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He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! Psalm 107:20, 21 NKJV
Like Israel of the Old Testament, there are many—so many—Believers who are held captive by the enemy. They are bound by sin, sickness and disease, habits and lifestyles, and physical and emotional bondages; and they don’t know how to be free and stay free. But thank God for Jesus. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word, the Logos, the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings to heal and to deliver (Mal. 4:2). Now God wants His children to be free and stay free!
When God heals (Rapha, O.T.), He cure us; repairs us; and makes us whole. And, not only has God healed us, He has delivered (Malat, O.T.) us, i.e., made a way of escape, and released and rescued us from the Satan’s captivity. So, why don’t Believers stay free?
In the words of the Psalmist, “oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men (Text): God has sent His Word and Believers have been set free, but many just don’t stay free because they stop praising and thanking God. When you stop praising and thanking God, the enemy can easily distract you and captivate you, because your focus isn’t on God, your Liberator, who has the power to keep you free. Selah.
The Apostle Paul told the Colossian Christians to never stop thanking God for three things (See Col. 1:12-14): (1) God made us fit and qualified to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (Rom. 8:29-30); (2) He has delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son (Eph. 6:12; 1 Peter 2:9); and, (3) God has redeemed us by the blood of Jesus and forgiven us of our sins (Gal. 3:13; Eph. 1:7). Our qualification, deliverance, and redemption were all possible because God first sent His Word!
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? . . . If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it? Amos 3:3-6 NKJV
There are causal relationships in life. For example, choice and consequences; actions and reactions; and, cause and effect—that is, “but for” your choice, these are your consequences. In the above text, Amos’ prophetic assignment was to expose Israel’s sins, and to inform them that God would punish them for all their iniquities. He reminds Israel of the causal relationship between their sin and their separation from God. When sin is the cause, God’s judgment is the effect. So, can two walk together, except they are agreed?
What does “two walking together” mean? It means oneness and unity, i.e., unanimous in mind for the same purpose; agreement; and, togetherness. The only way for two to “walk together” to the same appointment or strive to reach the same goal, or see the fulfillment of the same vision, is to be together. If you are living on the other side of God’s righteousness, you aren’t walking in agreement with God. Many want God to walk with them, but they don’t walk with Him. .
Amos’ prophecy used five similes (figures of speech comparing one thing to another thing of a different kind), or you might say, parable-like questions to strike at the hearts of the sinful Israelites. Their impending calamity would be God’s doing. This principle isn’t limited to the Old Testament. Apostle Paul warned the Roman Christians that there would be “tribulation and distress upon every soul of man that does evil . . .” (Romans 2:9)
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? (2 Cor. 6:14). To walk with God, there must be a separation from sin and iniquity, and a separation to God. There is no agreement living in the middle. Either you’re walking with God or with sin and iniquity. Two cannot walk together, except they are agreed!
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 NKJV
In birthing the church, God eliminated one of the greatest division that ever existed among men—the animus and the bigotry between Jews and Gentiles. Jews and Gentiles had vast differences culturally, socially, and in their religious beliefs and practices, or a lack thereof. After being baptized into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), Paul told the newly formed church, consisting of both Gentiles and Jews, to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit, and that peace would be the glue to hold them together (Eph. 4:3). However, the unity of the Spirit is not the unity of the faith.
A common reaction when there are differences among people is divide and seek a more-in-common friendship, marriage, church, etc. Could this be why Paul pleaded with the Corinthian Christians to agree with one another so that there would be no divisions, and that they be perfectly united in mind and thought? (1 Cor. 1:10).
The Holy Spirit gives believers unity, and walking in love and in peace with others keeps that unity. But what is the unity of the faith? Consider Paul’s word to the Roman Christians:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17-18). Ergo, the unity of the faith is the equally shared belief among all believers in the doctrine of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and salvation by grace through faith (Author’s definition). So, it is God’s intention to use Ephesians 4:11 ministry gifts to perfect believers to do the work of the ministry to build up and advance the Body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith (Text).
Five-fold ministry gifts will all expire when believers come into the unity of the faith (doctrine), maturity (full growth and development), and conformity (morally like Christ, see 1 John 3:2). In John 17:20-23, Jesus prayed for believers’ unity of the faith. The Church is not there yet, but will get there!
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 Corinthians 12:13 NKJV
After you place your saving faith in Jesus Christ, immediately you are baptized into the Body of Christ by the Spirit and are made to drink into the Spirit. This is also a clear analogy of drinking water. For example, “on the last day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, if anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him. By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (John 37-39).
Water is not only an element of baptism, but it is also something we drink to sustain physical life. Just as we drink water, we also drink of the Holy Spirit when we are baptized into the Body of Christ. There can be no spiritual life without the presence and use of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit not only gives us sustaining power in our spiritual life, but He also unifies us into one Body. This unification gives you oneness and sameness in the Spirit. Oneness is being unanimous in mind for the same purpose; it is agreement and togetherness (1 Cor. 1:10).
Just because of different backgrounds, gifts and abilities, personalities and temperaments, it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is different or acts differently. The Spirit gives unity. This unity of the Spirit is given when you are baptized into the Body (text). But unity of the spirit is maintained not attained—you already have the unity (Eph. 4:3-6). Unity requires effort. To keep unity in the Body, the local church, marriage, or friendship, you must be able to distinguish between the essentials from the non-essentials. In essential matters, you need unity; in non-essentials, you give liberty; and, in all things, let there be charity! Unity of the Spirit is not uniformity; it is a spiritual commitment to endeavor to keep it!
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? . . . You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:16, 21 NKJV
Baptism into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) is not only a regeneration and integration (Titus 3:5), but it is also an initiation of participation of the many blessings of God (John 1:16; 2 Cor. 1:20).
In the New Testament Greek, the word for communion (koinonia) means partnership, participation, and social intercourse i.e., fellowship (1 Cor. 6:17). Taking Communion is a reminder of our daily partnership, participation and fellowship with the body and blood of Jesus Christ. But honest and true participation requires separation from all that is unclean, unholy things and evil people (Jer. 13:10).
God calls for separation: “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:17-18). However, separation has two sides: first, not touching the unclean and unholy things, but also, the believer separating himself to God (Rom. 12:1-2) Also, Jesus prayed in the Garden that those who believed would be in this world, but not of this world (John 17).
God’s promises, blessing and benefits are in the “cup of the Lord” which we drink and “the bread which we break.” Participation in these blessings and benefits demands a separation from all that is unclean, unholy things and evil people. You can’t have it both ways—you cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons (Text). Eating at the Lord’s Table means communing with Christ and identifying with His death, and eating at the table of demons means identifying with Satan by participating and promoting evil activities.
Are you trying to lead two lives; following the crowd and the cloud of the Holy Spirit who baptized you into the body? You must separate in order to participate! (2 Tim. 2:19-21).
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 Corinthians 12:13 NKJV
You can join the local church but you can’t join the Body of Christ; you must be baptized into the Body by the Spirit. This baptism whether you call it baptism “by, in, or with” the Holy Spirit-joins you to Christ (1 Cor. 6:17). This is the first blessing after placing your saving faith in Christ.
This first blessing and baptism has two aspects to it: regeneration (Titus 3:5) and integration (Rom. 8:9). When you believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into your life, and at that point, you are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. The moment you put your saving faith in Jesus Christ, you are baptized and regenerated into the Body of Christ, and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13; 4:30).
If the Holy Spirit is not in you, you don’t belong to Christ. When the Spirit is in you, you become a member of Christ’s Body; it is the Spirit which makes us one Body (1 Cor. 6:17). The Holy Spirit is like blood; it circulates through every member of the body. Without blood, the body dies. Without the Holy Spirit you are dead spiritually (John 6:53). Baptism in the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit is the believer’s first blessing!
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. Romans 1:16 NKJV
The Gospel is God’s good news to sinners that His Son Jesus Christ has taken their sins on Himself (1 Peter 2:24) and satisfied God’s demand for justice, by bearing the penalty of death for them (Ezek. 18:20); and not only that, He rose from the dead to give them eternal life (John 3:16). The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, in three dimensions, to everyone who believes: in their past, present, and future.
Salvation is not just a past single isolated event in one’s life. Salvation is progressive and effected by the Gospel which is the power of God. Naturally speaking, a Life Guard may save a drowning person today, but he doesn’t continue to save the person daily, nor does he promise to save the person in the future. When a sinner is saved in response to the Gospel message, the Gospel becomes the power of God unto that sinner’s past, present, and future salvation. The Gospel teaches us that Jesus Christ is a sinner’s spiritual Life Guard (Acts 4:12).
Salvation past occurred when a believer was saved from the guilt and the penalty of sin in their life (Luke 7:36-50). This is one’s initial salvation produced by the power of the Gospel. After this initial salvation, the believer is saved daily from the power of sin (Rom. 6:14). God’s standard for every believer to live a holy life. This expectation is never lowered; in fact, under Moses, the Law demanded holiness, but no man was able to keep the Law. God also requires a holy life under grace, too; but grace makes holiness possible—Christ lives His life through the believer.
Salvation future is a promise that every believer will be saved from the presence of sin in his old nature and become wholly sin-free just like the Lord (Rom. 13:11). Thus, if a sinner believed and acted on Romans 10:9 and 10, he was saved, he is being saved daily, and he shall be saved when he appears before the Lord in Glory. This is the progressive power of God unto salvation!
As he spake these words, many believed on him. 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:30-32 KJV
A Christian is generally defined as one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ. But does this include people who irregularly attend church services? Does this include democrats, republicans, conservatives, liberals and progressives, pro-life proponents and pro-choice proponents? What about members of radical hate groups; and, does it include all citizens born in a so-called “Christian” nation?
Seems like everyone and everything can be considered “Christian”—there seems to be as many flavors of a “Christian” as there are flavors of “Baskin-Robbins” Ice Cream. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5). True believers must examine themselves, based on the authority of the Scriptures, and ask themselves the question: What is a Christian? Am I a Christian according to God’s Word?
You cannot honestly begin a self-examination without admitting that Christianity, according to the Scriptures, is not a religion but a way of life (John 10:9, 10; 14:6); and, that acknowledging that Jesus, God’s Son, was not a Christian; He was a Jew who both kept and fulfilled the Law of Moses. Jesus never promised to build or establish a “Christian”, but rather He promised to build a “Church” (Matt. 16:18). He never said that “I am a Christian. But He did He say that “I am the Light of the world; I am the Way; I am the Door; I am the Gate; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the True Vine; I am the Bread of Life; and, I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
A true Christian is one who believes on Jesus and continues to follow His Word (Text). The Disciples of Christ were called “Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26), i.e., they were called “Christ ones” because they followed Christ—not as a compliment, but they were being mocked, derided, and persecuted. It was the world that coined the title “Christian”—not Christ! The Apostle Paul, who wrote 2/3 of the New Testament, referred to believers in his epistles as “saints, the church of God, or brethren.” Apostle Peter used the word “Christian” one time to comfort believers dealing with the suffering of shame that may have been associated with this name (1 Peter 4:16).
So, should it be discouraged for anyone to call a true disciple a Christian? Absolutely not! The take away here is simple: true disciples of Jesus should be the ones defining and framing what it means to be a Christian. We must be concerned about the Lord’s expectations—not the world’s! “Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart . . . Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart” (Lyrics, Negro Folk Song 1907).
And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Acts 16:30-33 NKJV
After God had given Israel rest from all their enemies in the Promised Land, Joshua—now old and advanced in age—gave Israel his final message with an unwavering conviction, saying: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos. 24:15). You can’t always understand the way that God works, but when a father believes and faithfully obey the Lord, sooner or later, his children will come along (Mal. 4:6). This is called Oikos evangelism, i.e., reaching out to the whole family and household.
For example, in our text above, the Philippian Jailor sought salvation; not only for himself, but for his household. He and his household were immediately baptized after Paul and Silas spoke the Word of the Lord to them. Now, the Philippian Jailor could also stand on Joshua’s conviction: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Jos. 24:15).
Another example would be Cornelius, a man who was devout, feared God, give alms to the poor, and even received a vision from God; yet, Cornelius hadn’t made Jesus Christ Lord and Savior. But after he received Peter’s preaching that Jesus is Lord, he and his relatives and near friends—gathered together in his house—all received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which strongly infers that they first received their salvation in Christ Jesus. As for Cornelius, he and his household served the Lord (Acts 10:1-5, 24, 44-45).
Fathers and the heads of households must let their lights shine, ala Joshua, the Philippian Jailor and Cornelius (Matt. 5:16). Too many heads of households have an unchristian reputation, i.e., how they live at home; thus, the unsaved living with them don’t see them practice the promises of God. When a father or head of household walks in faith and acts on what he believes, he will influence his relatives and household members toward the Lord. Then and only then, can he say with confidence: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”
And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. Acts 16:30-32 NKJV
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. Genesis 18:19 KJV
Headship is a fundamental arrangement that God uses to maintain order in the home. For example, according to the Scriptures, “the husband is the head of the wife” (Eph. 5:23; 1 Cor. 11:3). Subjection to a husband/father is essential to building a solid, happy, and peaceful family. According to U.S. Census Data, this principle of husbandly/fatherly headship is missing in 25% of white families and about 65% of black families in the U.S. But a lack of a husband/father doesn’t change the principle of headship; because mothers, out of necessity, will assume headship. I call this phenomenon “mother-head.”
Motherhood is the state and quality of being a mother (Merriam-Webster). On the other hand, “mother-head” is when the mother assumes headship, co-opting the roles, qualities and spirit of both mother and father (Author/Blogger).
God’s promise to save isn’t limited to gender. The Philippian Jailor and his household was promised salvation—not because he was a man, but because he was the head of a household (Acts 16:31-32). God honors headship regardless if the head is a male or female. In the home, God’s promises can only be circumvented only if the head of the family and household doesn’t live for God, nor command his children and household to do the same. The primary responsibility of the “head” is to command, i.e., instruct and teach, his children and household in two ways: (1) to keep the ways of the Lord; and, (2) to do righteousness and justice (Gen. 18:19). “Mother-head” is when a single mother is given this charge out of necessity.
It is God who builds a family and household (Psalm 127:1). And, it is God who gives a single mother the grace for “headship.” In fact, most single mothers would gladly choose motherhood over “mother-head” where they have to wear both “hats”—fulfilling the roles and responsibility of a mother and father. Some fathers are present, some AWOL, and some are just titular heads.
A present father will lead his wife and children and other members of the household, thus fulfilling his God-given role and responsibility. An AWOL father is absent—not present in the mother or the children lives. And, a titular father is the “head” only in name. He is physically present but emotionally and spiritually absent. Without headship from a father, children are at risk of behavior problems, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, gang membership, substance abuse, crime, prison, and poverty. But when a mother is forced into “mother-head”, God will still honor his promise to her and her household. Happy Mother’s Day!