutes man and makes him unclean. An unclean person cannot approach God. It is only thru union with Christ that are sinner can be cleansed from the pollution of sin. Spiritual and physical sexual purity is needed to come close to God.

*Lewdness, debauchery, or licentiousness means the habitual indulgence in sensuality. It is an addiction to sexual lust. It is a lifestyle of excess, of wild partying. It lacks shame or self-control. It describes someone who does not care about what others think about him. It includes violence, unrestrained sex, drunkenness, and rude talk. It is an unholy behavior. No believer should be found living in debauchery. The prodigal son wasted all his money in ‘debauchery’ (Lk 15:13). Drinking alcohol and drugs can lead to wasted life of debauchery. “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18; NIV). Lewdness is defeated only by the power of the Holy Spirit.

RELIGIOUS SINS

*Idolatry means loving something or someone more than God. It includes worshiping family and friends or making gods in our imagination. It is said that the two greatest idols among men are materialism (love of money) and love of pleasure.  

*Sorcery, also called witchcraft, means using the power of evil spirits for your selfish benefit. Sorcery is used to cause harm to others by deceiving them. It manifests as wickedness, manipulation, or casting spells. There are some people who practice witchcraft habitually. Sorcery in that sense is forbidden by God. But here, sorcery is described as a work of the flesh. That means all sinners have the power to use demons, become wicked and deceive others. This activity of the flesh is done knowingly or not. False prophets, false teachers, use sorcery to deceive others, to trust them and their words. Seducing spirits can attract their victims against their wills. In Greek, the word ‘sorcery’ is ‘pharmakeia’ from which the word ‘Pharmacy’ comes. In the past, people thought that sorcery is like giving drugs or poison to others.

*Heresies is belief in doctrines that the main church rejects. Heresies become sects and cults outside the main Christianity.   

EXCESSIVE UNCONTROLLED SINFUL EMOTIONS

*Hatred is a strong negative feeling of dislike, anger, or bitterness, by declaring another an enemy. It is connected with murder in the heart.

*Contention means strife, lack of agreement and bitter struggle against others, ending in quarrels and fights.

*Jealousies, envies. Envy is a bitter desire to have something that belongs to another- his wealth, position, or success. Jealousy is the fear of losing something or someone that we possess. Envy is connected with covetousness and jealousy is connected with fear.

*Outbursts of wrath describes passionate extreme anger and loss of temper. It manifests as violent quarrel and a desire to punish others.

*Selfish ambition is the proud desire to succeed at the expense of others. The good plan you have in life is all about you and none for others.

SOCIAL SINS

*Dissension, rivalry means strong disagreement of opinions, competition for leadership and refusal to settle. It divides the unity of the church.

*Murder is the unlawful, wicked, or premeditated killing of one human being by another. Murder is a sin against God’s law (Ex 20:13)

*Drunkenness means taking an overdose of alcohol. It affects the mind and the body. The drunkard temporarily loses his self-control.

*Revelry means a noisy, joyful, partying usually accompanied with drinking alcohol, drugs, laughing loudly, singing, dancing, and wild behavior.

Apostle Paul said that “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21). All unbelievers go to hell. The road to hell is paved with these works of the flesh! A true believer may fall into sin, but he repents and stands again to walk in the Spirit!

THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

“But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites” (Gal 5:22-24; AMP)

The fruit of the Spirit is the harvest produced by the Holy Spirit in the human spirit of the believer. The Holy Sprit works inside, sometimes faster, and sometimes slower. The fruit affects the character of the believer. The fruit is different from the gifts of the Spirit which are powers given by the same Holy Spirit for the work of God. The fruit of the Spirit is the visible manifestation of Christ dwelling within. Selah!

*LOVE

In Greek, the word love is ‘agape’. This love of God manifests in creation, in the general grace to all, but especially in the death of Jesus on the Cross. It is a sacrificial love manifesting only in the believer, as a desire to worship God and to help others for Christ’ sake. We are commanded to love God and one another (1 Jn 4:11). The opposite of love means to be distant, not caring, or cold hearted. Many books have been written about love but words are not enough to describe it. The greatest love is described by Jesus: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). Jesus Himself did not just preach about love. He had to die to show us what love is! Glory to God!

*JOY

Joy is a blessed calm delight much deeper than what the world calls ‘happiness’. It is specific to the believers and is independent from the circumstances. Joy manifests as spiritual and physical strength. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10). Lovers are always strong and joyful! Joy is a constant fruit, but it manifests in a greater measure when worshipping in God’s presence or when prayers are answered. This joy cannot be faked. It is extremely powerful. It is magnetic. Somebody said that ‘joy is the flag on top of the soul castle when the King of kings is in residence’. A sad Christian does not exist. He may feel low sometimes, but joy springs again, visible to all. Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies because I rejoice in Your salvation” (1 Sam 2:1). “In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11). Joy is a heavenly emotion (Lk 15:7). Heaven rejoices with sinners are saved. Joy accompanies salvation. A backslider does not lose his salvation, but he loses his joy. King David prayed not only for forgiveness of sins, but for his joy to be restored. “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Ps 51:12).

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Jam 1:2-4). No unbeliever can rejoice during the trials of life. But the believer manifests this fruit of joy, in season and outside season. How can a believer rejoice during trials? He knows that God is with him! He also knows that God has allowed this trial to come for a greater purpose. Pain becomes patience on the way of spiritual perfection and progress in life. God alone produces joy, thru the Holy Spirit in your human spirit. Joy is also a choice. During trials, you chose to respond with peace and joy knowing that you are not alone. God is with you! His presence is all that matters! This joy is not fake. It is real!

*PEACE

Peace is a feeling of rest, of calmness. The world describes peace as the absence of war. But in the Bible, peace is more than lack of trouble. It describes a total wellbeing, living in harmony, being made whole. In Hebrew, the word peace is Shalom. It is a great word. It describes peace and prosperity, favor and friends, health, and wealth. The peace of God is not influenced by the circumstances. It is stronger than them. One of God’s names is Jehovah Shalom (Jdg. 6:24). In Greek, the word peace is ‘eirene’. It describes rest and unity among the different parts. There is no division where there is peace. It also means a state of complete satisfaction. Peace cannot be manufactured by men. It is purely the gift of God and the fruit of God’s Spirit in the heart of His child. There are three types of peace: We have peace with God, peace with men, and peace with ourselves. Peace comes knowing that God is totally in control. The opposite of peace is strife, grudges, quarrels, and troubles. But even in troubles, knowing that Jesus ‘is in your boat’ brings ‘the peace that passes all understanding’ (Phil 4:7). Peace is the road towards spiritual progress and hope of glory! “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:1-4). The Cross made peace between God and man. “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col 1:19, 20).

*PATIENCE- LONGSUFFERING

Longsuffering means to be patient like God. It means to endure trials, to suffer long without complaining. During trials, a patient man chose to stay calm and faithful to God. He does not lose his temper or try to seek vengeance. He trusts God for strength and justice. Longsuffering is not weakness. Only those who are Spirit-filled can manifest the fruit of longsuffering, especially under provocation. They do not submit to the outside attacks. They remain calm, trusting God. Longsuffering is connected with mercy and compassion. The opposite of it is to be tired of life and complain. This fruit of the Spirit gives strength to a believer to endure pain, persecutions, and provocation without fear!

God is longsuffering! “Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (Exo 34:5-7).

God is longsuffering with men, but His longsuffering has a limit. You see that in destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and in the sending of His people from the Promised Land into exile to Babylon. We are commanded to be longsuffering and kind to others as God is towards men. “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:31-32).

*KINDNESS

Kindness is active goodness. It is being caring or concerned for the well-being of others while being gentle, generous, and loving. Longsuffering and Kindness are attributes of agape love.  “Love suffers long and is kind” (1 Cor 13:4). Goodness is internal and invisible. Kindness manifests through acts of help. Kindness is generous with time, effort, and resources. A kind person is a good listener, an encourager and treats others with respect. Joseph treated his brothers with kindness. Boaz and Ruth were both kind people. The Good Samaritan was also a kind man.

*GOODNESS

Goodness applies to moral character. In Greek it means to have an upright heart like God’s. It is a manifestation of being holy. A good person desires to be like Jesus and to be a blessing to others. Goodness manifests itself as being kind, honest, and helpful. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Ps 145:8, 9).

*FAITHFULNESS

Faithfulness means to be full of faith. It also means to be loyal to God, to His promises, and to His people. Faithfulness means that you trust God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible. You do not depend on what you see. You depend on what God says. All people of faith believed in the invisible work of God. Abraham and Sarah did not see their descendants numerous as stars. But they believed God’s promise and they had Isaac, thru which ‘the stars’ came. Moses did not enter the Promised Land, but he believed what God has promised. Faithfulness means to stay stable and constant in your faith. Faith is both a fruit and a gift of the Holy Spirit. The opposite of faithfulness is to become a traitor.

*GENTLENESS

Gentleness means total submission to God’s will that brings contentment in life. It is also translated as humility, mildness, or meekness. It is not a form of weakness. To be gentle under provocation requires moral strength kept under control. It manifests as thanksgiving to God and being polite and respectful towards men. Gentle people are spiritual and easy to talk to. They are the best teachers especially when there is need for rebuke or correction. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (PV 15:1; NIV). “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal 6:1).

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:24-26). The opposite of gentleness is to be harsh or rough.

God’s gentleness is the source of progress in life. “Your gentleness has made me great” (Ps 18:35).

*SELF-CONTROL

Self-control means will power to keep your emotions submitted to God; to be disciplined and sober, especially during provocation. The opposite is to lack restrain, to be wild in behavior and speech. Self-control means to master yourself. It reveals a champion, one who has disciplined his body and his mind, to win the gold medal. Self-control is the door to true freedom from the wicked destructive lusts of the flesh. It manifests as the joy of the champion with the medal on his neck!  

FRUITS ARE FREEDOM

“Against such there is no law” (Gal 5:23)

All these fruits of the Holy Spirit bring the blessing of protection from the law of God. In heaven and on earth, there is no law against them. Having these fruits releases the believer from guilt, or condemnation. These are the fruits of spiritual maturity, freedom, and progress.  When the unbelievers say they want freedom, what they mean is to become lawless, selfish, and wild. Their so-called freedom is a cover for sin. But that is not true freedom! It is bondage! But the believer is free indeed by the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit. He gladly submits to God’s law, obeying it, and also helping men do the same. They do not abuse freedom. They submit to the law of Christ which is the law of love!

CRUCIFY THE FLESH AND WALK IN THE SPIRIT

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging, or provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal 5:24-26; AMP).  

Practically, how do we make spiritual progress? We need to walk in the Spirit and then, the fruits will grow. Our flesh will lose its power to work sinful acts. How do we learn to walk led by the Spirit? Read the Bible, fast, and pray. Attend a living church. Serve God in any capacity in His house. Submit to God and to His delegated authority in your church. As you are busy with spiritual things, the flesh will be tired to ask for attention. Eventually, the flesh will be defeated. The spirit in you will become stronger. This is the royal way of the Cross.

It is important to be aware of the reality of this conflict between flesh and spirit. Do not be ignorant. For as long as we live, there is this internal spiritual conflict. The flesh has its own desires. The devil will take advantage of them. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you need to choose to walk in the Spirit. This conflict is proof that you are saved. The devil does not attack the unbelievers with the same force. Remember your freedom. Also, remember that sinful thoughts are not sins except you chose to welcome them. Temptation is not sin. Falling in the midst of temptation, that is sin.  Do not stop walking in the Spirit. Do not give up on God or on yourself. This conflict is like a marathon. It lasts until your last breath. If you fall into sin, repent, and then you get up. You are a winner! That is your destiny approved in heaven and worked on earth!

The flesh produces ‘works’. This word is in plural. The Spirit produces ‘fruit’. It is singular. ‘The slices of the fruit of the Spirit are united and work well together creating an organic unit. But the flesh ‘parts’ quarrel with one another.

Walking by the Spirit is the only way to make progress in life. As believers we enter into a new way of life. The past is fading and the new life, the higher Christ-life, becomes our portion and destiny. Walking in the Spirit is the only cure to stagnation or backsliding. 

Hagar and Peninnah are symbols of the works of the flesh. Sarah and Hannah are symbols of the fruit of the Spirit.

All God’s promises are given to The Seed, to Jesus. God has no promises outside Jesus! If you have Jesus, by God’s grace, you shall grow like a tree planted by the river of life. If you have Jesus, you will make progress. If you have Jesus, then you have everything you need!

WILL KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUITS

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them” (Matt 7:15-19).

Jesus warns us about the false religious believers. Who are these people? They are in the churches. They say that they believe the Bible, but they do not apply the Word of God in practical life. They preach an easy salvation and a cheap grace. They avoid some topics. For example, they do not preach about the Cross of Christ, hell, repentance, or self-examination. They preach that Jesus has come to make you happy and wealthy. Listen to this spiritual law: Doctrine influences behavior! Whatever teaching you believe, if it is true or false, it will eventually manifest for all to see. Christianity is a miracle! Jesus said: ‘You must be born again’! These false believers are not born again. They have done some ‘spiritual cosmetic surgery’. They have stopped committing some major visible sins like adultery or drinking alcohol. But their hearts have not changed. They dress in ‘sheep’s clothing’ but inwardly they are still like ravenous – extremely hungry- wolves. This is the danger of hypocrisy!

Jesus said that all men are divided into two groups: good and bad. In other words, there are believers and unbelievers. Symbolically, they are like good trees and bad trees. Each type of tree produces its own fruit. There is no mixture in between. A good tree can only produce good fruit. These are the true believers. They cannot produce bad fruit. They cannot habitually practice wickedness again. The religious unbelievers produce bad fruit. They cannot produce the good fruit of the Holy Spirit. These are like the bad trees that will be cut down and thrown into the fire of hell. They are proud. They are wicked. They do not care if they break your purse or your heart. True believers are sober and joyful at the same time. These fake believers are always superficial in doctrine and behavior. What can we do to discover these people? Jesus warns us to look for the fruit of the Spirit. It may take time. Be patient. Wait! Test a man before you trust him! There is a danger of being deceived and misled by false prophets. But once you find a good tree, submit, and eat from its fruit! Selah!

HANNAH GRACE (1 Sam 1 and 2)

This is the story of Hannah, a woman of God. Her name means Grace. She was barren because ‘The Lord closed her womb’ (1 Sam 1:5). In Hebrew, the word ‘closed’ means to shut down for repairs; to isolate for quarantine. Her husband, Elkanah, married a second wife called Peninnah, possibly to have children. But Elkanah loved Hannah. Each year, they all go to Shiloh, where God’s temple is, to worship God. Peniniah is a wicked woman. She represents the works of the flesh. She provokes Hannah who represents the fruit of the Spirit. Hannah, in great sorrow and pain, goes to pray. The word ‘prayer’ appears 6 times in 1 Samuel 1. See the importance of prayer!

Hannah asked God for a son. She vows to God that her son will be given back to God to serve Him all the days of his life. God answers her prayers. Hannah has a baby boy. She names him Samuel ‘God has heard my prayer’. She brings her son to God! God gives her five other children. Her first son is Samuel, becomes a great man of God. He is a prophet, a leader, and a judge in Israel. God uses him to bring revival in Israel. He anoints the first two kings of Israel, Saul, and David. Outwardly, Hannah was just an ordinary woman. She was a housewife. But thru her faith and prayers, she touches God who opens the womb that He has once closed. Hannah is not a queen but she speaks like a queen. She is not a prophet but she speaks like a prophet. She is a true servant of God! Hannah believes in the power of resurrection. Hannah believes in the power of prayer. She prayed that God remembers her. When she knew that it was God who closed her womb ‘for repairs’ she did not get angry with God. She did not become bitter like Naomi. She prayed to the same God who shut the womb knowing that He is the only one who will open it once the ‘repairs’ were finished. She prayed to God, Jehovah Sabaoth, the God of the armies of heaven. She saw God as the surgeon who will operate on her womb. She had faith that her time on the surgical theater is not wasted, but it is a time of healing for her. This faith helped her to endure faithfully, even when Peninnah provoked her with malice.    

Hannah did what Eli failed to do! She proved that you can love God more than children! She passed the test of a true worshipper. Eli failed to pass that same test. Hannah became the leader of anointing in Israel. Samuel carried her anointing into his ministry. This is a reminder that you do not need to hold an official position or title in the church to become a true leader. The title of a pastor or bishop does not come with the anointing. You have to receive that anointing from God and not from men!

As you can see, Eli, was the high priest at that time but he was a weak man. He is also a weak father. God chastises him for not restraining his two sons, Hophni and Phineas. They were also priests. But their behavior was openly rebellious against God. “So the sin of the [two] young men [Hophni and Phinehas] was very great before the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD disrespectfully” (1 Sam 2:17; AMP). God punished this priestly family. Father and both sons died in the same day. From this moment on, God opened the way for Samuel to step into the spiritual gap and to lead Israel, as a judge, priest, and prophet! Selah!

Hannah’s husband, Elkanah, stands for God. He asked her: “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1 Sam 1:8). This is God’s voice to the barren Hannah. God wanted her to love Him more than children. Jesus said: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt 10:37-39). Once Hannah loved God more than her own life, she was ready for her miracle! God remembered her. He gave her Samuel. The dead womb became fruitful! At that time, Israel was backsliding as a nation. Through her son, the nation enters into a new realm. Israel becomes a Kingdom. In that darkness, God uses a simple woman to shine the light of revival in the nation! May this be our story! Worship the Lord!

LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

MY PROGRESS IS EVIDENT TO ALL (7)/ LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled My Progress is evident to all (7)/ Her main scriptures were taken from the Books of 1 Timothy 4:12-16; 1 John 4:1-11; Ru 2:1-23; 3:1-11.

MAY YOUR PROGRESS BE EVIDENT TO ALL

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:12-16)

Prophetic word: We declare that in Christ, we have entered our Promised Land and our progress is evident to all!

Spiritual maturity manifests as ‘progress’ that can be seen by others. Progress is defined as a slow forward movement towards a goal, to an improved condition in life, on the path to perfection. It means to advance in life, closer to the place where your dreams are fulfilled. The opposite of progress means to go back, to become worse, to sink, to lose benefits, or to waste away. May we pay the price for godly success!

THE PROGRESS OF GOD’S WORD IS EVIDENT TO ALL  

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Is 55:10, 11).

Like the rain and the snow, God’s Word goes forth from His mouth in heaven, and goes down to the earth. Like the rain and the snow, the Word touches the people of the earth and brings eternal life to them. God’s Word is a heavenly gift to men. The Word has power and purpose. It is always effectual. The Word prospers in the plan of God. The Word pleases God in its work among men. God has created all things including the rain and the snow. These are His servants. They have a purpose as they fall to the earth. They will not fail in their purpose. Their work on earth brings praise to God. “Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths; 8 Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word” (Ps 148:7, 8). The rain has no seed. The rain alone cannot produce a harvest. But the rain waters the seed planted, and the harvest will surely come. In the winter, the snow covers the earth like a warm blanket and protects it from freezing. “He gives [to the earth] snow like [a blanket of] wool” (Ps 147:16; AMP). The seed planted in the autumn survives under the snow, and it will grow in the springtime. Therefore, the Word of God protects itself from danger and has the power of resurrection inside. The Word of God is stronger than all obstacles. It is always fruitful. It produces seeds and bread. Seed is for the farmer. The Word of God blesses the worker with more seed. God’s Word blesses the work of our hands and the words of our mouths. The Word is bread for the hungry, for him who is too weak to work.

God’s Word will not go back to Him in heaven ‘void’. In Hebrew, the word ‘void’ means to be empty handed, barren, to have no effect. It means a project that ended in failure. This is God’s revelation. God’s Word does not go back to Him until it has performed the pleasure of God on earth. God’s Word is creative. It is always successful in accomplishing God’s purpose. The Word is never spoken in vain. When the Gospel is preached, God always has a purpose. The elect will repent and surrender to Jesus. They become saved. The unbelievers harden their hearts and reject God’s Word. It is like rain falling on a hard rock. It is useless. But even then, God has accomplished His purpose in the sending of His Word. The hard rock cannot say that it does not know what water is. The unbeliever has no excuse on the day of judgment. He cannot say that God did not extend grace to him on earth. He has to confess that he rejected the Gospel. That is why he must go to hell.

Never forget that! God’s Word always prospers to the glory of God! In Hebrew, the word ‘prosper’ means to push forward. It always makes progress, and it will be evident to all. God’s Word gives life, or it will kill. God never regrets sending His Word. God never apologizes sending the Word. We must faithfully preach God’s with confidence. To the glory of God and to the good of men, for the saving of their souls! Glory to God!

LOVE DEFINED

Love is a strong deep tender feeling of affection and concern arising from close friendship; it is good will towards another. When you love, you like another very much and you desire his good. These are some examples of love: Friends love one another. Parents love their children. The love in the godly Marriage is different and unique. The husband and his wife love one another spiritually, faithfully, romantically, and sexually.

This is the classical description of Biblical agape love: “Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. 5 It is not rude; it is not self-seeking; it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. 6 It does not rejoice at injustice but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7 Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening]. 8 Love never fails [it never fades nor ends]” (1 Cor 13:4-8; AMP).

If you change the word ‘love’ with Christ, you will find that it is a perfect match. The agape love of God is a product of His Grace. God loves us not because we are good. God’s love is unmerited and cannot be earned. It is by Grace alone. God’s love manifests as kindness, forgiveness, as helping the weak, and as humility that desires the good of others. The best expression of God’s Love is displayed in Christ Crucified. Selah!

In the Bible, love is not just a feeling. It is God’s command; it is a mind and a will actively engaged. Love is expressed through both words and actions. Many Christians know the doctrines, but they do not apply the word they know. Love is always an application of God’s Word. Few are successful in loving people. Why do you think that God commands us to love others? It’s because love is a champion, a leader. “Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8). In Greek, the word ‘fails’ has two meanings. The first one describes a bad actor who is not received by the audience. The people shout at him, and he leaves the stage in shame. The second meaning describes a rose, whose petals whiter and fall to the ground. In both these pictures you see the sadness of failure. But God’s Word says that Love will not be rejected and will not fall down dead. It will be received by men. It will eternally remain fresh, strong, and fragrant. The more you love like Jesus, the more you shall receive favor from both God and man. If you truly love, you become more than a conqueror. You depart from the realm of failure. You enter the triumphal procession of eternal victory. All lovers are leaders! They alone are able to endure and hope for all things. They alone are able to change the world!   

TEST BEFORE YOU TRUST

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore, they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 Jn 4:1-11)

To make progress, you must drive away the spirit of fear and become filled with power, love, and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7).  We shall study God’s love. In the Book of 1 John there are three major commandments. The first one is to love God with all our hearts. This is how we know that we are God’s children. The second command is to love the brethren. This is a sure test that we are born again. The third command is to test and avoid false doctrines. In the history of the church, immediately the apostles wrote the New Testament, false teachers appeared and brought in false doctrines. These doctrines are brought by religious evil spirits of ‘Antichrist’. We are warned to ‘test the spirits, whether they are from God’ or not. God’s warning remains standing forever. The spirit of Antichrist is a religious spirit. People who are under the influence of this spirit do not deny Christ openly. They say that they believe in Jesus. They belong to the visible church. They are insiders and difficult to discover. That is why they are dangerous. What do they preach? They preach by the power of ‘another spirit, another Jesus, and another Gospel’ (Gal 1:6,7). They do not preach The true Gospel of Christ Crucified and Resurrected. Something is lacking in their sermons. The most important missing element is that they remove from the glory of the Person of Jesus. To cheat God of His glory is a most serious danger. God does not forgive such a sin. King Herod tried to share in God’s glory, and he died instantly (Ac 12:21-23).

Listen to what God says: “I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images” (Isa 42:8). Behold a glimpse from the worship in heaven: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev 4:11). As you can see, all glory, honor and power belong to the Lord, the Creator, and the Sustainer of all things on earth and in heaven. Practically, what does it mean to share in God’s glory? It means to be proud, to boast about yourself, about your achievements. Jesus is seated on the Throne. By your words and attitude, you claim a portion from His throne. You want men to worship you too. This is what Lucifer tried to do and he was sent away from heaven. The spirit of Antichrist does not totally deny Jesus, but it lowers Jesus to lift himself. You need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to identify this demon. Many churches are under the influence of this evil religious spirit. The pastors and the congregation are proud. They are a hindrance to the movement of the Holy Spirit in the church. These religious spirits are strongholds positioned to block revival. This is God’s warning: Test before you trust men! Flee from proud pastors! But once a pastor has passed your test, then submit and honor him! He is not perfect but he is a genuine believer and acceptable to God!

This is the Gospel: Jesus is God. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He took flesh upon Himself and became Man. Jesus was 100% God and 100% Man. Not 50-50. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. This is called the Incarnation. He became a real Man. During His life on earth, His glory was covered by His flesh. That is why men did not know that He is God. But He revealed Himself to those He called to Him. The spirit of Antichrist preaches an incomplete Jesus. He denies either the fact that Jesus is God, or the fact that He was a true Man. This is an error. For if Jesus is not God, then He did not resurrect. He is still in the grave like all men. If Jesus is not Man, then He cannot save men from sins, because He cannot die in their place. This ‘another Jesus’ lacks the power to truly save men from sins. It is a religious spirit of deception. If you want to know the truth about the spirit of Antichrist, study the Jesus those pastors are preaching. They do not give Jesus the glory due to Him. They do not put Jesus in the center of their preaching. They worship men, religion, miracles, ministry, or money. The ‘other gospel’ is a false powerless gospel that does not save. Be honest with yourself! Ask yourself some questions about the teachers or the preachers you listen to: Do they try to obey God’s Word in their daily lives? Are they humble? Do they repent when they do wrong? Do they put Jesus in the center of their lives? Do they seek the Kingdom of God first, or they seek fame and money. Do they love the brethren? Do they have good marriages, and godly relationships with others? Is their spiritual and natural progress in life evident to all? These are serious questions that need an answer. The testing is done to avoid deception and much pain in the future. Prevention is better than cure! Selah!

KNOWING GOD THRU LOVE

It has been said that Paul was the Apostle of Faith; Peter was the Apostle of Hope and John was the Apostle of Love.  Just to have an idea, Apostle John uses the word ‘love’ 51 times in the First epistle John. In Greek, the word ‘Love’ is Agape. This is not a sexual or a friendly type of love. It is the sacrificial love of God, manifested in the death of Jesus on the Cross on behalf of sinners. Agape love starts with God the Father who sent God the Son to be ‘a propitiation’, an atoning, for our sins. We are told that ‘God is Love’. This is a revelation of the Person of God. It means more than God is loving. God’s very nature is fullness of Love. All God’s deeds are the deeds of Grace manifested as Love. As God is Light so God is Love! This is the reality of our Father in Heaven. When we become born again, we are not only forgiven of sins, the very nature of God is given to us. Our spiritual DNA is changed and becomes holy. Our life becomes different because of the internal change in our spirits. By God’s Power we have been given “exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). As believers, we are ‘partakers of the divine nature of God’. We share in God’s nature. We are now children of God indeed. That is why salvation is a miracle and only God can do it. That is why we love like God loves!

Love knows God! Mark this: no unbeliever can love like this. This brotherly agape love is manifested only by God’s children. Experiencing this God’s type of Love is a sign that you are truly born again. This love is returned to God in praise and worship. It manifests practically through loving the brethren. Now you see why loving all people with the love of God is a sign and a proof that you are saved. Jesus said: “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:16). The first fruit of the Holy Spirit in your human spirit is Love. There is no law to condemn a man who has God’s love in his heart. The agape love in your heart is the totally safe shield against any form of accusation, condemnation or guilt. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal 5:22, 23).

Experiencing God’s Love is also the best practical way to display the heavenly family traits. The child of God loves like His Father in heaven. He cannot hate people anymore. He suffers when rejected but he cannot hate his enemies anymore. This is a miracle experienced only by the born again believers. The power of Agape Love drives away all fears, ignorance, shame, and guilt. Many Christians know the Bible, but they do not love like this. It is not enough to know the letter without experiencing and applying the Spirit of the Word. That religious knowledge will make you proud. “Knowledge [alone] makes [people self-righteously] arrogant, but love [that unselfishly seeks the best for others] builds up and encourages others to grow [in wisdom]” (1 Cor 8:1; AMP).

Love is more powerful than faith. Love is bold. Love never loses any battle. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word. Love comes by God’s Spirit and matures as we love the unlovely for Christ’s sake. Faith needs open ears. Love needs open hearts, strong hands to embrace and strength to carry the needy. In the natural, you cannot command someone to love! For example, you cannot command a man to love his wife or children. But in the Kingdom of God, love is a command from God and the right answer is ‘Yes, Sir!’ The children of God love others! Lesson: If you are saved and you refuse to love others, even the difficult people, you are breaking God’s law. When you love God and man, you will know God and man! Experiencing and manifesting God’s Love is a major way to believe in the Trinity, to truly know God. The doctrine of Trinity is mysterious to man. Nothing else but love helps faith in this matter. The Holy Trinity remains a theory for all who do not love with God’s love. Selah!

God’s Love alone is able to replace the evil rebellious spirit of Cain in our hearts. Cain was jealous on his brother Abel, and he killed him. “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:8,9). God commands us to love, care, protect and help our ‘brothers and sisters’. Yes, I am my brother’s keeper!

WHAT MANNER OF LOVE IS THIS?

God is love. His love manifests in many ways. Like a wonderful architect, God created the earth and all living things on it. He created them not only to function as robots, but He added beauty to creation. Look at the flowers, at the sunrise, or at the blue skies. Even on earth, when a man is in love with his wife, he becomes very creative. God is an Artist, moved by love to make all things beautiful. God made man and placed him in a beautiful garden. Even after Adam sinned, God continued to love him. His general grace manifests in giving good gifts to all men, to the good and to the bad.  God’s love is revealed through His Grace and in His kindness to all. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). But the greatest love of God is revealed in the Gospel. This is the love story of God towards man. The love story starts with God the Father. He is the One who planned saving sinners like us. But before you appreciate God’s love you need to know man first. Man is born a sinner. This is our story: We are born haters of God and men; selfish and wicked. We are sinners by birth and by choice. Before we got saved, we wanted nothing to do with God. We did not seek God. We were using God’s world without shame and even spoiling it. And we are not grateful. What did God do? In this world of sin, God sent His only Begotten Son. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. God the Father sent God the Son to this sinful world to save men. This is Love! Men hated Jesus and His words. They persecuted Him, rejected Him, and finally, killed Him on a Cross. Why did Jesus come to this world to suffer so much? Because of God’s Love for us. To be saved, we needed ‘propitiation’ for our sins. This word means ‘atonement’. Jesus came as the needed Sacrifice for us. This is the doctrine of propitiation or the substitutionary sacrifice of God’s Son, who died as the Lamb of God on behalf of sinners. This is the Gospel: Jesus became sin for us so that we can be saved. Nothing else but the Blood of Jesus could atone for our sins. “For He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21). The mystery of salvation!

Try to imagine the price paid by both God the Father and God the Son for such a great salvation. Only Love can do that! You are parents. Can you imagine the possibility that you will send your only child to die for your wicked neighbor? Will you not think that the price for that love is too much for you? But this is what God did. Read these holy words: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:6-8). Jesus died while we still hated Him. He did not wait for us to repent before He went to the Cross. He paid the price long before we could understand His love and be willing to bow at His feet in worship. From these words you see that to understand God’s love you must study God’s Word. The subject of God’s Love does not come from some romantic poems, and not even from beautiful worship songs. It comes from knowing the doctrines of the Bible. You need to use your mind before your heart beats the song of love. That is why Jesus said that love means knowing and obeying God’s commands. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Obeying God’s Word in practice, will manifest God’s love to you!

Out of the overflow of this agape Love from God, we are commanded to love one another. Jesus said that Love will be now the new standard and command from God. Love is the final word in obedience. Just before the Cross, Jesus said to His disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34. 35). Love is the primary subject in the school of the Spirit where Jesus is the Teacher. Love is the badge of honor and the identity card of all His students. This love must be learned and practiced. It is not easy. Love has scars. But refusing to learn the subject of love will close the door to the privilege to be thought by the greatest Teacher in the whole universe. Loving God with all your heart, mind and strength is the first commandment. The overflow of this love will manifest in loving people; even the unlovely. That is why the true test of a disciple and a worshipper, is not just loving God that he cannot see, but loving the people he sees.

LOVE FULFILLS THE LAW OF GOD

“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:8-10). Love never hurts anyone! Only a child of God can love the unlovely!

Now, a practical question: How can you love the people you dislike? Look at three Persons: yourself, God and that one you dislike! First, humble yourself! Remember who you were before God met you. God loved and saved you not because you were good but because He chose to do that. God chose to love you because of His Grace. Once you forget yourself and you become proud, you will not be able to love others. Always remind yourself of that first happy day when Jesus saved your soul. Secondly, worship God! Remember who God is, how great He is! Don’t forget how much He has done for you. Remember the price God the Father and God the Son have paid for your salvation. Love is never cheap. Love pays with its blood. Jesus bled to death to pay for your ‘bride price’. You owe Him your body, your soul, and your spirit. He has done what no man could do. All the organs of your body must be used for His glory. For example, we are commanded to run away from sexual sins. “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s“ (1 Cor 6:18-20). Sexual lust is a fake manipulating ‘love’. It is selfish, greedy, wicked, and always destructive. Adulterers are totally ignorant of true love. They cannot even imagine the love of Jesus. Paul commands us to ‘flee’ sexual sins. He gives the reasons why. Paul says that your body was bought by Jesus. He paid for it with His Blood. Therefore, your body is not yours anymore. It has now become the temple of the Spirit of Jesus who died for you. It is reasonable to expect that your body should be used to glorify Jesus always. It is not just sexual sins that defile the body. Speaking in anger, insulting people, quarreling, and all other social sins reflect a lack of love. By doing this, you break the command to love one another. Selah!

Finally, after you have remembered who you were as a sinner and what God has done for you, then you look at that person you dislike. Look again with prayer in your heart and with the eyes of God. See that stubborn person as a victim of Satan. See him as an ignorant man who destroys himself. See him and have compassion for him. With that holy attitude, slowly but surely, love will bloom in your hardened heart and God will be glorified! Love is hard work but oh, the harvest of souls that comes to the wise! Praise the Lord!

LOVE IN MARRIAGE

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church“ (Eph 5:25-32)

The husband is commanded to love his wife in a particular way. For husbands, love is a command. They cannot choose whether to love their wives or not. Read again: they ‘ought to love’. In Greek, the word ‘ought’ it means to owe, morally to be under obligation. Failing to love your wife is considered failing in your duty as a soldier of Christ! Husband, please meditate about your God given duty! You must love your wife! Your answer should be ‘Yes, Sir!’ The husband’s love is a picture of Christ’s love. It is a sacrificial love. It is a king, generous, wise, ready to help love! It is a love that has hope, knowing that his wife, like wine, will be better as she gets older. In the future, she will be presented to him as a mature fulfilled woman of God!

THE LOVE STORY OF BOAZ AND RUTH

The love story between Boaz and Ruth reveals the love of God in the marriage. The name Boaz means ‘Strength’. The name Ruth means ‘Friend’. Ruth was a poor widow who came to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth was a Moabite who married Naomi’s son, who died in Moab. When Naomi heard that ‘the Lord has visited His people by giving them bread’ she decided to go back to Bethlehem, her place of birth. Her two daughters-in-law followed her. She told them that there is no hope for them in Israel. Orpah decided to go back to her people and her gods. This was ‘common sense’. She leaves the pages of the Bible. But Ruth decided ‘to cling’ to Naomi. The word ‘cling’ is the same word ‘joined’ that God used to describe marriage between a man and a woman (Gen 2:24). This is a covenant word. Ruth pledges her life to serve Naomi until death. She even invoked a curse upon herself in the presence of Jehovah God. She said that God should punish her if she is unfaithful to Naomi unto death. By going to a place where Naomi had no hope for her, Ruth enters the lineage of saints. Ruth/Friend is a picture of the Bride of Christ!

Boaz knew of her pledge to serve Naomi, who was his family member. He was impressed by Ruth’s faithfulness to his ‘cousin’. But in that field, gleaning with the poor people, there is nothing to recommend Ruth to Boaz. He was the richest man in Bethlehem. Ruth was gleaning grains in his field. See their discussions. They both appreciate their kindness to one another. Love is always kind! Listen to Ruth talking to Boaz: “Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants” (Ru 2:13). Listen to Boaz talking to Ruth: “Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich” (Ru 3:10). Lesson: marry not based on physical appearance! Marry a child of God! Marry a kind, loving, humble, generous person!

Ruth could glean in Boaz’ field because the law permitted her to do so (Lev 19:9). But only Grace could speak kindly to her, protect her, and give her food to eat. Grace and Love came to Ruth through Boaz. A sinner repents not because of God’s wrath, but because God’s Love and Goodness has manifested to him. “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom 2:4). Glory to God!

This is the story of the power of love and progress grace makes. Just imagine the impact Ruth made in Bethlehem! The Grace that she found and she released! Love protects! Boaz tells Ruth that she will be totally protected in his field. Love is generous. Boaz tells Ruth to eat with his workers. He tells his men to drop ‘handfuls of grain on purpose’ for her to glean. Boaz gives her grain to take to Naomi. Boaz tells Ruth not to tell anybody that she came to talk to him in the night. This is to protect her reputation. Love is creative. Boaz found wisdom to win Ruth as his wife. But the story of Boaz and Ruth is not what you see in Hollywood. It is a different type of story. Thiers was not so much a love match. It was a character match. Nevertheless, it was love.  Love is fruitful. Boaz and Ruth marry. Their son Obed is in the line of King David and the Lord Jesus Christ. The true hero of Love here is another One who also came to Bethlehem. He is the true Kinsman Redeemer. He came from heaven to seek and to find the lost sheep shivering in the cold alleys of sin. He came and died for His own. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). If you want to see the face of love, look at Calvary. Jesus is Lord! To God be all the glory! Worship the Lord!

MY PROGRESS IS EVIDENT TO ALL (6)/ FEAR NOT! SHINE YOUR LIGHT!

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled My Progress is evident to all (6)/ Her main scriptures were taken from the Books of 1 Timothy 4:12-16; 2 Timothy 1:8, 7; Matthew 5:14-16; Judges 6:1-16; 7:7-22.

MAY YOUR PROGRESS BE EVIDENT TO ALL

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:12-16)

Prophetic word: We declare that in Christ, we have entered our Promised Land and our progress is evident to all!

Spiritual maturity manifests as ‘progress’ that can be seen by others. Progress is defined as a slow forward movement towards a goal, to an improved condition in life, on the path to perfection. It means to advance in life, closer to the place where your dreams are fulfilled. The opposite of progress means to go back, to become worse, to sink, to lose benefits, or to waste away. May we pay the price for godly success!

FEAR DEFINED

Fear is a natural, powerful, and unpleasant emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain, whether the threat is real or imagined.  Fear affects the body and the emotions. When under a threat, the body reacts in a specific way. The level of adrenaline increases, the body gets tense, the mind is more alert, ready to fight or to flee. It is a good survival response. But fear has an emotional component too. Each person reacts in a unique way when afraid or worried. But these are some common symptoms: dry mouth, trembling, chest pain, increased heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, or stomach cramps. Fear makes the victim feel overwhelmed, like drowning, like losing control, fainting, or feeling like dying. Fear focuses on something, real or imaginary. Anxiety is a general form of fear that has no particular object in mind. The most common types of fear are fear of spiders, of snakes, of heights, of crowded places where escape is difficult, and fear of dogs. Other fears that affect your life in society are these: fear of poverty, fear of loneliness, of sickness, of old age, of connecting with people (timidity), fear of success, of rejection, or being abandoned (by God or people).

Relationships are some of the most difficult and dangerous works we do on earth. It is easy to be hurt by people. Most people pretend to be someone else. Hypocrisy is rooted in fear. Many are afraid to be themselves in their relationships with others. For example, because you have opened your heart to somebody, and that person hurt you in your vulnerability, you now close your heart to others. You are afraid to connect and be intimate even with your spouse. Another example: you have been successful in life, but you now feel guilty because your success has made others fail. You then decide to remain in the shadows, not making progress anymore. This position is difficult to maintain, and it creates emotional tension and anxiety. You feel that this world does not allow you to fully display your gifts, and creative ideas. You then chose to live ‘a simple life’ of safe mediocrity. But this type of life never brings joy, and it lacks fulfilment. To be free from fears is a great achievement. Only a mature Spirit filled believer in Christ can achieve that!

TYPES OF FEAR

There are different types of fear recognized in the Bible. Some are good and others are bad. These are some examples:

*The holy fear of God. This is the necessary fear and reverence of men towards God, their Creator. It produces godly wisdom. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (PV 9:10).  

*The unholy fear coming from unforgiven sin. It comes from hearing God’s Word but refusing to repent. Adam said to God: “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen 3:10). Felix was afraid when Apostle Paul was preaching (Ac 24:25).

*The fear and terror of the wicked towards God. “There they are in great fear, for God is with the generation of the righteous” (Ps 14:5).

*The unbelievers fear God’s obedient people. This fear is to protect the believers. It is a blessing of obedience. “The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. 10 Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you” (Deut 28:9,10).

*The good fear of man, respecting people in authority. “Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Rom 13:3,4).

*The bad fear of men, being intimidated by others. Joshua and Caleb said: “Do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them” (Num 14:9). “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe” (PV 29:25).

*The bad fear of man as Timidity. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7).

I WAS AFRAID

“Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So, he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Gen 3:9, 10).

The first-time fear entered humanity was in the Garden of Eden. The original sin brought along fear, shame, and guilt. Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command. They listened to the devil’s lies and sinned. Fear entered their hearts. Adam thought that by hiding behind the trees in the garden, God will not see him. He forgot that God is omnipresent and sees everything. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” even the night shall be light about me” (Ps 139:7-11).

Sin was a disappointment to Adam. He thought that by obeying the devil, he will be free from God and His commandments. Lesson: Many people still believe that. They think that by running away from God, from the Bible and from church, they will be free in life. That is a lie and a deception. Only in an intimate relationship with God, your Creator, you can find freedom as a man. Sin always brings bondage. Being right with God, is called righteousness. Righteousness is found in Christ alone and it is the only way to find peace, joy, freedom, and fulfilment in life.

Like Adam, men fear God and hide from Him behind ‘trees’ of worldly pleasures, philosophy, and material prosperity. But none can hide from God. As you can see, God is seeking Adam in the Garden. He will not leave him alone, even in his fallen state. Before sin, God and Adam had a wonderful intimate relationship with one another. Adam was happy and fulfilled. It was not the flowers and the fruits. It was not even his marriage with Eve. It was Adam’s relationship with God, visiting in the cool of the day, in the garden. That made Eden a paradise. Adam never felt naked in God’s presence. God’s glory reflected on him, covered him with garments of light. He felt safe and loved. He felt accepted by God. He felt free to dream and to talk. That was strength to live well! Out of this overflowing power, Adam could love his wife. This was paradise. The devil hated it. He was jealous on Adam. He deceived Eve and Adam broke the command. Sin entered humanity. Since then, nothing is exactly the same. All men have inherited Adam’s sin and fears. We are born naked, ashamed, hiding behind trees, hoping that God will not come to ask us questions. This is the sad story of man. The only way out of it is to become born again, by God’s grace and thru faith in the Gospel of Christ.                           

Eve was deceived by the serpent. When she gives the forbidden fruit to Adam, he takes it. She is not seducing him. Adam raises no questions. He puts no resistance. This is strange. Both fell to the same manipulation of the devil. They were not satisfied with God provision in the Garden. They wanted something more. They wanted more wisdom, and more freedom. They broke the law and they sinned. Immediately, they felt ashamed because they were naked. Light can be clothing for the righteous. Once they sinned, that light went off. That is how they felt ashamed and afraid. After the fall, everything looked worse. Backsliding is shameful. Jesus says: “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame” (Rev 16:15). Sin destroys the covering. It brings fear of punishment, guilt, and shame.

When God created Adam and Eve, they did not experience fear. But through sin, fear entered. Lies always bring fear along. We see that God gave Adam and Eve them much freedom. God allowed the devil to possess the snake and to tempt them. They broke the only law God gave to them. God said: don’t eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Once they broke the law, ‘their eyes opened’, not to more wisdom or freedom, but to the truth that they are now lawbreakers. They have offended their creator and the pastor who married them. This revelation brought fear, shame, and guilt. Before now, they were naked, but they did not feel ashamed. Now, they feel the need to cover themselves. They try to cover their nakedness with aprons made of fig leaves. But this cover is useless. The fig leaves stand for the human wisdom of salvation. It never works. It is not strong enough to atone for sin.

Adam hides behind the tree. That hiding does not work. Adam is afraid. He has never felt that emotion before now. In the past, Adam was happy to meet with God. But now, Adam did not come out happily showing God the fig leaves apron that he had made. He knew that it was not sufficient. The leaves probably covered their genitals. This area is now seen as a most sinful part of the body because sin will spread thru it. That is why they covered it. Why was Adam afraid? He was expecting God to be angry and to punish him. This is how children behave who offend their parents. Adam was afraid that God will shout at him or punish him. But God did not do that. God knew what Adam did. He still comes as before, in the cool of the evening, to have fellowship with Adam, to talk to him as a father and friend. This is called Christophany. It is the Lord Jesus Christ in human form who appeared to them in the Garden. “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (Jn 1:18).

Just imagine this scene… Jesus comes with open arms knowing that Adam has broken His heart thru disobedience, and knowing the mighty price He will pay to restore God’s relationship with man. Jesus asked Adam: ‘Where are you?’ This is not the shout of a military commander. It is the question of a father whose son broke his heart. ‘Where are you, Adam’? Of course, Jesus knew what has happened. But He still asked the question. Why? The question was meant to reveal that Adam has sinned and there is now a gap between God and man. Their relationship will not be the same again. The question requires an answer, which must be repentance from sin. It means man is responsible for his sin. The question also reveals the pain in the heart of Jesus, the Savior will ‘came to seek and save that which is lost’ (Lk 19:10). See the way God confronts sinners: He came personally. He came in the evening when is the best time to relax and listen. He told Adam and Eve the truth in love. God the Father sent God the Son to die for sinners. It is God the Holy Spirit who convicts sinners of sin and guilt. God does not delegate this mighty work of salvation to angels. God is the God of personal salvation!  

Adam replies: I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid: Sin made Adam afraid of God’s presence and afraid of God’s voice. Ever since that time, men run from God’s presence and don’t want to listen to His Word. For the righteous, in the presence of God, there is fullness of joy’ (Ps 16:11). But for the sinner, the presence of God brings bad memories, guilt, fear, and shame. Jesus asked Adam: Who told you that you are naked? Adam could have repented at that moment. Adam should have said like the prodigal son: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Lk 15:21). But he chose not to. Adam blamed his wife for their sin. He even blamed God who gave him Eve as a wife. Lesson: until we take responsibility for our sin, openly confess, and repent of it, we can’t be free from fear!

Please observe that up to this moment, God only talks to Adam. He does not address Eve. This is because Adam was the head of the home and must take responsibility for their sin. Eve gives an explanation, but she too does not repent. At last, God judges them. Here you see grace in action. They will not die immediately. They will live to have children. But they must leave the Garden. They will work the ground and eat its fruits. Then, in the midst of sin, sorrow, shame, fear and failure, God introduces the hope of the Gospel: From the seed of the woman a Savior will come that will bruise the head of the serpent. The Christ who came to judge them in the Garden, will one day die for them! Praise the Lord!

The fear of punishment was Adam’s main fear. This proves that sin has killed Adam’s love for God and for Eve. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 Jn 4:18). The word ‘torment’ means suffering, chastisement, or punishment. Even now, demons fear future torment. They told Jesus: “And they cried out, saying, “What business do You have with us, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matt 8:29). After King Saul disobeyed God’s Word, God punished him thru a tormenting spirit. “Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him” (1 Sam 16:14; NIV). Saul became depressed, jealous, and afraid of David. Until he died, Saul refused to repent of his sins.  

Love and fear are opposites. Love attracts and fear separates. Fear can only stay in a heart that is not filled yet with perfect agape love. The word ‘perfect’ means mature, or fruitful. This is a known fact: fear of punishment may deter men from committing open sin, but it cannot make them righteous or loving. Only God’s grace can do that!

The devil is not mentioned directly in Genesis 3. But he is there, using the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve. We are told that God created the serpent and man had dominion over it. God created the snake to be ‘more cunning’ that the other animals. In Hebrew, the word ‘cunning’ is not always a negative word. It means to be wise, prudent, or sensible. The devil used the serpent, manipulated, and controlled his God given wisdom. The serpent became a symbol of evil and God cursed it. The serpent/Satan tempts Eve to disobey God’s only command. He does not talk directly to Adam. But Adam sinned and brought death upon humanity. The cure for this sin is nothing less than the Blood of the Son of God!

“Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Matt 19:8). Jesus says that thru sin, man’s heart became ‘hardened’. Before Adam and Eve fell into sin, their hearts were ‘soft’, loving, and kind. The hardness of the heart attracts fear of punishment. In Greek, the word ‘hardness’ means ‘lack of sensitivity’. It is a stubborn and wicked heart that refuses to listen to God’s Word. Adam did not obey God’s only law in the Garden. He refused to repent. He blamed Eve and even God for his sin. Through sin, Adam became hardhearted. Like Cain killed Abel, a sinful husband can kill his wife. Therefore, it is better to divorce than kill her.      

GOD HAS NOT GIVEN US THE SPIRIT OF FEAR

“Therefore, I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:6, 7).

The command ‘fear not!’ is God’s most common command! It is found 365 times in the Bible, one for each day! If something appears many times in the Bible, then it is very important. To reject fear is God’s command. To obey God’s command is possible only thru faith in Christ alone. The unbelievers cannot stop being afraid or anxious. The believers need to do spiritual warfare to defeat the evil spirit of fear. Timothy tended to be afraid of people in general. That affected his ministry. Paul tells Timothy that he should reject the ‘spirit of fear’. This ‘spirit’ is a demon of cowardice, of timidity. It made Timothy shrink from visibility, from responsibility, from doing his ministry among men. Timidity is defined as being easily frightened, to be shy or nervous, to lack confidence, especially when found among men. A timid man lacks courage and confidence in himself. It is a stronghold in the way of progress in life and ministry. Lesson: the desire to hide from serving God is of the devil.

The spirit of fear must be identified, confronted, and rejected. For as long as this demon has access to your heart, you remain weak, selfish, and anxious. The devil attacks with fear before he attacks with sickness or poverty. Fear is one of the devil’s weapons of choice. Once you become free from fear, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit who manifests as ‘power, love and sound mind’. This power strengthens especially the will. Free from fear, the believer is ready to pay the price for spiritual maturity. This agape love rules the former emotions of selfishness and cowardice. Love is a fighter and a champion. ‘Love never fails’ (1 Cor 13:8  ). The sound mind is a mind that is disciplined, that has self-control. The Christian lives in the world and faces trials and temptations. He displays self-control and rejects all sinful things. He is able to avoid and overcome all obstacles, making progress, spiritually and physically. He is not afraid, confused, or deceived. He knows the truth of God’s Word and he applies it daily growing in faith and wisdom. Boldly, ne makes progress that is evident to all!

Before the Cross, the Lord reminded His disciples not to be afraid. The Holy Spirit will teach them God’s Word. “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn 14:25-27). The natural heart is always troubled and afraid. The word ‘troubled’ means to be easily shaken by trials of life. The Holy Spirit gives peace, strength, and courage to face all circumstances and overcome them.

The spirit of fear in the heart of man is the main reason for failure in life. Fear is a mighty stronghold blocking the way to progress. You cannot ignore fear if you desire to experience success in life. Why do men fear? One reason is that man is so small in this big universe. Looking at the sky, living among million of people, man feels insignificant. Life itself is intimidating. Man may pretend that he is someone great, but deep in his heart, he is afraid because he sees no purpose in life. He knows that life is short, and tomorrow is not promised to anyone. He fears the future. He fears death and the judgment of God. These fears are all real and makes men anxious and restless. Man has peace with God, with himself and with others only thru Jesus Christ, our Lord!

COWARDS GO TO HELL

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” “Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning, and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev 21:5-8).

The Resurrected Christ promises to make all things new. The pain, sorrow, weeping and fears we experienced on earth will end one day. Thru Christ, we have overcome. We are God’s children, and we shall inherit all things God has promised. The sin that separated God and man in the Garden of Eden, is destroyed. Thru Christ, man and God are reconciled forever. This is a wonderful picture of paradise restored. But not all people will experience this future bliss. The unbelievers cannot enter through the pearly gates of heaven. Among these people who are rejected by God are the cowards and the unbelievers. These sins are hidden in the heart. A coward is a person who lacks courage and easily runs away from opposition, danger, or pain. A coward cannot be trusted as a friend and cannot be a leader. Even the believers may sometimes fail in times of danger. But the cowards spoken here in the Book of Revelation are in bondage to the spirit of fear and unbelief. This is a spiritual state and not some occasional falling. A coward avoids working for God or for man. They are full of excuses when it comes to work. Cowards are lazy. They are afraid to make hard decisions. They always postpone doing the right thing. A cowardly leader is afraid to discipline the people. He avoids confrontation. The cowards fear progress. They do not mature. The greatest damage cowards make is in their contact with people. Relationships are difficult and they take time. A coward does not open his heart. He does not understand people. He makes mistakes, he hurts, and he disappoints people. A coward is a bad loser. Once he fails, he becomes bitter spreading division and hatred among others. A Christian learns to love people. He takes the risk of receiving pain, but he does not hate people. Thru pain and disappointments, the believer perseveres in his relationships with people. A true Christian leader is humble, courageous, faithful, wise, and loving. He loves God and he loves people.

THE FAITH OF GIDEON (Judges 6 and 7)

Gideon is one of the great men of faith in the Bible. His name means ‘great destroyer or warrior’. He is a hero. He was a weak man who became strong thru his faith in God. Some people are surprised that his name is found in the hall of fame of people of faith. But he is there. Read this: “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon… who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb 11:32-34).

He was from a poor family. He was a nobody in his family, in his tribe. Lesson: God uses nobodies and make them somebodies!

Gideon has many fears and family problems. His father became an idol worshipper. He is afraid of many things: of the Midianites, of his father and his family, and of standing as a man of God. But his faith in God overcame his fears. His only negative stain upon his character was that his prosperity and fame contributed to his downfall later in life. He threshes wheat in a winepress, probably in a cave. This is an example of a useless business. Gideon has lost his hope in God. When God calls him, he complains because of the circumstances. Then God says: “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!… Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man” (Jdg 6:12, 16). Lesson: when God tells you “Surely, I will be with you”, that is all you need! But Gideon needs more reassurance and graciously, God gives it to him.

Gideon rejects fear and destroys his father’s idol. This is his first victory as a man of God. His family are afraid to punish him. Having more courage, Gideon calls volunteers to the army. But God says that the people are too many. When they win the battle, they will boast that it was because of their great army. Gideon commands that whosoever is afraid should go home. Twenty-two thousand cowards leave the army. Lesson: cowards may come to the army and hide their fear. But God cannot use those!

After that, God reduces the army to just 300 soldiers. God does not want man to take the glory, so He reduces man’s strength. God encourages Gideon again. Then God gives the battle plan: use torches, trumpets, and human shouts. Like so many times in the past, only God could have recommended such a strategy. It looks so foolish. No human being could have invented this battle plant. But Gideon trusted God! The plan worked! The enemy became confused, and they fought one another. Gideon and his 300 men broke the pitchers, shone their light, and blew their trumpets shouting, ‘The sword of the Lord and of Gideon’. They stood as the enemy ran away. God caused confusion in their midst, and they destroyed themselves. It was a mighty victory. Peace reigned in Israel for 40 years. Gideon became a famous leader in the land.

Lesson: Stand your ground and the enemy will flee! Your weakness is not your problem. You need faith to believe in an all-powerful God. When you trust your wisdom and strength, you start worshipping idols. That is why God became angry and gave Israel into the hands of Midian. God’s Grace in enough! Rejoice and boast in your weakness so that the power of Christ will rest on you! (2 Cor 12:9,10). All you need is found in these five covenant 5 words: “I will be with you!” This is a powerful weakness. This is the weakness of the Cross, stronger than man’s strength. May we always trust God in our weakness! May we have peace in our hearts during trials! May we serve God! May there be peace in our land!

Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:14-16).  We must do like Gideon and his soldiers. We must break our pitchers and shine our lights in this dark world. Do not be afraid to stand for Jesus. Do good deeds that none can reject. And blow your trumpet. preach the Gospel!

Jesus says that the world in is darkness. The world lives in fear and ignorance of God. Jesus says that the believer is ‘the light of the world’. Light here means the knowledge of truth. The unbelievers too say that ‘knowledge is light’. But their knowledge is only of science or philosophy. They do not know God. They do not believe God’s Word. Therefore, they still do not have light. The believers are the only people who know God, and His Word, which is truth. They are the only people who understand life and who can give wise counsel to others. This is our great privilege to know and share the truth. The youngest illiterate believer in Christ knows more about life than the unbeliever who is a university professor.

The first thing light does is to expose the darkness. Faith exposes fear! “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.” (Eph 5:8-14).

Once light exposes the darkness, the evil people will react and attack the light. But they cannot win against it. Light exposes the darkness and shows its prisoners the way out. The unbelievers who repent will come to the light. Thru you, they have seen that it is possible to live a better life and to make peace with God. Light always wins! Light attracts and saves! The proof that you are out of darkness and that you live in the light is that from now on, you love to praise God! “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet 2:9).  Glory to God!

The light is not supposed to be hidden ‘under a basket’. Why are we commanded to shine our light for Jesus? We were created for that. Jesus is light and we are like Him. It is the destiny and function of the light to shine. A light hidden under a basket is the picture of failure. If you say that you are a Christian, but you keep quiet when you are supposed to talk about Jesus, then you are failing in life. Stand and talk. You must openly serve God! Persecutions may come but God will protect you! This is fulfilling destiny. It is a powerful life that defeats all fears. This is how you make progress evident to all. A silent fearful Christian is backsliding. Repent and come out of that foolishness! You become famous but in a good way. You do not attract people to you! You attract people to the Christ in you! A Christian cannot be hidden. He cannot be a nobody. He is created to shine his light, to preach the Word, to praise God with songs and dances. He does good deeds of kindness that cannot be ignored.

Dear Believer, Christ in you is Life, Light and Hope of Glory. The Darkness and its fears are totally defeated in the presence of light. If you are a child of light, you stand for Jesus without any apologies to the darkness. We are more than conquerors. No devil can quench the Life/Light of Christ in us. “In Him was life [and the power to bestow life], and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it]” (John 1:4, 5; AMP). The Light is always a mystery to the darkness. The darkness cannot understand or control the light! The Word has come to give us Life and to open our eyes to the Light! “Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life“ (Jn 8:12; AMP).

Darkness hates the light but has no power to fight it. Darkness and fear shrink from the light and runs away. “This is the judgment [that is, the cause for indictment, the test by which people are judged, the basis for the sentence]: the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For every wrongdoer hates the Light and does not come to the Light [but shrinks from it] for fear that his [sinful, worthless] activities will be exposed and condemned. But whoever practices truth [and does what is right—morally, ethically, spiritually] comes to the Light, so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are—accomplished in God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence on Him]” (John 3:19-21; AMP). Glory!    

“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching“ (2 Tim 4:2).

Gideon broke the pitchers and exposed the lights. He then blew the trumpets. They shouted: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”

Lesson: By doing good and by preaching the Gospel, God will defeat your enemies. You become strong in faith and fear runs away. You need both swords combined! God’s sword is His Word spoken in faith! Gideon’s sword is his mouth used for preaching and praying. This is the secret of victory and destruction of fear. The sword of God alone will not work. God has decided to use men to preach His Word. We are weak, but in Christ we can do all things! God and man! Victory is spiritual warfare to His glory! Worship the Lord!

TESTIMONY OF DELIVERANCE

“Good afternoon, Malia!!!!

I trust you are doing well by the mercies of God.

Malia Baba God is Good, Kind, Faithful and true.

His Word, He will never leave nor forsake us is mine and my family’s testimony.

I testify to the glory of King Grace (My Oga kpatata) and to the shame of the devil.

My Husband was due to return to work and boarded his flight. Before they took off, he said that it took 1hour 30mins while already seated for test run of the airplane.

Once they had taken off, 10mins before landing, heavy rain like never seen started and there was thick clouds, all of a sudden the plane plummeted downwards making some passegers displaced, people immediately started screaming Jesus!!! Then he said this cannot happen, Lord take control.

Then the plane tipped to the left side downwards… He said it was not good at all, the pilot started making announcements, and had to fly at a fast rate to cut through the thick clouds.

But to the glory of KING GRACE!!! the next thing he noticed was they landed safely at the airport where they initially took off from. The next day a different plane was used and he arrived safely at work.

Oh Malia, God is FAITHFUL and GOOD!!His Word is Yes and amen.🙏🏽

A day before he left, I was in the bedroom and immediately the Lord laid in my heart to give Him thanks, to rejoice, that God is with him (my Husband) and immediately I started giving God thanks.

My God is the Good God, yes He is.

This song came to me IMELA (When I think about the goodness of God, I’m convinced is not because I am worthy to receive this kind of love that He gives..Imela, Imela, Okaka, onyekiruwa, Imela, Imela, Eze-mo. 🙇🏽‍♀️

Lord I have come to give and return all the glory to you!!! For sparing the life of your Son, my Hisband, you are Faithful, true, your promises are Yes and amen.

Forever grateful and thankful Lord Jesus.

God bless you Malia, for constantly teaching and showing us the royal way of the Cross.

Your daughter… “

MY PROGRESS IS EVIDENT TO ALL (5)/ GO FORWARD!

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled My Progress is evident to all (5)/ Her main scriptures were taken from the Books of 1 Timothy 4:12-16, 1 Peter 1:3 and Exodus 14:13-18.

MAY YOUR PROGRESS BE EVIDENT TO ALL

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:12-16)

Prophetic word: We declare that in Christ, we have entered our Promised Land and our progress is evident to all!

Spiritual maturity manifests as ‘progress’ that can be seen by others. Progress is defined as a slow forward movement towards a goal, to an improved condition in life, on the path to perfection. It means to advance in life, closer to the place where your dreams are fulfilled. The opposite of progress means to go back, to become worse, to sink, to lose benefits, or to waste away. May we pay the price for godly success!

THE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST  

The Resurrection of Christ, a central doctrine of Christianity, is based on the belief that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day after his Crucifixion and that through His conquering of death all believers will subsequently share in His victory over “sin, death, and the Devil.” The celebration of this event, called Easter, or the Festival of the Resurrection, is a major celebration day in the church. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the power of God. It proves that Jesus is truly the Son of God. Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4). It is part of the true Gospel of Christ. The resurrection vindicates Jesus who predicted it. Jesus resurrected and ascended to heaven to be our Great High Priest. The resurrection of Jesus is the pattern for all believers. At the second coming of Christ the bodies of all the believers who have died will resurrect so that their salvation is finally complete.  Faith in Christ Crucified and Resurrected justifies us. Righteousness “shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom 4:24). The Cross was the greatest crime done by humanity. It was also the most necessary act because only thru it, sinners could be saved. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:8).

Resurrection is a miracle. During Christmas it is easier to imagine a woman giving birth to a baby. But at Easter you need the help of the Holy Spirit to believe in the Resurrection. Holy Spirit please help us to celebrate Jesus Christ, our Lord!

HOPE DEFINED

Faith in the resurrection gives believers a new living undying hope! Hope is defined as the joyful expectation of the future, a confident desire to obtain what you dream of today and to have fulfilment in life. It is a confident feeling that something good will happen in the future. Faith in God works now. Hope in God applies to the future. Agape love is stronger than both. These three gifts of grace, Love, Faith, and Hope are connected, but are also separate. The natural hope of any child is to be an adult one day. He will be wiser, stronger, and more courageous. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:11-13). It is the hope of all believers to make progress in life and to become spiritually mature. The greatest hope of the Christian is to go to heaven, to be glorified, to see Jesus, to be like Him and to worship Him forever! That is why some have called Hope ‘the homesickness for the future glory’.   

NOW FAITH AND THEN HOPE

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). In Greek, the word ‘substance’ means confidence, assurance, reality, or the title deed of our hope. Both the ‘now faith’ and the ‘then hope’ are not based on our imaginations. These are rooted in the Word of God. Faith is a present mindset that has a vision. Faith’s feet are standing now in the present circumstances. But faith has good eyes to see ahead. Faith sees the future and believes that no matter how hard it is now, God’s Word will be fulfilled at last. Faith believes that your God given dreams will come to pass. Faith is so sure of the future that she decides to become the foundation ‘substance’ to support these dreams, to invest in them until they come to pass. True faith is always hopeful seeing a brighter future. “E go good!” (Nigerian saying).

JESUS IS MY HOPE AND MY FORERUNNER

“We who have fled [to Him] for refuge would have strong encouragement and indwelling strength to hold tightly to the hope set before us. This hope [this confident assurance] we have as an anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whatever pressure bears upon it]—a safe and steadfast hope that enters within the veil [of the heavenly temple, that most Holy Place in which the very presence of God dwells], where Jesus has entered [in advance] as a forerunner for us, having become a High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 6:18-20;AMP)

God wants us to have ‘strong encouragement and indwelling strength’ by receiving the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Forerunner and the High Priest of our faith.  A forerunner is someone who goes ahead, to prepare the way for others to follow. In the Old Testament there was no such revelation. Each year the high priest Aaron entered the Holy of Holies with the Blood of the sacrifice. No one else could follow him there. If any man entered in that Most Holy Place, that man dies instantly. Aaron was always alone in the presence of God. He had no followers and no fellowship with the brethren inside there. But when Jesus passed thru the heavens and entered the Most Holy Place, He tore the veil of separation for His children to follow. That is why He is called the ‘Forerunner for us’. There is another definition for the word ‘forerunner’. In the ancient times, when big ships came to the Greek islands and the tide was low, they could not enter the port because of sandbars on the floor of the sea. Then they sent a strong little boat carrying their anchor to the shore. The anchor will be securely hooked on the rocky beach so that the big ship will not drift away with the currents. Later, when the tide is high, the big ship can come inside the port. That little strong boat that carries the anchor ahead is called ‘a forerunner’. Jesus rose from the dead to become our Forerunner and High Priest!      

In Christ I declare: The hope of glory that I have in Christ is an anchor for my soul. My soul is not connected to this earth. My soul is eternally anchored to the presence of God, inside the Holy of Holies of heaven. My life is like a ship that can never be lost, no matter the storm and the wicked ocean waves of this life. I am eternally safe and secure! I know where I am going! When my work is done on earth, I am going to heaven! I have no fears and no doubts about my eternal destiny and destination! Glory to God!

HOPE MEANS WAITING ON GOD. HOPE GIVES COURAGE AND STRENGTH

In the Old Testament, God’s people are encouraged to trust God who is their only Hope. To connect with their hope they must wait for God to help them. For the Israelites, most of their hopes were earthly. For example, they hope, trust, and wait that God will deliver them from their enemies and give them peace and prosperity in the Promised Land. “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint” (Is 40:31). In Hebrew, the word ‘wait’ means to bind together in expectation. Hope is strengthened in the assembly of the believers.

The effect of patiently and faithfully waiting on God with hope, is that the believer does not lose heart, his heart is strengthened, and he becomes more courageous.  “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Ps 27:13, 14). The words ‘I would have lost heart’ mean to despair, or to faint. The opposite of hope is despair. It is the feeling that there is no hope and that you can do nothing to improve a difficult or worrying situation. Despair or loss of hope leads to depression. In the US, depression is a major health problem. Almost 10% of the population struggles with depression. These are some clinical signs: felling hopeless, worthless, or guilty. People with depression feel lonely and isolated, even in the crowd. They lose the joy of living. Everything they do requires a great effort. They feel tired always. They have problems with eating and sleeping (too much or too little). Depression is connected with anxiety. People feel nervous, fearful about the future. They get irritable and moody. They manifest bursts of anger and mis-placed aggression. They may decide to alleviate the anxiety with alcohol or drugs. They think about committing suicide. Advice: Depression may be medical or a spiritual attack! Pray to God! Tell your doctor or your pastor about it! Do not suffer in silence! There is hope!

WE ARE SAVED IN THIS HOPE

In the New Testament, our hope is more spiritual, and it is connected with the glory ahead. The greatest hope is to go to heaven, to see Jesus, to be like Him and to worship Him forever. Hope has a purifying and sanctifying effect on the believer. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 Jn 3:2, 3). We are saved by Grace and thru Faith, ‘in this Hope’. Once saved, the seed of hope is deposited in the heart. Each child of God believes that he is saved and has hope that one day he will go to heaven. The trials of life are painful, like labor pains before a child of born. During difficult times, the believer continues to hold on to this hope that even if he dies, God will take him to heaven. He also hopes that when Christ comes again, his mortal body will be resurrected and changed to be like Jesus. The future for the Christian is always better than the present. The Holy Spirit helps the believer to hold on to his hope of heaven and pray in line with God’s will.  “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:20-27).

HOPE IS A LIVING PERSON – CHRIST IN YOU THE HOPE OF GLORY

Your hope is a Person. Not any person, but the Lord Jesus Christ. He lives in your heart. He died and rose again in your heart. He lives forever in your heart. Because Christ is in your heart, you are sure that your soul will go to heaven immediately you die. This is your sure hope. Because of this hope, you are ready to endure all things and serve God to your last breath. In the past, the Jews thought that they alone are saved and will go to heaven. But when Jesus came, by His death on the Cross, He opened the door of heaven to all who believed, Jews and Gentiles. This salvation was a mystery in the past. The revelation of this mystery, the hope of glory and of heaven is the strength behind all true ministries done of Christ’ sake. Apostle Paul said: “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col 1:27-29).

ABRAHAM’S FAITH AND LIVING HOPE

One of the effects of the resurrection of Christ is that it produced a living hope in all believers. Hope is defined as the joyful confident expectation of the future. It is a desire and an expectation that your dreams will come true. It is faith that the Promises of God will be fulfilled in your life. The greatest hope is to be glorified, to go to heaven and to worship God forever in an infinitely deeper relationship. Hope is always connected with the future, with fulfilment and joy. The hope of the believer is not dead. It is living. It cannot die. Oppositions, failures, losses, and the stress of life cannot destroy this hope we have in Christ. Why? Because hope is living and breathing. For the child of God, if hope dies, it shall rise again. The power of resurrection manifests in the grace gift of living hope. When all things are against you, when all hope seems lost, hope still rises and lives. This is the experience of all believers.

For example, Abraham believed that God is able to fulfill His promise that he will be the father of many nations. Abraham, “contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be” (Rom 4:18). Abraham believed in this living hope that cannot die. He knew that in the natural, both him and Sarah cannot have children. They were too old for that. Looking at himself, he knew that there was no hope. Abraham’s hope was not taken from looking at his life or circumstances. It was based on the Promise of God who said that he will be a father of nations. Abraham has faith in God’s promise. God’s word was enough for him. That word gave him faith and hope that just could not die. He strengthens himself against all human hope, and still believes in the hope promised by God. He continues to serve and glorify God. He was not put to shame.

How was Abraham able to go on believing God’s promise for a son for 25 years? It is because he believed two things about God: he believed that God could create something out of nothing, and he believed that God could raise the dead. He believed in a God of Creation and in a God of Resurrection. Anybody who believes these two things about God, will not waver in faith. Abraham trusted God’s character. He knew that God is a God of grace. He knew that he has no power to contribute to God’s work. He knew that his body is dead, and Sarah’s womb was dead too. But he was not discouraged at the deadness of their bodies. He is the father of all who believe in God. In the natural, he is the father or the Jews and of the Muslims. In the Spiritual, he is the Father of faith of all Christians. Faith and hope are stronger than all disappointments of life!

HOPE IS GIVEN ONLY TO THE RIGHTEOUS AND IT MANIFESTS AS JOY

“The hope of the righteous will be gladness, But the expectation of the wicked will perish” (PV 10:28).

HOPE IS MEDICINE TO THE BODY AND SOUL

“I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope” (Ps 16:8, 9)

THE LIVING HOPE

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3).

Apostle Peter praises God the Father and God the Son for their abundant mercy towards sinners like him. He says that because Jesus died and resurrected from the dead, we are now born again into a Living Hope. Peter praises God because he knows what God has done for him. At the Cross, Peter’s hope died. At the resurrection of Jesus, Peter’s hope resurrected. This praise is Peter’s testimony concerning his living hope!

PETER BEFORE THE RESURRECTION

Study Apostle Peter before and after the resurrection of Christ. There is great difference in his faith, hope, confidence and anointing for ministry. There was a time in his life when his hope died. But the resurrection of Christ from the dead, revived his hope in Him. Peter’s story is our story too. To understand Peter’s pain and betrayal of Jesus, we need to go back and study Peter, how he failed, and how Jesus helped him to recover. Peter was a fisherman. Like any man on earth, he was born a sinner. He needed a Savior. Jesus called him. He left his fishing nets and followed Jesus. He loved Jesus. He listened to His teachings; he saw Him doing mighty miracles. He tasted the power of His Words. He felt His love and compassion. But just before the Cross, Peter failed Jesus. Let us study him and learn some lessons from Peter.

At the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus became extremely famous. Because of His teachings and miracles, people were impressed, and crowds followed Him. They ‘wanted to make Him King by force’ (Jn 6:15). Peter and the disciples were very excited that such a great Man like Jesus is now their Master. They enjoyed the fame of their leader and had big hopes about their future together in His Kingdom. They dreamed about positions of authority. That went on for some time. Suddenly, Jesus started preaching spiritual things, about dying to self, about the Cross. From that time, many of Christ’s followers drew back. They did not want to suffer. They wanted material blessings and religious entertainment. They were not prepared to sacrifice their dreams of fame in this world. Jesus did not call them back. This change of atmosphere was disappointing to Peter and to the disciples. At this time that Jesus asked them two questions. Peter was the spokesman for the group.

*First question: Do you also want to go away? “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Jn 6:66-69)

*Second question: Who do you say that I am? Jesus asked His disciples, saying, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it (Matt 16:15-18).

As you can see, before the Cross, Peter was sure of at least two things about Jesus. This understanding came thru God’s revelation. The first thing Peter was sure about was that Jesus ‘has the words of eternal life’. The second thing was that Jesus is ‘the Christ, the Son of the Living God’. What was Peter’s faith? Peter has heard Jesus preaching to the crowds. He also has heard His teachings in private, to them, His close disciples. Peter felt the power of God’s Word in the mouth of Jesus. When the religious rulers sent army officers to arrest Jesus they too were impressed with His Words and could not arrest a preacher like Him. They went back to the chief priest empty handed and said: “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (Jn 7:46). Peter has never seen or heard a preacher like Jesus. He believed that Jesus was indeed the true Prophet God has promised to send to His people to teach them His Word. God told the people of Israel: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your countrymen (brothers, brethren). You shall listen to him” (Deut 18:15). Peter was convinced that Jesus, his Master, was that promised Prophet/Teacher to Israel. Ans he was ready to ‘listen’ to Him! That was his first revelation!

Secondly, Peter believed that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. To understand the meaning of Peter’s faith that Jesus is the promised Messiah, we need to know something about God. He reveals Himself as the Covenant keeping God. He made a covenant to be the God of a nation called Israel. This was a covenant of grace. God initiated the covenant. The people were not faithful to God, but God continue to be faithful to His covenant promises to them. God called a man, Abraham, and made him to be the father of the nation later called Israel. He promised that Abraham will have many descendants, like the stars on the sky. Though Abraham and his wife Sarah were old, they believed the promise and Sarah had a son called Isaac when she was 90 and Abraham was 100. God confirmed His covenant with Isaac and Jacob. Out of the twelve sons of Jacob, God chose Judah, and promised that a ruler, a king will come from his lineage. “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people” (Gen 49:10). The name Shiloh is another title for the Messiah. In Hebrew it means ‘to whom it belongs’. In other words, the scepter, the throne, and the crown of the King of kings belongs to the promised Messiah. Later, from this tribe of Judah, God chose King David. He promised him that his son will be a king forever. “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son” (2Sam 7:12-14). This is the promise that the Messiah will come thru the lineage of King David. He will be a King whose throne will be established forever. He will build a House for God’s Name. He will be God’s Son. All these promises apply to Jesus Christ. He was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary who was engaged to be married to Joseph. Both of them were descendants of King David, from the tribe of Judah. Peter believed that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah King from the line of King David. That is why he made the confession before the other disciples saying: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. It was God the Father who revealed this truth to him.

Peter truly believed that Jesus Christ, His master, is the Prophet-Preacher-Teacher of God and soon, He will be crowned in Jerusalem as the Messiah, the King of the Jews. He saw himself serving King Jesus on this earth. Then what happened? Why did he deny Jesus? Why did all the disciples run away when Jesus was arrested? This is the answer: At the foot of the Cross, their hopes, and dreams to crown Jesus as King and them becoming royalty crashed to the ground and died. Why? Let us find the answer. After Peter had the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus told him that He will build His church. Jesus told Peter that the devil and his gates of hell cannot stop the building and growth of the Church. The revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, will be the strength of the believers. Then see what happens: “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt 16:21-23). Jesus is telling Peter and the disciples that He ‘must’ go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and be raised the third day. Peter refused to listen to this prophetic word. His dreams and hopes did not include a dead king. Jesus rebukes him saying that he is Satan, who is interested only about the things of men, only about material things, and not God’s spiritual Kingdom. It is good to note that each time Jesus spoke about His death He always added the resurrection. He never spoke about His death as being a victim. He always spoke as a Victor! But the disciples refused to listen to the Gospel. They believed the truth only after the resurrection! 

This is when Peter failed in His obedience to Jesus. It is true that He believed that Jesus is the Prophet and the Messiah King. He trusted in the strength of Jesus. But He refused to believe that Jesus is the High Priest chosen by God to also be the Sacrifice, to die for the sins of His people. The reason why Peter rejected the revelation of Jesus as the Priest and Sacrifice is because of pride. Though he knew that he is a sinner, he did not believe that the only way for a sinner to live thru the Substitute Sacrifice of Jesus. He did not believe in ‘the weakness’ of the Cross.

Lesson: the false Gospel preached by the devil’s agents tells men that Jesus is the Prophet and the King. He has the words and the power to do miracles. But this false gospel avoids the Cross. It does not preach Christ becoming the sacrifice and the Great High Priest of our profession. The devil preaches that if you believe in Jesus as the Prophet and King, you will have wealth and fame. But the devil says nothing about dying to self, to sin and to the world. Peter fell into the religious trap offered by the devil. Many still do so today. Be careful what Gospel you believe!

When Jesus was arrested, the disciples ran away. Afraid for his life, Peter denied him before a servant girl. Peter’s hopes that Jesus will be crowned in place of Herod died in that courtyard fire, as he warmed himself among unbelievers. Peter still loved Jesus. But his hope in his future with Jesus died that night. Jesus prophesied his denial. It came to pass. When the cock crowed, Peter was heartbroken. He wept for his dead dreams and dead hopes. This is the story of Peter before the Resurrection.

PETER AFTER THE RESURRECTION  

After the resurrection, we see a new Peter. The change is dramatic. When the women told the disciples that Jesus has risen from the grave, they did not believe them. “Their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened” (Lk 24:11, 12). In Greek, the ‘words’ of the women is ‘rhema’. This means the special prophetic powerful spoken word of God. Because the disciples were crippled by their dead hopes, they thought that the rhema word of God is nonsense, foolishness or ‘idle tales’. This is always the effect of empty religion. But Peter, sensed something new stirring in his spirit. He did not believe the women, but their words brought new hope in him. He arose from his depression and ran to the tomb. He saw the empty tomb and the linen burial clothes lying by themselves. He did not understand. He marveled to himself. The word means to be shocked, amazed, and greatly surprised. This shock stunned him. The resurrection of Jesus was a big blow to his pride. What he rejected came to pass. Peter needed this blow. By the power of the Holy Spirit his fears and doubts started melting away. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (PV 13:12).

Jesus showed Himself to Mary Magdalene, to the two disciples going to Emmaus and to the disciples in Jerusalem. But we are told that Jesus showed Himself in His resurrection glory to Peter alone. I am sure, that this was a very emotional encounter. Jesus did not forget Peter. Jesus had a talk with Peter even before He went to meet with the other disciples. The disciples said: “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!“ (Luke 24:34). Paul said: “Jesus was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve” (1 Cor15:4-5). Peter received forgiveness of sins in this encounter. Later, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Jn21), Jesus reinstated Peter as an apostle and a teacher of the Word in the presence of the other disciples.

Do you see why Peter was a changed man after the resurrection? On the day of Pentecost, he preached powerfully that Jesus died and rose again. In the past, he only believed that Jesus is God’s Prophet and King. Now he knows and believes that He is the Great High Priest and the Sacrifice. God has made a new covenant thru the precious Blood of Jesus. We are in Him a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9, 10). Peter now believes that Christ died as the Substitute and Sacrifice for sinners, to become their Great High Priest. We are now ‘a royal priesthood’ in Christ! This revelation feeds hope forever! Halleluiah!

THE EXODUS IS THE PICTURE OF RESURRECTION

“Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Ex 14:13-15).

The New Testament is the concentrated spirit of the Old Testament. The Exodus is a picture of the Resurrection!

This is the story: the people of God have been in Egypt as slaves for 430 years. This period in their lives is a symbol of sin. Man is born in sin and until God comes to free the sinner there is no hope for him. God sends Moses as their Deliverer. Moses is a symbol of Jesus. God judges the gods of Egypt with ten plagues. After that, God tells Moses to kill a pure lamb and smear its blood on the doors of the Israelites. This is the Passover Night. The Angel of death kills the first born of all families in the houses where there is no blood to cover them. Passover is a symbol of the Cross. That night, Pharaoh sends them away. They carry along the wealth of the Egyptians. When Israel entered Egypt, they were only 70 people. Now, they are more than 3 million. They come out from Egypt not as a mad crowd of slaves, but as an organized nation. “The children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 13:18). God leads them with a pilar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They stopped at the Red Sea. Pharoah and the Egyptians regret letting their work force go away and they pursue them. God’s people are trapped between the Egyptians, the Red Sea and two mountains, left and right. The people weep and complain. God gives three commands: Fear not! Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord! Go forward! Moses has faith. He stretches His rod, and the waters divide for the people to cross over on dry ground. When the Egyptians pursued them in the Sea, the waters come back, and they all drowned. The people praise God with songs and dances. From here they move forward towards the Promised Land! Praise the Lord!

Lessons: In times of crisis, trust God and fear not! Fear blinds but faith sees the road ahead! Stand still or stand firm waiting for God to speak! Be ready for action. Move forward in your miracle! It is time to make progress and it will be evident to all! As Moses and the people believed the command, the miracle happened. The sea divided into two. The power of resurrection is stronger than sin, slavery, or death. Resurrection makes all things new. God always wins! The devil always loses! Resurrection power always ends in praises! Worship the Lord!        

MY PROGRESS IS EVIDENT TO ALL (3)/ WHO TOUCHED ME?

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled My Progress is evident to all (3)/ Her main scriptures were taken from the Book of 1 Timothy 4:12-16 and Mark 5:25-34

MAY YOUR PROGRESS BE EVIDENT TO ALL

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:12-16)

Prophetic word: We declare that in Christ, we have entered our Promised Land and our progress is evident to all!

Here we see that spiritual maturity manifests as ‘progress’ that can be seen by others. Progress is defined as a slow forward movement towards a goal, to an improved condition in life, on the path to perfection; it also means to increase knowledge, to develop your skills and gifts so that you can apply them better. It means to advance in life, closer to the place where your dreams are fulfilled. The opposite of progress means to go back, to become worse, to sink, to lose benefits, or to waste away. May we pay the price for godly success! In the world, the general progress in life is seen mostly thru material gains. You feel that you make progress when you graduate from school, marry, buy a house, and have children. But in the spiritual realm, the progress is measured by greater faith and more authority. It is heard in your voice and seen in your behavior. It is also called fruitfulness, increase or profit. It affects all who see and hear you. A leader in the home or in the church is expected to make progress. The faster the progress, the more God will use you to mentor others. No leader should remain satisfied to stay stationary, comfortable to be in a place of no growth. In that case, the leader loses the respect of his followers. By leader I mean, all believers, husbands, wives, parents, pastors, teachers and all who have a platform to influence others. Progress or lack of it cannot be hidden for long. It will soon be manifested. Honor or dishonor will be the result. Let us be faithful in the secret place. God will reward us openly!

GROW IN GRACE AND KNOWLEDGE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST!

“Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things, you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:1-11). “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Pet 3:17, 18)

BONDSERVANT AND APOSTLE

Apostle Peter was a fisherman. He was not an educated man. When you read His letters you appreciate the Grace of God upon his life. He wrote with deep revelation and passion of intimately knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. He does not teach men how to go to the river and catch fish. He speaks as a true man of God, and a teacher of God’s Word telling men about eternal things that will benefit their spirits and not just their bodies. This is always the effect of God’s grace upon a believer. His desire is to encourage the brethren in the early church and to warn them against spiritual dangers, especially the false teachers. Time has no effect upon these words. Two thousand years later, we can still learn so much from him. He introduces himself as ‘a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ’. He is a servant first before he is an apostle. The word ‘bondservant’ means a slave. The word Apostle describes Peter’s calling to ministry. In Greek, the word ‘apostle’ means ‘the sent one’. An apostle is a personal representative of Jesus, chosen by Him to do a special work for Him. Like Apostle Paul, Peter imitates his Lord who came as Servant/King. This is the pattern of leadership that God blesses. Serving God always leads to progress in life! There is no exception to that!

Lesson: God’s promotion comes when you humble yourself before God and you serve The Lord Jesus, the Living Word. Jesus said: “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (Jn 12:26).

PRECIOUS FAITH

Apostle Peter writes this letter to those ‘who have obtained like Precious Faith with us by the Righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ’. This is the definition of the Gospel and the foundation of the Christian life. Christianity always starts with faith in the Gospel. The sinner must believe that he is a sinner and that Jesus died as his substitute. The perfect righteousness of Christ is now imputed to him. This precious faith means to have total confident trust in Jesus and to be faithful to Him. This faith is living, active, and wonderworking. Therefore, it is precious. In Greek, the word ‘precious’ means to be privileged and honored to believe. Something called precious has great value; it is very expensive because it is rare, hard to find; it is loved because of the sacrifice needed to obtain it. Because it is so special, a precious gift is never wasted or used carelessly. This faith is ‘obtained’ or received. It is the Gift of King Grace. Many people hear the Gospel. But not all believe with this type of faith. The Grace of God works in the elect and they believe unto salvation. Others hear the Gospel but do not mix the word with faith. These become religious unbelievers. They claim to be saved, attend church, but they are not born again. Why is the Christian faith so precious? One reason is that living faith is found in Christ alone, the Master of the universe. There is no saving faith in any other religion. Christ alone is sovereign over this faith. He distributes it as He pleases, by His grace alone. We are justified by faith in Christ crucified and resurrected. We are sanctified thru faith in Christ, in the written word of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are glorified and receive miracles by faith too. We make spiritual progress also by faith. God is not a respecter of people but He rewards faith in those who believe in His Son, who seek to know Him better. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb 11:6). Faith is obtained as a seed. We need to water it with the Word and prayer, and it will grow!

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD IS POWER. IT MANIFESTS AS MULTIPLICATION OF GRACE, PEACE, TESTIMONIES, AND SPIRITUAL PROGRESS

“Grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the [true, intimate] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. For His divine power has bestowed on us [absolutely] everything necessary for [a dynamic spiritual] life and godliness, through true and personal knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Pet 1:2, 3; AMP).  

“The word ‘grace’ means the unmerited favor of God because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. The word ‘peace’ is more than the absence of war. It means the unity of the Spirit that produces progress and prosperity in life. Grace and Peace can be multiplied, increased, and made more fruitful. This increase of grace and peace comes with a better, more intimate understanding of God the Father and God the Son. Jesus describes this spiritual knowledge as ‘eternal life’. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). This knowledge is not just an intellectual ‘head knowledge’, gathering some facts about God. It means to draw closer to God and learn who He is by worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth. This knowledge increases thru the study and meditation upon His Word and prayer. The false teachers Peter is warning about, they teach a wrong knowledge of God. They are a hindrance to knowing God in a real and deeper way. The spirit of religion has always been the primary obstacle against knowing God thru the revelation of His Word. You become saved thru the free gift of faith in Christ. But to mature as a believer and make spiritual progress, there is a price to pay. Humility and faithfulness are basic attitudes. God gives grace only to the humble. Pride and rebellion are serious hindrances in the path of spiritual progress.

At the point of salvation, the Holy Spirit plants the seed of life in your spirit. That seed is filled with the power of eternal life.  Only God can do that. No man can save another man. Salvation is God’s work. This first deposit will always be there, in your spirit. In it you have everything you need to become like Jesus. Nothing is missing. After that, you need to take responsibility for making the seed grow, until it produces fruits. That is your work. God will help you by His Spirit but He will not force you to grow. You grow and make progress exactly how much you desire it.

The believer is commanded to start ‘adding’ to the basic faith. In Greek, the word ‘add’ means to contribute, to furnish. God builds the house, but you must furnish it. Progress is made when God and you work together for His glory and for your own good! As you can see, there is a price to pay. Spiritual maturity is not easy and not cheap. That is why different believers are at different levels in their spiritual journey. See that the multiplication of peace, grace (favor with God and man) and the manifestation of a godly testimony, these all depend on your deeper knowledge of one Person, Jesus Christ, our Lord. God’s Word must be manifested in your life as godly character, and ministry done in love!

WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION WITH FEAR AND TREMBLING

“So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]. For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. Do everything without murmuring or questioning [the providence of God], so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish in the midst of a [morally] crooked and [spiritually] perverted generation, among whom you are seen as bright lights [beacons shining out clearly] in the world [of darkness], holding out and offering to everyone the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to rejoice greatly because I did not run [my race] in vain nor labor without result” (Phil 2:12-16; AMP). “Therefore, my beloved… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12, 13; NKJ).    

To achieve spiritual progress, God does some things, and we do other things. The harmony between these two works will manifest as spiritual progress. This progress is like a light shining in the darkness of this world. You cannot hide progress. Salvation is not gained by religious works. Salvation is by grace, thru faith in Christ alone. But after you are saved, you must work out (not for) your salvation with fear and trembling. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He is your guide into truth and into the manifesting of God’s destiny for you. The Holy Spirit is grieved by doubt, pride, rebellion, and murmuring. You must fear God the Holy Spirit. You tremble in His presence, being careful not to grieve Him. The power of God deposited in you ‘works in you’, in your mind and will, so that you make all decisions based on His Word. A stable Spirit-led will is a great achievement in the road to spiritual progress. Once you arrive at the place when you honestly long to please God in all your decisions and actions, then you are a mature Christian. The process of sanctification continues unto you arrive to heaven. Spiritual maturity is greatly rewarded by God. Christ has finished His work for you on the Cross. He said: “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). Having faith in the complete work of Calvary, not waiting for any other addition to that, you now apply this work to your personal life. God has begun the work. You must now furnish it! It sounds simple on paper, but few believers mature spiritually to the place of truly pleasing God in their ministries.

Apostle Paul was writing to the believers at Philippi. They knew that he was arrested, and he was on a death row in prison. They were worried for his life and for the progress of the Gospel. Paul writes this letter to encourage them. He directs them to Jesus, not to himself, to themselves, or their circumstances. He is not just appealing to their emotions. He directs their minds to Jesus. He tells them that the Gospel cannot be stopped because it is God’s work. Paul wants them to remove their attention from himself. He is their pastor and mentor but not their savior. The Gospel he brought to them is not a human idea. It is God’s word that will work in his presence or in his absence.

Lesson: thank God for pastors and Bible teachers in the church. They are God’s gift to the Body of Christ. But we should guard ourselves from being too close or overdependent on people. God used a man to preach, and you believed the Word. But it is God’s Word and not man’s word. We submit, honor, and respect all human authority in the church. But know that salvation does not depend on man. We should learn to keep a holy healthy distance between us and men. That applies also to the husband and his wife. They help one another in the journey of life, but none can save the soul of the other. That work belongs to Jesus alone! Each should depend on God for his/her spiritual progress! Selah!

Many Christians have been confused about this scripture. What does it mean ‘to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’? First we must make it clear that it does not mean to do good religious works so that God will reward you with heaven. Many people have been deceived to believe this false doctrine. Salvation is a gift of grace. It comes by faith in Christ Crucified and Resurrected. It is not a reward. According to the Bible, salvation has three parts: justification, sanctification and glorification. Justification is the act of God. It is God in His position as Judge of all men who proclaims that the sinner who believes in Jesus is set free from the condemnation and guilt of sin. Because God is Holy and He hates sin, Justification is possible only because Jesus died as the substitute for the sinner. Justification is received by faith. It is an one act in time. It cannot be repeated and cannot be lost. Salvation received is eternal. Justification declares that God has forgiven the repentant sinner and has adopted him as His child. Sanctification is different. It is the lifelong process by which the salvation received once, is made manifest in the Christian’s character and behavior. Glorification is the final stage when the Christian goes to heaven. One day his body will be resurrected and glorified. In other words, we have been saved (justified); we are being saved (sanctification); and we shall be saved (glorified in heaven).

In the scripture above, Paul is writing about sanctification and not about justification. God does His work, and we do ours. We are co-workers with Him. We work out our salvation that we have received when we first believed. God starts the work of salvation in your spirit. He then helps you thru faith in His Word and thru the power of the Holy Spirit to make this salvation real and visible. That is manifested progress in life. Paul said: “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). In other words, because God has started His work in you, you now continue to work it out with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Before you got justified by faith in God, you were dead in trespassing and sins. A sinner is a dead man. He cannot work any spiritual work. You have seen that you were totally helpless in the matter of salvation. You need God to save you, or you perish. When you surrendered your life to Christ, His grace manifested to you. This is how you become saved! Now that you are made alive in Christ, you must use all your strength to work out your salvation. To become strong, to become a champion, you must pay the price and work out what God has planted in you. Like in the natural, spiritual muscle will be seen in you if you exercise in the spiritual Gym. Spiritual strength manifests as higher fruitful faith and greater authority.

The first thing we see here is that sanctification, is an active work. It takes spiritual and mental energy to study God’s Word, to pray, to behave like a Christian. Many Christians relax after they became born again. They think that as they were justified by faith, so they will automatically mature by faith. Sanctification is by faith in God but it is not a passive faith. You cannot be lazy or careless with your testimony and expect to see changes in your life and circumstances. It is hard work to see progress in life! What is that internal process? The sinner hates God and the things of God. He hates the Bible. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be“ (Rom 8:7). Once God’s grace manifests and the sinner is declared justified, something happens. The dead man becomes alive. The first thing he does, like a newborn baby, he now hungers after God’s Word. He wants to know God and His Word. This change is deep. No man can produce this change. This is what it means to be born the second time, or to be born again. The baby Christian desires to grow. He starts to pay the price for that growth. He starts to make progress. Have you asked yourself, why do you like to read the Bible? Don’t you know that this is a miracle? There was a time the Bible made no sense to you and you saw it as foolishness. Now things have changed. You now work out what was worked into you by God. You want to manifest this internal change so that others may see Christ in you. God has initiated a work in you. Let this work manifest thru you! God still works in you. He affects your desires and will. He gives you power to love God’s Word and to see its practical application in your life. All godly desires to read the Bible, to pray, to fast, to attend church services, to serve God in anyway at all, are given by God. This is a proof that you are God’s child. God does not give these holy desires to unbelievers. Some unbelievers are religious and attend church. They may read the Bible and pray. But they always use their own strength to do so. They force themselves ‘to make heaven’. They do not feel God’s power working inside them to change them. Eventually, they get tired of pretending. These religious unbelievers are not saved. They are fake Christians. They are many in the churches. But the true child of God never gets tired to read the Bible, pray and attend church. The power of God pushes him on even when he is tired. Praise the Lord!

These are other translations of the same scripture: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear… So, work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved… Keep on working with fear and trembling to complete your salvation (Phil 2:12; NLT: CEV; GNT)”. To work out your salvation it means to continue what God has started in your spirit. Practically, what do I do? First, you must desire to be like Jesus! You must imitate Christ who submitted His will to God the Father, even unto death. You must reject every form of independent rebellious type of thinking. You must have the mind of Christ! The command to work out your salvation comes immediately after Paul describes the life, death, and exaltation of Christ (Phil 2:5-11). Secondly, desire to hate sin! You must love Jesus and stop loving the world. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn 2:15-17). All unbelievers love the world which is the system of men who live like there is no God. The devil is the prince of this world. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you must kill your desire to love the world. God has to be acknowledged in every decision you make. The world must fade away from your heart as you move on towards the glory of heaven. It is only the true believers who are able to die to the world. This is a proof that they abide in Christ forever! This process is done with fear and trembling. I do not fear that I lose my salvation. But I fear God enough to abandon sin. “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding increase as I die to sin, and to the world. A true Christian is a mysterious contradiction. He is filled with joy, and he is also a sober man. That is why he fears not to offend God in his Christian race. This is the royal way of the Cross, the only way of true spiritual progress that will be manifested to all!

SINS THAT HINDER PROGRESS: MURMURING, QUESTIONING, DOUBT AND UNBELIEF  

Some unrepentant sins block the way to progress. Murmuring or complaining is a private, almost quiet expression of discontent. You are not happy with the way God leads you. This lack of contentment is a silent ungratefulness and rebellion. Your will is not submitted to God’s greater will. The second sin that hinders spiritual progress is ‘questioning’ God’s providence. In Greek the word means to think, to analyze, to reason and to debate with God in your mind. This questioning is related to doubt, to having a double restless mind. God warns us that He will not answer a prayer of doubt. You must trust God even when you do not understand His leading. See doubt as a temptation to sin and backslide.  “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (Jam 1:6-8). If you do not see visible manifestations of your prayers, it may be that there is an interference of sin, especially, murmuring, questionings, and doubt about God’s providence. Both murmuring and questioning are sins against God and not against man. These sins manifested in the people of God in the wilderness. They resisted God’s will and moved along grudgingly. It makes man to be ‘stiff necked, resisting the Holy Spirit’ (Ac 7:51). To be stiff necked it means to be stubborn, difficult to be led. In their minds, hearts and wills, these people always oppose the Holy Spirit. They always see God as the enemy of their progress. They are ignorant that their sins are the hindrance to progress, and not God! Selah!

WARNING AGAINST UNBELIEF

“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So, I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest” (Heb 4:1-3)        

The people who hear the Gospel but remain in unbelief are described as ‘falling short’ of God’s promise to enter the Promised Land, or unto salvation. The words ‘falling short’ mean to fail to experience the promise, missing a wonderful opportunity, or coming too late for the reward. This is a warning against taking God’s Word, His promises, His Grace, and His glory for granted. To take for granted it means that you use something carelessly, without showing appreciation for it. For example, you call the name of Jesus, pray, read the Bible, and go to church with an ungrateful, bitter heart. The Word of God has not opened or changed your heart. The sin of unbelief is still reigning inside. The seed of faith cannot enter into such a heart. We are told that the Word ‘did not profit them’ because they did not ‘mix’ the word with faith. The word ‘profit’ means to help, to add to value, to be useful for something good. The word ‘mix’ means to unite with another, to assimilate or co-mingle. A religious unbeliever has no profit from hearing the Word of God. He stays in the same spot of unbelief. God’s Word cannot help him to do something good with his life. He makes no progress, and his heart is not changed. He heard the Word but refused to mix it with faith. Knowing that many people go to church and hear God’s Word for nothing, makes us to appreciate God’s grace and the gift of this precious living faith!

THE WOMAN WITH THE ISSUE OF BLOOD (Mark 5:25-34; Lk 8:43-48)

This woman has suffered for 12 years from bleeding from her private parts. This was more than a sickness. Mark calls it ‘an affliction or a plague’ (Mk 5:34). In Greek the word means to be flogged repeatedly. She spent all her money and strength on doctors who failed to cure her. This bleeding made her ceremonially unclean. Like a leper, she had to stay away from human society. She could not marry, have children, go to the temple, or attend the synagogue. We are told that ‘she heard about Jesus’ (Mk 5:27). This is how faith starts. “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17). She was told how kind Jesus is and the fact that He has the power to do miracles. Jesus was going to the house of Jairus, to heal his dying daughter when this woman came to touch the hem of His garment. Her healing is called ‘a parenthesis miracle’. Her healing was instant. Only two people knew that the miracle happened: Jesus, who felt power leaving Him and the woman who felt the power entering her. The transfer of power connected the Savior and the sinner in a special way. She was a cursed woman. She now became ‘a daughter’ of Jesus. She was healed in her body, and she received salvation and peace in her soul.

This is God’s Law: “If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean… Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening” (Lev 15:25, 27).

The woman knew God’s Law, that if she touches a man that man will be unclean that day. She needed faith that by touching Jesus, she will be healed. She was taking a great risk by walking in public, in the crowd. For her to arrive at Jesus she has to push her way, touch many men who were around Him. They could stone her to death for spreading ‘the plague’. This gives us a glimpse of how Jesus sees the Law. He was born under the Law. He obeyed the Law. But the Law could not convict Him of sin. After she touched Him, she wanted to hide so that Jesus will not know that He is ‘unclean’ by touching her. If Jesus is unclean, He cannot enter the house of Jairus to perform the miracle of healing on his daughter. This is to show us the power of sin, which spreads like a virus and becomes a plague.

It is possible that this woman was once wealthy and had many friends. Then she got sick. She “suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse” (Mk 5:26). Like with the prodigal son, once the money is gone, all her friends are gone. She is now a hopeless case: sick with an incurable disease, poor, lonely and rejected by men. Who can help such a one?

In her despair, with her last drop of strength, she decided to take the risk of being stoned to death. She encouraged herself. She thought in her mind and kept talking to herself that if she can only touch the garments of Jesus, she will be healed. “For she kept saying, If only I touch His garments, I will be healed” (Mk 5:28; Berean Standard Bible). She did not say just once. She kept saying to herself again and again. This is true persistent faith. The word ‘touch’ means to lay hold of someone, to attach herself to Jesus. She had only a second to do that. This is God’s Precious Promise: “He sent forth His word to heal them and snatched them from the grave” (Ps 107:20; NAB).  

Lesson: How can you touch the Word and be healed? How can your faith become a testimony? The answer is this: You must touch Jesus, who is the Living Word by touching the written Word of God! But how? Draw closer to God and to His Word! “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Jam 4:8). Repent of doubt and of any hidden sin! How do I draw closer to God? I desire to have a relationship with God. I do it by chasing Him and by submitting to Him! “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good“(Ps 73:28; NASB). This is a spiritual law: if you need God’s help, you need to seek God, to draw closer to Him. “The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2Chr 15:2). Any effort to study the Bible and pray will be rewarded by God!

This woman’s faith was desperate, free of doubt and fear of rejection. She believed two main things: That Jesus is God and has all power. ‘Power belongs to God’ (Ps 62:11). She also believed that Jesus could change her body. “Jesus will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under his control” (Phil 3:21; NLT). She acted and received her miracle even before Jesus spoke a word to her. In a way, she ‘stole’ the miracle from Jesus’ hand. She was disappointed by many physicians. But she now believed that the Great Physician will not disappoint her. Encouraged by no man, she stepped in faith and touched the garment of Jesus. Just the way you touch live wire, power left Jesus and entered her. Her faith was amazing! At the same time, her faith was not balanced. She thought that the power of Jesus flows thru His garment. She did not know that Jesus Himself is the Healer. Many people believe that if they touch the pastor’s handkerchief or are sprinkled with olive oil by a man of God, they will be healed. This woman behaved like that. But Jesus did not rebuke her. He encouraged her faith. By calling her ‘daughter’, He repositioned her faith to His Person. Lesson: many people mock the Christians who believe in secondhand touch of faith. Weak unbalanced faith in miracles is better than unbelief!

In Jesus alone you see this wonderful combination: Power and Pity! He was the most accessible Teacher and Doctor. No ‘middlemen’ to see Jesus! He was rejected by Jews. He preached and did miracles on the streets. See how Gentle the Savior is by calling the woman to come to the open. He did not want the woman to receive the miracle ‘by stealing’. That could have left a shadow on her healing testimony. He commended her faith. He healed her body and saved her soul. From now on, there is no need for her to hide from God or man. Jesus felt ‘virtue’ leaving Him. The word describes God’s power to produce miracles. Her great need and His greater Grace met, and the healing occurred. Lesson: Many people come close to Jesus but do not touch Him with faith! They see worship and miracles as religious entertainment. Faith does not produce the healing. Faith is the hand that takes hold of Jesus who saves or heals you. This healing was immediate and complete. It was also provided freely. How many so-called healers exploit sick people and waste their time and money? But Jesus never did that. Jesus is the Savior and the Lord! He died to save sinners. Salvation is the same! It is by grace and thru faith in Jesus Christ! Worship the Lord!  

MY PROGRESS IS EVIDENT TO ALL (2)

MY PROGRESS IS EVIDENT TO ALL (2)/ IT IS WRITTEN AND FOREVER REMAINS WRITTEN

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled My Progress is evident to all/ It is written and forever remains written. Her main scriptures were taken from the Book of 1 Timothy 4:12-16 and Matthew 4: 1-11. She said that spiritual progress comes from successfully enduring temptations. Selah!

MAY YOUR PROGRESS BE EVIDENT TO ALL

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:12-16)

Prophetic word: We declare that in Christ, we have entered our Promised Land and we our progress is evident to all!

Here we see that spiritual maturity manifests as ‘progress’ that can be seen by others. Progress is defined as a slow forward movement towards a goal, to an improved condition in life, on the path to perfection; it also means to increase knowledge, to develop your skills and gifts so that you can apply them better. It means to advance in life, closer to the place where your dreams are fulfilled. For example, a student makes progress when after taking a B, he now has an A. Later, he finishes his school, and he also becomes a teacher. This is all progress in life. The opposite of progress means to go back, to become worse, to sink, to lose benefits, or to waste away. May we pay the price for godly success!

In the world, the general progress in life is seen mostly thru material gains. You feel that you make progress when you graduate from school, marry, buy a house, and have children. But in the spiritual realm, the progress is measured by greater faith and more authority. It is heard in your voice and seen in your behavior. It is also called fruitfulness, increase or profit. It affects all who see and hear you. A leader in the home or in the church is expected to make progress. The faster the progress, the more God will use you to mentor others. No leader should remain satisfied to stay stationary, comfortable to be in a place of no growth. In that case, the leader loses the respect of his followers. By leader I mean, all believers, husbands, wives, parents, pastors, teachers and all who have a platform to influence others. Progress or lack of it cannot be hidden for long. It will soon be manifested. Honor or dishonor will be the result. Let us be faithful in the secret place. God will reward us openly!

THE PROGRESS OF JOY AND FAITH IN THE GOSPEL  

The same word ‘progress’ appears two more times in the Book of Philippians. “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil 1:12-14).  He also said: “I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith” (Phil 1:23-25). The word ‘furtherance’ is the same as the word profit or progress. Paul says that his imprisonment has advanced and spread the Gospel to the most unlikely people These are the military officers who guard him in prison, in Rome. Paul rejoices in the spread of the Gospel! He also says that he doesn’t know what to choose; to die and go to heaven or the stay and help them. He says that by staying on earth he will help them to mature as believers, witnessing to the progress of their spiritual life with joy and faith. Lesson: Let us be busy working for the furtherance of the Gospel, for the progress of joy and faith among the brethren!

In his letter to the Philippians Apostle Paul encourages them to stay strong and to rejoice. He is in a prison in Rome, on the death row. But he is not worried. He trusts God for his life and for his death. This is a personal letter from a mentor to his students. It is amazing how the Holy Spirit uses these old words to encourage us today. The believers in Philippi were worried because with Paul in prison, they assumed that the Gospel is blocked from spreading. Paul tells them that nothing can stop the Gospel, which is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (Rom 1:16). The Gospel is like the crowbar used to lift heavy objects; it is like the handle that the pilot uses to drive the ship. In Greek, the word ‘power’ is ‘dunamis’ from which the word dynamite comes. The Gospel has the power to explode and scatter to pieces every sinful imagination and opposition.  Paul said that the military guards assigned to him are now getting converted. Generally, these soldiers are rough men. They are used to kill people. But Paul preached to them and little by little, they believed in Jesus. Study Paul the way he sees God in all circumstances of life. Because He is sure that God is with him even in prison, he does not complain about his life. He does not indulge in self-pity. He is not angry or bitter against God because the preaching of the Gospel landed him in prison. He rejoices in the opportunity to continue serving God. The presence of God with Him is enough to give Paul all the encouragement he needs. These are clear marks of spiritual maturity and progress in the faith. Paul always feels God in his heart and sees Him in his circumstances. This vision is his strength! Like Moses, Paul “endured [steadfastly], as seeing Him who is unseen” (Heb 11:27, AMP). Be careful, once you doubt the love of God towards you, you will backslide. You must trust God even when things are hard, when you do not understand His ways with you.

Two thousand years have passed. Things are different now. But man has not changed. He still battles with anxieties. Life is still difficult. Things have changed but in the Spirit realm, all things are the same. There are still champions and losers. The experience of success and victory over sin and death during the time of the early church, is still available for us now. The same joy we experience now. Paul challenges the believers to live a life fully dedicated to God, to preach the Gospel and endure persecution if it comes their way. This challenge is the same for us today. God gives us strength to evangelize the world. We do so by preaching the Gospel and by living godly lives that shine like stars in the darkness. We must be faithful to God in doctrine and behavior. Then God will use us to save, lead, and mentor others. Any man or woman who is Spirit filled and lives a victorious life is a light to the world. This triumphant life is very attractive. People will come closer to study you. Your testimony is a platform to bring many to Christ. In the early church, the Christians made converts just by being themselves, by being Christians. Their obvious love for Jesus and for one another was magnetic. People became saved by desiring to be like them.

How does Paul encourage the believers? He always directs them to God’s Word. This is a spiritual law: It is by knowing the true doctrine, the spiritual principles of the Bible that you receive encouragement. Paul does not appeal directly to their emptions. That is what entertainment does. It is of the flesh, and it profits nothing. Paul appeals to their spirits and to their minds. They must know and believe God’s law before they receive peace, joy, strength, and wisdom. The reason why so many Christians today live in defeat, are always worried and sad, it is because they do not study the doctrines of the Bible. They read the Bible trying to find some few verses they like, to encourage themselves. They want the blessings without fulfilling the conditions. It does not work that way. That is why Bible studies are so important. It is important to note that the Bible has no hope, no encouragement for the world. The first action an unbeliever must do is to repent of sin and surrender his life to Christ. The Bible reveals the God has a special loving gracious interest toward His children. The promises of God can be fulfilled only in the lives of believers. May we appreciate God and His Word more! May our faith increase until the promises are fulfilled! To the glory of God!          

ENDURING TEMPTATIONS LEADS TO EVIDENT PROGRESS

What is temptation? In both Hebrew and Greek, temptation means enticement to commit sin. Enticement is the act of persuading someone to do something or go somewhere, by offering him something he likes. It means to arouse hope and desire for pleasure with the intent to deceive. It means to seduce someone with pleasure to leave the right path of truth and to go into the path of sin, danger, destruction, and death. Practically, temptation manifests as a strong desire to do or to have something that you know it is sinful.

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (James 1:12-16)

God never tempts men to sin!!! God Himself cannot be tempted by the devil. The devil tempted Jesus as a Man, not as God. The devil tempts and God tests. Practically, temptation and testing may feel the same, but there is a difference in motives. Temptation comes that you may sin and become like the devil. Testing comes that you may mature and become like Jesus! God tests His children to purify their faith. He sometimes allows Satan to do the testing. Satan is called ‘The Great Tempter’. His desire is that they disobey God! Temptation is generally external. But the devil weakens man thru internal lust, so that he cooperates with the external temptation. The devil shows the Christian opportunities to commit sin. Temptation is not sin. Choosing the devil’s option during temptation, that is sin. To commit sin the will is involved. The Original sin happened when Adam and Eve believed the lies of the devil and disobeyed God. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus found the disciples tired from sorrow and sleeping.  He said: “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:40, 41). The devil takes advantage of the weakness of the flesh to tempt believers. He opens the door of backsliding. If you enter thru that door, you have sinned. If you turn away from it, you have endured the temptation successfully and made progress!

“Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers, and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing…. “Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jam 1:2-4; 12; AMP). Temptation must be ‘endured’ successfully. In Greek, the word ‘endure’ means to stay under pressure, to remain steadfast and persevere in your faith during the oppressive pain. It means to totally reject devil’s option of backsliding. Temptation is painful. It is like passing thru fire when the fleshly chaff is burnt, and the gold of faith is purified. Successfully enduring temptation is the royal scar of the mature believers. They receive the crown of life. The very opportunity you have to endure temptation should be counted as joy, trusting God for the successful examination. The only other place the crown of life is promised is in the Book of Revelation. Even there, it is connected with successfully enduring temptation. “Fear nothing that you are about to suffer. Be aware that the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested [in your faith], and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful to the point of death [if you must die for your faith], and I will give you the crown [consisting] of life. He who has an ear, let him hear and heed what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes [the world through believing that Jesus is the Son of God] will not be hurt by the second death (the lake of fire)” (Rev 2:10, 11; AMP). Halleluiah!

OLD TESTAMENT TEMPTATIONS

When Abraham was old, God tested him (Genesis 22). This was not a temptation, but a true test of faith given by God. In this story God tells Abraham that he should offer his beloved and only son of promise, Isaac, as a burnt offering. Because he loved Isaac so much, Abraham was tempted to disobey God. But his faith in God was stronger. Abraham obeyed God believing that God has the power to raise Isaac from the dead (Heb 11:19). With the knife in his hand, God stops Abraham from killing his son. God provides a ram to be offered as a substitution sacrifice. Abraham’s faith proved to be genuine. That is why he is called ‘the father of faith’ for both Jews and Gentiles. After passing the test of faith, God promised: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen 22:16-18). God reveals Himself as Jehovah Jireh, God the provider. He promises supernatural fruitfulness, protection, and blessings. Lesson: to be mature, faith must pass thru the fire of affliction. God blesses mature proven faith with great spiritual progress and natural prosperity. This manifests as fruitfulness, victory against the enemies and an overflow of blessings to the descendants.

Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife to commit adultery. He refused saying: said: “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her” (Gen 39:8-10). Joseph saw adultery not as pleasure, but as betrayal against his master who trusted him. He sees it as ‘great wickedness and sin against God’. What was his secret for enduring temptation? Joseph feared God. He took God seriously. He saw himself accountable to God. That is why he was strong and courageous to reject the devil. Old man Job said: “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28). For standing for God, Joseph was punished with imprisonment. In His time, God vindicated him. He became the prime minister of Egypt. Potiphar became his subordinate. Praise the Lord!

King David was tempted by Satan to number his soldiers. He wanted to put his trust and boast about his great army. This act of pride made God angry, and a plague came over Israel. David fell into this temptation. He repented but many died in that plague (1 Chron 21). Selah!

Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Daniel 3). The king said that if they worship the idol they will not be killed. Face to face with death, they refused to bow to the man-made idol. They claimed that Jehovah alone is God. For this defiance they were thrown in the furnace. The Fourth Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, was with them in the fire and saved them. Daniel also chose to be faithful to Jehovah God. He continued to pray even after the edict against prayer was given by King Darius. He was thrown into the lions’ den. But God protected him. His enemies who wanted him dead were killed by the same lions (Daniel 6). Lesson: these brethren successfully endured temptation and were all rewarded with promotion and wealth. They are our examples to follow! Praise the Lord!

THE TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS

“Then Jesus was led by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After He had gone without food for forty days and forty nights, He became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him into the holy city [Jerusalem] and placed Him on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple. And he said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You [to serve, care for, protect and watch over You]’; and ‘They will lift you up on their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory [splendor, magnificence, and excellence] of them; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and angels came and ministered to Him [bringing Him food and serving Him]” (Matt 4:1-11; AMP).

Jesus’ temptations are unique to Jesus. But we can learn goldy principles from them. First, we see that Jesus took these temptations seriously. He prepared Himself for the temptation. He went there filled with the Holy Spirit. He came out in the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk 4:14) ready to start His public ministry. Immediately after His baptism in the River Jordan, The Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness. Between Jordan and Jerusalem, there is the hot and dry Judea Desert. This is where the devil tempted Jesus. For forty days Jesus ate nothing. He became hungry. This proves that He was not only God, but also Man. The devil tempted Him with three questions. Jesus answered with God’s written Word!

To understand this temptation, we must remind ourselves of God’s  purpose for His Son. Jesus said that He came ‘to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Lk 19:10). Immediately after His baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus is ready to enter into His public ministry to call people to repentance, so that they enter the Kingdom of God (Matt 4:17). God’s plan for His Son was to preach about God’s Kingdom. He will also do miracles, acts of kindness towards the sick and the suffering and but not for Himself. After three years, Jesus dies on the Cross, on behalf of sinners, as their Substitute. This was God’s will for Him, to walk the painful royal way of the Cross that led to the salvation of many. The Savior must pay for their salvation with His blood. Jesus was obedient to God and His plan for Him even unto death. God the Father resurrects His Son from the grave. Jesus ascends to heaven as God-Man. He is crowned with many crowns, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. His eternal glory is displayed for all to see. All men must bow to Him. He alone is worthy of all worship (Phil 2:5-11). The devil suspects that God’s plan is to make His Son eternally famous. He was jealous. He wants to destroy it. Thru the temptation the devil offers Jesus an alternative way to become famous. Not the plan of the Father which includes Death and resurrection. The devil’s way avoids the Cross. But Jesus rejects the painless plan of the devil. He remains steadfast in His faith trusting God the Father. That is how He became our Savior and Lord! Glory!

1-The First Temptation (to become a Materialistic Savior)

“After He had gone without food for forty days and forty nights, He became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:2-4).

The first temptation is to doubt God’s love. The devil speaks with some truth. That is why temptation is painful and hard to endure! Making bread or eating bread is not a sin. As a Man, Jesus decided to obey only God and not to make decisions by Himself. The devil’s idea is that God does not love Jesus for letting Him suffer hunger. The devil wants Jesus to blame His Father for suffering. He wants to separate God the Father from God the Son. He wanted to cause rebellion and division in the Trinity. That could have caused the universe to disintegrate. The temptation is bigger than we imagine! Lesson: you don’t live because you eat. You live because God sustains you. Once God decides that it is time to die, no food can keep you alive. At the hour of death, you see that food has no power to give life.

After forty days of fasting, Jesus’ body is weak. That is when the devil attacks. He suggests that He should make bread to feed Himself and many others. He suggests that Jesus should become a Bread-making Savior. That will attract all the hungry people to follow Him. The devil says “If You are the Son of God…” The word ‘if’ reveals an attack of doubt upon the identity of Jesus. The Father has just publicly declared that Jesus is His Beloved Son (Matt 3:17). To doubt the voice of the Father will make Jesus a spiritual ‘orphan’. That is sin. Lesson: The devil attacks when you are weak. He attacks with doubts to block your prayers (Jam 1:6-8). The same word ‘if’ in Greek can also be translated as ‘since’. In that case, the devil says: ‘Since (or because) You are the Son of God… use your office and anointing to supply men what they need’. This attack is not with doubt, but to use His power for selfish purposes. Jesus rejects the devil’s option by saying: “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone”. He quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy. “God humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut 8:3).

The devil tempts Jesus to make bread that feeds the flesh. But this bread can never satisfy man’s spiritual needs. Man needs The Word of God which is eternal life! Lesson: The flesh is needy, and manifests thru works of darkness. We are commanded to die to the flesh, to make no provision to feed it. “The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom 13:12-14). In Greek the word ‘provision’ means to think in advance how to supply the desires of the flesh. The mind of the Christian is to be inclined towards spiritual things, not things of the flesh. The flesh is like a spoiled child who craves entertainment. Lesson: A little lust, or a little self-pity, spoils much spiritual gain. We need to discipline our minds thru the study of God’s Word, and prayer. The devil reminds you of the desires of the flesh, to attend to them. Keep your eyes on Jesus who rejected that approach. The flesh is never satisfied. Jesus said: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jn 6:63). The Word of God and Its promises are not made for the flesh. If Jesus fell to this temptation, He could have become a materialistic Savior. He will feed man with bread and cake. But man in sin still has to get old, die and go to hell. Lesson: The Word of God is Spirit and life. It is designed to feed and strengthen your human spirit and weaken your flesh. You see that the devil’s temptation will only temporarily improve your life. He wants you to ignore death. The so-called ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is dangerous because it uses God’s Word to feed the flesh. Be careful!

2-The Second Temptation (to become a Religious miracle worker Savior)

“Then the devil took Him into the holy city [Jerusalem] and placed Him on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple. And he said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You [to serve, care for, protect and watch over You]’; and ‘They will lift you up on their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God” (Matt 4:5-7)

The devil led Jesus possibly in a vision to stand on the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem. He suggested that in the presence of all the gathered worshippers Jesus should jump from there. The devil assured Jesus that according to God’s Word, God will guard Jesus and He will fall down unharmed. This miracle of salvation from death will amaze all the worshippers and they will follow Jesus. Here Satan tempts Jesus with pride and religious fame. Men will see Jesus as a miracle wonder Man. They will follow Him because they see the miracles and not because they trust His Word. The devil mis-quotes scripture from Psalm 91. He did not quote from the Book of Deuteronomy like Jesus, which is God’s law. He quotes from the ‘softer’ Psalms. In this psalm God promises to protect His obedient and faithful children, those who dwell under His wings. God did not promise to protect anyone who takes Him for granted. The devil tempts Jesus to claim the blessings of obedience even when He disobeys. Jesus calls that approach ‘tempting God’. Jesus again quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy saying: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah” (Deut 6:16). To tempt God, it means that you take His grace and kindness for granted. It means to use the promises of God against Him. Lesson: the backsliders try to manipulate God to bless them in their rebellion. But God cannot be deceived!

2-The Third Temptation (to become a Political Savior)

“Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory [splendor, magnificence, and excellence] of them; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and angels came and ministered to Him [bringing Him food and serving Him]” (Matt 4:8-11; AMP)

This time, the devil offers Jesus the whole world, with its fame, amid all its visible glory and beauty. But this gift is not free. There is a price to pay. Jesus must submit, bow down and worship Satan, the giver. Satan always lusted after worship. He wanted to be ‘like God’ (Isaiah 14:14). If Jesus receives this offer, He will become a political Savior. All men will ‘vote’ for Him and worship Him. For Jesus to become honored by men He has to compromise with Satan. This political fame seems cheap. Jesus does not have to suffer rejection from men. He does not have to die on the Cross. But Jesus refuses the offer. He sternly rejects Satan to go away! The word means to depart and die, to withdraw and disappear. Then Jesus quotes again from the Book of Deuteronomy that says: “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him and shall take oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you (for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth” (Deut 6:13-15). Jesus says that God loves Him and is jealous over Him. To serve idols is to insult God. Jesus rejects political success because it is based on idolatry. Selah!  

The third temptation was also designed so that Jesus will doubt God’s plan for Him. God the Father has already promised the nations to Him. He said: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Ps 2:7, 8). In the hot desert, hungry and weak, it seems that the devil’s offer is faster than to wait for God to fulfill His own Word. Satan says that the kingdoms have been given to him. This is only a half-truth. He only rules the evil in the nations. His power is limited by God. Why? Because “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein” (Ps 24:1). Lesson: be patient and wait on God and His promises! Halleluiah!  

Finally, the temptation was over! Jesus did not sin! The angels can come to help and feed Jesus. Once He passed the test, Jesus went to Galilee in the power of the Spirit of God. Immediately, He became famous by preaching the Word with authority and driving the demons away (Matt 7:29)! The devil could not take any credit for that fame. This is how He started His public ministry that eventually led to the Cross!

LESSONS FOR US/ HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY ENDURE TEMPTATIONS AND EXPERIENCE SPIRITUAL PROGRESS

Lesson: Temptation is not sin. Falling in the midst of temptation is sin. Fast and pray! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!

Preach the Word! Jesus used the sword of the Spirit, the eternal written Word of God, to defeat Satan! We must do the same! The victory of Jesus over Satan in the wilderness greatly encourages us. His victory here was a sample of what will happen at the Cross. We now know that Jesus is stronger than Satan. Our faith in Jesus and the Word of God must increase!

Lesson: be careful with the people you call friends. You can be kind to all but do not trust all. The devil uses ‘friends’ to temp you to sin. “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor 15:33). For example, there is a Christian woman. The devil comes as a rich unbeliever who wants to marry her. He seems generous and kind. He gives her gifts so that she will marry him. She forgets that after the wedding, she has to submit to her unbelieving husband. He will then take back all the gifts he gave to her. Lesson: The devil gives gifts to tempt believers to sin. Not all gifts should be received. Pray before you receive a gift. Remember how the Gibeonites deceived Joshua and the leaders of Israel (Joshua 9). They are a symbol of Satan. Only God’s gifts can truly bless the receiver. “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it” (PV 10:22). Lesson: reject the sorrow filled prosperity of the devil!

Lesson: salvation is personal. Spiritual progress is personal. Please note that Jesus goes alone to the wilderness to meet the devil. He depends on God alone. There were no disciples or pastors to pray for Him at the hour of temptation. Why did Jesus go alone? It was to identify with sinful man, to become their High Priest and Savior. Jesus lived alone and died alone. He understands every man. “Therefore, it was essential that He had to be made like His brothers (mankind) in every respect, so that He might [by experience] become a merciful and faithful High Priest in things related to God, to make atonement (propitiation) for the people’s sins [thereby wiping away the sin, satisfying divine justice, and providing a way of reconciliation between God and mankind]” (Heb 2:17; AMP). In many countries, the Christians cannot attend churches. The Christians often feel lonely even when they go to church. We trust Jesus who was walked the road of life and death alone. That is why He alone deserves all glory for our salvation! It is also a sign that Jesus is the only Savior. He alone conquered sin, death, and the devil. No man helped Him. No man can share in His glory. Just before His death, Jesus told the disciples: “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:32-33). The peace of Christ is a proof of His overcoming the world and Satan, the prince of the world. After the war, there must be peace. For the mature Christian, the peace of Jesus is his companion daily. It is the proof that he has endured the temptation and has won the battle.

Lesson: After his defeat in the wilderness, the devil left Jesus until an opportune time. He used Peter to temp Jesus not to go to the Cross. Immediately Jesus revealed to His disciples that He has to die and resurrect, Peter ‘rebuked’ Him saying: “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt 16:22-23). Satan will always put the things of men before the things of God. Do not forget! Christianity is Christ. He must always be at the center of our hearts and doctrines. The Bible starts and ends with God! The devil wants to put man in the place of God! Lastly, the devil tempted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to do His will and not God’s will which included the Cross. Jesus defeated the devil each time. By His death on the Cross Jesus defeated the devil eternally. He opened the door of salvation for all those who believe!

Lesson: Jesus obeyed God unto death! We must do the same! Disobedience to God’s Word is never an option! Trust God to turn your pain into praise! “In the days of His earthly life, Jesus offered up both [specific] petitions and [urgent] supplications [for that which He needed] with fervent crying and tears to the One who was [always] able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission toward God [His sinlessness and His unfailing determination to do the Father’s will]. Although He was a Son [who had never been disobedient to the Father], He learned [active, special] obedience through what He suffered. And having been made perfect [uniquely equipped and prepared as Savior and retaining His integrity amid opposition], He became the source of eternal salvation [an eternal inheritance] to all those who obey Him, being designated by God as High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:7-10; AMP). This is the mystery of the Cross. Jesus always obeyed God the Father. But on earth, He had to learn to obey God as a Man. The lesson of obedience was found in the fire of suffering. The place of temptation was His classroom. On the Cross, with His Blood shed. He graduated from the lesson of obedience unto death. As a Man He became perfect. That is why God the Father exalted Him above all others in the universe (Philippians 2). As a God He did not need to learn obedience. But as a Man, He needed to do that. He is our Savior, Mentor and Lord! Hallelujah!   

Lesson: God loves you! God promised genuine godly fame as a reward for obedience (Deut 28:9-14). The devil wants you to forget that. He deceives you saying that God is a harsh master who does not want you to enjoy your life. That is a lie! The devil offers fame and prosperity without the cross, without obedience to God. That fame destroys.

Lesson: Never forget that the devil is God’s enemy and your enemy. Jesus died for sinners. The devil cannot be redeemed. The revelation of Jesus is power for ministry. “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1Jn 3:8)

Lesson: Jesus passed thru temptations to understand you and me. He is now our High Priest in heaven. He hears your prayers. He understands your pains. “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin” (Heb 4:15, AMP)

Lesson: Jesus was strong during the temptation because He was without sin. All the temptations were extremal to Him. His heart was pure totally dedicated to God. He said just before the Cross: “I will not speak with you much longer, for the ruler of the world (Satan) is coming. And he has no claim on Me [no power over Me nor anything that he can use against Me]” (Jn 14:30, AMP). We are born sinners. But by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be free from the lusts of the body and mind! We should desire purity of spirit and body! That purity is strength!

Lesson: God is faithful to help you during temptation! “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:12, 13). God reveals the way of escape only to the humble!

Lesson: Jesus told Peter: “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31, 32). Once you have successfully passed the testing of temptation, use your wisdom and experience to help others gain the victory!

Lesson: Temptation is seasonal. It has a beginning and an end. When the devil finished tempting Jesus, the angels could come to serve Him!

Lesson: Most of the times temptations come from people close to us, thru your spouse, family and friends. You must learn to separate the human agent from the demon behind him/her.

Lesson: In that wilderness, Jesus rehearsed what will happen at the cross. “For though He (Jesus) was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you” (2 Cor 13:4). That same power of strength found in weakness, by God’s Grace, is ours too! This is the secret of spiritual progress and victory over sin!

We conclude by saying, to experience spiritual progress you have to learn how to say ‘Yes, Sir!’ to King Grace and a categorical ‘No!’ to the devil. These are lessons you learn during temptations. You must humble yourself and submit to God to be able to successfully resist the devil until he flees from you! Then God will ‘lift you up’. Promotion and progress shall be manifest to all! God gives more grace. “Therefore, He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (Jam 4:6-10). May the Word of God set us free from the bondages of the enemy! To worship God in Spirit and in Truth! Worship the Lord!

BEWITCHED

PRAYER REQUEST

I received a letter from a man who wrote on my blog. The subject was how Christians can be bewitched. The text was taken from the Book of Galatians. I do not know this man personally. I do not know where he lives. It does not matter. Please pray for him. He needs help. God will bless you as you intercede for others who need prayer in time of need.

“O, you foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified” (Gal 3:1)

“Hi Mam, first of all I would like to say thank you for the article you wrote regarding the bewitched subject it really gave me insight and knowledge on the subject. If I may say I am really facing disappointment, fear, icthy ears, depression and some of the things you mentioned on the list. I Google the subject as I thought someone I came in contact with might have tried to bewitch me. All of this stared when me and my aunt shared with this girl a house and during that my luck changed and my aunt started seeing things like dirt splashed on our bedroom’s door she would clean it and it always came back so she went home to do some research and she was told the girl we lived with was no good. So, we moved out and since then everything changed our life’s where disturbed we lived in constant fear, nothing is going well I don’t know what she did to us I even stopped going to school like nothing is going well for me.

I don’t know what to do I am home now and I see some splashes on the door I am just so scared to think that the dirt splashed on the doors might be her work even though I am far away from home how is this possible. I don’t understand how can I break through this please help me.

Kind regards

M…”

This is my answer to him:

“Dear M…

Thank you for your letter. I see that you need help. I cannot help you directly, but God can help you wherever you are, even right now. According to the Bible, Christians can be bewitched by evil people. These wicked men or women use occult power to place spells on the believers. You may not like to hear that, but it is the truth.

The first thing that you need is to be sure that you are saved, that you are a child of God. Just going to church is not enough. Even reading the Bible or praying is not enough. A spirit of religion is not enough. You need to be born again by the Spirit of God. That is a miracle only God can do. That should be your first duty; to be sure your soul is eternally saved.

Secondly, you need to deliver yourself from the evil spirit of fear. First of all, the devil attacks with fear, to weaken you, before he does other damage. Stand on the Word of God: “God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power love and sound mind” (2Tim 1:7). Anything God has not given to you, reject it immediately!

Lastly, pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will give you the power to live a victorious life as a Christian. He will give you wisdom. He will give you the courage to stand and fight back. You should not fear a witch. A witch is to fear you! I will pray for you! God loves you! Come back with a testimony to the glory of God!

Love in Christ alone

Malia”

MY PROGRESS IS EVIDENT TO ALL (1)/ DO BUSINESS TILL I COME

During the Sunday service, Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘My progress is evident to all’ (1).  Her verse was from the Book of 1 Timothy 4:12-16; and Luke 19:11-27. “The Almighty God says: “I will teach your children and make them successful” (Is 54:13; CEV).

We shall study Biblical principles of good success and godly prosperity. By faith we declare that we shall make progress in life, spiritually and naturally. By God’s Grace, we declare that we shall stayed anchored in the Word of God and we shall be led by the Holy Spirit. We reject all distractions, the wisdom of this world, and the false doctrines of religious spirits. Our desire is to give glory to God alone and to be transformed into the image of His Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ! Amen!

BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS TO HAVE GOOD SUCCESS

“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7-9)

Joshua is a humble, faithful, and courageous man of God. He led the people of God into the Promised Land. He was a slave in Egypt, a servant to Moses for 40 years in the wilderness, and later he became the leader of the nation. God was with him as he conquered 31 kings and took over their domains. He divided the land to the tribes of Israel. The Book of Joshua is not just history. It is a prophetic book that applies to all believers to the end of time. By faith we shall identify with Joshua. God gives him two ‘positive’ and one ‘negative’ command. God commands him to be strong and courteous! He commands him to study and obey His Word. He commands him not to be afraid or dismayed! In other words, to excel like Joshua you must be strong, courageous, love God and the Bible. You must reject fear and all weakness of the spirit, soul, and body. The word ‘dismayed’ means to suddenly lose courage. You are responsible to keep the ‘courage tank’ filled always. The Word of God will give you wisdom and strength to experience godly prosperity and good success. Joshua is a type of Christ. The name Joshua in Hebrew is the same as Jesus in Greek. The success of his life points to the greater Joshua, our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ. The conquering of Canaan is a type of spiritual maturity that is possible in Christ alone. There is no true prosperity or success outside a relationship with Christ. We shall remind ourselves of the power of the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Resurrected. Many Christians live in defeat. We shall rise above that. By God’s Grace we shall make progress and experience a greater level of godly success in life. At the end of his life, Joshua could declare that God has kept all His promises! That shall be our testimony! Glory of God!       

God has plans for us, including the works we should do. “For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]” (Eph 2:10; AMP).

The word ‘workmanship’ means God’s design, God’s masterpiece. He created each one of us with a special pattern in mind. We must find not only our identity in Christ, but what is called ‘the good works’ God prepared in advance for us to do on earth. This is a proof that salvation is by grace and by faith. It is not by works. The works are the result of salvation and not the cause of it. In the Old Testament, God promised His people that one day they will have rest. In their case, it was to enter, conquer and settle in the Promised Land. But now, in Christ, rest starts in the spirit, and it manifests as peace, godly prosperity and progress in life. “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Heb 4:8-10). We too must die to the flesh and its works. We must walk and work in the power of the Holy Spirit. These are the works that remain and are rewarded by God! In the Book of Genesis, we see that God works and God rests. We must cooperate with Him; work with Him and rest with Him. “My dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]” (Phil 2:12; AMP). Entering God’s rest comes from entering the realm of doing God’s good works. It is not something you acquire but something you become. It is spiritual maturity. That is when you make fast progress. You exercise authority. You go boldly to God’s throne to receive mercy and grace. This life has minimal anxiety or fear, and it is full of peace. In other words, to enter God’s rest, is when a believer, finds God’s will for his life, aligns with God’s timing for events, lives at the place very God has planned for him, and uses God’s resources to accomplish the design, the purpose of God for His life. He is a mature believer and uses the authority of Christ to bring into subjection all things around him. This is the spiritual conquering of the Promised Land. Few attain to this maturity. But the lives of these few saints, give glory to God beyond imagination and they inspire us all! May we fulfill destiny and live to praise the Lord!

THE GOSPEL WORKS

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom 1:16). The Gospel is the story of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected as described in the Bible. The Gospel is God’s idea and His free gift to men. It is the gift of King Grace! The Gospel is unique and supernatural. There is no story like it. No man could have invented such a love. The Gospel is the power of God to convict men of sin and to change their lives. The Holy Spirit gives the power to make the word of God effective in our hearts. The Gospel is the only method that changes the hearts of men. The wonderful thing about the Gospel, is the proven fact that it really works. This is not magic, ‘brainwashing’ or the product of an active imagination. No! Faith in the Gospel totally changes them who believe. The Word of God changes sinners into saints. Their lives are totally changed. Anytime you see a change of character and personality that gives glory to God, the Holy Spirit is at work. The believers become wise, strong, and joyful. They have peace in the midst of the storm. They stop complaining. They lose their fears. They see God in all situations. They apply the Word of God in their lives and see changes in their circumstances. They become champions and ‘more than’ conquerors. In this difficult world, they always rise above the tide of despair.

There is a vast difference between natural and spiritual strength. There are some people who naturally are able to endure hardship. These are naturally patient people. They do not complain but keep quiet during painful events. They use their natural strength to be strong in difficult times. But these natural strong people lack something. They lack joy! They cannot rejoice in trials. They cannot praise and sing in a prison cell like Paul and Silas. To be joyful in affliction is the special mark of the children of God.  Listen to Apostle Paul: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom 5:1-5). He is in a prison in Rome, but he doesn’t complain. He has peace with God. He stands in the Grace of God. He prays to God always. He says that he ‘glories in tribulations.’ Why? Because God uses all situations to build up his godly character. Paul is not just enduring afflictions. He rejoices in them. He sees God in them. The Christian is not mad. He does not deceive himself. He knows that life is hard. But by the power of God’s Word is able to find God’s purpose in the pain and he rejoices in it. Only faith in the Gospel can produce this radical change in a man’s heart, manifested as powerful faith, joy, and hope. This mystery is called ‘salvation’!

The Gospel produces a lifestyle that is unique. The sinner becomes born again. Then, he starts the process of sanctification that lasts a lifetime. It is not just a religious feeling. Salvation is not just an addition to the former life. It is a deep change that starts in the human spirit and affects his soul and body. Soon, the changes in the believer are seen, heard, and felt by others. The Gospel affects not just a part of your life, but all of your life. Only faith in the Gospel can make you whole! The change in your person is much deeper than morality. It is spiritual, deep, and has permanent results. The Christian understands who God is, and who the devil is.  The Christian is the only person who truly knows himself. He sees life and death in relation with eternity. He knows that God works thru all things, even thru the difficult things. As a Man on earth, Jesus, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb 5:8). The Christian following Jesus allows suffering to be his teacher. He learns how to submit to God’s will and obey His Word thru painful trials that are permitted by His Father in heaven. He is not alone in his pains. By the power of the Holy Spirit, thru faith in God’s Word, by prayer, the Christian lives triumphantly. He moves from one level of victory to another. No unbeliever has this stable constantly supplied strength, wisdom, and peace to make profit from all situations of life. The world seeks for happiness. The Christian does not seek happiness. He seeks God and His Kingdom. As he makes spiritual investments by spreading God’s Word, he finds true joy in it. Prosperity is a byproduct of Christianity and not the purpose of it. The Gospel never changes. We change. To His glory and for our good. Christianity is spiritual and practical at the same time. It gives an answer to life and to death. It is a power that none can manipulate or destroy. It is God reaching man, changing sinners into saints. There is no love story greater than this!  Selah!

MAY YOUR PROGRESS BE EVIDENT TO ALL

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:12-16)

We shall study how to become spiritual mature Christians, faithful workers in His vineyard. Salvation is free for us because Christ paid for it. But to make progress, to become a fruitful believer, there is a price to pay. The scripture above is part of Paul’s advice to his spiritual son in Christ, Timothy. When he wrote this letter, Paul was on the death row, awaiting execution, in a prison in Rome. Timothy was a younger man, a pastor of the first church in Ephesus that Paul founded. He was a young man, maybe in his twenties. He was a shy man, having inferiority complex about his age. He had a chronic sickness. He tended to be easily worried. The fact that his father in Christ and mentor was waiting to die, added to his anxiety. Spiritually and emotionally, Paul was much stronger. He writes these letters from prison without any fear of death. He was sure of heaven. To Paul, to live or to die, made no difference. All he wants is that Christ is glorified in him. He writes to Timothy to encourage him as a man of God, and pastor. He is telling him to be strong and do God’s work in his absence! We need to apply his word to our lives!

Here we see that spiritual maturity manifests as ‘progress’ that can be seen by others. Progress is defined as a slow forward movement towards a goal, to an improved condition in life, on the path to perfection; it also means to increase knowledge, to develop your skills and gifts so that you can apply them better. It means to advance in life, closer to the place where your dreams are fulfilled. For example, a student makes progress when after taking a B, he now has an A. Later, he finishes his school, and he also becomes a teacher. This is all progress in life. The opposite of progress means to go back, to become worse, to sink, to lose benefits, or to waste away. May we pay the price for godly success!

In the world, the general progress in life is seen mostly thru material gains. You feel that you make progress when you graduate from school, marry, buy a house, and have children. But in the spiritual realm, the progress is measured by greater faith and more authority. It is heard in your voice and seen in your behavior. It is also called fruitfulness, increase or profit. It affects all who see and hear you. A leader in the home or in the church is expected to make progress. The faster the progress, the more God will use you to mentor others. No leader should remain satisfied to stay stationary, comfortable to be in a place of no growth. In that case, the leader loses the respect of his followers. By leader I mean, all believers, husbands, wives, parents, pastors, teachers and all who have a platform to influence others. Progress or lack of it cannot be hidden for long. It will soon be manifested. Honor or dishonor will be the result. Let us be faithful in the secret place. God will reward us openly!

The same word ‘progress’ appears two more times in the Book of Philippians. “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil 1:12-14).  He also said: “I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith” (Phil 1:23-25). The word ‘furtherance’ is the same as the word profit or progress. Paul says that his imprisonment has advanced and spread the Gospel to the most unlikely people, to the prison guards in Rome. He also says that he is not worried about selfish materialistic preachers. All he cares is that the Gospel should be preached and spread to the whole world. He rejoices in the spread of the Gospel. He also says that he doesn’t know what to choose. To die and go to heaven or the stay on earth and help the brethren. He says that by staying on earth he will help them to mature as believers, witnessing to the increase and progress of their spiritual life with joy and faith. May we be busy working for the furtherance of the Gospel, for the progress of joy and faith among the brethren!

THE PARABLE OF THE MINAS (Lk 19:11-27).

A parable is a simple story that has a deep spiritual meaning. When Jesus teaches with parables, He uses things that people are familiar with and draws their minds towards the mystery of His Kingdom. In this parable we see a nobleman who became king. He deals with three groups of people: his faithful servants, his fake servant, and his enemies. Each one of us belongs to a group. The Parable of the Minas (or Pounds) reveals Jesus as the King who gives opportunities to His servants, who rewards and who punishes. This parable was spoken at the time when Zacchaeus, the hated tax collector became saved and proved his salvation by his deeds of generosity. Jesus also spoke the parable to correct the error of His followers who thought that He will enter Jerusalem, defeat the Romans, and immediately become the new King of Israel. Once their Master becomes King, they will all benefit from that Great office. Lesson: the natural religious mind is always impatient and materialistic.

The ultimate King in the Roman Empire was Caesar. He ruled overall. Rome was wise allowing the local kings to rule over their people. Herod was not a Jew. He was a descendant of Esau. He was very ambitious. He went to Rome and negotiated with the Caesar to rule as king over Israel. Caesar confirmed his appointment. He came back to Israel and became King Herod the Great. The Jews hated him and his sons. After he died, his son Archelaus also went to Rome to ask for the confirmation to be king in place of his father. The Jews hated him even more and sent a delegation that Caesar should not make him king. But he was a smart politician. He succeeded in his ambition. He came back as king and killed all the people who rejected him. This is history and all the Jews knew about it. Jesus uses this popular story in the parable of the Minas.  

In this parable, Jesus is the Nobleman. The truth is that He is the most noble of all Men on earth. “You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon Your lips; Therefore, God has blessed You forever” (Ps 45:2). This nobleman has to go to a far country to meet a greater King to receive the confirmation for his crown. Indirectly, Jesus is telling them that He will go to heaven for His Father to give Him the Crown of King of kings. Later, the nobleman will return to rule over his subjects as their king. Here we see that Jesus will come back again. There is a delay between the first and the second coming of Christ! The nobleman calls ten of his servants. He gives each of them one Mina, or one Pound. He commands them: “Occupy till I come… Do business till I come” (Lk 19:13; KJ, NKJ). This word ‘occupy’ is found only here in the Bible. It means to do business, to gain in trading, to be busy, work and invest the money and make profit. In the olden days, ‘an occupier’ is a trader who makes profit. Each servant receives the same amount of money. One Mina is about three months wages. The amount is relatively small to start a business. The nobleman wants them to have faith that this small amount, like a seed, when combined with their diligent work, will multiply exceedingly. Little is much when God is inside. The master promises to come back. The servants were to do business with his money and live a life that honors their master in his absence. Each will give an account for their faith and labor. These faithful servants stand for the born-again believers. The nobleman was sure that he will receive the crown. He gave his servants the minas to test their faithfulness and zeal in his absence. In his new Kingdom he needs faithful people to occupy positions of authority. The lesson is that a good godly businessman will surely make progress and will be rewarded with promotion in life. Godly businessmen become godly leaders of men! That is evident progress!

There was another group of people. These are ‘his citizens’. They hate him and reject him as king. They even sent a delegation to the greater King who was to coronate the nobleman saying that they do not want this man to reign over them. These men represent the Jews who rejected Jesus as their Messiah and King. This parable is prophetic. Jesus is telling them thru the parable that Israel hates Him and wants Him dead. Few days after this conversation, Jesus was arrested. Pilate flogged Jesus and said to the Jews: “Behold your King!” But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away” (Jn 19:14-16).

The nobleman in the parable goes away. His servants are supposed to trade with the money each has received. They start their business at the same level. Each man’s faith and zeal will determine the profit. The nobleman receives his crown and becomes a king. He returns to his domain. This is a picture of the second coming of Christ. He first calls his servants to give an account of their business. The first one says: ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ See how humble this servant is. He does not take glory for the profit. He does not say ‘My labor, or my wisdom, has earned ten Minas’. He says: ‘Master, YOUR mina has earned ten minas.’ He confesses that the master’s minas made profit supernaturally. His master congratulates him by calling him ‘good servant’. He rewards his faithfulness, humility, and zeal by giving him a greater responsibility. He will have authority over ten cities. This is a very big reward compared with the capital. The second servant made five minas. He is not as zealous and faithful as the first one. He does not receive a personal greeting. But he is given authority over five cities. We are not told about the other seven servants, what they did with their master’s money.

Finally, ‘another’ servant comes. The word ‘another’ describes somebody of another kind, of a different spirit. He gives an excuse of why he did not trade with the master’s money given to him. He manifests a totally wrong attitude towards his master. He says: ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’ The word ‘austere’ means to be harsh, difficult, strict, rough, rigid, unpleasant, ugly, stingy, sour, and without hope. He described Jesus as a tyrant, an oppressor, a slave master, a covetous rich man who was lazy and idle, living from the sweat of others, without caring for them. He said that he feared his master because he is a thief. He blamed his master for his negligence. He takes no responsibility for his sin. This is the way sinners see Jesus. They see Him as totally lacking love and compassion. Clearly, this servant does not know his master. Jesus is the most gracious, merciful, loving, and generous King in the universe! He became a Man and lived among men so that He can die for them. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb 2:17). The false servant hates his master, but selfishly, he takes advantage of his position of working for a nobleman. This man is clearly an unbeliever. No believer insults Christ like this. Jesus does not call anyone of His children ‘wicked’. Finally, the unfaithful servant loses his mina. He loses his opportunity to serve Christ. He becomes an eternal waste. Selah!

The King judges the ‘wicked servant’ by his own words. He rebukes him by saying that he should have paid the money in the bank who could have made a profit from it. Lesson: Jesus approved of the institution of banking. The King then takes the mina from him and gives it to the one who already had ten. The people around thought that this is not fair. The master says: ‘everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him’. Lesson: In the Kingdom of God Faithfulness and Holy Zeal are rewarded more than we can imagine. Un-faithfulness and carelessness are the sure way to lose all rewards. We are not told that the master killed this lazy servant. But we are told that he punished him by taken away any hopes he had of a future reward. He represents the religious unbeliever. This wicked servant committed a sin of omission. He did not do bad things. But he refused to do the right thing; he did not obey his master. The churches are full of people who pray, praise God, but don’t care about Jesus. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jam 4:17). This sin of omission is as wicked as the sin of commission. How terrible it is for Christians to ignore God, to leave God out of their plans. To forget prayer or to ignore our conscience is sin. This sin of omission will be judged by Christ. The King of kings shall condemn those who ignored all opportunities to do good, to preach the Gospel, to encourage the weak or to help the needy. “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt 25:44-46). The religious unbelievers seem surprised that the king condemns them for their negligence to care for others. Lesson: None escapes the duty to preach God’s Word and show kindness to others.

The parable describes the second coming of Christ. His citizens hated Him. There is no reason why they hated Him. “They hated Him without a cause…” (Jn 15:25). All men are created by Christ. They are ‘His’ citizens. They belong to Him and He has the right to do anything to them. Even if you ignore Jesus, you live in His country. “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rev 11:15). When Jesus comes back, Jesus will make all things new. He will change the earth. Make lakes where there is none. He will create new flowers and change the animal kingdom. He will rule with peace and joy. Right now, He is in heaven, coronated, King of kings! When He comes, He will reign for ever and ever. Every knee will bow to Him! Everyone will be accountable to Him! Finally, the rebellious citizens are all killed by the King!

There is clearly a delay between the first and second coming of Christ. “If we suffer with Him, we reign with Him” (2 Tim 2:12). When Jesus comes back again, He will reward the faithful with much more than they imagined. Jesus says: “Hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations. ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels” (Rev 2:25-28). Jesus owns you! You don’t want Him to reign over you? He reigns anyway!  “We have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts” (1Thess 2:4).

For the believers, what is the danger during this delay, before the second coming of Christ? It is to become unfaithful and lazy with God’s work.

Jesus warned about being careless with His work in His absence. The good servant continues to do His work even without human supervision. But the unfaithful servant, in his master’s absence, becomes lazy and proud. He thinks he is not a servant anymore but a master. When their master comes back, both reward and punishment shall be given accordingly. “That servant who knew his master’s will and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Lk 12:47, 48). Selah!

“Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality” (Col 3:22-25).

Paul advised the slaves to serve their human masters, like they serve Christ. He said that true respect for the master manifests when the slave work faithfully in the master’s absence. When the master sees the slave working, there may be some manipulation. The slave tries to please man, looking for his favor. That is the manifestation of hypocrisy. But if the slave works faithfully when the master is absent, he truly is a good servant who loves and honors his human master, for the sake of Christ.

What does the Mina represent? It represents God’s Word, the Gospel of Christ Crucified and Resurrected. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16). It has the power to change lives. Like a seed, the Word of God is living. Planted in good ground it multiplies exceedingly. The Gospel is not just theory. It is the most practical help given to man. How do we do business spreading His Gospel? By preaching the Word always, in season and outside season (2 Tim 4:2), by attending a local church and serving God there. We also do business for God by behaving as Christians in our families and offices. Godly behavior has mighty evangelistic power that makes God’s Word look beautiful. Paul says that the older women should “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. 6 Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober minded, 7 in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, 8 sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. 9 Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:4-10).

FINALLY…

The parable of the Minas reminds us that Jesus is the sovereign King of kings! He will come back again and judge all men. None can escape. The unbelievers are judged at the Great White Throne and will be sent to the lake of fire (Rev 20:11-15). But the believers have their own special judgment. King Grace will judge all believers at the Bema Judgment Seat of Christ. In Greek the word ‘bema’ means judgment or tribunal. This is not a judgment deciding who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. All believers will surely go to heaven. Christ judges the believers for their works done in His name on earth and He rewards them for that. “Therefore, we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:9,10). We must all ‘appear’ before the Bema Seat of Christ. The word appear means to be manifest as we truly are. There shall be no hiding there. The life on earth will determine the reward over there! May God help us!

According to the parable of the minas, waiting means working. Like Queen Esther, we move from enjoyment to responsibility! Also, all men are either faithful or unfaithful; either fruitful or barren; they are either alive or dead. We, the believers in Christ, are to become fruitful stewards of the Word of God. Moses sent twelve spies to the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb were found to be spiritually fruitful and profitable to God and to the community. The other ten spies were useless and barren. They were judged by God. Success and progress in life is rooted in faithfulness to Christ! Spiritually and naturally, when we die, we are to leave greater blessings behind than the way we came at the beginning. May He find us worthy of His love! Worship the Lord!

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD

THE CROSS OVER MIRACLE (10)/ AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The Cross-over Miracle (10). Her text was taken from the Book of Joshua chapters 23 and 24.

THE BOOK OF JOSHUA – REVIEW

The Book of Joshua reveals a great man of God, a leader of men, called Joshua. His name means ‘God Saves’. He is a type of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has the same name. In the Book of Genesis we find the birth of Israel. In the Book of Exodus, we find the redemption from slavery of Israel. In the Books of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy we find God’s instruction thru Moses to Israel. In Joshua, we see the fulfillment of the redemption of Israel that started in Exodus. The book of Joshua is not just history, but it is a prophetic book that speaks to all believers to the end of time. The book can be divided into three sections: the conquest of Canaan (chapters 1–12), the distribution of the land among the Israelite tribes (chapters 13–22), and Joshua’s farewell address and death (chapters 23–24). The farewell address of Joshua sets forth the conditions for Jehovah’s maintenance of Israel in the land. Joshua tells them to obey and to serve the Lord with all their hearts. He also warns them that if they rebel against God and His Word, God will drive them away from this land. He said: “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good” (Josh 24:20). His words were prophetic. God drove His people into exile to Babylon and later scatter them for almost 2000 years after the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans. According to the prophecy, God brought His scattered people back to the Promised Land. The nation was Israel was officially declared in 1948. Glory to God!

When Abram was 99 years old, God came and made an unconditional covenant with him. It was a covenant and a promise of grace, to be his God and the God of his many descendants. God also promised to give him the Land of Canaan where Abram was a visitor at that time. This is what God said to him: “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Gen 17:7,8). Between the death of Abraham and the birth of Joshua is about 400 years. Joshua was 40 years old when he came out from Egypt during the exodus. For the next 40 years he lives in the wilderness, a servant and assistant to Moses. Joshua is 80 years old when he crosses over Jordan to enter the Promised land. He leads Israel to conquer and posses the land for about ten years. Then the tribes separate to take over their respective landed properties. The tribes of Ruben, Gad, and half of Manasseh go back to their land on the eastern shore of Jordan. Between Joshua chapter 22 and 23, there is a period of 20 years. During this time Joshua quietly retires to the place he gave to his tribe, Ephraim. As an old man, Joshua calls all Israel once more to review their history and to them give them his final advice (chapters 23 and 24). Joshua dies at the age of 110. He was a great man of God, a wonderful military general and a leader of men. He was strong and courageous. He was an ‘ordinary’ man. He was the servant of Moses for 40 years. His calling to leadership ministry was not with fireworks. He was appointed by his master Moses who knew God and knew the qualities of Joshua more than all men. God confirmed his call to be the leader of Israel in the Promised Land. Joshua’s life and ministry is an encouragement to all believers. We see that God can use ‘an ordinary man’. We also see that God rewards humility and faithfulness. Selah!

The Book of Joshua starts with a burial and ends with three burials. Between death there is life! Moses dies at 120 and he is buried on the eastern side of Jordan. He sees the Promised Land, but he does not enter it. At the end of the Book of Joshua, we see three great men buried in the Promised Land. Their burial means that Israel is now the real owner of this Land. In the last two chapters of the Book of Joshua we have Joshua’s last words to the nation of Israel. Joshua is an old man now. He speaks words of wisdom to all people. Generally, people listen to old men’s words much more than when they were young. For example, before he dies, Jacob prophetically blesses his sons. Moses spoke his last words in the Book of Deuteronomy. Now, Joshua reviews the history of Israel, starting with their cross over miracle into the Promised Land. Clearly, Joshua is ready to die in peace, a happy and fulfilled man of God. To live and die well is the greatest achievement of men. This successful life and peaceful death are possible in Christ alone. Joshua is a wonderful example of a mature successful believer.

The Book of Joshua’s counterpart in the New Testament is the Book of Ephesians. As God promised to give Israel the Land, so we are promised to receive all blessings and inheritance in Christ. As Israel needed to fight to possess the land, we need to do spiritual warfare. Selah!

PASTOR JOSHUA’S LAST SERMON (Joshua 23 and 24)

In the last two chapters of the Book of Joshua, we have Joshua’s last sermon. He speaks like a pastor. Joshua reminds the people that God has given them rest in the Promised Land. They still have to fight some battles, but the worse is over. They should be happy and grateful to God for this rest and peace. Joshua takes no credit for the success. He is truly a humble man. He gives all the glory to God! (Josh 23:1-4). He gives the people hope and promises for the future (Josh 23:5). Finally, he warns them, not to rebel against God and His Word (Josh 23:12, 13; 24:20). Joshua commands God’s people to obey God! These commands are true for all believers who seek God and desire to experience godly success:  

1-Be very courageous! (Josh 23:6). Godly success and leadership need extreme courage! We define courage as suppressing fear in times of danger. But in Hebrew the words ‘be courageous’ means ‘be stubborn and strong to seize and to conquer someone’. It is a warfare word. It means to strongly hold and defend your position at all costs. To defeat your enemy, you need to hold on tightly to the Word of God!

2-Obey God’s Word! Do not look to the right or to the left. Don’t be distracted by unbelievers. Stay focused on God’s Word! (Josh 23:6).

3-Hate idolatry! Don’t mention the name of their gods! Do not admire, serve, or bow down to idols! Put away idols! (Josh 23:7; 24:14, 23)

4-Don’t marry unbelievers! Don’t make intimate friendship with unbelievers! (Josh 23:12, 13). Stay pure! Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit!

5-Cling to God! Hold fast to the Lord (Josh 23:8). The word ‘cling’ describes the intimacy in marriage. It is the same as Genesis 2:24.

6-Love God! (Josh 23:11). Be careful and jealous over your heart! Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul and all your strength!

7-Fear the Lord! (Josh 24:14). You honor God. You fear the God because He punishes sin (remember what happen to Achan)!

8-Incline your heart to the Lord God (Josh 24:23). In Hebrew, the word ‘incline’ means to stretch out, to bend towards God to hear His whisper.

9-Serve God in sincerity and truth! (Josh 24:14, 24). Worship God in Spirit and in Truth! Reject hypocrisy! Serve God with all your family!

Joshua encourages them from looking at the past, how God was with them and led them to victory. He also warns them about the future.

Lesson: if you backslide, you will lose God’s power, protection, possessions, and peace! Remember Samson’s story!

JOSHUA IS A JUST LEADER OF MEN

“But the children of Joseph said, “The mountain country is not enough for us; and all the Canaanites who dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both those who are of Beth Shean and its towns and those who are of the Valley of Jezreel.” And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—saying, “You are a great people and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, but the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong” (Josh 17:16-18).

Manasseh and Ephraim are the two sons of Joseph. Jacob adopted his two grandsons, and each became a separate tribe. That gave Joseph a double portion in the Land. After they conquered the land, Joshua sees the two tribes together as one unit, calling them ‘the house of Joseph’. Joshua himself is of the tribe of Ephraim. He gives them the land starting from Jericho towards East, towards Ai and Bethel. It was a desert land. It was not the most fertile land. When the men from Manasseh and Ephraim came to complain that the land he gave to them is not big enough, Joshua is not moved by emotions. He is not willing to engage all the armed men to help them fight. He tells them that they are strong enough to go and clear the forest, fight, and drive the Canaanites by themselves and enlarge their land. This is amazing. These days, men in position of authority give preferential treatment to their family members, personal friends, and their own tribal people. But Joshua is not manipulated by familiar spirits. Like God, he does not show favoritism. “There is no partiality with God” (Rom 2:11). This is a rare quality in men, especially the leaders. The more I study Joshua, the more I love him! He points us to the heavenly Joshua, our Lord Jesus Christ who alone gives rest and satisfaction to our souls. “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Heb 4:8-10).  

GOD IS FAITHFUL! NO PROMISE OF GOD HAS FAILED

“The Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass… I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed” (Josh 21:43-45; 23:14).

The war was over. It lasted about 7 years. Joshua defeated 31 Canaanite kings. For the next three years Joshua divides the land to each tribe. The tribes of Ruben, Gad, and half on Manasseh go back across Jordan to the land they wanted, and Moses gave to them. At the end of the war, they went home wealthy. Joshua blessed them saying: “Return with much riches to your tents, with very much livestock, with silver, with gold, with bronze, with iron, and with very much clothing. Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.” So, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, which they had obtained according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses” (Josh 22:8-9). Finally, at 90, Joshua retires from his position as the military leader of Israel.

 He settles in the land allotted to his tribe, Ephraim.  

Joshua reminds them how great God is and how great are the things He has done for them. All His promises have been fulfilled. God is faithful! This is the glorious testimony of God’s faithfulness to His covenant. It was God’s promise that His people will one day occupy this land. He was with them in Egypt, when they were slaves for more than 400 years. He brought them out from slavery thru His servant Moses. He was with them for 40 years in the wilderness. God gave them the law and the tabernacle to worship Him. He promised that one day they will possess a particular land ‘flowing with milk and honey’. God used Joshua to lead them into this land. He gave Joshua the mind of a military genius to lead the people in battle after battle. He then divided the land for each tribe. Joshua and the men could have failed but God sustained them. The invisible but Almighty God never left them. Their extraordinary success is God’s gift to them. It is true that the people did not conquer all the Promised Land during the time of Joshua. But they did the best with the time and resources they had at that time. They knew that God was with them, helping them to possess the land. They were all happy with the results. They spoke by faith that one day, they will conquer all the land. That prophesy is possible in Christ alone.

There are more than 8000 promises in the Bible. It is not enough to just read or memorize them. As Israel had to fight, defeat the Canaanites, and take over their land, we must have a mature faith to believe the promises. It is only by the Power of the Holy Spirit that we inherit and enjoy the promises of God. “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4, 5). As you inherit the promises, God’s divine nature of victory will manifest in you. The greatest promise is eternal life! Eternal salvation is by grace alone, thru faith alone, in Christ alone, by the Word of God alone and to the glory of God alone! Jesus has promised that He will always be with us! “Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen” (Matt 28:18-20).  God has promised that the Holy Spirit will comfort us forever. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (Jn 14:16).

Lesson: As Christians we tend to forget that God is the secret author of all victory and breakthrough. We worry that our strength is too small, and that we do not have enough money. We put too much trust in men, in pastors, in big churches and forget that God is the creator of them all. Faith in God, in His Son Jesus Christ, in His Word, is still the best weapon we have to fight and win the battles of life.

GOD IS FAITHFUL

Faithfulness means to be trustworthy. It means to be solid, stable, and un-changeable. The opposite of that is to be unstable, to doubt, to always change position and ideas. God is truth. God never changes. “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Mal 3:6). As a believer, you can trust God with your very life and destiny. He will never let you down. How do we learn to trust God? By knowing Him better. You can only know God thru His Son Jesus Christ. God revels Himself thru His Word. You need to study the Bible and pray. As you mature spiritually, you will trust God more. Faith grows with experience. Each answered prayer grows your faith to trust God more! Read the following true statements about God:

*GOD IS FAITHFUL TO HIS PROMISES

God is faithful to all His promises. He alone is worthy to be trusted. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10:23-25).

If you really believe that God is faithful then you too must be faithful to these things: you continue to say that Jesus is your Lord; you stir up others to love and good works; you do not forsake going to your local church; and you encourage others in their faith. God is Truth! The devil is a liar! GOD NEVER LIES! This is part of Him being faithful to His Word! “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num 23:19). Paul said: “God cannot lie!” (Titus 1:2). Believing that God is faithful to His Word, brings great comfort and encouragement to us, the believers. Since God’s word is always truth the Christian can place complete trust in His promises. “The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it” (1Thess 5:24).  

*GOD IS THE FAITHFUL CREATOR

God is the creator of everything that exists. God has a plan and a purpose for everything that He has created. God has a plan and a purpose for each person, especially for the believers. Sin has damaged the soul. By His grace, God redeems the sinner and brings him back to the original pattern, the way He created him to be. Sin separates us from God. In His faithfulness, in Christ, God will bring us back to His original purpose for our lives. This is a great mystery. Trials and suffering cannot damage us further. Our faithful Creator is sovereign. “Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Pet 4:19). God has a plan for each person. He not only knows your future, but He designs your future. “I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Is 46:9, 10). Many plans are in a man’s mind, But it is the LORD’S purpose for him that will stand (be carried out)” (PV 19:21; AMP).

*GOD IS FAITHFUL TO HIS PEOPLE EVEN WHEN THEY ARE UNFAITHFUL  

Trusting that God is faithful is the holy ground of faith for miracles. “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (Heb 11:11). God provides for our needs. “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). God never abandons His children. Even when we are not faithful, God is faithful. He never forgets you! “For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath (Deut 4:31). God is sovereignly faithful! His faithfulness is not depended on our behavior. “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown himself (2Tim2:13). Grace covers our unfaithfulness!

*GOD IS FAITHFUL TO FORGIVE OUR SINS

God sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins. In Christ, if we repent and confess our sins, God has promised to forgive us. Forgiveness comes with peace, joy, and great freedom to worship God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). All humble people who have repented of sins have found that God is faithful in forgiving them.

*JESUS IS OUR FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST

Jesus listens and answers our prayers. He understands our pains during temptations. Trust Him to intercede for you according to God’s will. All things will work together for good for the believer. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb 2:17, 18). Jesus helps you always, especially when you suffer under temptations.

*GOD EXPECTS THE BELIEVER TO BE FAITHFUL TO HIM  

Finally, for you to appreciate God’s faithfulness, you need to be faithful to God’s Word. God Desires Faithfulness From His People. “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor 4:2).

SPIRITUAL WARFARE/ JOSHUA AND EPHESIANS

The Book of Ephesians is the counterpart in the New Testament of the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament. Joshua was a great military leader who excelled in the battles of the Lord. He led Israel into Canaan, conquered a big area and divided the Land to all the tribes. At the end of his life, he was not a bitter, frustrated old man. He was truly a fulfilled man of God. Even when he retired from leading the nation to war, he still remained their leader. As a godly husband and father, he first led his household to serve the Lord! His godly influence lasted even after his death. His memory is blessed. All the people who knew Joshua continued to serve God for as long as they lived. This is a wonderful testimony!

The Books of Joshua and Ephesians have at least three similar concepts in common: God has given His people an inheritance. It is His gift to them. In both books you see that the promised inheritance must be occupied by faith. There is warfare involved. Lastly, Joshua and his house pledged to serve God. Apostle Paul commands the husbands to love their wives and families and lead them to spiritual maturity. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph 1:3). To obey God’s Word and stand in faith you need to be strong and courageous!

God commanded Joshua: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). God commanded Joshua not to be afraid or dismayed. Fear is an unpleasant emotion connected with lack of hope. To fear it means that you are worried about the possible defeat or pain in the process. To be dismayed it means to lose courage by a sudden trouble. It means to be angry and disappointed at yourself especially in times of trial. God commands Joshua to be strong in his thinking and emotions and to be courageous in his will!

Paul gives us the same command: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore…” (Eph 6:10-14)

As believers we do not fight against human beings, but against the demons who manipulate them. As soldiers of God, we are commanded ‘to stand’. Standing is defined as being in an upright position, supported on straight feet. Standing your ground is the position of the victorious landlord. It means to show courage, occupy, and maintain your place. Standing tall is the picture of a leader. It means to show courage, calmness, and strength, especially in times of trial. It also means to successfully accept or bear something that is unpleasant and difficult. In Greek, this word means to be established and confirmed. An iroko tree is a tree from the time the seed is planted until it is a giant. If you stand well at the beginning of the battle you will stand firm to the end. If the foundation is strong, the house will be strong!

This position of standing as a soldier for Christ is to defend your testimony against all attacks. The devil wants to weaken you with accusations, slander, deception, lies, and intimidation. Some days the attack is greater than some other times. In good days and in ‘evil days’, it is our responsibility to stand firm, to show courage and oppose all attacks. The devil cannot steal your salvation but he can damage your peace and joy. The devil cannot kill a believer, but he can hurt him. By preaching and teaching God’s Word, by serving in His house, we do God’s work. The devil tries to destroy God’s work and your testimony as God’s servant. Standing firm at your post encourages other believers to do the same!

HOW DO WE STAND?

WE STAND IN THE LORD

“Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved” (Phil 4:1).

There is no other ground or position in the universe by which a man can stand strong except in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord!

BY FAITH WE STAND IN GRACE

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:1, 2).

The Grace of God is the platform that strengthens our feet to stand. God’s unmerited favor to us released at the Cross encourages us to stand even during the devil’s attacks of slander and condemnation. We know that we are sinners saved by grace. We are saved by faith in Christ Crucified. His Blood shed on the Cross strengthens our hearts to stand and fight the good fight of faith. The courage to stand our ground in Christ builds our hope of glory, gives us a peace that passes all understanding and fills us with inexpressible glorious eternal joy.

BY FAITH WE STAND IN THE GOSPEL  

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:1, 2).

Simply said, this is the Gospel: “Jesus died and rose again for me”. The power of salvation is manifested thru the Gospel, Christ Crucified, and resurrected. The false gospels give false hopes and cannot strengthen the heart. No man can save except Jesus Christ of Nazareth! I know that I am a sinner, and I am supposed to go to hell. I could not save myself. I needed a Savior. When I heard the Word of God, by God’s grace, saving faith was granted to me. I believed that I am a child of God. I believe that I am one with Christ. I died with Him, I was buried with Him, and rose with Him. This death and resurrection testimony of Christ is now imparted in my spirit. I died to sin, to the devil and to the world. I now live for the joy of serving Christ, my King. This revelation gives me strength to stand when all other things in my life shake and fall away. I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it it’s the power of God to save me to the uttermost! I did not believe in vain! My faith is fruitful!

STAND IN FAITH, WITH COURAGE, STRENGTH, AND LOVE

“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Cor 16:13, 14). “By faith you stand” (2Cor 1:24)

Faith comes by the hearing of God’s Word. Faith matures thru the process of sanctification, by the power of the Holy Spirit and practical application of God’s Word. The more you study and apply God’s Word, the greater the assurance of your identity in Christ becomes. Unbelief and doubt weaken your desire to stand for Jesus. Use the shield of faith to quench the arrows of the devil. Love God and love the fellowship of the brethren. Faithfully attend a living church. Serve God in any capacity. Your faith will grow. Your standing will be confirmed! 

STAND IN THE LIBERTY OF CHRIST

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith” (Gal 5:1-5). Jesus died so that we live. By His Blood He paid for our debt of sin. Therefore, we are not slaves of sin or of the devil, anymore. We are free to be who God made us to be. We are free to worship and serve God without any hindrance. Religion is a hindrance to this freedom. Trying to be justified by law, trusting your good works to go to heaven, that is a false hope that weakens your faith. You cannot stand before God based on your merit. It means that you have fallen from grace. By faith in Christ we stand free and strong in His victory we share. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!”

WE STAND IN THE UNITY OF THE SPIRIT

“Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God” (Phil 1:27, 28). The unity of the Spirit is necessary for strength to stand.

WE STAND PERFECT AND COMPLETE IN ALL THE WILL OF GOD

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col 4:12). It is God’s will that we die to self, take our cross daily, and follow our Commander, Jesus. We cannot even consider the idea of going back to sin. “Is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). It is God’s will that we grow spiritually, thru faith in His Word and by the power of The Holy Spirit! Mature faith in God becomes fruitful assurance of salvation.

THE HARDSHIP OF SOLDIERS

Most countries have an army to defend their borders. To be a soldier is seen as a great honor. But it requires great sacrifices. To be a solider is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. The solider must endure constant hardship. The civilians do not understand these challenges. The soldier’s greatest reason to join the army is because of his love for his country. He wants to protect it and honor the name of his country.

A soldier is alert always. This watchfulness manifests in times of peace and especially in times of war. The civilians sleep well at night. A soldier does not sleep carelessly. He is ready to wake up and act immediately if there is a need. Soldiers spend long time separated from their family. They do not enjoy regular holidays like others because they still need to be at their duty. Even during vacation, a solider may be called back by his commander anytime. He cannot refuse his commander. Soldiers need to keep a healthy body and mind. They do rigorous physical training. The food, especially during war, is not the best. They work in difficult weather conditions. They cannot complain to others. They cannot run away from the army. They must be faithful to their commander until they retire.

Spiritually, Christ’ soldiers pass thru rigorous training too. They die to the flesh and live by the power of God. This is Paul’s word to Timothy: “You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Tim 2:1-4).

By faith we stand in the Lord! We know that attacks will come but we cannot sit down for entertainment. We cannot even imagine that we should backslide. We reject fear, doubt, dismay, and self-pity! We watch and pray! We wait to hear the voice of our Commander. We encourage others to stand for Jesus! We are soldiers of Christ and not ‘religious civilians.’ Like Timothy, we must ‘endure hardship’ as good soldiers of Christ. For both believers and unbelievers, life is not easy. The unbelievers pass thru many trials, but the greatest pain is the fact that they do not have God to pray to. For the believers, the devil will attack to make us fall. In this life hardship comes in many ways. There are trials and temptations; there is sickness, sudden losses, divorce, or broken relationships. To endure means more than just exist or survive. It means more than just to keep quiet when you suffer. To endure successfully it means to stand firm in your faith from the beginning to the end of the trial. It means to refuse to backslide and continue to serve God despite the pain. To endure as a soldier for Christ it means to continue to submit and obey your Commander, Jesus Christ. You may be angry sometimes but you do not allow the anger to take root in your heart and become bitterness. You may be afraid sometimes, but you pray for courage and strength. You do not give the devil a foothold!  Many Christians are in bondage to a spirit of defeat. Many Christians will go to heaven barely saved; no rewards at all. This is a challenge to spiritual maturity!

To ‘entangle’ it means to be caught in a net, making difficult to escape. It means to be twisted together. Spiritually, is to be intimately involved with other things that are not your priority and therefore, your life becomes complicated and confused. The good soldier not only endures hardship, but he refuses to become ‘entangled’ in the worldly lifestyles of religious people. They make friends only with other soldiers who appreciate the army discipline. “Soldiers on duty don’t work at outside jobs. They try only to please their commanding officer” (2 Tim 2:4; CEV).

Apostle Paul suffered much persecution, yet he finished strong and confident to the end. But the greatest example of all is our Lord Jesus Christ! He knew that He will suffer much on the Cross. But the joy of obeying God the Father, the joy of His reward ahead, kept him strong to the end. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1, 2). By His death on the Cross, our heavenly Jesus crossed over into heaven, our eternal Promised Land. By faith we sit with Him in the heavenly places. As Israel lived in houses they did not build, we too shall live in mansions that Jesus designed and built. He said to us: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn 14:1-3). What a Day that will be for our heavenly Cross over miracle! Halleluiah!

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD!

For the past 40 years, Joshua led God’s people into the Promised Land to conquer and possess it. At the age of 110, Joshua dies, and he is buried in the land given to his tribe, Ephraim. Eleazer, the high priest, the son of Aaron, who crossed over with Joshua, dies too. He is buried in the land that belongs to his son Phineas. The priests and Levites were not supposed to have personal land. They had special towns called priestly towns. But Phineas bought a piece of land for himself. Here you see that the priests started to become corrupted by breaking the law. Joseph’s bones that were carried from Egypt were buried in the Promised Land also. They were buried in Shechem, in the plot of land Jacob bought for himself. For better or worse, the Promised Land is theirs! God is faithful to His promises! May we be found to be good and faithful servants! Let us end with Joshua’s greatest challenge and word of faith: “If it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh 24:15).

Finally, this is the testimony of Israel of old: “We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, the deeds You did in their days, in days of old: You drove out the nations with Your hand, but them You planted; You afflicted the peoples, and cast them out. For they did not gain possession of the land by their own sword, nor did their own arm save them; But it was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance, because You favored them” (Ps 44:1-3). Worship the Lord!

STANDING ON THE PROMISES OF GOD

1 Standing on the promises of Christ, my King,

Through eternal ages let his praises ring;

Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,

Standing on the promises of God.

Standing, standing,

Standing on the promises of God, my Savior;

Standing, standing,

I’m standing on the promises of God.

2 Standing on the promises that cannot fail.

When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

By the living Word of God I shall prevail,

Standing on the promises of God.

(By Russel Kelso Carter, 1886)

THE CROSS OVER MIRACLE (9)/ DECEPTION AND GRACE

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The Cross-over Miracle (9). Her text was taken from the Book of Joshua chapters 9 and 10

THE GIBEONITES – AGENTS OF DECEPTION

We follow the journey of God’s people in the Promised Land. The first three cities in their path to conquer the Land were Jericho, Ai, and Gibeon. By God’s power His people conquered the city of Jericho. When they attacked the city of Ai the first time, they were defeated. It is because they did not seek God’s face in that battle. After they repented, they won an easy victory against Ai. For the first time in the Promised Land, they collected the spoils of war from Ai. The next city to attack was Gibeon. For the first time we see that the Canaanites kingdoms decide to come together to fight Israel. But the Gibeonites refused to join that alliance. They knew that they have no hope fighting God’s people. They were filled with terror for their lives. They cunningly planned to deceive Joshua and the leaders of Israel. They succeeded. They dressed in old clothes and brought bread that was dry and moldy. This was to prove that they come from a distant country. Joshua and the leaders were suspicious at the beginning but not suspicious enough. The Gibeonites praised Jehovah God for His mighty acts. They came in a humble attitude, flattering the people of Israel. They said: ‘we are your servants’. Assuming that they are ambassadors coming from a far country, Joshua and the leaders made a covenant of peace with them. Just three days later, Joshua discovered that they were deceived. The people of Israel were angry against their rulers because they were so easily deceived. Gibeon was the next city they were to destroy. Gibeon a big city was ruling four neighboring little kingdoms. Because of the covenant of peace made with the Gibeon, the people of Israel could not attack these cities and could not take the spoils of war. They were deceived to tolerate these Canaanites in their midst. Israel lost a war without a fight.

At this time in their journey, there is a new season for God’s people. For the first time the cities and the kingdoms in Canaan decide to make alliances to fight Israel together. These kings invite Gibeon to join their alliance to fight Israel together. But Gibeon decides to separate from their neighbors. The Gibeonites know that fighting Israel will end in total defeat and death. They believe that Jehovah God is stronger than all their gods. They decide to make a covenant of peace with Israel so that they can live. Maybe they heard about Rahab and her story. They speak like her, praising Jehovah God for His mighty deeds. But they were afraid to be totally honest, to open their hearts in faith like Rahab. Possibly, they did not trust that God’s people will be merciful to them. That is when they decided to ‘work craftily’, to deceive Israel into making a covenant of peace with them. If they succeeded to manipulate God’s people, then they will survive as a nation. They took a risk and they succeeded. Joshua’s mistake was that he did not pray to God. This is the same mistake he did when he attacked Ai the first time. He trusted in his natural senses and mind. Joshua felt pity for the men who look poor and needy. Some Bible commentators call this ‘an unsanctified compassion’. This compassion is the work of the flesh and not the result of God’s Spirit. The devil is the author of all unsanctified decisions. There is always a price to pay for that deception.

JERICHO – DESTROY ALL AND TAKE NOTHING

Jericho stands for the world. Ai stands for the flesh. Gibeon stands for the devil. We need God’s wisdom and power to defeat each of these major strongholds. God’s strategy is different on how to defeat each city.

Jericho represents the world around us. The law is this: Destroy and take nothing. With the exception of Rahab and her family, God destroyed all people in Jericho. They refused to surrender. They fought God’s people and they perished. What the Bible calls the world, is the system that works apart from God, like God does not exist. The devil is the ruler of this world pretending to be God. As believers in Christ, we are born in this world, we live in the world, but we are not of the world. By faith, we destroy the walls of Jericho and take nothing from it for our personal use. Jesus overcame the world. In His name and by His Spirit we must do the same.  Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The world has its own attractions. But we must resist its deceptive, dangerous beauty. Making friends with the world you betray your Savior. Jesus is jealous and will rebuke His bride who becomes infatuated with the fading treasures of the world. “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (Jam 4:4). The wisdom of this world is demonic. It fights the truth. It is deceptive. Its fruit is bitterness, envy, confusion, and trouble. But God’s wisdom is pure and peaceful. It always ends in victory and prosperity. “If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (Jam 3:14-17). You can’t save Jericho. You can’t gain anything good from Jericho. It is cursed!

AI- DESTROY ALL PEOPLE, BUT TAKE THE MATERIAL GAIN

Ai represents the flesh. The strategy to conquer the flesh is different. You do not attack it directly. You do not use few soldiers, the way Joshua did when he was defeated. You trust God’s Word totally. God encouraged Joshua: “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land” (Josh 8:1). You need to recognize your weakness. Trust God for His strength in your weakness. Joshua took all the soldiers to attack the little city, Ai. You need all your resources to mortify the flesh. By the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, you kill the flesh. You squeeze the flesh thru ambush of the Spirit!

“So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but not to our flesh [our human nature, our worldliness, our sinful capacity], to live according to the [impulses of the] flesh [our nature without the Holy Spirit], for if you are living according to the [impulses of the] flesh, you are going to die. But if [you are living] by the [power of the Holy] Spirit you are habitually putting to death the sinful deeds of the body, you will [really] live forever” (Rom 8:12, 13; AMP). You owe obedience to the Holy Spirit. You do not owe anything to your flesh. If the flesh demands that you pay your debt, reject that voice, and kill it. Daily, moment by moment, by the power of the Holy Spirit you mortify, kill, put to death the power of the flesh to control your life. As the deeds of the flesh die daily, you will see results. The Holy Spirit will manifest His fruits in you. Love, peace, joy, wisdom, and power will increase. You become a wise and stronger Christian. The power of resurrection will manifest from the ashes of dead flesh. That is the ‘gain’ God told His people to take from the city of Ai. There are many believers that have conquered Jericho (the world) and have been defeated at Ai (their flesh).  

GIBEON – BE NOT DECEIVED! DESTROY THEM! MAKE NO COVENANT WITH THEM!

“Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty” (Josh 10:2). The city of Gibeon stands for the devil. Joshua and his people were deceived by the Gibeonites. The root of the problem was the same as with the city of Ai. They did not seek God’s face before making decisions. They did not study God’s Word. They did not pray. They were deceived by the old clothes on the men. They did not imagine that such needy well-spoken men they are their neighbors, therefore, their enemies.

“When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it. And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace, and open to you, then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you and serve you. Now if the city will not make peace with you, but war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when the Lord your God delivers it into your hands, you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword. But the women, the little ones, the livestock, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall plunder for yourself; and you shall eat the enemies’ plunder which the Lord your God gives you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations….. “But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut 20:10-18).

As you can see, if they attack a city outside the Promised Land, they had the option of offering peace to the enemy. If that city surrenders, all the people will live but they will become their servants. If the city refuses to surrender, they should attack and kill all the men. The women, the children, and their goods they can take as spoil of war. But when they attack the cities in the Promised Land, there shall be no offer of peace, no agreement or covenant of any kind with the Canaanites. They should kill all the people, men, women, and children and take over their land. God said that these Canaanites serve idols and are wicked. Israel should make no covenant with them because they will seduce them away from God to serve their idols. God is always concerned about the spiritual purity of His people. God hates sin, especially idolatry. God is a jealous God. He judges sin. That is why Jesus died. God could not ‘spare’ His own Beloved Son once He became sin for us.    

What was Israel’ mistake? God told His people to behave differently when attacking the nations that are far away from the nations that are in the Promised Land. It seems that the Gibeonites knew Jehovah’s guidelines for war. Their plan was to deceive Joshua that they are coming from a distant country, and they asked for peace. According to God’s Word, that was possible. The people who live outside the Promised Land, if they surrender in peace, they will become servants to Israel. The Gibeonites deceived Joshua with their old dressing and dry bread. They said that they live far away. They surrendered and asked for a covenant of peace. That was their only chance to survive. They succeeded.

Lesson: This is a warning that the devil knows the Bible and he will use it to deceive you if he can! Study the Word and pray always!

“When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they worked craftily, and went and pretended to be ambassadors” (Josh 9:3, 4). The Gibeonites sinned in two ways: They worked craftily and pretended to be ambassadors of a far country. They brought old clothes and dry bread as ‘evidence’ that they are coming from a far country. The deception was not very deep. It was not too hard for Israel to detect it, but they failed the test. They said: “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us” (Josh 9:6). This was a straight lie. Though they lied, they had a genuine admiration for the God of Israel. They believed that Jehovah God is Almighty, and it is useless to fight against Him. They wanted the saving Grace of God, the unmerited favor of God they admired on Rahab. They wanted to surrender to Jehovah but not directly. They were afraid to be honest. They needed to deceive God’s people to accept them. The deception was crafty, therefore powerful. But the main problem was not with the Gibeonites. It was with Joshua and his people. They agreed to make a covenant of peace with the Gibeonites without seeking God’s face for approval.  God allowed Israel to make treaties with distant nations, but not with the Canaanites. They were not supposed to make peace with Gibeon. The truth is that the Israelites have not seen old clothes and worn out sandals in their life. They have also not seen bread. This is what Moses told them just before entering the Promised Land. “I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet. You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or similar drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God” (Deut 29:5, 6).

Lesson: when you go to unfamiliar territory, you need God’s direction more than ever. The devil knows the things that are strange to us. He will attack thru them. You do not need to know everything. But you need to trust the leading of the Holy Spirit in all situations.

Once the people discovered that their leaders were deceived, they were angry with them for being so gullible. Once they discovered their foolishness, Joshua and the leaders quickly repented. They continued to lead the people even after they made mistakes. That is good! When the people wanted to kill the Gibeonites, they insisted that the covenant is valid, because it was done in God’s name. They insisted that the people should accept the covenant even though it came thru deception. They knew that they cannot kill the Gibeonites. It was too late for that. Two sins cannot make something right. Even under the people’s pressure, Joshua insisted that they should respect the covenant. King David described the man who can dwell into the presence of God: “Who may dwell [continually] on Your holy hill?… He keeps his word even to his own disadvantage and does not change it [for his own benefit]” (Psalm 15:1, 4; AMP). Joshua kept his word to the Gibeonites even when it was inconvenient. Much later, King Saul ignored this covenant of peace and killed some Gibeonites. God punished the whole nation for breaking the covenant. “Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.” (2 Samuel 21:1).

Lesson: God is a God of covenant. He is faithful to His covenant promises to His people. He expects us to do the same. A covenant made before God, like the marriage vows, should be kept, even if there was deception involved at the beginning! (Mal 2:10-16).

Deception was successfully practiced by men and women in the past. For example, Tamar deceived Judah, two times her father-in-law, pretending to be a prostitute (Genesis 38). She wanted to have children in that family. When Judah’s two sons died without giving Tamar children, she deceived Judah himself to have sexual relations with her. She got pregnant for him and twin boys, Perez and Zerah. Her name as the mother of Perez is in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matt 1:3). Our Lord commended the shrewd manager who deceived his master by saying: “And his master commended the unjust manager [not for his misdeeds, but] because he had acted shrewdly [by preparing for his future unemployment]; for the sons of this age [the non-believers] are shrewder in relation to their own kind [that is, to the ways of the secular world] than are the sons of light [the believers]” (Lk 16:8).

WHAT IS THE PLAN OF THE DEVIL TOWARDS THE BELIEVERS?

The devil comes as a lion, as an angel of light or as a serpent. He intimidates, manipulates, and deceives. The devil tries to make a deal with you about your spiritual life. He wants to become your master, to teach you, to control you. The devil knows he can’t take God’s people out of the Promised Land to go back to Egypt. He will find ways to defeat them in the Promised Land. There are more than 8000 promises in the Bible. Most Christians do not see the fruits of believing them. The devil will cheat you in the land of victory. He cannot steal your salvation, but he can steal your peace, your anointing, your joy, your healing, and many opportunities for ministry. He can frustrate your marriage and trouble your children. He will minimize your victory. He wants you to make an agreement with the Gibeonites. He wants to corrupt your faith and your testimony. If you submit to the devil you will live with the damaging consequences for a long time. To be free you need deliverance!

Most of the time, the devil does not attack openly. He usually attacks thru deception. Like a thief in the night, with his face covered, the devil does not attack in the daytime when the light is bright. Like a serpent, he attacks from the darkness of the forest, from places you never expect to be dangerous. Our Lord recognized the devil’s capacity to be ‘wise’ in his evil way. He commanded His disciples: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt 10:16). The serpent is wise. “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Gen 3:1). He is very sensitive to danger. He knows that all men hate him. He hides behind leaves on the ground. He rarely comes out in the day light. Once he senses danger, he quickly runs away. The serpent was created wise by God. But he corrupted his wisdom when he became an instrument for the devil.

Gibeon stands for the devil. The Gibeonites were extremely crafty at deceiving the people of God. They were professional liars. They invented a story hoping to touch Joshua’s emotions. They hoped that Israel will not pray to seek God’s face. As you can see, the battle is spiritual. We do not fight people. We fight demons that manipulate people. We are commanded to do spiritual warfare. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Eph 6:11-13).

We are commanded to stand against the wiles of the devil. In Greek, the word ‘wiles’ means schemes, strategy, tactics, tricks, all based on deception. It describes the strategy of a skillful leader. The devil is not a fool. He is a master, a successful con-artist of deception. He is the head of a kingdom of evil spirits. It is an organized kingdom that opposes Christ’s Kingdom of Truth and Light. The devil is the enemy of God, of Christ and of His Church. He hates Truth, the Grace of God upon us, and the Glory of God. He wants to be worshipped. He is called ‘the accuser of the brethren’ (Rev 12:10). He reminds the saints of their past of sin bringing condemnation and a sense of guilt upon them. The only way to fight the devil is to imitate our Lord who defeated him with the Word of God, spoken with faith. Full of the Holy Spirit we are to declare: “It is written” (Matt 4:1-11) and the devil will flee!

If a Christian can be deceived by the devil, he loses that battle. To stand against the devil’s deception we need to put on ‘the whole’ armor of God, and not just some pieces. We need to protect your mind with the helmet of salvation. We need to protect your heart with the breastplate of righteousness. The devil attacks with flaming hot arrows. These are hurtful words of condemnation and fear. Only faith in God can quench these terrible lies. “Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Eph 6:16). The only part of God’s armor used to attack is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17). All the other components are passive, for our protection. God’s armor is not to be removed. We cannot rest from spiritual warfare until we go to heaven. We must decide never to submit or yield to the devil. Our battle is not against human beings. It is against demons and the devil. We must live in the center of God’s presence, always obeying His Word. That is the safest place. It is the place of victory. “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jam 4:7). The Bible commands us to submit to God, first of all. It is from that position of victory that we can do spiritual warfare. To submit to God, it means that we study His Word and pray always. Rebellion against God, ignoring the Bible and prayer, will give the devil a foothold to attack with deception. Selah! Please, be careful, for the armor covers you from head to toe, but only in your front. There is no cover for the back. The backsliders are not protected from the devil.

Lesson: The devil hates you. He will attack your soul (mind, emotions and will), your body, your marriage, your family, and your ministry. For victory you need faith in God, in the Lord Jesus Christ! Faith in God’s Word, fasting and prayers, are the basic methods for spiritual warfare. The natural mind cannot separate truth from lies. You need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to identify deception.

Unforgiveness, idolatry, connection with the occult, pride, uncontrolled anger, doubt, lying, stealing, false doctrines, and sexual sins are works of the flesh and doors that open your heart to the devil. Preaching false doctrines are part of the ‘wiles’ of the devil. Spiritual maturity is necessary to gain the victory in warfare. “We should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Eph 4:14, 15). To identify false teachers, you need to know the truth, the Word of God. You need to speak it in love to others. “Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor 2:10, 11). “Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Eph 4:25-28).

Life is not a walk in the park. It is a battlefield. Jesus said that the devil is a liar, a thief, and a criminal.  Jesus said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:9, 10). He accused the religious hypocrites: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me” (Jn 8:44-45).

Lesson: the devil has no mercy. He is your enemy. You need to study God’s Word, fast, and pray. Attend a living church where God’s Word is preached. Do not forsake the assembly of the brethren. Submit to God and to the spiritual delegated authority in your church.

THE WEAPON OF DECEPTION

This is God’s command: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (James 1:16). It is your responsibility to detect and reject lies. Deception is one of the major weapons of the devil. Deception is defined as a statement that misleads from the safe road of truth. Deception is the enemy of truth; the act of hiding the truth, especially to get an advantage. It is the act of causing someone to accept as true what is false. Deception is the trick to get what you want. Deception is a sin against trust, a betrayal, an act that destroys relationships. Most people expect their friends, and even strangers, to speak the truth to them. Romantic relationships are a fertile ground for deception. It is said that 90% of couples have confessed in lying to the partner. The reason giving for deceiving the spouse is that they want to protect the relationship, they don’t want to hurt the other, while having an affair. In a marriage or a close relationship, the deceiver becomes more distant and emotionally cold. He does not feel the warmth of the love like in the past. Deception occurs less in strong marital relationships where the husband-and-wife trust God and each other for a long time. Deception happens more often during dating or at the beginning of the marriage.

It is easier and simpler to speak the truth. To lie, it is not easy. You need to lie more to cover up for the old lies. It takes much more emotional, mental, and physical energy to lie than to speak the truth. The liar must be attentive and watchful. He studies the reactions of the listener to see if he is deceived. It is hard to detect lies. Generally, lies are detected only about 50 %. There is no clear sign to be sure that a person is lying.

Liars try to cover up in different ways: they talk more than necessary, repeat stories, get confused and lose the flow of the conversation. Their bodies seem tense. They do not make eye contact with their conversation partners. Their voice has a higher pitch. There is a lack of expression, a bored look, or playing with his hair. Fear, confusion, and anger are the main emotions found in liars.

The deceiver pretends that he is better than what he is in reality. Deceivers have inferiority complex. In deception, the intent of the heart is important. There is a difference between an honest mistake and deception. A deceiver knows he is a deceiver and plans to mislead others to abandon the truth and follow the dangerous path of lies. A deceiver is never innocent. He gains something for himself by misleading others. There are different forms of deception: lying (speaking things that are not true), concealing (keeping quiet about the truth), exaggeration (making yourself look better than you are) and making understatements (minimizing the truth). Distraction is a form of deception. For example, an enemy will throw a stone to distract the security man at the gate. The devil will create false alarm or send you on wrong paths to distract you from staying focused on God’s Word. Lying or deception is a sin. “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another” (Lev 19:11). “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from blood” (Jer 48:10). There is a curse upon anyone who serves God deceitfully. There is also a curse upon anyone who withdraws from spiritual warfare, betraying his colleagues, and staining God’s name!

You can deceive others or yourself. But you cannot deceive God. Self-deception is more dangerous because it is more selfish. A religious spirit can bring you to church, to listen to God’s Word, but there is no change in your character, no fruits of faith. That is self-deception. “Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (Jam 1:21-24).

THE GIBEONITES – RECIPIENTS OF GRACE

It is hard for us to believe that something good came out of this sin. Only God can do that. In spite of their deception, and the mistakes of Joshua, God extends grace to the Gibeonites. Can any good thing come from Gibeon? The answer is yes!

The Gibeonites took great risk when they deceived Joshua. If they were discovered before the covenant was made, they were to be killed. Also, their neighbors, feeling betrayed by Gibeon, gathered to attack them. The covenant gave them the right to ask Israel for help in times of need. Joshua led the army from Gilgal to Gibeon and defeated the five kings who attacked Gibeon. From now on, Joshua could not kill the Gibeonites, but he humbled them by making them perpetual servants for the tabernacle service. They became faithful wood cutters and water carriers for all the congregation when they served the Lord in the tabernacle. The Gibeonites did not complain. They were very happy not only that they survived but that they retained their historical land and national identity.

Their greatest achievement was that they could serve Jehovah God in His temple, even though they were low-class servants. This scripture applies to them: “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Ps 84:10). The Gibeonites became servants at the tabernacle, just as Joshua had commanded. They were faithful in their service to God. Later, Gibeon becomes a priestly city. The ark of the covenant stayed at Gibeon in the days of David and Solomon (1 Chron 16:39-40 and 21:29). At least one of David’s mighty men of valor was a Gibeonite (1 Chron12:4). God appeared and spoke to Solomon at Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4-5). The Gibeonites were among those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem with Nehemiah (Neh 3:7 and 7:25). The headquarter of worship in the Promised Land, the place where the Ark of God resided was first in Gilgal (Josh 5:10). It later moved to Shechem (Josh 8:30-35), to Shiloh (1 Sam 1:3), to Gibeon (1 Chr 16:39) and finally, to Jerusalem, Zion, the city of David.

Both Rahab and the Gibeonites lied and were willing to risk the forsaking of their former associations to be counted among God’s people. The story of the Gibeonites shows the power of grace. Though they entered the nation of Israel thru lying and deception, they survived and prospered. They represent the Gentiles who become one with Israel, thru the death of Christ! Their story gives all sinners hope. It gives glory to God who sent His only begotten Son to die for sinners and to set them free! The sinners are now worshippers of God! Praise the Lord!

THE LORD FIGHTS FOR ISRAEL (Josh 10:1-15; 40-43)

One of the great achievements for Gibeon was the protection of Israel during times of war. Because Gibeon made a covenant with Israel, the other five kings felt betrayed and prepared to attack Gibeon. When Gibeon called Israel to help them fight against the five kings, Joshua came immediately. This war was to pay for the mistake of the agreement with Gibeon. But Joshua did not hesitate. The distance between Gilgal and Gibeon is about 21 miles. This was a spiritual emergency. I imagine that some of the men grumbled against helping some deceivers. They maybe suggested that they should allow the Gibeonites to perish, to remove the stain of deception from Israel. But Joshua insisted that they need to be faithful to the covenant they have made. Joshua led the army the whole night from their camp at Gilgal. They attacked the armies of the five kings. God rewarded Joshua for his faithfulness by supernatural help. Two miracles happen in the battlefield. God sent hail stones against the enemies. More soldiers died from hailstones than from the sword. God said to Job: “Have you entered the treasury of snow, or have you seen the treasury of hail, Which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?” (Job 38:22, 23).

The second miracle God performed is by answering Joshua’s prayer. Joshua needed more light to complete the battle. God answered by making the sun stand still in the sky so that the daytime was prolonged. “So, the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel” (Josh 10:13, 14). ‘The sun stood still’. In Hebrew, the word ‘stood still’ means to be silent, to stop, to be astonished. It seems like the sun was surprised at the command of its creator. The sun became silent and stopped moving. The Canaanites worshiped the sun and the moon. Just imagine their fear when they saw the sun standing still in the sky. The purpose of this miracle was to give God the glory and to exalt Joshua as the leader.   

When God is angry, He can stop the sun and the moon from their movements. “The sun and moon stood still in their habitation; At the light of Your arrows they went, at the shining of Your glittering spear” (Habak 3:11). God created the sun. The earth rotates around the sun. That day, God stopped the sun from going down to set for about a whole day. God answered the prayer of Joshua. That miracle has never been repeated. God made it easier for Joshua to fight. The miracle with the sin was localized above the battle, and not all over the earth. Joshua fought five kings at once. He defeated them all. Joshua told his soldiers to place their feet on the necks of the kings before killing them. This is an ancient ritual signifying total defeat of the enemy. Then we are told: “Joshua conquered all the land” (Josh 10:40). The victory was a great! Joshua led the people of Israel to conquer more land in Canaan!

Lesson: God is a warrior! God is not a weak Person. God never loses any battle! “The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name” (Ex 15:3); “Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:8).

God answers prayers! God is a God of miracles! God overrules our mistakes and changes them into victories. God controls the whole universe. He can make a day be longer or shorter by controlling the sun. He can prolong your life on earth until you finish your race. When we are under attack, God can intervene with miracles to help us win the battle or God can perform a miracle without our contribution to the victory! God and man work together, for God’s glory and for man’s good. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). This miracle of grace is possible in Christ alone!  Worship the Lord!

THE CROSS OVER MIRACLE (8)/ ACHAN AND AI

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The Cross-over Miracle (8). Her text was taken from the Book of Joshua chapters 7 and 8. The battle at Jericho is the first victory of Israel in the Promised Land. The battle at Ai is their first and only defeat under the leadership of Joshua in the Promised Land. After the mighty victory against Jericho, the people of God are defeated by the much smaller city of Ai. It was a painful and disgraceful retreat. Achan means Trouble. Ai means Ruins. There are many lessons for us.

THE PROMISE AND THE COVENANT

The people of Israel are now in the Promised Land. God gave them the title deed over the land. But they must conquer the nations there and take over the land. There are many lessons for us as we follow the journey of Israel in the Promised Land. God made a covenant with Abraham and promised to bless him, to multiply him, to change his name, to give him and his descendants the land of Canaan and to be their God.  “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Gen 17:1-8).

God repeated His Promise to Joshua just before the crossing over. “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:2-9).

Lesson: God is a God of covenant! He is faithful to His promises! We now belong to Christ, where the blessings of Abraham are ours by faith! When we pray, we identify with Abraham and remind God of His Promises to us. God will answer all prayers that are according to His Word!

The people of God have crossed over the Promised Land. The first three enemies they needed to conquer were Jericho, Ai and the Gibeonites. Spiritually speaking, Jericho stands for the world, Ai stands for the flesh and the Gibeonites stand for the devil. To defeat each one, we need God but there are different strategies. The strategy God used to defeat Jericho will not work against Ai or against the Gibeonites!!! Please note that the Land God promised to give them is about 300,000 square miles. But even at its best, Israel only occupied 30,000 square miles.

According to Genesis 15:18 and Joshua 1:4, the land God gave to Israel included everything from the Nile River in Egypt to Lebanon (south to north) and everything from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River (west to east). On today’s map, the land God has stated belongs to Israel includes everything modern-day Israel possesses, plus all of the territory occupied by the Palestinians (the West Bank and Gaza), plus some of Egypt and Syria, plus all of Jordan, plus some of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Thus, Israel currently possesses only a fraction of the land God has promised; the rest of their inheritance likely awaits the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Lesson: God gives us more than 8,000 promises in the Bible. But most Christians enjoy very few. We need to study and apply God’s Word!

THE DANGER OF PRIDE – THE ENEMY WITHIN

Chapter 6 ends with these words: “So, the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout all the country” (Joshua 6:27). As we can see, victory, success, and fame are dangerous seasons if we do not stay close to God! The greatest enemy is always inside. The external enemy can only succeed if there is a weakness inside. The devil cannot defeat a believer except there is sin in his flesh. There is this famous ancient story of the defeat of the city of Troy. The Greeks tried to defeat the city of Troy for ten long years. But they failed. Then one day, they retreated. They left behind a big horse made of wood. The Trojans loved and worshipped horses. They celebrated their victory and carried the ‘gift’ inside their city. They did not know that there were Greek soldiers inside the horse. That night as the people of Troy were drunk celebrating their victory, the Greek soldiers came out from the horse and killed them all.

Lesson: The devil does more damage from inside than from the visible enemies outside. Pride has destroyed many leaders and churches.

God’s people have just won a mighty victory against the strong city Jericho. It was God’s strategy and power that brought down its walls. But soon, the people became proud assuming the victory was because of their strength. Achan, from the tribe of Judah, one of the men who entered Jericho, found an expensive Babylonian robe, gold, and silver, and took it. He ‘trespassed’ against God’s command that no man should take anything from the cursed city. Though only one man sinned, God attributed the sin to the whole nation. “But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel” (Josh 7:1). The word ‘trespass’ is powerful. It means to break God’s Law. It means to enter into another man’s property without permission or right. Trespass can be done ignorantly or knowingly. In the Old Testament, even if a man trespasses God’s Law ignorantly, he was still guilty. When he is aware of it, he should bring a trespassing offering to the priest who will pray for him (Lev 5). But if a man trespasses knowingly, or sins defiantly, there is no mercy for him. That man must die (Nu 15:30-36). God counts Achan’s sin as a sin in the camp. God is angry with the whole nation. But Joshua is not aware of the danger.  

Jericho was counted as a first fruits offering unto God. Every man and woman in Jericho, old or young, was to be killed and their property, was to be destroyed. The silver and gold, and all expensive things were to be deposited in God’s treasury. They burned the whole city. It was an offering to God. There was a curse upon any man who stole something from that cursed city. This is Joshua’s specific command to his people: “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city! Now the city shall be doomed by the Lord to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord” (Josh 6:16-19). The destruction of Jericho is a picture of God’s terrible wrath against sin. God is a God of justice. The people in Jericho refused to surrender to Joshua. They resisted him in their pride. They all perished. But Rahab, because she repented from the idols of Jericho and put her faith in the God of Israel, she lived with her family. Because of her faith, Rahab was like a stick plucked from the fire of judgment (Amos 4:11).

Lesson: Salvation is by Grace and by faith! If we have faith in God, He can save us from impossible situations. Selah!

God’s people did not gain any material things from the fall of Jericho. They only gained spiritually. God received all the glory! They pleased God by obeying Him. Their faith in God and in their leader Joshua increased. No one died in this battle. Their numbers increased. They ‘gained’ new citizens who had faith in their God. Rahab and her family became part of Israel. This is a total victory to the glory of God!

Lesson: In Christ, we are ‘more than conquerors’. The Love of God thru Jesus Christ manifests as power and victory thru spiritual warfare. “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:37-39). Love is the greatest warrior! “Love never fails” (1 Cor 13:8).

ACHAN’S SIN – “I SAW, I COVETED, I TOOK, I HID THEM”

God’s people attack the next city after Jericho. It was called Ai. The meaning of ‘Ai’ is ‘ruins’. This was a much smaller city than Jericho. It did not have mighty walls like its neighbor. The Ark of God is in the camp at Gilgal. The Word of God does not lead the battle against Ai. Human wisdom and strength have taken over. Joshua sends some spies to examine Ai. They come back saying that Ai is a small city and there is no need for all their soldiers to go to battle. Joshua believes them. He sends 3000 soldiers to attack the city. The men or Ai attack back. There was not real fight at Ai. The people of Ai pursued the Israelites who started running from them. It seems that as they were running, some fell, and the people of Ai killed them. It was a disgraceful way to die for a solider. It was a national tragedy. When God’s people heard about the defeat, they all became discouraged and started weeping. “The hearts of the people melted and became like water” (Josh 7:5). Joshua is broken hearted. He tore his clothes as a sign of deep grief. He goes before the Ark of God in worship. All the elders do the same. They do not understand why God has abandoned them. Their sorrow is genuine. It is a godly sorrow that beings repentance and salvation. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter” (2 Cor 7:10,11).

Lesson: One with God is majority! It’s not the number of soldiers that determine the victory. 3000 soldiers without God could not win. But three soldiers with God can win any battle. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt18:20). Genuine godly sorrow for sin and deep repentance is necessary to restore your relationship with God!

The people have pledged themselves to submit and obey to Joshua. They said that rebellion shall be punished with death. “So, they answered Joshua, saying, “All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and of good courage” (Josh 1:16-18). Achan rebelled against Joshua’s command. That is why there was not mercy for him! Rebellion is like witchcraft (1 Sam15:23) and a which is supposed to die (Ex22:18).  

Once Achan stole from the first fruits that belong to God, He withdrew His presence. Without God’s presence, they become losers. This is the explanation of their defeat at Ai. Joshua was not aware of God’s anger. He assumed that all is well. He did not pray seeking God’s face before he attacked Ai. He assumed that God would bless his ministry as a leader. It was the shameful and painful defeat that brought Joshua to his knees to seek God’s face again. Joshua humbled himself and sought God in his pain. This is again the ideal behavior of a spiritual leader. Joshua knew that without God, they cannot proceed. They will only fail.

Lesson: May we use our pains well! May we humble ourselves and learn from our mistakes!

Joshua does the right thing. In defeat, in sorrow, he goes to God. He needs God. He knows that without God they cannot move on. He remembers what his mentor, Moses, told God in the past: “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name” (Ex 33:15-17). If Moses cannot go on without God, Joshua too cannot move without God.

Lesson: Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing!” (Jn 15:5). Outside Christ, man has zero power to accomplish anything in life. Selah!

See what Joshua does in the time of grief. He does not encourage the people. He does not get angry with the soldiers. First of all, he goes to God, in godly sorrow. He tears his clothes as a sign of grief and lies down before the Ark of God. The leaders take his example and do the same.

Lesson: Imagine this picture of leaders lying down before God. This is true spiritual leadership when there is a crisis in a family or in a church.

Joshua’s prayer is filled with pain. He cares for God’s name. He wants to know the reason for the defeat. God’s answer is strange. It sounds like a rebuke for praying. God’s rebuke is to bring Joshua to his senses. He is the leader of Israel, and he is ignorant of the reality of sin in the camp.

Forty years previously, God rebuked Moses for crying when he was supposed to act in faith. God said: “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (Ex 14:15, 16). God tells Joshua to stop crying and praying. God commanded that none should take anything from Jericho. Someone broke God’s Law and brought tragedy upon all. God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. He is to stand and act. He is to find the sinner and punish him. The Commander of the heavenly armies is speaking. As a man under authority, even though in deep pain, Joshua obeys immediately. This is a sign of faithfulness to His Commander. Joshua ‘gets up’ and gets ready to find the secret sinner. 

Lesson: there is a time to pray and then there is a time to act! When God is with us, Jericho is not too strong to be captured; when God is grieved by our sin, Ai is not too weak to defeat us. If we pray and we still can’t experience victory, it means that there is a stolen Babylonian garment hidden under the floor of our lives or church.

Joshua now represents God as the Judge of all men. This is his judgment: “Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel” (Josh 7:15). Joshua brings all people before God to find the one who sinned against God. Tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family, and man by man. At last, a man is identified as the thief, Achan, the son of Carmi, from the tribe of Judah. All the time this exercise was going on, Achan did not take responsibility for his sin. He thought that he can still escape, and another will be picked to die. His silence is criminal.

Lesson: it is easy to be blinded by sin committed by people close to us. We tend to reject the revelation of sin inside our family or church! It is not easy to find the internal enemy. The city of Ai stands for the flesh! The flesh is weak and cowardly. To find the sin hiding in the flesh takes time, faith, and patience. The deeds of the flesh must be mortified by the power of the Holy Spirit! There are many Christians who conquer Jericho, the visible world around them, but they are defeated by the weakness or their flesh and the sin within.  

The meaning of the name Achan is ‘Trouble’. His father’s name Carmi means ‘A Vineyard’. He is from the tribe of Judah, meaning ‘Praise’. In the natural, Jesus came from the tribe of Judah. Achan comes from good parents. But he was a troublemaker. He is like Cain, Esau, or Judas Iscariot.

When finally, he was chosen, Joshua was gentle and broken hearted with him, calling him ‘my son’. Achan did not deny his sin. He confessed his sin publicly. This is a true detailed confession. “Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.” (Josh 7:20, 21). See the verbs Achan used: ‘I saw… I coveted… I took… I hid them’. People ran to his tent and discovered the expensive robe, the silver, and the gold, buried in the ground. The judgment was swift and without mercy. The people carried Achan and his family, and all his possessions, to the valley of Achor (meaning Trouble). They were all stoned to death. Then they were burnt with fire. These two manners of death represent the judgment of men and of God. Then they raised on top of their ashes a great heap of stone as a reminder of God’s wrath against rebellion. After this, God’s fierce anger stopped. 

Lesson: sin deserves death. God hates sin. God punishes sin. None can hide his sin from God! “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Nu 32:23). God the Father sent His Son to die on the Cross for our sins. God’s wrath against us was removed by the Blood of Jesus shed on the Cross. By His death, Jesus reconciled us to God. Halleluiah!

YOU SHALL NOT STEAL

One of the Ten Commandments says this: “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15). Achan was a thief. The punishment for stealing is to restore more than it was stolen. If the thief is caught stealing, and the owner of the house kills him, that is not considered murder. Generally, the thief has to restore double the amount he stole. “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep. If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed… If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double” (Ex 22:1, 2, 4). This is when the thief steals from another man. But what will the thief do when he steals from God?

Lesson: Refusing to pay your tithe is the same as stealing from God. Like with Achan, the curse may affect your family or your nation. This is what the Commander of the Lord’s heavenly armies says: “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation” (Mal 3:8,9). Selah!

YOU SHALL NOT COVET

The last of the Ten Commandments is against the sin of covetousness. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exo 20:17). Covetousness is defined as the eager and excessive desire to accumulate wealth, or to have another’s possessions. This sin is related to the love of money, to greed and to envy. Covetousness is an internal secret sin. Basically, Achan’s sin was the sin of covetousness and stealing from God. His sin was not the result of ignorance. He knew the command of God. It was a willing sin. It was a sin against God. He stole not from man, but from God. God is merciful but God is also holy. When Achan entered Jericho and saw the expensive robe, the gold, and the silver, he could not resist it. He took it. Therefore, it was a sin of opportunity. He was not prepared in advance to obey God. He was not humble enough to remain faithful during a time of success. The robe was so beautiful that he could not resist taking it. He buried the things under the ground of his tent. What foolishness! He has a treasure that he could not use. How can he dress with that royal robe? That’s madness! The lust of the eyes is a terrible thing! By stealing from the things of Jericho, Achan identified with the citizens of Jericho who were doomed to die. And he had to die!

Lesson: God’s ways are not our ways. From inside the fire, God saved Rahab and her family. From outside Jericho, God sent Achan and his family into the fire. Sin is such a terrible thing!

Why did God render the judgment of death? We are all born sinners. We are all condemned to die. “The wages of sin is death’ (Rom 6:23). It is a miracle that some can be saved and go to heaven! The Son of God became a Man and died on our behalf. God could not save His own Son because Christ became sin for us. That is why Jesus died. He paid the penalty for us. Those who believe in Christ Crucified, are saved. Salvation is by grace alone, by faith alone, thru Christ alone, by God’s Word alone, and for the glory of God alone. Because we are in Christ, there is no more condemnation for us. But Achan belongs to the group of those who reject Christ. He led his family into the sin of unbelief. There is no way Achan could hide the stolen things in his tent without the knowledge of his family. They shared into his sin, his shame and into his death. Achan’s sin is against God. His sin is double: covetousness and stealing from God. Jericho was counted as burnt offering to God. He has the right to the first fruits offering. Achan stole from the first fruits. God became angry! He punished the whole nation for the sin of one. God sees Israel as a unit. If one pleases God, He will bless them all. If one sins against God, He will punish them all. For example, when all His people rebelled against Him, God separated Judah for Himself. He said that for the sake of His servant David, He will not destroy the tribe of Judah. “Yet the LORD would not destroy Judah, for the sake of His servant David, as He promised him to give a lamp to him and his sons forever” (2 Kg 8:19).

Achan’s sin is a transgression against the Covenant of Jehovah who pledged to bless those who obey and curse those who disobey. Jehovah God is a God of covenant. He promises to bless, lead, provide and protect Israel based on the covenant He did with them. God does not bless randomly. He is faithful to His covenant He has made with His people. By his sin, Achan has grieved the God of covenant. God became ‘angry’ with Achan, his family and with all the people. Achan’s sin is similar with the sin of Ananias and Saphira who sinned against God. Peter told Ananias: “Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Ac 5:4). Ananias and Saphira died instantly! Then the church feared God. They became wiser from that time on. The hypocrites withdrew from the church. The timing is also important. God judged and killed Ananias and Saphira when the church was still young. God warned them against sin from the beginning. It is the same with Achan. Israel entered their Promised Land. They just celebrated their first victory at Jericho. God judges Achan now so that His people learn to fear him from the beginning. No man saw Achan carrying his stolen treasure. Hypocrites are crafty, hard to detect. Like Ananias and Saphira, Achan wanted to become a leader thru being wealthy. God’s people stoned Achan to death. In many churches, Ananias is the Pastor, Saphira is the assistant pastor and Achan is the worship leader because he comes from Judah, meaning praise. No wonder that the Holy Spirit refuses to move in some churches! Listen to God: “I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you” (Josh 7:12).

Lesson: God’s judgment on unrepented sinners, though painful to our emotions, is for the glory of God. It purifies the believers. It purifies the church. It also warns the believers against joining with the hypocrites. God’s judgment on sin prepares for revival! Joshua finds Achan. He executes judgment on him. This reveals the issue of corporate wellbeing. Practically, you can forgive a sinner as an individual, but you cannot stop the judgment of the court upon his crime.

Once the judgment is done, God’s presence is restored. Joshua leads the people in the battle against Ai for the second time. This time, he does not take anything for granted. The first time he sent 3,000 soldiers. Now, he leads an army of 30,000 soldiers, mighty men of valor. God tells him the strategy. There shall be an ambush. The people of Ai will be trapped and destroyed. The city shall be burnt. God says that this time they can take all the spoil and the cattle inside for themselves. What a gracious God we serve!

Lesson: Ai stands for the flesh! To mortify sin in the flesh is a great battle. You need all the wisdom, courage and faith given by the Holy Spirit! The reward is great to you!

ACHAN’S SIN AFFECTED HIS FAMILY

Achan stole the silver and the gold that belongs to God. Achan had some hours to meditate upon his action. He could have repented before the men attacked Ai. But he refused to do so. Why did God punish Achan’s family? The Bible says that Greed is a familiar spirit. “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house” (PV 15:27). The word ‘trouble’ is same as Achan. It means to bring suffering, to make someone fail in life. When Korah rebelled against Moses and Aaron, the earth opened and swallowed his family and his property (Nu 16:31-33). This miracle of God’s judgment was a serious warning to the people of God. In Achan’s case, the only explanation is that the family knew about this sin and covered it. They were accomplices. In the same way, the covetousness of Gehazi caused the infliction of the penalty of leprosy upon himself and his children. Elisha rebuked Gehazi saying: “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:26-27).

Lesson: There is an Achan in each one of us. Sin can stay hidden for a long time. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that it can be revealed and destroyed. The husband or father is to lead his family to God, to know and obey God. The sin of the leader affects the followers! Selah!

LESSONS FROM DEFEAT

The stories in the Old Testament are not history or poetry. They are written for us, the believers in Christ. “Now these things happened to them as an example and warning [to us]; they were written for our instruction [to admonish and equip us], upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 19:11; AMP). There are many lessons for us. Joshua learnt from his defeat at Ai. He did not lose any battle after that!

1-Be warned against the sin of pride! Ai represents the flesh. The times of success and victory are extremely dangerous. Just imagine the scenario: Joshua was a national hero. Joshua became famous in the land. The people were celebrating the victory. They rejoiced at the fall of Jericho. All men want to be rich and famous. They forget the danger of such a position. The devil attacks with pride. It is not easy to identify the temptation with pride. The only solution is to live close to the Cross, to die to sin and to live to God alone. During times of pain, we draw closer to God. During times of success, we tend to depend on ourselves. That is dangerous. We become weak spiritually. We start losing battles. Remember that the success of yesterday is gone. You need God and His grace afresh, every day. The fact that you won in the past, does not guarantee that you will win in the future. Never forget the Word of God. Never forget that God hates pride! Sin always brings shame, pain, and failure. “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall” (PV 16:18). Many famous pastors and worship leaders became proud and careless with their spiritual lives. They conquer Jericho but they fell at Ai. They fall because of pride. Some have repented and came back. But very few attained the height from where they fell. When there is true repentance, God forgives sin. But God is under no obligation to restore your testimony. The damage may be for life.  The greatest enemy is always inside!

2- Be warned against the temptation of covetousness and stealing! The devil will create opportunities for you to steal things to get rich! Jesus said: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Lk 12:15).

3-Do not “share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure” (1 Tim 5:22). Sin is like a virus. It is very contagious. The sin of one affects many others. For example, the sin of Adam and Eve affected all their descendants. Because of Achan’s sin, the Israelites lost the battle with Ai and thirty-six men died, innocent victims who did not share into Achan’s sin. Sin spreads like a gangrene. The foot has to be amputated for the patient to survive the infection. God warns about bringing idols into your home. He will destroy the idol and your home (Deut 7:23-26).

In Christ, there are many members but only one Body. One man’s sin affects the whole body. Paul tells the Corinthians to remove the sinner from their midst (1Cor 5:1-8). The Body of Christ is one. Just like yeast, the sin of one can spread to others. In the same way, one good example influences many to righteousness. “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor 12:26). We should fear God! He hates sin! God is jealous! By the power of the Holy Spirit, we should die to sin!

4-Sin is a terrible thing! Sin always leads to defeat and death. Sin must be confessed to God, to your spiritual authority and to others who have been affected by it. Repent! “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (PV 28:13).

5-You can turn a defeat, into victory, a failure into success, but only with God’s help. The world laughs at your fall. The worldly people cannot help you when you fail. The only way to change the story is to humble yourself, come to God, repent, and wait for His mercy. God will speak to you! Obey His Word, no matter how difficult it is. This is the power of the Gospel. Jesus died and rose again for you. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave is available to you. But you need to be one with Christ. You need to die with Jesus, and to be buried with Him. That power starts from the grave. You need to humble yourself and enter the grave of your sins. Then the supernatural engine of resurrection power will revive your soul and restore your testimony! “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11). Selah!

4-In Christ, there is always hope. God forgives and restores sinners. There is nothing impossible with God. Achan, whose name is Trouble, died in the Valley of Achor, that also means Trouble. But God promised to have mercy on repentant sinners. Hosea suffered much from his promiscuous wife, Gomer. But God’s mercy prevailed. God said: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt” (Hos 2:14, 15). As God encouraged Hosea, so in Christ we find the Lover of our souls encouraging us. He will bring back the prodigals. He will restore the true worship in the church. He will bless His people with peace and prosperity. May revival come! Worship the Lord!

THE CROSS OVER MIRACLE (7)/ JERICHO FELL DOWN

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The Cross-over Miracle (7). Her text was taken from the Book of Joshua chapters 5:13-15, 6:1-27; and Hebrews 11:29-34.

The battle of Jericho is the first conquest of the Israelites in the Promised Land. God was totally in charge of this battle. He gave the strategy and the victory. The destruction of Jericho was a miracle. This is one definition of a miracle: It is a supernatural, surprising, and welcome event that it is not explicable by natural or scientific laws, and it considered a work of God. There are 126 miracles in the Bible. Something that was impossible for man, God made it possible.  

The defeat and destruction of Jericho was counted as first fruits unto God. No man ‘gained’ anything materially from it. Their only gain was spiritual. Their faith increased knowing that God Almighty is with them. God used this victory to exalt Joshua as the leader who listens and obeys God. His fame spread in the land. Another spiritual gain was that Rahab, and her family, were saved from the destruction of Jericho. They became Israeli citizens. Rahab married Salmon, a leader from the tribe of Judah. She is in the lineage of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Joshua decided to attack Jericho and the city of Ai. These two cities were at the center of the Promised Land. Joshua planned that after occupying the center (Joshua chapters 6 to 9), then he will go to the south (chapter 10) and finally, he will conquer the north side (chapter 11). Lesson: This strategy is classic in military warfare even now. It was the same strategy that was used in the first and second world wars.   

For the Israelites, this battle was yet another big step away from slavery and toward freedom. For Joshua, this was his first victory as the new, official leader of God’s people. For Jericho, this was the judgment of God on their wickedness and idolatry.

THE COMMANDER OF GOD’S ARMY – I HAVE JUST ARRIVED!

“And then this, while Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, “Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies’?” He said, “Neither. I’m commander of God’s army. I’ve just arrived.” Joshua fell, face to the ground, and worshiped. He asked, “What orders does my Master have for his servant?” God’s army commander ordered Joshua, “Take your sandals off your feet. The place you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did it” (Joshua 5:13-15; TM).

We see here the encounter between Jesus, The Commander of God’s army, and Joshua. This story is a reminder that in Christ, by grace, heaven touches earth and miracles happen! ‘Joshua was there near Jericho…’ Joshua was an experienced soldier. He was looking at Jericho, his next challenge. He was not afraid. Like Nehemiah, he went alone to see the problem and think of how to solve it (Neh 2:11, 12). Joshua must have been praying for God to reveal to him the strategy for victory. A leader must face the trials of life alone with God before he addresses men. Joshua knows from the spies that Jericho is surrounded by double walls, high and thick. If the Israel soldiers decided to manufacture some ladders and climb the walls, it was possible to take over the city. But many will be killed in the process. Joshua knew that he needed God!

 Suddenly, Joshua sees a Man dressed like a soldier. It was the Lord Jesus Christ, but Joshua did not recognize Him at first. Joshua asks this ‘stranger’: are you for us or for our enemies? He knows that there are only two kingdoms on earth: the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of the devil. Joshua does not ‘chat’ with the Man. Right now, he needs faith, wisdom, and strength. There is no time for pleasantries. The Man tells Joshua that He is not on the side of any man. Why? Because He is Jesus, the Heavenly Commander, and The true Captain of our salvation! The sword in His hand is ‘the double-edged sword of the Word of God’ (Heb 4:12). Jesus is in control of the encounter. The Word of God is leading! Joshua is not His leader or His ‘mate’. Joshua is His servant and follower. Christ is here seen as a Man of War. He is standing before Jericho ready to attack. He is not weak or confused. He is sure of the victory. He says: “I have just arrived!” The Commander tells Joshua God’s plan and strategy how to defeat Jericho. Immediately Joshua bows down at the feet of His Commander. He immediately moves from worship to total obedience. Yes, Sir!

Joshua falls at His feet and worships. This is the position of faith and total surrender. For forty years Joshua served God thru Moses. He was faithful to his human master. But now, Joshua sees Jesus, face to face. Like John, he sees Jesus and falls at His feet like a dead man. “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last” (Rev 1:17). The Commander accepts Joshua’s worship. This is a proof that He was our Lord, Jesus Christ. Total surrender and worshipping Jesus leads always to strength to obey Him. From this moment on, Joshua fears nothing. Christ takes permanent residence in His heart. Joshua can say with Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Down at Your feet Oh, Lord, is the most high place!

Humbled, trembling, with the face to the ground, Joshua prays: “What orders does my Master have for his servant?” The Commander tells Joshua to remove his shoes for he stands on holy ground. This is the same command Jehovah said to his mentor, Moses (Exodus 3:5). Every place where the Lord reveals Himself becomes a holy ground, a special place of sanctified memory. Jesus commands Joshua to take off his sandals. This is enemy territory. This is Canaan land. Yet God claims it for Himself! We tend to argue with God. But we see that ‘Joshua did it’. Joshua does not grumble or ask questions. He obeys every command of his leader. Joshua is a humble man. He obeys his Commander. This is the secret of his success. In the Old Testament the priests ministered to God with bare feet in the tabernacle. It was a sign of honor and intimacy. It is also an acknowledgement that before God and His Word we are all naked. “There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb 4:13). This encounter redirects and clarifies Joshua’s vision. He takes his eyes from Jericho and now sees Jesus! He is now sure of victory!

Joshua goes to tell the people that the Lord Jesus appeared to Him. It was easy for Joshua to believe in Jesus because he saw Him face to face. It was harder for the people because they needed to believe the words of Joshua even when they did not see Jesus. But they chose to trust Joshua’s word. That was already a great victory! Jesus said to Thomas: “Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29).     

Lessons: Christ is not a servant in the church. Christ is the Head of the Church! (Col 1:18). Revelation leads to worship, faith, and obedience! Even leaders are under authority! Even leaders must be led. Blessed is the leader who is truly called and commissioned by Jesus! How important it is to be sure that God has saved your soul and has called you to any capacity to serve Him in His house. This assurance is even more necessary to the leaders in the church! Once you see Jesus, your problem does not seem so big anymore. That is the look of faith and victory!

The Commander of the armies of heaven reveals to Joshua God’s strategy for defeating Jericho. God loves to lead thru strange methods that seem foolish to the world. Nobody could invent a crazier method than to go round a city and expect its walls to fall flat. God’s plan is totally different than any plan made by man. No army general would have thought of it. But Joshua totally submits and obeys His leader. He speaks to his commanders and to the priests. They tell the people that God has spoken to Joshua, and they must all obey. In one accord, they all agree to obey. This is a great picture of submission, faith, and unity of the Spirit between God, the human leaders, and the people. There is great power in this unity. In the history of Israel, during the time of Moses, or the kings and the prophets, there was always rebellion in their midst. But now, under Joshua, things are different. The plan sounds crazy, but none rebels against it. With one accord, they chose to obey.

Lesson: Spiritually, this is the picture of an ideal church experiencing revival. From worship, to submission, to obedience, and to victory!

This is another example of God’s stranger battle plans: Gideon was called by God to fight and conquer the Midianites (Judges 6 and 7). Gideon called men to take up their arms. 32,000 men came ready to fight. God told him that these people are too many. Eventually Gideon reduced the number of the soldiers to 300. God used these people to gain the victory. Gideon tells the people: “Look at me and do likewise; watch, and when I come to the edge of the camp you shall do as I do: When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets on every side of the whole camp, and say, ‘The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” (Jdg 7:17, 18). What a strange strategy? Why does God do that? Because God hates when men get proud because of their wisdom and power, and then take the glory for the success. He reduces man’s strength until man can boast no more.

Since this encounter between Jesus and Joshua, it was easy for the people of Israel to obey God’s laws concerning warfare. They knew and believed that in each battle, The Heavenly Commander leads the way and gives them the victory. Their wars were more religious than proving their military skill. Listen to God’s warfare law: “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deut 20:1-4).

Many have such encounters with God but not all use them well. For example, Balaam met with God, but he did not obey Him (Num22:9). His life ended in tragedy. Jacob fought with the Angel of God, who was also the Lord Jesus. He did not let go until Jesus blessed him. At the end of that struggle, Jacob is wounded physically, but blessed spiritually (Gen 32:22-32). Lesson: All who see Jesus are never the same again!

JERICHO IS CURSED BY GOD

The reason why God decreed the destruction of Jericho was no political. It was religious and spiritual. “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so, the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire” (Deut 7:1-5). “When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it. And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace, and open to you, then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you and serve you. Now if the city will not make peace with you, but war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when the Lord your God delivers it into your hands, you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword. But the women, the little ones, the livestock, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall plunder for yourself; and you shall eat the enemies’ plunder which the Lord your God gives you. Thus, you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations. “But of the cities of these peoples which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut 20:10-18).

The reason why God commanded His people to destroy all idols in the Promised Land, not to intermarry with the Canaanites and even to kill them it is because God wanted them to be spiritually pure. Idolatry corrupts and pollutes. God wants His people to be sanctified and holy, for He is holy. God hates sin especially idolatry and rebellion. It was God who destroyed the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. All people died in that fire. But God helped Lot and his family to escape His judgment because they were people of His covenant. God warned Israel that if they follow the customs of the Canaanites and serve their gods, they too will perish. This is a most serious warning. “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deut 28:15). Obedience to God’s Word results in blessings. Disobedience ends in cursing. Joshua warned God’s people not to take anything from Jericho because it is cursed. He said: “And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it” (Josh 6:18). Later Joshua told them: “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good” (Josh 24:20). This is a reminder that God is holy! God is merciful but God punishes sin! Never take His grace for granted!

Joshua placed a curse upon Jericho. This curse was not upon all people in general who later lived in Jericho. The curse was upon anyone who builds the mighty walls in defiance against God. During the time of wicked King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, a man rebuilt the fortress of Jericho. The curse Joshua placed on it many centuries ago came to pass. “In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the Lord, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun” (1 Kings 16:34). This curse was removed much later when the citizens of Jericho humbled themselves and asked prophet Elisha to bless the city. “Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren.” And he said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So, they brought it to him. Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’ So the water remains healed to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke” (2 Kings 2:19-22). Selah!

GOD’S STRATEGY

Jericho was an ancient city. It was the first city that was built purely for military purposes. The meaning of name Jericho is ‘The City of the Moon’. The ruins of the ancient Jericho are still visible in Israel. There were two parallel walls. The outer wall was 6 feet thick. The inner wall was 12 feet thick. The height of the walls was at least 13 feet high (4 meters). They had watchtowers of about 28 feet tall. The people of Jericho are all terrified of Israel and their God in the Ark. Lesson: the unbelievers fear any true born-again believer!

The people of Jericho are completely terrified inside their city. They shut themselves in. No man comes in or out. Their strategy was to stay inside hoping the Israel will leave them alone. But God has already declared that Jericho must be destroyed. The commander of the God’s army has revealed to Joshua the strategy. If they obey His plan, God has assured them of victory. “And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor” (Josh 6:2). The words ‘I have given’ are in the past tense. The victory is sure. Joshua, the commanders, the priests, and all the people believe God’s promise.

The fear of the Canaanites was prophesied long ago. God told Moses: “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate, and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Ex 23:27-33).

In the Promised Land there were many little kingdoms ruled by their kings. These kingdoms depended on the greater power of Egypt. But Egypt was in economic decline and was not interested in helping the Canaanites. We also see that these little kings were not united. They did not help one another until it was too late. In this way, it was easy for Israel to conquer them and take their land.

With two million Israelites next to him, the King of Jericho ordered that the city gates be permanently closed. But his strategy failed to protect his people. When God shut the door in Noah’s ark, it was for his protection. The unbelievers and the raging waters could not break it. But when men shut the door against God, God will destroy the whole city.  Jesus said: “These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” (Rev 3:7). The gate that was shut could not protect them from the God of heaven and earth. This is what happened on the 7th day: “the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat” (Josh 6:20). The ram’s horns gave the signal. The people shouted a loud shout. Suddenly, the walls of the city fell down flat. In other words, the collapsed and went bellow the ground. They are buried in the ground until this day. For Israel, the journey of faith was long and hard, but the victory was instant. This was a miracle. The key to it was faith in God’s command. The weapons used to win the victory were walking and shouting! They had faith that the word of the Commander of the armies of heaven who spoke to Joshua! That word was inside the Ark. When the trumpets sounded a long sound of victory, by faith, all the people shouted unto God with a voice of triumph.

God’s strategy is most unusual. From silence to shout! The people needed faith in God’s Word, and in God’s plan, to win the victory. This is God’s plan for the battle against Jericho: As it was during the Crossing-over Jordan, the Ark of God, representing God’s presence or God’s Word shall lead the way. The Ark is the most important item that God’s people have. The Ark of God shall be carried by 4 priests. In front of the Ark there will be seven priests holding the trumpets made of ram’s horns. In front of the priests and behind the Ark, there shall be the soldiers. All the armed men of Israel follow the Ark. Behind them, the people will follow. It is possible that not all the people became part of the entourage. They were more than two million, including women and children. I suppose that there were male representatives from each tribe, but together they made a great envoy. The exercise was more religious than military. Jericho was built on a hill. The area of the ancient city of Jericho is about 9 acres. Considering the fact that the area was hilly, with stones, and in the heat of the desert, it took about 30 minutes for the people to go around it once. On the seventh day they went round and round for 7 hours without stopping. This was a true test of their faith and endurance.

Every day for the next six days, the people shall go round Jericho, once a day. All people shall walk in silence. There shall be no arguments between them. Generally, in the military, the leader encourages his soldiers with strong words. The followers respond with words of courage. These words of battle cry may be spoken or expressed as songs. The effect is that all of soldiers become stronger and ready for the battle. But here, God commanded all people to keep silent. The only sound heard for the next six days was the trumpets of the priests and the peoples’ feet marching on the ground. The silence of men and the sound of the trumpets is a sign that God is in charge and not man. The people of Jericho should know that Jehovah is patient with sinners but not forever. They should repent and surrender. If not, they will perish.  

At the end of this daily exercise, the people are to go back to the camp at Gilgal. On the seventh day, the same people will go round Jericho seven times. This makes a total of 13 rounds about Jericho. At the end of the 13th round, Joshua gives the signal. The priests will blow their trumpets with a long sound and the people will shout with a great shout. That is when the walls of Jericho collapsed. The armed men go in and kill everyone in the city, including the animals. The only one to be spared will be Rahab the prostitute and her family who will be found in her house. The city shall be dedicated to God. No man can take anything from it. The expensive things like silver and gold shall be put into God’s treasury. Joshua warns his people that if anyone takes anything from the city, that person shall be cursed, and all of the nation will suffer.

I just imagine that the people of Jericho were afraid at the beginning when they saw the Ark and the people. But after a day or too, they relaxed and saw this ritual as entertainment. They were mocking them from the top of the walls. It was not easy for God’s people to walk daily in silence and not respond to the mockery. But this is what faith does. After two or three days, as God’s people march confidently and silently around the walls, a strange fear gripped the people of Jericho. Lesson: Faith is focused and obeys God’s Word even when it is uncomfortable.   

What was the purpose of God’s strategy? It was a test of faith! God tested His people if they trust His Word. As strange as this plan was, there is no rebellion in the camp. Everyone decided to trust God’s Word in Joshua’s mouth. To the glory of God, the people passed the test of faith.

JERICHO, CURSED TO MAN BUT THE FIRST FRUITS OF THE PROMISED LAND UNTO GOD

The destruction of Jericho is seen as the firstfruits offerings of the Promised Land. No man should touch that! It belongs to God! This is the principle of first fruits: God commands that Israel brings to Him an offering called ‘the first fruits’. “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Lev 23: 9-11). Firstfruits symbolized the consecration of the whole harvest to God. Christ is the first fruit unto God. “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20). Christ in us, the hope of glory, is our offering of the firstfruits to God. “We also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit…eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:19). Spiritually, the fruit which the Spirit produces in us provides hope that we will be like Christ, that we will be glorified and realize our inheritance in the kingdom to come. Because Christ was raised from the dead, all believers will be raised to be with Christ  

GOD AND WAR

Many people have problems accepting the fact that God told His people to kill the inhabitants of the Promised Land and take over their land. They say that the God of the Old Testament is harsh, but Jesus, the God of the New Testament is kind. They say that God is not merciful for killing so many people. With our natural minds, we can’t totally understand God and His ways, but this we know: God is sovereign. He has created all people. He has the right to give life and to kill anyone He chooses. God saw that the Canaanites were unrepentant sinners. It was God’s will for them to die. God chose the people of Israel to be His battle axe. The truth is that if God sent an angel to kill all the people, nobody will complain!

At the same time, it is not easy for us to accept the fact that there are wars in this world and many people suffer and die in battle. This is the truth: when sin entered the human race, death came with it. God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told him that disobedience will result in death. God gave him a choice, to obey and live or disobey and die. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s command. That is how death entered humanity. People die of sickness, of accidents, during wars or famine, and lastly, they die of old age. Sin brought not only death but much suffering with it. We accept these facts by faith. We do not understand the deep things of God, but we understand what is revealed to us in His Word. These are some revelations that we receive by faith: God is one! Not two Gods! Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, who commanded His people to kill the unbelievers and take over their land, is the same as Jesus Christ, in the New Testament! Jehovah may seem harsh, and Jesus may seem soft, but these are not two Gods! They are one! This is God’s Word: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One” (Deut 6:4). Jesus said: “I and My Father are one” (Jn 10:30). This is the doctrine of the Trinity!

 The second revelation we accept by faith is that God cares for His creation. God the Father sent God the Son to become a Man, to live among men, to suffer with them and finally, to die for them. Thru His death on the Cross, Jesus saved sinners. Salvation is found in Christ alone. This is the Gospel, God’s good news to save those who believe in Christ crucified and resurrected. When Jesus came to earth as a Man, he lived among sinners. This was the greatest sacrifice of love, for God’s Son to become a Man. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we cannot say that God does not care for men. He cares! More than we can ever understand it! Man must die a physical death. Jesus did not remove physical death! But Jesus offered us salvation, eternal life after death! That is why for the Christians, death has lost its sting and terror. Jesus will come again and resurrect our mortal bodies. This is His promise! But the unbelievers reject Christ. They go to hell. The God who commanded that all people in Jericho to be killed, is the same God who saved Rahab and her household, because she had faith in Him! The truth is that it was God who sent the two spies to Jericho to become evangelists and save Rahab. The God who killed all people during the flood, saved Noah and his family. The God who destroyed Sodom, saved Lot and his family. You see that God cares and saves those who believe! This is the truth! There is no need to argue. Just surrender your life to Christ!

War is a terrible thing. God does not like wars. God hates sin! Therefore, we can say that God hates death and wars! Concerning wars, this is what Jesus commanded the believers: “when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows. “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations” (Mk 13:7-10). We are living in these last days. Jesus is coming back. He said that wars, natural disasters, and troubles will come. Our first duty is to trust Him during our troubles and reject all fear. To live by faith and reject fear is our responsibility. The second duty is to continue to preach the Gospel to all people. Troubles should not shut our mouths. We should continue to study God’s Word, pray without ceasing, attend church services and serve God in any way we can. God rewards faithfulness especially during times of trials.

God always judges sin. He may not judge sin immediately. The sinner thinks he is safe to continue in his wickedness. But that is self-deception. Never envy the unbelievers! You should trust God, the Judge of all men! God may judge sin while the sinner is on earth. If not, God will judge all sin at the final judgment! God decided to save some sinners. These are saved by His grace. They believed in His Word and God saved them.

Jericho joined the group of cities that God cursed and destroyed. These cities are Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Nineveh, Tyre, and Babylon. Jesus Himself cursed three cities near the Sea of Galilee for rejecting Him. These are Bethsaida, Korazim, and Capernaum.  You need to believe that God has the power to give and take life. God is sovereign in His decisions. Listen to God: “‘Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand” (Deut 32: 39). As you listen to God’s voice, you discover that idols are nothing. In God’s presence they are powerless to bless or to curse. God Almighty is the only True and Living God, the Omnipotent God. None can resist or oppose. God has no superior or equal. God blesses with life and prosperity. God also curses with suffering and death. God is the author of national revolutions and changing of governments. God manifests His presence thru mercy or thru judgment. No one can escape His power. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all evil. His grace is also revealed by blessing the humble and faithful. Jesus said: “For the Father judges no one but has committed all judgment to the Son” (Jn 5:22). Jesus Christ is the sovereign giver of life and death, of sickness and health, in a temporal sense, and in a spiritual sense. He wounds and kills, by His law and He heals and makes alive by His Gospel of Grace! Praise the Lord!

RAHAB’S SALVATION

Rahab’s salvation is a story of Grace! After she hid and saved the spies, she gathered her family in her house on the wall. She hid her faith from all the people of Jericho. But she exposed the red rope tied by her window. She was saved by her faith that produced results. In the midst of destruction and death, Rahab’s salvation shines like light in the darkness. Joshua remembered her at the hour of their victory. He told the same two spies, called here ‘young men’, to go to Rahab’s house and save her and her family. They carried them outside from that cursed city of sin and death. They were placed ‘outside the camp of Israel’ possibly for religious purification. She got married to a man called Samson. The Jewish tradition says that he was one of the two spies. Their son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth, and the grandfather of King David. They are in the genealogy of the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord!   

FAITH IS THE KEY TO VICTORY

Faith is defined as trust in God and in His Word. A believer trusts in God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and the Bible! The people of God had faith that the Promised Land is God’s gift to them. They inherited the land by faith in God’s Word. Joshua was the leader of the nation called Israel. He was a leader not just by name. He was a man of God, a man of faith! He had a serious responsibility given by God to led God’s people into the Promised Land. Leadership is not easy. Surely, Joshua was lonely. Almost all people around him were much younger. He did not have what you may call ‘close’ friends. Loneliness is the price to pay for successful leadership. May we sacrifice the flesh for Christ’ sake!

In the New Testament, we see a fresh revelation of Grace. In Hebrews 11 verse 29, the people of God passed thru the Red Sea. In the next verse, we are told that by faith, Jericho fell down. There is no mention of the 40 years of going in circles in the wilderness. Grace has wiped away their shame. Halleluiah! “By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. 30- “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace. And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb 11:29-34).

The battle over Jericho was a war of faith, a war between the God of Israel and the idols of Jericho. Spiritually, we do not fight against men. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:11, 12). Jericho is a stronghold or spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The battle was not Joshua’s, but the battle belongs to God. In Christ we bring down spiritual strongholds, spiritual Jerichos. We arrest proud and foolish arguments against God. This leads to successful spiritual warfare and many souls get saved. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Cor 10:3-6). No unbeliever surrenders to Christ without spiritual warfare and intercession. It is our responsibility and privilege.

Knowing that the Commander of God’s armies goes before us in battle, we have faith that our victory is sure! Jericho represents the world. By faith in Christ alone we conquer our Jericho. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:3-5).

MIRACLES HAPPEN BY FAITH

The defeat and destruction of Jericho is a miracle. In the Bible, we find 126 miracles. A miracle is defined as a supernatural, surprising and welcoming event, that cannot be explained by natural or scientific laws. It is done by God who in His sovereign will, intervenes in the human affairs. Miracles are all gifts of grace, but faith in God and His Word plays a major part. Jericho’s destruction is a miracle. Joshua and the people had faith in God’s Word. From hear we deduce some guidelines on how to receive a miracle by faith.

1-Surrender to God totally, yourself and your request for a miracle!

2-Stategy belongs to God. Fast, pray, and patiently wait for a word of wisdom from God. Continue to worship God.

3-Once God speaks, obey instantly, even if it looks foolish! Have faith in God and in His Word!

4-Remember God’s promise to you! Memorize His Word! Do not forget it! Keep focused! The sword of the heavenly Joshua is leading you!

5-Do not give up! Do not withdraw! Forward ever! Backward never! Praise God for the victory!

Worship the Lord!  

THE CROSS OVER MIRACLE (5)/ FROM HARLOT TO HERO

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The Cross-over Miracle (5). Her text was taken from the Book of Joshua 2:1-24; 6:22-25, Heb 11:30, 31; James 2:24-26; Matt 1:1-6.

THE STORY OF RAHAB AND THE TWO SPIES

This is an amazing story of God’s grace with many lessons for us. The people of God are now at a place called Shittim (or Accacia Grove), on the east side of River Jordan. Moses died on the mountain. God commands Joshua to be the new leader of Israel. This is the last stop before the cross over. These are the last days of bondage. Across the River they see the Promised Land. Forty years previously, when Moses sent twelve spies to inspect the Promised Land, that simple action was followed by a terrible national sin. Because the whole nation rebelled against God they could not enter into the Promised Land. God sent them back into the wilderness. For the next forty years, all the adults 20 years and above died in there. When Moses sent the 12 spies it was in the presence of the whole nation. When they came back, ten of them gave an evil report about the land. They influenced the whole community to rebel against God. Only Joshua and Caleb trusted God and encouraged the people to enter. This time, the children of those people want to pass the test of obedience and faith to enter the Promised Land. They pledge total submission to Joshua, their new leader. They are now ready to enter into God’s Best for them. The people have learned from the mistakes of their parents and have repented of pride and unbelief. Their hearts now say: “Yes, Sir!” to God and to Joshua, their new leader.

From where they are, the highest structure they see ahead is the great city of Jericho. The meaning of the name ‘Jericho’ is ‘the City of the Moon’. All the people inside worshipped idols, especially the moon. Joshua sends two spies to Jericho. This mission is done secretly. Remember that Joshua was a seasoned spy himself. When Moses sent the 12 leaders, he told them to spy the land and the people. But none came close to the people of Canaan. Joshua clearly has learned from the mistakes of his master. He commands the two men to go and spy inside Jericho. This mission has a higher risk than what happened in the past. The two spies are not named. They are not leaders or famous people in the community. They seem young and physically strong, ready to take risks, to run or to hide. They go inside Jericho, and encounter Rahab, the harlot. She saved their lives. They bring a good report to Joshua himself. The community is not aware about this military action. You see that Joshua proves to be an excellent military leader. Confident that God gave them the land, he is ready for the cross-over.

RAHAB’S STORY – GRACE IN JERICHO

The meaning of the name Rahab is ‘wide, large or big’. Maybe she was a huge woman with wide hips. We do not know. There is nothing in the natural that can commend her to us. But God used this woman of faith to save the two Israelite spies and facilitated the destruction of Jericho. What do we know about her?

*Rahab was a Canaanite. She was a citizen of the cursed city called Jericho. God told Israel to kill all the Canaanites and to posses their land. She was among the people God said that they should be killed (Josh 6:17-21). She was surely an idol worshipper. She was a liar and a deceiver.

*Rahab was a woman. In that ancient culture, the women were regarded as second-class citizens or the property of men.

*Rahab was a prostitute. If being a woman was considered inferior, being a prostitute is the lowest social status. In all cultures, prostitution was seen as sin, next to armed robbery. Men paid women to commit sexual sins. They used the bodies of prostitutes and cared nothing for their feelings. The only gain for the prostitutes is money. They had no respect, no reputation to lose, and no voice for men to listen to.  

You have to see Rahab with the eyes of the Spirit to understand her story. Her testimony of salvation is a story of grace. In spite of all these negative traits, Rahab became a woman of faith, a woman of God. The following are some good qualities hidden behind the sinful façade:

*Rahab was worldly wise. She was street smart. She was not foolish. As a prostitute, she was used to live among bad men and criminals. When she discovered that two Jewish men are in her house, and that the king of Jericho has heard about it, she lied about them and send the pursuers on the wrong track. She was fast in making decisions and willing to take risks to do what she wanted. She was ‘strong and courageous’ in her own way.  Jesus said: “Worldly people are more clever than spiritually-minded people when it comes to dealing with others… The people of this world look out for themselves better than the people who belong to the light (Lk 16:8, GWT, CEV). Like the dishonest manager, Rahab behaved wisely using the little resources at her disposal to make great gain. Thru a little lie, she saved the two spies, herself and her family. That does not mean that God approves of lies. To lie is sin. Rahab was a liar. She deceived her king’s men to go to the wrong direction, to save the two spies. Jesus said that ‘The devil is a liar’ (Jn 8:44). How can Rahab be a liar and a woman of faith at the same time? This is a reminder that we are all born sinners. Even after conversion, dying to sin is a process that takes a lifetime. Justification is a moment in time. But sanctification is a lifetime process.

*Rahab was discreet. Discretion means to be wise, diplomatic, prudent, especially in speech. It means to keep silent in order to avoid embarrassment or to gain an advantage. Maybe because of her job, Rahab knew how to keep a secret, how to hide men in an emergency. She was ‘wise as serpents’ (Matt 10:16), a quality Jesus expected from His servants, especially from missionaries who preach in dangerous places.

*Rahab had great courage. She hid the spies on the flat open roof under stalks of flax. From these plants, linen is made. It seems that her family lived outside the city and were farmers. They brought this flax to her house maybe thru her window. She dried them on the flat roof. She was smart to think of that as a good hiding place for the spies. But she was taking a great risk. If she was discovered that she was a traitor, the King of Jericho would kill her. She helped God’s servants under the nose of Satan. This is true faith and great courage!

*Rahab loved her family. She asked that Israel will have mercy not only on her, but on her parents and siblings. She took the risk to tell them about her decision to change camps and to serve the God of Israel. She convinced them to stay in her house. If any of her relatives betrayed her, she will be killed as a spy and a traitor.

*Rahab desired a new beginning, a better life. Prostitution is not an easy job. It is possible that she wanted to become a good woman but there was no hope for her in Jericho. God said that the Canaanites were wicked people. Just try to imagine that all her neighbors were armed robbers, pedophiles and criminals. There was no hope for her in Jericho. But Rahab wanted respect. She appreciated a good life. It is possible that this is the first time two men came to her brothel who were not interested in her body. They spoke to her respectfully, like she was a real human being. That impressed her. In Jericho, none greeted her, none spoke kindly to her. Men were ashamed to be seen with her in public. She knew the feeling of shame and rejection. But the Jewish spies saw her as God’s creation and spoke respectfully to her. This respect was a new thing to her. She appreciated it and she wanted more of it! She saw the God of Israel as the only One who can give hope to the hopeless. During the earthquake of Jericho, the only thing she had was the word of promise that she and her family will be saved. “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word” (Ps 119:114). That word of promise was enough. She and her family were the only people from Jericho who survived its total destruction. Her house was built on the very wall that collapsed. But God kept that part of the wall intact. New beginnings are sweet but never easy. Like her daughter in law Ruth, Rahab was willing to let go of her people, neighbors, and friends, to become the citizen of another country. She became an immigrant and a foreigner before she became a Jewish woman by marriage. Rahab and her family experienced the cross-over miracle. Surely Rahab considered the two options: Jericho with its idols and the God of Israel, Jehovah. She meditated about the two sides of the battle. She discovered that she is on the wrong side of the game. She decided to change camps. She discovered in her heart that Jehovah God is unique, special, and worthy of her trust and praise. She feared God in the right way. She surrendered her life to God before the battle. Her faith in God saved her from sin and death! Praise the Lord!

*Rahab was a woman of faith! She believed God’s Word (Heb 11:31, James 2:24-26). She heard stories about Israel and their God. She heard that Jehovah is a mighty God who does miracles. He spilt the Red Sea for His people to cross over. She heard that they totally defeated their neighbors, the two kings on the east side of Jordan, and took their land. She believed that the God of Israel is greater than her idols. When the whole city became afraid of Israel, she decided not to fear but to find a way to make peace with this great God. Her life tells us that some of the Canaanites decided to surrender and become part of Israel. She is the first fruits, the first convert from the Promised Land. Rahab became a woman of faith in the only living God. In her speech she does not say ‘your God’. She addresses God as Jehovah, the covenant keeping God, the One who is faithful to His promises. In her heart, she rejected her idols. She did not know yet the symbol of the red cord hanging at her window. Even the people of Israel did not know the deep meaning of the Blood smeared on top of their doors. But they believed that the blood of the sacrificial lamb saves. Rahab took the risk to believe in the God of her enemies. That God saved her life! Selah!

*Rahab became the great grandmother of Jesus! She married a Jewish man called Salmon. The Jewish tradition says that he was one of the two spies. Thru marriage Rahab became a true Jewish woman. Their son was Boaz. Their grand son was King David. We see why Boaz was not worried about marrying Ruth, a Moabite. His own mother was a foreigner and a former prostitute, now a proselyte to Jehovah God. God’s ways are not our ways! Joseph who married Mary was from their lineage. Jesus is the descendant of Rahab, the sinner saved by grace (Matt 1:1-6).

RAHAB’S FAITH

Rahab speaks with full confidence in Jehovah God: “I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9-11). Rahab speaks by faith. She sees things in the future as they have already happened. She tells them: “I know that the Lord has given you the land…” The people of Israel have not yet crossed over the Jordan, but Rahab has seen them as totally victorious. She knows that her people in Jericho will be defeated and destroyed. She recognized the paralyzing fear upon them as a sign of death. She knows that the source of this fear is Jehovah God. She confirms what Moses and the people of Israel prophesied forty years previously that all their enemies will melt in fear. “The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab, trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over whom You have purchased” (Ex 15:14-16).

The people in Jericho heard about the miracles Jehovah God did for His people. It is interesting to note that the same stories brought terror to the people of Jericho and faith and hope to Rahab. Rahab now believes that anyone who resists, or fight Jehovah God will lose the battle. Thru these stories her faith was born. By the time the spies came, she was ready spiritually to change camps. That is why she was so fast to help them. Faith was born in her heart before the spies came. The spies became her practical opportunity to escape darkness and go to the light. Rahab thought about her escape. She had no friends in Jericho to whom she can talk to about Jehovah. She kept her faith secret until the opportunity came.  Rahab had to quickly decide, to choose between serving her idols and the only living God. She made her choice. She abandoned her idols, betrayed her people in Jericho, and crossed over to Israel. This is how she became saved. Rahab made the best with the little knowledge she had about the only true God: that God is all powerful and the God is faithful to His covenant promises.    

The spies enter the city of Jericho. They go to the house of a harlot called Rahab. In Hebrew, the word ‘harlot’ is also translated as ‘housekeeper’.  Her house must have been a brothel. This is not the best place for two men of God to enter, but it is easier to hide in a place like that, where many foreign men come to drink, and to be sexually entertained by women. Drunkards talk more than usual. A brothel is bad for God fearing men, but it is good for the spies to hear the latest in the realm of politics. The spies made the decision to go there for two reasons: men could enter the brothel without too many problems, and they saw that her house was built on the wall. In case of danger, thru the window, they could exit faster. The two spies did a double work: they went to examine the city of Jericho and they also did evangelism. Rahab has never seen men who were not interested in her body, but only cared for her soul and her family. Their words and behavior surely convinced Rahab that Jehovah God is holy and real.

RAHAB’S THE TRUE TOKEN – THE SCARLET CORD

Rahab tells the Hebrew spies: “Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token,

and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death” (Joshua 2:12, 13).

Rahab asked the spies for ‘a true token’. In Hebrew these words are translated as a pledge of truth, a sure, a real, and reliable sign, evidence, a guarantee of your faithfulness, some proof of your sincerity. She is asking for something visible, to hold in her hand as evidence that their promise to her done in secret will come true later. She did not accept the simple word of promise of the spies. She had a practical faith. She was afraid that in the confusion of Jericho’s destruction, without a visible proof of their pledge, she and her family will be killed with the others. As you can see, her faith in Jehovah God was both theological and practical. This is true faith! She believed in God and also in the blood of Jesus. That scarlet red rope was the visible symbol of the Blood of Jesus shed for her on Calvary tree.

She shows kindness to the two Jewish men. She saved their lives. She trusts Jehovah great covenant promise made to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). The men made a pledge before God: ‘Our lives for yours’. They made a vow that if they do not rescue Rahab from the destruction of Jericho, then God should judge them as guilty and kill them. She helped them in their mission as spies by telling them the truth about the citizens of Jericho. In exchange for this kindness to them, she wants them to promise to save her and her entire family from the coming destruction of Jericho.

For Rahab to be saved she had to do three things: To bind the red cord by her window, to bring all her family inside her house and to keep silent about this encounter. If she tells the king about them, if she betrays them, they are not bound to save her. When the King of Jericho sent messengers to Rahab to find about the spies, the men were not aware of the danger. It was Rahab herself that decided to hide them. That is when they knew that their life is in danger. Rahab could have betrayed the spies any time. But she did not! She changed camps and trusted Jehovah God. That was great faith and wisdom! The Bible does not openly condemn her for the lying but approves of her faith.

Rahab insisted that her family be saved with her. It seems that she had no husband or children. She only asks for a proof that they promised life to her and to her household. Her wish came true. This is the cross-over miracle of a whole family, from paganism to serving the only living God. In fact, God gave her more than she asked. She became a princess in Israel, married Salmon, a leader from the tribe of Judah. King David, and later Jesus Christ, are among her descendants. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph 3:20, 21)

Rahab is a woman desperate to save her soul and her family. She sees the two men as her ticket to salvation. “Unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home” (Josh 2:18). The spies command her ‘to bind the scarlet cord in the window’. She was not to be careless with that cord. In Hebrew, the word ‘cord’ also means a door of hope, of expectancy and longing for better things. A proof that Rahab had saving faith is that she desired that her family should be saved. Her love for her family may have been natural, but once she trusted God for her salvation, she wanted others to be saved.

Rahab had to tie the scarlet cord. She had no pastor to call, no church to help her with prayer. Her personal faith and works were enough to save her and her family. Morning and evening she made sure that the cord was there. Salvation is by the blood of Jesus alone! She knew that her hope was in that scarlet cord. She did not use super-glue to connect the cord to the window. She had to tie it strongly so that the wind will not carry it away. That cord was the most important item in the house. She could lose all her money and clothes, but not that cord! This red cord protects her soul, her life, and her family! Rahab had a faith that manifested thru action (Jam 2:24-25). This is real faith! She did not allow her past to define her future! She loved her family! It is hard for us to believe that a prostitute loves people! But here we see that it is possible!

Lesson: The scarlet cord protected Rahab and her family. Fight to save your family!!! Rahab could have asked for money or land. But she did not. Here you see that she is free from the spirit of prostitution! All she asked for was that her family will live! Your family can be saved no matter your sinful background. It is because of the Blood of Jesus. There is now no condemnation for them who are born again! “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Ac 16:31).

Why do you think God led Joshua to send the two sipes to Jericho? It is true that they bought some information. But the main reason why they went there, it was to save some of God’s lost sheep living in Jericho. They went there as missionaries and saviors. Rahab’s name and her family was written in the Lamb’s Book of life before the foundation of the world. Jesus said: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!” (Lk 15:4-6). The salvation of Rahab and her family brought joy to Israel. Glory to God!

Rahab’s confession of faith in Jehovah was as powerful as Peter’s own. “Jesus to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:15-18). As it was with Peter, Rahab’s revelation of who Jehovah God is, was given by God the Father Himself. She had no synagogue or church in Jericho to attend. God revealed Himself to her thru the stories of His mighty deeds for Israel. She has been a silent believer even before the spies came to her house. She was ready to make a commitment and the spies provided the opportunity. It was to them that she openly confessed God! She is now a child of God! “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom 10:10)

The scarlet cord tied at her window was the sign that her house, a prostitute brothel, was safe under the Blood of Jesus. The scarlet rope tied at the window represented faith for salvation thru the Blood of Jesus. This salvation is by grace alone. To bind the rope on the window is so easy. Even a child can do that. Because Christ paid it all, salvation by grace is easy for the believer. Even a child can believe in Jesus. The scarlet rope is a visible symbol of an internal miracle of faith. Rahab could not trust herself for salvation. She was a sinner. She had nothing to offer to God except her faith in Christ Crucified who died to save her soul. Rahab was like the woman at the well (John 4). By telling her family to trust in Jesus too, she did the work of an evangelist or a pastor. This is great ministry. Long ago, when Lot talked to his two sons in law that God wants to destroy Sodom and that they should escape with his family, the two men mocked Lot (Gen 19:14). They did not believe the Gospel. They perished with the other people in Sodom.  But Rahab’s family believed in her God! They were all saved!

LESSONS FROM RAHAB’S REDEMPTION

God is sovereign. His Grace is sovereign. God can change and use any man or woman, for His glory. God takes pleasure to change the foolish and the weak, and the ones rejected by the society. In their conversion, God alone is glorified. God alone grants a new beginning to any person. No matter how much you have sinned, come to the Cross, trust in Jesus, and God will save your soul. God is not like us. We are ashamed to talk to sinners, to thieves or prostitutes. This is because we are afraid to lose our reputation. But Jesus has no inferiority complex. He was never afraid to lose his reputation. Perfect love drives out all fears (1Jn 4:18). Jesus said that He came to die for sinners, not for righteous religious men. Rahab’s story proves that even in the Old Testament, salvation was always by Grace and through Faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10). God is the God of all who believe, no matter their past sin. Jesus rebuked the religious men of His day (people like the King and the rulers of Jericho): “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him” (Matt 21:31, 32).

It’s important to remember that not every passage in the Bible is telling us what to do. Not every character is an example for us to follow in every action they take, even if some parts of what they do are admirable. God’s Word does not advices us to commit prostitution, adultery, to lie or to deceive people. God is holy, He hates sin! But we see that Rahab is a testimony of God’s grace. “Where sin was powerful, God’s gift of undeserved grace was even more powerful” (Rom 5:20, CEV). Rahab, by her very profession, is a morally complex character. And yet, God was willing to let her become a hero in this story, the story of a sinner saved by grace, to the glory of God!

God appreciates and rewards faith in Him (Heb 11:6). Rahab believed not only that Jehovah God is strong and He does miracles. She also believed that He is the only faithful God who keeps His covenant promises with His people. She lied but she believed that God does not lie! “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Nu 23:19). The spies tell her that the very red cord that she used to save them, will be the true token and evidence to save her life. She bound the red cord by her window. Lesson: the very thing we use to serve God will be used by God to bless us!

Rahab conversion from a harlot to a worshipper is similar with the sinful woman who met Jesus. The religious men rejected her, but Jesus accepted her worship and confirmed her conversion. Her faith manifested as worshipping Jesus freely, in public. Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Lk 7:50). That good word can apply to Rahab also!

Rahab had faith. When Rahab ‘welcomed’ the two spies, at that time, in the natural, there was no hope at all that Israel can defeat Jericho. Israel had no artillery or bombs to bombard the high wall. But Rahab believed that they could win the battle, just because Jehovah is their God. Listen to what she told the two men: “I know that the Lord has given you the land… for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Josh 2:9,11). This is 100% faith!

“By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (Heb 11:31). The word ‘faith’ means to trust God completely. The word ‘receive’ means to welcome, or to accept the spies in her home. The word ‘peace’ means good will and prosperity. The people of Jericho did not believe that God will destroy their great city. They were rebels and disobedient. They chose to fight God and His people. Rahab was wiser. She knew now that no one fights God and wins.

Lesson: it does not matter if you are strong or rich in the natural. The victory is decided by your God! As for God’s people, they move from victory to victory in Christ! God can never lose any battle! Be sure you are on God’s side!

Wisdom does spiritual warfare. Christ has become our wisdom from God (1 Cor 1:30). The people of Jericho trusted in the strength of their city wall. That was their idol. They thought that their wall was stronger than Jehovah God. That is foolishness. “A wise man scales the city [walls] of the mighty And brings down the stronghold in which they trust” (PV 21:22; AMP). Rahab was wise. Her faith and wisdom made her spiritually strong. “Wisdom strengthens the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city” (Ecc 7:19).

Question: does God have the right to judge sinners and send them to hell? The answer is categorically ‘yes’! God is sovereign! God has created everything that is created. He has to right to judge and condemn all people. God sent His only begotten to save only those who believe in Him!

Lesson: pray that God increases your wisdom and your faith. You will have spiritual strength, the true mark of a champion, a conqueror.

Joshua and Rahab are the two main characters in this chapter. In the natural, they are completely opposite. He is a man, a Jew, Moses’ successor, a worshipper of Jehovah, and the leader of the army that will destroy Jericho. Rahab was a woman, a prostitute, an idolater, from the cursed race of the Canaanites, and living in the city that will be destroyed. The only thing these two people have in common is their faith in Jehovah God. We forget the differences and remember only the glorious story of salvation, when Jew and Gentile become one on Christ. This unity is possible in Christ alone. This is the power of the Gospel: Christ died and rose again to save those who believe! “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom 1:16). “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

Lesson: It does not matter how you start in life; it matters how you end! You must become born again and be saved, in Christ alone!

God is sovereign in His choice of people to be saved. It does not matter if they are sinful or low class like Rahab. Jesus died for all who believe. The humble believe Him but the proud reject His offer of grace. God saves the foolish to shame the worldly wise. He saves the weak to shame and nullify those who think are strong in this world (1 Cor 1:26-31). This is the royal way of the Cross. Why does God do that? So that none may boast in His presence, for all the glory belongs to God alone!

FINALLY…

Encouraged by the words of Rahab, when the two spies went back to Joshua, they confidently told him that God has granted them the victory. Their report was of total faith in God. How different this report was from the one brought by the ten spies 40 years ago. They brought grapes from the land, but these two, by faith, brought souls from Canaan! This is a sample of God’s Best for you! Glory to God! The miracle of Cross-over is about to begin… Worship the Lord!

THE CROSS OVER MIRACLE (4)/ NO, SIR!

During the Sunday service Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled The Cross-over Miracle (4)/ The twelve spies. Her text was taken from the Book of Numbers, chapters 13 and 14.

In the Book of Numbers chapters 13 and 14, we read about the rebellion in the camp of Israel. This is one of the most painful stories in the Bible. The people are just at the edge of the Promised Land but not yet inside. Moses sends 12 leaders to spy the land. People grumble because of the bad report of ten of the spies. They rebel against God’s plan for them. God is angry and sends them back to the wilderness. We learn from other peoples’ mistakes. The people’ sin of rebellion changed the direction of the whole nation. It affects the people of Israel even until today.

The Promised Land of Canaan in the Bible is not a symbol of heaven, because there are no wicked people in heaven. It is a symbol of God’s best for you, while you live on earth. It means to fulfill destiny! Only a Spirit filled obedient believer can enter that Land. You need to trust and obey God’s Word to be able to cross over into that land ‘of milk and honey’, also called ‘The Rest of God’ (Hebrew 4:1-10). You need faith in God and in His Word to enter and possess your possessions. Grumbling, rebellion, presumption, and doubt will block the way to your inheritance.

This is the story of God’s people. They left Egypt thru God’s miracle. They crossed over the Red Sea by faith. This is another miracle. They gathered at Mount Horeb (also called Mount Sinai) where they met with God. It is here that God gave His Law to Moses. The people rebelled and worshipped a golden calf. Many died in that plague. Now, God is directing His people to leave Mount Horeb (Sinai) and go towards north. They trekked thru the desert about 100 miles. They traveled about 10 miles per day. They covered that distance in 11 days (Deut 1:2). They settled at Kadesh Barnea. This is what Moses said to them: “So we departed from Horeb and went through all that great and terrible wilderness which you saw on the way to the mountains of the Amorites, as the Lord our God had commanded us. Then we came to Kadesh Barnea. 20 And I said to you, ‘You have come to the mountains of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us. Look, the Lord your God has set the land before you; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of your fathers has spoken to you; do not fear or be discouraged.’ “And every one of you came near to me and said, ‘Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come” (Deut 1:19-22). From Kadesh Barnea they can see the Promised Land. After trekking in the desert for so long, their dreams of success and God’s best in life is just before them. At this spot, there is no River Jordan to block their entrance. The cross over to the promised Land is so easy. Moses wants them to enter the Promised Land now! He is encouraging them not to fear or be discouraged. But the story is a tragic one. The people are slow to believe God’s promise! They want to waste time to send 12 spies into the land. Clearly, they are not excited about the future promised by God. They reject God’s best for them! Selah!!!

Lesson: A leader’s responsibility is to carry the people along. But it is so hard and sad when followers do not share in the faith of their leader.

Kadesh Barnea is on the border of the Promised Land. So close, yet not in. They see God’s best for them. Vision is good but you must walk into it by faith. “By faith they obtained the promises” (Heb 11:33). Your eyes, ears, heart, and feet must be coordinated to see results. For example, God told Abraham after Lot left him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you” (Gen 13:14-17).

Lesson: many Christians dream and pray to inherit God’s best for them. Yet, they stop just before the dream becomes a reality. They stop short of glory. And that defines sin. What do you need to do? To possess your possessions, you need eyes, ears, heart, and feet. You need vision and action. It is all done by faith in God and His Word. You see the vision with your eyes; you hear the Word with your ears; you believe the word with your heart, and you walk with your feet into your vision to possess it. Your feet are the stamps of approval and possession. That is faith!

Study these people! Face to face with God’s best for them, they are not excited enough to cross over. Moses told them that God personally takes care of the land. “For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year” (Deut 11:10-12). But this is the problem! They like the land, but they hate the Landlord! There is rebellion in their hearts! They suggest that Moses should send spies into the land to confirm that the land is good. Moses prays and God approves their wish. Moses sends 12 men, each a leader from his tribe to explore the land and bring a report about the type of cities and the people living there. They should bring a sample of the fruit from the land. Is it not interesting that we do not remember the names of the other 10 spies who brought a bad report? We only remember the names of Joshua and Caleb, for they are the only surviving spies, and the only ones who possessed the Promised Land. Selah! After 40 days the 12 spies come back. They brought big clusters of grapes and fruits from the Promised Land. In the presence of Moses, Aaron the priest, and all the people, the spies give their report (Nu 13:26). This was a public address. When hearing about the giants and dangers in the land, the reaction of the people was disturbing. Unbelief and rebellion manifested openly. That terrible rection affected a whole generation. Selah!

Forty years later, when the people are at the same place, facing the same Promised Land, Joshua does things differently. He clearly has learned from what happened at Kadesh Barnea. Joshua sends only two spies to inspect Jericho, but he does not inform all the people. The spies go secretly and come back the same. They give their report to Joshua alone and not to the public. In that way, he removed the possibility of having a crowd reaction of rebellion. The Bible Commands that “You shall not follow a crowd to do evil” (Ex 23:2).

Lesson: As leaders we need to be sensitive to what and when we inform all people about decisions taking in private, in God’s presence. Selah!

This was the report of the 12 spies. They all agreed that the land is good. But then, the ten spies added ‘a bad report’. In Hebrew ‘the bad report’ means something evil, to defame or to slander. They said: that the people in the land are giants and the cities there are fortified and strong. They saw and emphasized the problems and not the good of the land. They were sure that they can’t possess the land, that they will be killed there. They saw themselves as ‘grasshoppers’ and were sure that even the enemies will see that like that. Fear, unbelief, and inferiority complex gripped their hearts. They forgot that in the presence of God, before the King of kings, all men are ‘like grasshoppers’ (Is 40:22).

Remember that these spies were not ordinary people. They were leaders. Immediately, like a plague, the demons of fear and unbelief from the leaders spread into the crowd.  They started weeping loudly for lost hopes and dead dreams. Caleb tried to silence the voices of fear and unbelief, but the people refused to listen to him. The spirit of fear became rebellion. The people started to complain against the Moses and Aaron saying: “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt” (Nu 14:2-4). Now they want to go back to Egypt. They forgot that Egypt was a land of slavery. It was in Egypt that all their baby boys were killed. The wilderness was difficult, but it was much better than Egypt. At least, in the desert, God is with them, teaching them how to worship Him. What foolish ugly ungratefulness!

What was the main cause for this national sin of rebellion and backsliding? It was the sin of the leaders! Just imagine this: ten men stopped a whole nation to enter into God’s best for it. Ten men allowed the Canaanites to enjoy 40 more years in the Promised Land! Selah!

The spies were all leaders in their tribes. The spies forgot that God thru Moses sent them on that mission. They were leaders but they were also servants to Moses. A spy is not to give his opinion, to tell the crowd about what to do. A spy is to faithfully give a report about what he has seen to the person who sent him. The spies became proud and took the advantage to speak like leaders to the congregation. This is seen as pride, selfish ambition, and trespassing. That is why the ten of them were killed by God. Let us not forget the responsibility of leadership. A leader influences the followers, for good or for bad. Disobedience causes us to lose the promises of God, of a successful life on earth. Obedience is rewarded by God, on earth and in heaven!

Lesson: In God’s Kingdom, leaders are judged by a higher standard than the followers. Jesus said: “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required“ (Lk 12:48). May we humble ourselves and submit to the Captain of our salvation! For His glory!

In the midst of this loud voices of unbelief, ungratefulness, and rebellion, four men stood for faith in God. These were Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. Moses and Aaron fell on their knees interceding with God and pleading with the people to repent. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes as a sign of grief in the presence of sin. But the people became like a wild dog. They wanted to stone these four people and kill them. That is when the glory of God shone in that place. Try to imagine what happens when God comes down. As the Judge of all the earth, God brings three accusations against the people: God said that His people have rejected Him, that they do not believe in Him; and that they do not appreciate all the miracles He has done for them (Num 14:11). Apart from Joshua and Caleb, the High priest, Eleazer, the son of Aaron, and the Levites, they too entered the Promised Land. They did not participate in the rebellion. They did not receive personal plots in the Promised Land.

The people build cities for them where they lived as Levites, helping the priests at the temple.

Lesson: The ten spies saw problems, but Joshua and Caleb saw God’s Promises fulfilled. Doubt saw giants, but faith saw victory. Doubt saw death. Faith saw life abundantly! At this moment, Joshua and Caleb failed to make an impact for God. Many people are affected by mistakes and failures of their youth. Forty years later, after Moses died and Joshua became the leader, he might have remembered this incident when he failed as a leader. That is why God commanded him to be strong and courageous because this time, he will lead the people into the Promised Land. That is why we need to forget the past, with its successes and failures. God said, Moses is dead. It is now time to move on into the future!

God’s people tempt God to break His covenant with them. In that case, the curses of the same covenant will come upon the people. God tells Moses that He will break the covenant he made that Judah would lead God’s people and the Messiah with come from him (Gen 49:9-10). God tells Moses that He will make another nation when the ruler comes from Levi, who is the tribe of Moses. But the great man Moses intercedes with God. He has a passion for God’s honor and glory. His meekness is revealed in his intercessory prayer. Here we see Moses as a symbol of Christ, our intercessor. Moses tells God that the Egyptians will say that God was not able to fulfill His promises and that Egypt and slavery was a better option for Israel. Moses’ intercession appeals to God’s character who is slow to anger and abundant in mercy. God receives the intercession of Moses. He forgives the rebellious people. But God decrees that because of this sin, there shall be consequences. The 10 spies that spread the bad report and discouraged the people to enter the Promised Land die of a plague. God directs Moses to lead the people back into the wilderness. For the next 40 years, one for each day the spies stayed in the Promised Land, all adults above 20 years of age will die in the desert. God will give to them what they said with their mouths: that it is better to die in the wilderness than to Cross over. The children will suffer for the rebellion of their parents, by wasting 40 years in the desert. This is God’s Law: “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). The people need to learn that even though God is gracious and merciful, sin is punished with death. They also need to learn that even when God forgives sin, the consequences of sin remain. The children suffer for their parents’ unfaithfulness. God accepts Moses’ intercession. The people still remain God’s nation but the individuals who have rebelled will die in the wilderness for the next 40 years. God continued to show mercy and grace to them in the wilderness. But the people missed their higher calling and now they have to accept an unexciting ‘second best’. Apostle Paul knew the danger of running into a race and becoming ‘disqualified’. He said: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27).

At the same time, God rewards the faith of Joshua and Caleb. They alone survive from all that generation, and they shall possess the land where their feet touched, according to God’s promise. Selah!

Lesson: Pray always! Remember God’s character! Ask for God’s mercy and grace in time of need! Stay faithful! God rewards faithfulness!

Hearing that they missed the Promised Land, the people start weeping again, this time because of God’s judgment. They say that they are sorry for their unbelief. But this repentance is superficial. The next day they tried to enter the Promised Land. Moses warns them that they cannot succeed for this is also rebellion. Moses and the Ark of His presence remain in the camp. The people commit a presumptuous sin (Num 14:44). They are defeated by the Canaanites and run to the camp. God commands that they should go back to the wilderness. They say goodbye to the Promised Land. “Then we turned and journeyed into the wilderness of the Way of the Red Sea, as the Lord spoke to me” (Deut 2:1). This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. Selah!

Lesson: Unbelief and rebellion manifest in many ways: as grumbling, fear of dangers, slandering God’s promises and His leaders, as criminal hot temper, or backsliding. Never forget, God always judges sin! Even after God forgives men for their sin, the consequences of sin remain.

Forgiveness means to let go of a grudge against another. You need the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive well, like God. You can forgive someone who sinned against you, but that forgiveness does not mean you must reconcile with that person like nothing has happened.

God’s blessings do not come automatically to God’s people. You need to see and accept them by faith. There are different levels of faith. God cannot work with rebellious people. Backsliding does not mean going to hell. During backsliding, you lose peace, joy, opportunities to do ministry and rewards from God. Do not lose what you have! A backslider is a child of God who rejects God’s best for him. When he dies, he goes to heaven. But he dies as an unfulfilled man, with regrets in his heart. True repentance means to turn away from sin and turn to God. A fake repentance may come with sad tears, but there is no turning to God, to obey Him. May we fear God! May we pay the price to enter God’s Best!

JOSHUA AND CALEB

When the 12 spies went to see the Promised Land, they all saw the same thing. But when they came back and gave their report, the group was spilt into two. The interpretation of what they saw was different. Ten of the spies brought ‘a negative report’ that discouraged the people. They had the wrong spirit, lazy, angry, doubting, and rebellious. Their fear of death overpowered their gratitude to God for leading them. Only Joshua and Caleb brought a good report. Listen to Caleb: “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it… The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them” (Nu 14:7-9). By faith, they said that they can conquer the giants and take over the Land. God will keep them alive and help them to cross over to possess it. What type of people are these two men of God? This is what God testified about Caleb: “My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it” (Num 13:30; 14:24). He called Caleb ‘My servant’. He said that he has ‘a different spirit in him’. That means Caleb was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. The spirit of rebellion that took over the crowd was clearly an evil spirit, but Joshua and Caleb were different. They followed God wholeheartedly, in big and small decisions, from youth until their old age. They refused to follow the grumbling people. They persevered until they entered the promised inheritance. They had no other God! When the congregation picked up stones to stone them, face to face with death, they did not run, beg, or compromise. God intervened and saved them. Like Daniel and his three friends they were ready to go into the furnace and die than to disappoint God. This is standing against serious peer pressure. This is the faith God rewards. This is the faith we need to cross over, possess, and enjoy God’s best for us in this life and forever. God promises to preserve Caleb life until he possesses his inheritance. Caleb was in his 80s when he enters Canaan. He was still able to fight his enemies at 85. Also, remember that God honors them that honor him. God gave Caleb the city of Hebron, which is the very the land that he trekked upon. Caleb wants the land of the giants! He is not seeking for an easy retirement! Caleb is a leader in his tribe of Judah and a great hero of faith! (Joshua 14:6-15; 15:13, 14).

As for Joshua, God rewards him with the leadership, not only of his tribe but of the whole nation!  

Lesson: Even in the midst of unbelievers, God locates you and will reward your faith. God will keep you alive until you possess your possessions. Faith conquers! Doubt is a loser! This is a question: Do you follow the crowd of doubters, or you stand with the faithful minority?

THE SIN OF GRUMBLING

“Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe His word, 25 But complained in their tents, and did not heed the voice of the Lord. 26 Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness” (Ps 106:24-26). God had great and wonderful plans for His people. He brought them out from the land of slavery in Egypt. He wanted them to enter and settle in the Promised Land. It was a good land ‘flowing with milk and honey’ (Ex 3:8). Why did they not enter? The powerful Pharoah and all his armies could not stop them. The giants living in the Promised Land could not stop them. What was the main reason why they failed to inherit God’s promises? It was the sin of grumbling in the hearts of the people of Israel! To grumble, to murmur, to complain, or to nag it means to accuse, to find fault with someone or something. It means to make a dull, low, unintelligible sound in the throat, expressing anger. It is the sound of an angry dog just before he jumps to bite you. Grumbling is rebellion, which is like the sin witchcraft (1 Sam 15:23). Grumbling is a common sin in the church. Because it hinders God’s blessings, it is not a small sin. They who grumble against God and against the human authority over them are sources of poison that affects many. God hates grumbling. Repent of it. Replace grumbling with gratitude in your hearts. Be filled with the Holy Spirit!

When Jesus preached His Gospel, the Jews complained against His doctrine. He commanded that we should not murmur (Jn 6:41-43; 60, 61). We are commanded: “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (Jam 5:9). People grumble against visitors in their homes or newcomers in the church. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet 4:9). We are to shine our light for Jesus, to preach His Gospel. Grumbling quenches our light. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Phil 2:14-16). The story of Israel, how they missed God’s best for them, is a warning! “Nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:10, 11). Grumbling damages relationships and especially the marriage. “It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife” (PV 21:19; NLT).

Finally, listen to our Lord Jesus Christ: “Stop complaining about what I said” (Jn 6:43; NLT).

THE SIN OF PRESUMPTION

Presumption is defined as believing that something is true without having proof of it. It is taking something for granted. It is jumping at conclusions without having knowledge of the facts. It is based on partial knowledge and pride. Most of the time presumption proves to be wrong. That is why presumption has a negative meaning. The sin of presumption is an intentional rebelling against God thru a deliberate, proud, and willful action. A believer commits presumptuous sin when he knows that what he does is sinful and an offence against God. It is not a mistake. It is not just a weakness. For example, after God judged them for rebellion, He told His people to go back to the desert. But they insisted to go to the Promised Land. This was a presumptuous sin (Nu 14:44). Another example: David committed presumptuous sin when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband Uriah. Later David repented and prayed: “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Ps 19:13).

Presumptuous sins are like spiritual suicide. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Heb 10:26,27).

Presumptuous sins are deliberate. They are committed with the full knowledge that they are sins and in full light of what God has said. Presumptuous sins are premeditated. There is intent to sin and a time of deliberation before the act. Presumptuous sins can only be committed in suppression of the conscience and in spite of its appeals. Those who sin presumptuously say, in effect, “I’m going to do this, and nothing is going to stop me. I know what God says about it, and I don’t care if it’s wrong. I’m going to do it anyway.” God may forgive the sins of presumptions, but there are always consequences that follow these sins. Selah!  

WHY DID THE TEN SPIES BRING A BAD REPORT? WHAT IS THE ROOT OF THEIR UNBELIEF?

*THEY FORGOT GOD’S PAST GOODNESS

Forgetfulness is a memory failure. When you stop thinking about a person you will forget that one. These people forgot God and His works. They stopped reading God’s Word, pray and praising Him. They forgot what God has done for them. God said that they tested Him ten times even after they saw the miracles He has done in Egypt, how He saved them. How can they forget how God split the Red Sea, how God turned the bitter water into sweet water, how God fed them with Manna and gave them water to drink in the wilderness? This forgetfulness is evil. It comes from despising the miracles of God. This is God’s warning and command: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today” (Deut 8:11).

Lesson: It is our duty to study and meditate on God’s Word. It is our duty to praise and worship God! You forget what you do not appreciate. You need to develop a spirit of gratefulness and worship. One of the hardest things to do for a parent is to teach the children to be grateful. This gratefulness never comes automatically. It is always a skill to be thought and acquired. Only the faithful and humble people remember God! “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Ps 103:2).

*THEY BECAME DISCOURAGED AT THE PRESENT SITUATION

Discouragement is the state of losing courage and moral strength. Courage is defined as the strength to control your fears in a dangerous or difficult situation and to be confident of your faith in God. Discouragement leads to feeling rejected, depressed and hopeless. Sickness, poverty, and dangers ahead are common reasons for discouragements. The opposite is encouragement, This happens when courage is poured into you thru words of faith and prayer. At Kadesh Barnes, God, thru Moses, commanded the people to be strong and courageous. But they refused to obey the command. They saw the problems ahead and forgot that God brought them there and that God is with them. As they despised the past miracles, they now despise the presence of God with them.

Lesson: I reject discouragement, a common weapon of the devil. I encourage myself thru God’s Word, prayer and coming to church!

*THEY BECAME AFRAID OF THE FUTURE

Fear is an uncomfortable, often painful emotions in when anticipating danger. The people allowed the demon of fear to intimidate them. That can be a fear of difficulties, of the unknown, of giants, of the future, fear of war, or fear of death. Fear became the dominant emotion.

Lesson: Fear is a demon that weakens the body and the mind. The only fear we should allow to influence our hearts is the clean strong fear of God. This is wisdom and courage. All other fears are demonic, and we should reject them. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). How do you get free from these demonic fears? By seeking God in His Word and thru prayer. “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears” (Ps 34:4).

FINALLY… LET US MOVE ON!

This is a sad story. But there are so many lessons for us.  The wilderness was never designed to be their home or their grave. It was always to be passage. It is a tragedy to live and die at the wrong place. The wilderness is a picture of spiritual immaturity. God uses it to humble people and add grace to them. God is preparing you to inherit the Land. The promised Land is God’s Best for you, to gain spiritual maturity. May we follow Jesus, our heavenly Joshua unto the end! May we trust and obey Him until we possess our blessed inheritance! Worship the Lord!

THE CROSS OVER MIRACLE (3)/THE CROSS OVER COMMANDS/ YES, SIR!

During the Sunday service, Pastor (Mrs) Silvia Lia Leigh preached a sermon titled ‘The Cross-over Miracle’ (3). Her main text was taken from the book of Joshua chapter 1. We shall study God’s mighty promises to Joshua. In Christ, we shall apply them to ourselves!

Moses represents the Law. He started the process of redemption but could not finish it ‘for the law makes nothing perfect’ (Heb 7:19). God’s Law is holy but it does not save sinners. The Law did not come with the power to obey it. The Law proves that we are lawbreakers. The Law directs us to Jesus. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom 10:4). Joshua is a symbol of Christ. Joshua does what Moses could not do. He finishes what Moses started. This is God’s Grace revealed. “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn 1:17).

We shall study God’s four commands taken from Joshua chapter 1. Immediately following is Joshua’s command to prepare and enter the Promised Land. Commands are orders given by your authority who expects instant obedience. God never makes suggestions. We do not have the liberty to ignore or disobey His commands. It is our duty to obey instantly, totally, and joyfully. Our answer to God and to God’s human authority over us is ‘Yes, Sir!’. Our success in life depends on our response!

Moses has died. Joshua is now the leader. But God never changes.  God appoints His workers and the seasons for them to work. ‘One sows and another reaps” (Jn 4:37). Men come and go, but ‘Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever!’ (Heb 13:8). Let us worship Him!

1-ARISE AND GO OVER THIS JORDAN TO THE LAND I GAVE TO YOU! YES, SIR!

“Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses” (Josh 1:2, 3)

God commands Joshua to ‘arise and go over this Jordan’. To arise it means to actively stand, to be active. The opposite position it to lie down in sorrow, regret, depression, or failure. To look back at the time when Moses was leading them will be a hindrance in moving forward. The mourning for Moses lasted for thirty days. Now, it’s time to stand on your feet as a soldier following his commander. Your response is: ‘Yes, Sir!’

Lesson: to make spiritual progress in life you need to repent from passivity, doubt, laziness, and regrets. You follow the Holy Spirit. Progress is never automatic. It does not come with age. It is a command of God. You need to choose to obey. This is how you possess your possessions!

2-YOU WILL NEVER FAIL! YOU WILL ALWAYS WIN! I AM WITH YOU! I WILL HELP YOU! YES, SIR!

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you… Joshua, I will always be with you and help you as I helped Moses, and no one will ever be able to defeat you” (Josh 1:5; NKJ; CEV).

The word ‘stand’ means to be established, like a pillar, like a high wall. God tells Joshua that no man can successfully oppose him. All Joshua’s enemies shall become weak and shall fall ‘before’ him. This promise says: “No one will be able to successfully oppose you, or to publicly resist you”. God confirms that His presence will always be with Joshua and never with his enemies. This is the promise of Grace. God will not leave or forsake Joshua all the days of his life. The word ‘leave’ means to relax His grip so that Joshua will fall. The word ‘forsake’ means to abandon Joshua in a helpless position and never plan to help him again. It means to betray a friend, to leave him exposed to danger. God said that He will never do that to Joshua. In other words, God will always be with Joshua, extending grace to him even when he sins or makes mistakes. Joshua will never ‘fall from grace’. God will never answer the prayers of Joshua’s enemies. Joshua will never fail! He is more than a conqueror thru Him who loved him (Rom 8:37). This is a great encouragement for Joshua! With God by His side, he has nothing to lose! The promise that no man will be able to stand against Joshua implies that for as long as Joshua obeys God’s Word, the taking over the Promised Land will be easy. God promised to direct, teach, protect, and prosper Joshua, thru His Word and His Spirit, just the way He helped Moses. Remembering his master, Joshua knew how successful God made him to be. Now, God says that the same grace is extended to him. This reveals the unity and continuity of the Spirit.

Lesson: We stand in God’s power! God’s Word is our guide even to the end. In Christ, we can never fail. We move on from victory to victory!

God’s presence is the secret of all true success and progress in life.  The promise of God’s constant presence applies to all believers. These are some examples… Jacob was running from his brother Esau. He had a dream. He saw God who promised him: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you” (Gen 28:13-15). God promises Jacob total protection, prosperity, and success in life, to him and his descendants. Jacob will do God’s will and fulfill his destiny. Moses told God’s people: “Do not be afraid. Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Ex 14:13, 14). God tells Isaiah: “For I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your children… Indeed, they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me. Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake” (Is 49:25; 54:15). The same promise is given to Jeremiah: “Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD… They will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,” says the LORD, “to deliver you” (Jer 1:8, 19).

Lesson: the child of God is free from the fear of untimely death, from living a wasted life of failure and shame. God’s presence will protect you, will give you a hope, a future, and an expected end (Jer 29:11). God will never disappoint you! Your life and death will glorify Jesus!

Our Lord Jesus Christ, our heavenly Joshua, believed and lived by this promise. Jesus said that men will abandon Him, but God the Father will never do so. “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him… Indeed, the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (Jn 8:29; 16:32). On the Cross, it seems that the promise was broken. Jesus cried that the Father has forsaken Him when He was dying. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt 27:46). He was quoting Psalm 22:1, written by David. How do we explain these words coming from our Savior’s lips? In the Garden of Gethsemane, He chose to drink the cup of sin on our behalf. This was the will of the Father. From that moment, the Father removed His presence and protection from His Son. On that Cross, Jesus died in our place. He was not a sinner, but He became sin that we might live. “He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness]“ (2 Cor 5:21; AMP). Sin drives away the presence of God. This salvation is by grace, thru faith in Christ Crucified. God’s presence and protection is now ours, forever! In Christ alone!  

Lesson: Jesus died that we may live! Jesus paid for our salvation with His Blood. It is our duty and highest privilege to serve Him forever!

In Joshua chapter 1 we see the clear transition between the leadership of Moses and that of Joshua. The name ‘Moses’ appears 10 times in this chapter. Moses built the foundation. Joshua will build on it. God is the same God to each of them. God promises Joshua that He will be with him ‘as He was with Moses’. That means God will be with Joshua until the end. He will show the same mercy, grace, and patience to Joshua as He showed to Moses. The human leader changes but God never changes. God’s presence will help him become a champion, a leader, a hero, strong and courageous like Moses was. Joshua needs this strength to fight two types of battles: with the Canaanites, to conquer them and take their land, and secondly, to lead God’s stiff-necked people, who proved to be difficult. Joshua saw how hard it was for Moses to govern the Israelites. They tended to grumble, to doubt and to rebel against his leadership. But God helped Moses by giving him supernatural wisdom, patience, strength, and courage. God promised to do the same for Joshua. God will not leave Joshua without internal strength of character or external help to conquer all his enemies. Three times in Joshua Chapter 1 God commands Joshua: “Be strong and courageous”. This may be because Joshua did not imagine he will be the next leader after Moses. Joshua was not a proud, or selfishly ambitious man. Serving Moses was his ministry. Now, God encourages him to stand as the next leader to His people. God tells Joshua that he must fight to occupy the land. Joshua will finish what Moses has started. God also says: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you”. God promises that His presence will always be with Joshua exactly the way it was with Moses, his mentor. God promises to help Joshua just the way He helped Moses. Joshua has seen how much God has helped his human master to be strong, wise and courageous especially during crises. Joshua was a witness at how much God forgave his mentor Moses when his flesh failed. God promises to Joshua that what he has seen in the life of his leader, will now be his portion. This implies that Joshua is Moses’ spiritual son. The DNA of grace given to Moses is now given to him. What a great promise! Glory to God!

Joshua was faithful to Moses, his leader and mentor. Because of that, God rewarded him with his own testimony as a man of God! Jesus said: “And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?” (Lk 16:12).

Lesson: If you submit and are faithful to God and to your human authority, God will give you your own ministry and testimony! Selah!

This transition of leadership is similar with that between Elijah and Elisha. It happened when Elijah went to heaven. Elisha loved the way God worked in his master, Elijah. He asked for the same grace. Elijah said that his request is ‘hard’. No man, at his hour of death, can give his mantle of anointing and leadership to another man. God alone appoints His workers. When Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit, Elijah said this: “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so” (2 Kg 2:10). The condition was that Elisha sees Elijah to the end of his life on earth. In Hebrew, the word ‘see’ is the word Jireh. It means to have the same vision, to encounter or to provide what you see. In other words, Elijah told Elisha: ‘If you see what I see, you shall have what you see’. This is like running the relay race. ‘If you see the baton in my hand as I depart, it shall be yours. Then you run with it, even faster than I’.  

Lesson: we must submit to the human authority for Christ’ sake. We must be willing to humble ourselves and to serve our leaders. We do not manipulate for promotion. We trust God for all things! Ministry and promotion come in God’s own time and God’s sovereign will!

3-THIS BOOK OF THE LAW SHALL NOT DEPART FROM YOUR MOUTH! MEDITATE ON IT DAY AND NIGHT! OBEY GOD’S WORD! YES, SIR!

“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Josh 1:7, 8)

The presence of God and obedience to His Word is the basis for successful Christian life. The Word God gave to Moses, must be the same Word Joshua should study, obey, and preach. Then he will ‘prosper wherever he goes’ and have ‘good success’. The word ‘prosperity’ means to push forward against all opposition. Prosperity is the result of spiritual strength.  The word ‘good success’ means wisdom, spiritual intelligence to make the right decisions. People say that ‘health is wealth’. Spiritually, divine wisdom is wealth!

God called and commissioned Joshua to be now the leader of Israel. All people must submit to Joshua. But Joshua himself is a man under authority. The Word of God is his authority. No man can stand against Joshua to judge or condemn him. Only God’s Word will judge him. During the time of Moses, Joshua’s mentor was a man. Now, Joshua’s mentor and leader is invisible. It’s God’s Word! Jesus is the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14). Jesus will now be Joshua’s Commander, Teacher, and Judge. This is a transition, from being led by sight to being led by faith alone.

God commands Joshua to be a man of His Word. Every decision, every judgment, every counsel, every command to the people, shall be done according to the Word of God, in prayer and in the presence of God. It is the duty of Joshua to study the Bible and learn how to apply the Word of God practically. No man can encourage Joshua. He has to learn to encourage himself thru the Word of God and prayer.

Lesson: The more God’s Word dwells in you richly (Col 3:16), the more you are ‘qualified’ to become God’s servant and leader of men!

God commands Joshua to be faithful to His Word, to the covenant God made with Israel. Joshua is to study, memorize and preach the Word of God. His mind and heart must be filled and saturated with God’s Word. Then God will grant him prosperity and ‘good success’. Joshua must be ‘strong and courageous’. This command is repeated three times in Joshua chapter one. This command applies not only to Joshua’s character, but especially to his decisions, and deeds. To be strong and courageous it means to be firm during crisis, not moved by manipulations, or men’s deceptions or intimidations. It means to be free from the fear of man but to fear only God. “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe” (PV 29:25). Once you are free from the fear of man, you will conquer all your enemies.

God’s presence with the leader overflows to the whole nation. This prosperity will overflow from the leader to the nation. The primary role of the leader is spiritual, to host and carry the presence of God. If the leader backslides, the nation suffers. “If a ruler pays attention to lies [and encourages corruption], All his officials will become wicked” (PV 29:12; AMP). It is a fact that the best followers make the best leaders. Faith in the Word of God is the secret of their wisdom, strength, and anointing!

Lesson: To be a Christian, to be a leader in the Body of Christ, in the family, or in the nation, is an extraordinary privilege and responsibility!

The command to study the Bible and obey God’s Word is given to Israel’s kings and rulers. “Also, it shall be, when the king sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel” (Deut 17:18-20). The king shall use his hand to copy the Bible for himself. It means that he should diligently and faithfully study God’s Word! The study of God’s Word will help him to fear God, which is the beginning of wisdom (PV 1:7). The study of God’s Word will humble him so that God continues to give him grace upon grace. The study of God’s Word will give him a long and successful life, to him and his descendants. 

Lesson: God’s command to study, obey and preach God’s Word is to all believers because they are ‘a royal priesthood’ in Christ.

The study and preaching of God’s Word are the foundation of a successful Christian life and building the skill of leadership. Without God’s Word there is no success in life! The study of God’s Word, prayer and attendance to the local church bring innumerable spiritual and material blessings to us and our descendants. Joshua discovered this secret. He said: “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh 24:15).  

Joshua was to keep the Bible in his heart and mouth. He must study, meditate, and preach God’s Word. To study the word of God brings genuine prosperity. There is no short-cut to true happiness and success outside faith in God’s Word. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Ps 1:1-3).

As a Man, Jesus obeyed the Father perfectly, even unto death. “Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner (Jn 5:19). “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (Jn 6:38). “I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (Jn 12:49). “The world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here” (Jn 14:31)

Lesson: By God’s Grace, I will pay the price to faithfully and diligently study, memorize, meditate, and preach the Word of God! By doing this I will please God and become a source of blessings to my descendants and to many others!  

4-BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS! YES, SIR!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:9).

All God’s commands to Joshua are verbs, words of action. God promised to provide strength to Joshua. But it is his duty to receive God’s provision, to be strong and courageous, to observe and to do all the Law of Moses. ‘To be ‘strong and courageous’ in not God’s suggestion. It is His command! We must answer: Yes. Sir!”. Strength is defined as the capacity for endurance, to successfully resist oppression when an enemy attacks. To be strong it means being unafraid when dealing with difficult, dangerous, or unpleasant situations. To be courageous it means to be bold, to be confident when taking risks, to be free from the judgments of men. The qualities of moral strength and courage are vital for spiritual leaders. Listen to Apostle Paul: “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord” (1 Cor 4:3, 4).

In Hebrew, ‘to be strong’ in means to be obstinate, to seize, to bind, to restrain and conquer the enemy. To have ‘good courage’ it means to be strong, bold, alert, determined and steadfast. These words do not refer only to Joshua’s character, but to his decisions and actions. He is to be a true godly leader, like a trained solider during war. He was to be a man of action, alert, prompt, ready to act, wise, courageously taking every opportunity to conquer the enemy. He should not doubt His commander or become slow in obeying God’s Word. He should not be a coward, a double minded or timid man. Joshua’s courage will lead to success. He needs wisdom from God. This command is similar with Paul’s advice to Timothy who tended to be timid. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7).   

The opposite of courage is cowardice or timidity, the fear of leading or rebuking people, especially when going to new places. A coward is someone easily afraid, who quickly runs away to avoid pain, danger, or difficulties, to save his own skin. He is easily intimidated by men. Apostle Peter was a coward. He denied Christ because he feared for his life. Later in life, he overcame this ugly sin and became bold unto death. Cowardice is linked to a guilty conscience: “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion” (PV 28:1). Cowards are in the same class with the unbelievers. They are not saved and cannot go to heaven. “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev 21:7-8).

Joshua is a hero of faith. He knew that Moses was a sinner saved by grace. He saw the weaknesses of Moses. After the death of Moses, Joshua obeyed the Words written by Moses as they are the very words of God. He did not repeat the mistakes of his mentor. God’s Word is the authority for Joshua and for every Christian. To obey the Word of God, to be faithful to God and your mentor, you need great courage! Unbelievers will mock and oppose you! You will be tempted and discriminated. To stand for God you need courage! All Christians must be strong and courageous! Stand like a man! For example, God said to Job: “Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me” (Job 40:7). What do you do when problems come. Do you faint or complain? Jesus said: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt 11:12).

Lesson: Obey God’s Word! Be strong in Christ! Encourage yourself! Do spiritual warfare and possess your possessions! Learn from the past, be strong today and have great hope for the future.

5-PREPARE – CROSS OVER – POSSESS THE LAND! YES, SIR!

“Joshua commanded the officers of the people “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess” (Josh1:10,11)

Immediately God finished talking to Joshua, he commanded the officers to tell the people to prepare for the cross over. Joshua did not ask questions and did not complain the way Moses did at the burning bush. He believed God for the mantle of leadership and ‘commanded’ the people. His obedience is instant, total, and joyful. This is a Spirit approved obedience. Like Apostle Paul, Joshua did not ‘confer with flesh and blood’ (Gal 1:16). He did not suggest that people should get ready. Like a true leader in the army, he commanded them to prepare for the cross over. A command is an order that you have to follow, as long as the person who gives it has authority over you. Joshua commands the officers to tell the people to prepare their food and get ready to move. In Hebrew, the word ‘prepare’ is to stand firm and get ready for action. There is a time for prayer, and there is a time for action! Now it is time to move! Like an army that goes to war, this is the time to move on, attack the Canaanites and occupy the land! Praise the Lord!

MARRIAGE AND MONEY – THE LORD IS MY HELPER

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all [that is, regarded as something of great value], and the marriage bed undefiled [by immorality or by any sexual sin]; for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed—be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, “I WILL NEVER [under any circumstances] DESERT YOU [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], NOR WILL I FORSAKE or LET YOU DOWN or RELAX MY HOLD ON YOU [assuredly not]! So, we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER [in time of need], I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME? (Heb 13:4-6; AMP)

God’s promise to Joshua that He will not leave or forsake him, appears in the New Testament too. This promise is given to all the believers in Christ.  “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Cor 1:20). God promises to be our Helper! A helper is one who gives strength, assistance, or support to another. To help it means to make it easier for someone to do something, by providing advice, money, or support. It means to assist another who is in a painful or difficult situation, to make it less painful. The helper does not take over. He does not do all the work. He helps you do your job. Without a helper, it is too difficult for you to finish the job.

The first time the word ‘helper’ appears in the Bible is in the Book of Genesis. God made the wife to be a helper comparable to her husband. “The Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Gen 2:18). The truth was that Adam was not totally alone. He had fellowship with God, and he took care of the animals in the garden. But emotionally, God was too high, and the animals were too low for him. Then God made Eve, his wife, who was a helper comparable with him.

Lesson: fast and pray before deciding who you will marry. Trust God for your choice. Both of you must be compatible, spiritually, and physically.  

There are two areas in particular when the believers need God’s help. The believers need God’s special Grace to cross over, to advance from immaturity to maturity, especially in the areas are marriage and managing their finances.

1-MARRIAGE

God invented marriage. God created Adam and then created Eve, his wife. God put them together as a married couple. Marriage is the first institution established by God. It was established before the fall of man. Sin has corrupted the marriage but has not totally destroyed its value. God desires sexual purity and holiness. Fornication, adultery, homosexuality, are sins. The beauty of holiness is upon a godly marriage between two mature believers. There is a great need today of godly married couples who can mentor the younger ones. A young marriage is like the water. A mature godly marriage is like water becoming wine. God promises to the husband and his wife: “I will never leave you nor forsake you”. We respond by boldly saying: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” This confidence and courage must be applied to the area of marriage. God’s presence is the sure source of true love, peace, joy, and unity of the Spirit in that home. There is no fear of divorce. No man, no devil can separate that couple. May we enter and possess our possessions of a mature godly marriage that glorifies God!

2-MONEY

Our relationship with money is another area that can make or destroy our testimony as believers. The Love of money is the root of all evil. The cure for that is living a content life. Contentment is defined as peace of mind, joy, a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in life. Contentment totally drives away the fear of death. Contentment is possible only by the Spirit of God. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:6-10). Paul had learned the secret of contentment in every circumstance of life (Phil 4:11-2).

What is the secret of this powerful victorious contentment?

1-Be grateful! Always give thanks to God! “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).

2-Be humble! Do not be selfish or overambitious. Be happy with a simpler life. Invest in the spiritual treasures more than on earthly gains.

Learn to serve others. Think of others. Have the mind of Christ. God will exalt you at the right time. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… He humbled Himself… “ (Phil 2:3-8).

3-Have faith in God! He promised to be your Helper, never to leave or forsake you! God knows what you need. God is your Helper: “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand… For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you” (Is 41:10, 13).

Before going to heaven, Jesus assured His disciples that He will always be with them. This promise applies to all believers. He said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen” (Matt 28:18-20).

Apply these cross-over commands to your marriage and to your finances! Say: ‘Yes, Sir!’

1-Arise and make progress! No more passivity! Actively stand and improve your relationship with your spouse. Your money will increase!

2-You will never fail! You’ll not divorce! You’ll not experience bankruptcy! Thru all trials of life, your marriage and finances will become better! I am with you! God’s presence will protect your marriage and your finances. You will be fruitful. You will have joy!

3-The Bible leads you in your relationship with your spouse and in managing your finances.

4-Be strong and courageous! The Holy Spirit will give you strength to improve your marriage and your finances!  

5-Get ready for action! You have prayed! Now, this is the time to apply all your know about marriage and money from the Bible!

I DECLARE: GOD IS MY HELPER! YES, SIR! In times of loneliness, He comforts me. In times of anxiety, He brings peace to my soul. In times of confusion, He helps me think well. In times of sickness, when even the doctors are confused, He heals me. In times of lack, when I don’t have money, He provides for me in so many ways. In times of attack, He saves me. When I am weak, He makes me strong. My Helper will never leave me not forsake me. By God’s grace I am ready to cross over and to possess my possessions. To the glory of God and for my own good!

My Prayer:

“I am poor and needy; Make haste to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay” (Ps 70:5)

Worship the Lord!