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The Ways of Life

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish. Psalm 1:6 NKJV

In life, there many roads that leads to many destinations. But there are only two roads and two destinations that lead to eternity. One road leads to heaven—way of the righteous; and the other road leads to hell—the way of the ungodly. These are inescapable truths.

The first mention of the word “way” in the Bible is found in Genesis 3:24 when God expelled Adam and Eve, from the Garden of Eden, for their rebellious and irresponsible behavior, after they sinned against God’s command. After God’s judgment of Cherubim and a flaming sword to protect the “tree of life”, they could no longer travel that “way” of life; and thus, began to die spiritually and eventually, physically.

There are only two ways of looking at life—the God-centered viewpoint, which leads to life, and a man-centered viewpoint that leads to death. Ergo, the psalmist concluded that there are only two ways of life—the way of the righteous and the way of the ungodly.

It has been said that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Good intentions aren’t good enough. Everything that seems right, or looks right, or sounds right, or even feels right may not be right, but it may lead to death (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount that life presents us with two “gates” that lead to two ways: the narrow gate is the way that  leads to life and the broad gate leads to death (Matt. 7:13-14).

So, what is the way of the righteous? Isaiah spoke of the “way” that we should walk in and not turn to the right hand or to the left hand (Isa. 30:21). Jesus said that He was and is that way (John 14:6). Make no mistake about it. Jesus doesn’t show the way; He is the way. Salvation is in a person (2 Tim. 1:12). Jesus is not one of many ways. He is the only way to heaven; not religion, the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, not even Church membership. In life, there is only the way of the righteous and the way of the ungodly. Jesus is the way of the righteous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loves Shows the Way

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:48 NKJV

How can we be perfect—sinless and flawlessly perfect? As long as we have an earthly nature, we will never have sinless perfection like God does in heaven, but we can be perfect in character, in holiness, in maturity, and in love. How? Love shows the way to perfection.

Being on the path of perfection and staying on the path can be hard. For example, whenever we are wronged, often our first reaction is to get even and retaliate against our perceived enemy, and to keep score of their wrongs. Jesus taught that we should love and forgive, but is this natural? No, it is supernatural, and only God’s love can show us the way to the path of perfection, because love and forgiveness keeps us on the path.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlined several “higher standards of righteous” for us to practice if we were ever to become perfect (Matt. 5:38-48). Retaliation, revenge, refusing to give, hate, and not praying for those who hurt us, will cause us to stall on the path. Humanly speaking, the exceeding high standard of behavior the Lord calls for is nearly impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit and God’s love in your heart (Matt. 5:20). Once on the path, we must be determined to stay on the path; therefore, we must forget about all of our past failures, mistakes, missteps, and short-comings and keep pressing on (Phil. 3:13-14).

Love shows the way to those who aspire to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). On the path of perfection, we must resist retaliation when wronged and desire Christian maturity; we must love those who hate us; pray for those who persecute us; and, show kindness to both friend and foe by imitating God’s love. Love shows the way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excellence Is Not Perfection

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:48 KJV

“Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Why? The will of God here on earth is the same will as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).  Not only is God perfect in heaven and earth, He has an excellent Spirit; and, the people of God should also strive for a spirit of excellence while on the path of perfection. Excellence is not perfection, but helps to keep you on the path of perfection.

Often people conflate excellence with perfection. In fact, some with a spirit of excellence are sometimes accused of being a perfectionist—not in most cases. Having a spirit of excellence is not perfection. They are not the same. For example, Noah was just man and perfect in his generations and he walked with God, but the Bible doesn’t say that he had a spirit of excellence (Gen. 6:9). Job was a perfect and upright man, i.e., full of integrity and truth, but he wasn’t one with a spirit of excellence (Job 1:1; 3:25); but on the other hand, Daniel had an excellent spirit, but not perfection (Dan. 6:3).

What is a spirit of excellence?  It is living in a state of excellence and valuable quality (Merriam-Webster), measured by one’s heart—not the abundance of skill (Col. 3:23); whether you’re facing a test or trial, believing God’s promise, serving in ministry, or just living your life, do it with a spirit of excellence. It is doing everything heartily to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). This is the spirit that keeps you on the path of perfection.

A spirit of excellence is always about man’s doing (Prov. 12:26). An Excellent Spirit is about the Lord and His Doings (Ps. 8:1). Man’s spirit of excellence will demand and command valuable quality (Isa. 12:5) while God’s excellent Spirit releases the Word and works of the Lord (Prov. 22:20). Just know that a believer with a spirit of excellence will imitate God’s excellent Spirit in order to stay on the path of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Lose Your Joy!

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:48 NKJV

The apostle James taught us to consider various trials encountered as joy, showing a direct relationship between the testing of one’s faith with patience; and, patience working perfection (Jas. 1:2-4). I think James knew that in life stuff would happen and Satan’s number one weapon is affliction (Mark 4:17). Afflictions are the pressures of life: sickness, financial problems, persecution, trouble, various tests and trials. So, when you encounter pressures of life, don’t get upset; don’t lose your joy. Endure it with the joy of the Lord knowing that these things are being used to produce patience and patience puts you on the path of perfection, if you don’t lose your joy.

We are to consider various trial in life as joy—not happiness. Why? Happiness is a state of well-being and contentment because someone or something brought you pleasurable satisfaction (Merriam-Webster). Happiness is based on “happenings” or circumstances, but circumstances are subject to change; then your feeling of happiness changes. On the other hand, joy is a force of the Spirit of God; an unchanging attribute of God’s Spirit; a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is patience during the trial, coupled with joy that sets you on the path of perfection.

When trials come to try your faith and test your character, joy is your best character witness. Joy gives you strength to endure (Neh.8:10). For example, Jesus, in His earthly perfection, endured the cross with joy (Heb. 12:2); and, Peter and the apostles rejoiced after being persecuted and beaten (Acts 5:41). They gloried also in their tribulation (Rom. 5:3), and they patiently endured—showing no impatience or weariness—but they endured what was happening with joy (Matt. 10:22), with patience and joy gaining the life of their souls and experiencing the reality of their faith (Luke 21:19).

If the path of perfection were a train, i.e., a love train, then joy would be the engine; peace would be a box car; and, patience would be the caboose. Patience must be constant with joy throughout the trial, whether you’re believing God for provision (Phil. 4:19), or believing for physical or emotional healing (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus said, “these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” [complete, perfect, entire lacking nothing]. Don’t lose your joy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Path to Perfection

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:48 NKJV

I have read that sacred cows are worshipped in India. Many will not eat a cow—but they worship them—notwithstanding widespread hunger and poverty. Likewise, some people worship the Bible. They won’t believe it or act on it; they just worship it. When trials, tribulations, troubles and problems come, for far too many, their troubles have become a sacred cow, because they erroneously believe that these problems somehow perfect them.

In the text above, Jesus taught the multitudes to be perfect, i.e., fully developed. While we live here on planet earth, since we retain the old nature, we are not perfect as God is perfect—that is, sinless perfection, but we can be both fully formed spiritually and spiritually fully developed on the path to Heaven.

Perfection is the offspring of patience, and patience is a fruit of the Spirit that preceded by love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22). According to Apostle James, the path of perfection begins with joy (Jas. 1:2-4). James didn’t say count it all joy when you walk or jump into a trial. In fact, Jesus taught us to avoid these kinds of situations (Matt. 6:13). When you fall, don’t get upset. Just know that the pressures of life are being used to produce patience, and patience puts you on the path of perfection.

The Apostle Paul told the Roman Christians to glory in tribulations because tribulations work patience (Rom. 5:3).  You can come out a tribulation perfect, not because of the trial but because you allowed patience to have her perfect work. James didn’t say that the trying of your faith makes you perfect. The trying of your faith is a call for patience, and patience sets you on the path of perfection.

It is patience that produces a perfect work in our lives. Patience is enduring affliction without anger or complaint. It is not waiting for something to happen, but it is enduring what is happening (Matt. 10:22). Patience comes in to undergird your faith when all hell breaks loose. Patience reinforces your faith like pier under a bridge. The trying of your faith doesn’t prefect faith, but it put your patience on the path of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sow a Seed Reap a Harvest

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:7-9 NKJV

There are times in life when it seems like nothing is happening in fulfillment of what God said. During these difficult times you begin to wonder, what’s the use? Perhaps you said to yourself or to others, “I’ve tried to be faithful. I’ve done all that I know to do: I’ve been praying, faithfully attending church, and regularly tithing. I’ve been doing everything that I thought I should do but nothing seems to be happening, so what should I do?”   Keep sowing your seed!

Don’t give in to deception because God is not mocked. Resist discouragement and weariness because you will surely reap a harvest in due season, if you don’t lose heart (Text). There are three unchangeable things about God: (1) God doesn’t lie (Num. 23:19), (2) God doesn’t change His mind (2), and God cannot be mocked (Gal. 6:7). What God has promised to you is true; and, what God has spoken concerning you shall come to pass—not in your time (Chronos) but in His time (Kairos)—at the set time; at the proper time and season.

Cast your seed in the ground of your heart and leave it there and your harvest will come (Mark 4:26-29).  Never uproot your seed. Something secretly and powerfully is happening inside the seed. Life is in the seed, not the soil. E.g., when the seed of God’s Word is planted in your heart, you receive new life, for it is God who creates that life and watches over His Word to perform it (Jer. 1:12). Sow a seed and reap a harvest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fireproof Faith

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 NKJV

1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” Why? Hopefully because of your faith in the power of God, His promise, and His character and integrity as Sovereign God—you are fireproof. To be fireproof is to be able to withstand great heat or fire; it is to be resistant to destruction by fire. Fiery trials in your life may not be literal fiery furnaces, but it can feel that way in crumbling marriage, imminent financial ruin, having an incurable sickness, etc.

A fireproof safe is designed to resist extreme heat and flames to protect the contents, per the fire-resistance specifications. God has designed us—not to resist the heat and fire—but to endure the fiery trial. Our best example of this is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego and their fiery furnace ordeal. They displayed the following characteristics of fireproof faith:

(1) Boldness (Dan. 3:18, 19). They didn’t just “talk the talk”; they walked the walk. Their faith had bold corresponding actions (Jas. 2:26); (2) Fearless (Dan. 3:20, 21). They didn’t resist or try to escape the trial, no matter how fiery the furnace may have been. They allowed patience to work in the trying of their faith (Jas. 1:2-4); (3) Relentless (Dan. 3:22). They were determined, unyielding, and unswerving trusting in God‘s deliverance notwithstanding the threat. They confirmed that the righteous is delivered from trouble, and it comes to the wicked instead (Prov.11:8); (4) Humility (Dan. 3: 23). No matter what, they fell down on “bended knees” in a show of humility and prayer, believing for God’s deliverance (1 Peter 5:6-7; Ps. 34:7-8); and, (5) they showed that fireproof faith seeks to please the God at all times; as a result, they were delivered by the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) and regained their favor with the wicked king (Prov. 16:7).

Beloved, you too have fireproof faith, and in this you can greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you may have been grieved by various fiery trials; but know this—that the testing of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).

 

But if Not

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 NKJV

Can you imagine being in a situation where you are under life-threatening pressure to deny God and His Word? What would you do? Would you cave? Would you compromise? Would you coward?  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (the three Hebrew boys) chose to be faithful to God, no matter what happened. They trusted in God to deliver them, and they were determined to be faithful regardless of the consequences.

Yes, God has the power to deliver and could and did deliver them, and God can deliver you in any situation, too. But if not, will you continue to trust Him? Think about it. If God automatically delivered those who were true to Him, Christians wouldn’t need faith “in the fire”—facing some fiery trial. Faith in God is not a “fiery trial” insurance policy. We should be faithful to serve God and stand on His Word whether He intervenes on our behalf or not. But if not, our eternal reward in heaven is worth any suffering we may endure, here on earth.

Although the three Hebrews boys boldly told king Nebuchadnezzar that they had no need to answer him in the matter (Dan. 3:16), the king gave them a chance to change their minds; but they did not. They continued to believe in the power of God and in the promise of God to deliver them; but if not, i.e., if God chose not to intervene, their resolve remained unchanged. Under these same set of circumstances, would your faith be unshakable and undeniable? Or, would you have faith to say, “But if not.”

“But if not” expresses strong faith in the character and integrity of God, and His sovereignty. Remember God said, “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isa. 43:7). Every thing that happens or don’t happen in the life of one who believes in God is according to His eternal purpose—good and adversity. Job, through all of his suffering understood “but if not” (Job 2:9-10; 13:15; 19:25-26). David in the 23rd Psalm knew that “but if not” was about faith over fear (Ps. 23:4), and Jesus also emphasized the importance of faith in the face of fear (Matt. 10:28, 32, 33). “But if not” as displayed by the three Hebrew boys demonstrated that “but if not” is about boldness in the faith (Prov. 28:1).

Bottom line: “but if not” recognizes that God’s glory is greater than your story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego’s “but if not” experience in the fiery burning furnace was, not so much, about their story, or their experience; but rather, their victory was all about God’s glory. “But if not” continues to trust in God!

 

 

 

Undeniable Faith

Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:14-18 NKJV

Undeniable faith “in the fire” is plainly visible and unquestionably true faith. It isn’t foolish or presumptuous; it doesn’t resist the fire, it falls down in the fire in humility and faith in God (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Peter 5:5-6). If you don’t deny your faith in God, He won’t deny you when “in the fire.” And, remember, God doesn’t deliver you from the fire; He delivers you in the fire. Thank God, there can be victory in the fire where there is undeniable faith!

The first commandment written by the finger of God was: “Thou shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). God was saying, “don’t ever let any other “god” get between your face and my face; never place a less powerful being between me and you. Even if you find yourself facing some extremely painful and unbearable situation,  a hard test or trial, or even threaten with a “burning fiery furnace” experience, don’t serve that god, nor bow down to worship it. Never ever deny your faith.

As demonstrated by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, undeniable faith is strong faith—faith so strong—in God that is incapable of being contradicted, denied or disputed; faith that is incontestable and unquestionable, even in the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Some of the characteristics of undeniable faith, which can be plainly seen, are that your faith is unshakable, bold, and fearless; and, you don’t try to figure things out or explain it away; you don’t compromise; and, you abide in constant unswerving faith.

The three Hebrews, mentioned above, abided in three levels of undeniable faith. First, faith in the power of God when they said to the king, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; second,  they expressed faith in the promise of God saying, “He will deliver us from your hand, O king; and, thirdly, they intimated faith in the character of God saying, “But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image . . .” (Dan. 3:16-18). Undeniable faith manifested for them a complete deliverance, without hurt or harm, from the burning fiery furnace (Dan. 3:26-27).

 

Unshakable Faith

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”  Daniel 3:16-18 NKJV

As Christians, we all have faith (Rom. 12:3), but we don’t all have unshakable faith. We can sometimes find ourselves “in the fire.” The expression “in the fire” is an idiom that means that you’ve encountered a situation, test or trial that is extremely painful and unbearable; you’re facing a circumstance that threatens to consume you. In order not to be consumed and defeated, you need faith in the fire—an unshakable faith.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to serve neither king Nebuchadnezzar’s false gods nor bow down to worship the gold mage that he set up. They stood on the Word of God as outlined in the first of God’s commandments ever given to Israel (Ex. 20:2-4). As a consequence, they were casted into a burning fiery furnace, literally. In the face of impending death and being consumed in the flames, they demonstrated their faith—unshakable faith (Dan. 3:16).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego demonstrated, not an ordinary faith, but an unshakable faith. This strong kind of faith delivered these three Hebrews. Their response to the king showed that that there are three levels of unshakable faith. They said the following to the king: (1) “God is able to deliver us.” They had faith in the power of God (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 3:20); (2) further said, “[God] will deliver us from your hand, O king.” This evidences that they had faith in the promises of God (Ps. 34:17, 19); and, (3) moreover saying to the king, “But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image . . .“ This unquestionably proves that they had a deep faith in the character of God and His Word (Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5; Heb. 13:5; Matt. 18:20).

Metaphorically, when you find yourself “in the fire”, just know that every fiery experience has a God-ordained purpose when you stand with unshakable faith (Rom. 8:28), regardless of the circumstance or situation—God is at work, and He will meet you in the midst of the fire just like He did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Dan. 3:24-25).

Again, not only did their unshakable faith deliver them, it also converted a whole nation to the true God (Prov. 16:7). Unshakable faith is knowing that no matter what you’re facing—even in the midst of the fire—nothing is greater than God. Faith in the fire knows that God can do anything, and He will deliver you from all things including a premature death. God said, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you” (Isa. 43:2). Faith in the fire is unshakable faith!