Friday, September 30, 2022

What Are the Hindrances to Prayers?

What Are the Hindrances to Prayers?

By Dr. Shirley Cheng

When you pray, do you feel that Yahweh God Almighty is ignoring your prayer? After all, prayer is communication with Yahweh; it is a two-way conversation. So when it seems as though your prayers are not being answered, there may be good reasons for it.

There are hindrances to prayers--things and behaviors that will prevent an answered prayer. Here, let us briefly go over some of these hindrances, so we can learn to eliminate them in our lives.

Disbelief

"But let him ask in faith, without any doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. For let that man not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." (James 1:6-8, WEB)

When we pray to Yahweh, we need to have the right heart attitude of belief. Yahweh is Almighty, and His very name means "He who chooses to become," meaning that He has the ability and power to be and do anything He wants. When we ask for something yet doubt whether He can grant the request, we are treating Him as though He lacks the power to do what we ask for.

Not praying according to God's will

Jesus, God's Son, taught us to pray: "Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth." (Matthew 6:10)

We need to pray for Yahweh's Kingdom to come and desire for His will to be fulfilled on Earth, as it is in His heavenly home. His Kingdom encompasses His entire will for us.

When we pray without taking God's will into account, we are praying with the wrong motives: "You ask, and don't receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures." (James 4:3)

We must seek God's Kingdom first; make it our number one priority. His Kingdom is the answer to all of our needs, and it's the solution to all of our problems. When His Kingdom comes, we will have everything. Jesus promised: "But seek first God's Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things [material necessities] will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)

Our relationship with our Heavenly Father is like any relationship between earthly parents and their child. Not everything a child asks for will be granted by his parents. The parents answer requests based on their will and promises. This is done in everyone's best interest. Likewise, Yahweh grants our wishes only according to His will and His promises for us. Rest assured, His will for us is purely good.

Before we can ask according to God's will, we obviously need to know what His will is, don't we? So where can we find out? Why, in the Bible, of course! Pick up a copy of the Bible, read and study it. Take note of God's will and promises, and then pray according to them. (And if you need help in studying and understanding the Bible, just reply to this newsletter and I'd be more than glad to be your Bible study buddy!)

Not remaining in Jesus and his words

We know that we need to seek the will of God, and part of that will is for us to remain in Him and His Son. "Remaining" in God and Jesus is living in them by doing their will, following their teachings and words. When we ask for something and don't do what Yahweh desires, it shows that we are asking for selfish reasons, without taking God's will into consideration.

Jesus promised us: "If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it will be done for you." (John 15:7)

Not praying in Jesus' name

Jesus told us to pray in his name: "Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." (John 14:13)

"Most certainly I tell you, whatever you may ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full." (John 16:23, 24)

Praying in the name of Jesus does not merely mean that we conclude our prayers with, "In the name of Jesus Christ I pray." Rather, it also means to pray with the qualities of Jesus Christ, as "name" also denotes someone's characteristics and essence. We are to be Christ-like when we go before Yahweh in prayers: humble, faithful, and loving.

Praying hypocritically

Jesus denounced those who pray just to show off: "When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward." (Matthew 6:5) Hypocrites will receive the reward they long for--praise from man--but they will not receive the reward of true value: that comes from God.

In order for our prayers to be answered by Yahweh, we must pray in humility, truthfully and sincerely from our hearts, and according to the truths of God as presented in the Bible. We should pray in secrecy: "But you, when you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matthew 6:6)

While praying, we should be earnest, without using meaningless repetition, such as memorized prayers, chants or mantras: "In praying, don't use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. Therefore don't be like them, for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask him." (Matthew 6:7-8)

Not forgiving others

Is it right to ask God to forgive our sins when we don't forgive others ourselves?

Jesus told us to pray: "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." (Matthew 6:12)

So before we pray, we should achieve a peaceful mind and hold no grudges in our hearts. When we forgive the wrong that has been done to us, we will be able to ask God's forgiveness for our own wrongdoing, for "if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (Matthew 6:14)

Selfishness and lack of compassion

"Whoever stops his ears at the cry of the poor, he will also cry out, but shall not be heard." (Proverbs 21:13)

Mistreatment of your marriage partner

"You husbands, in the same way, live with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor to the woman, as to the weaker vessel, as being also joint heirs of the grace of life; that your prayers may not be hindered." (1 Peter 3:7)

Pride

"There they cry, but none gives answer, because of the pride of evil men." (Job 35:12)

Sin of any kind

As you can see, any sin keeps you from receiving an answer to your prayer from Yahweh.

"Behold, Yahweh's hand is not shortened, that it can't save; neither his ear heavy, that it can't hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:1-2)

Yahweh said: "When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you. Yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil. Learn to do well. Seek justice. Relieve the oppressed. Judge the fatherless. Plead for the widow." (Isaiah 1:15-17)

"He who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination." (Proverbs 28:9)

"The sacrifice made by the wicked is an abomination to Yahweh, but the prayer of the upright is his delight." (Proverbs 15:8)

Therefore, before God answers our prayers, we must eliminate any and all sins from our lives. How can we avoid and treat sins? We do it through the born-again experience.

Demonic hindrances

While sins are a major blockade to prayers, the righteous--those who whole-heartedly devote their lives to seeking God's will--can experience delayed answers to their prayers due to Satanic hindrances. For example, the great prophet Daniel did not receive God's answer for his prayer until twenty-one days later because of demonic hindrances:

"Daniel, you man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright; for am I now sent to you... Don't be afraid, Daniel; for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard: and I have come for your words' sake. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but, behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me: and I remained there with the kings of Persia." (Daniel 10:11-13) The one speaking to Daniel here was an angel. Since only spiritual beings could hinder an angel, we know that the "prince of the kingdom of Persia" was an evil angel which we call a "demon."

The apostle Paul reminded us: "For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world's rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)

Yes, our main enemies are the demonic forces--evil spirits who do the will of their leader, Satan the devil. Satan and his followers do anything they can to go against Yahweh. From Daniel's experience, we can see that Satan has organized his evil force in the form of "principalities," where a demon rules over one specific region of Earth, like the "prince of the kingdom of Persia" mentioned in the book of Daniel. This is the "principalities" Paul spoke of.

Therefore, we must be strong, hold steadfast to our faith, and constantly rely on God to help us ward off the evil spirits. We must be persistent in our prayers. Jesus urged us to persistently pray to God. (Luke 18:1-8)

Jesus promised: "Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)

So keep on asking, seeking, and knocking according to the will of Yahweh, and He will answer you in His due time!

One final word...

Many times, Yahweh answers our prayers not exactly in the way we expect. Sometimes, we may not even realize He has answered us. Other times, He will not answer us when our wishes conflict with His will. But Yahweh will always do what is best for us. So even though we don't get everything we want, we will always, always get the best.

And the best of the best is a sacred, intimate relationship with Yahweh. Pray that you will develop such a relationship with Him. Seek His face, and you shall find Him!

Yahweh said: "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

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Learn the Entire Bible in Depth from Genesis to Revelation via E-mail with Dr. Shirley Cheng:

Would you like to know your Creator, understand your origin, and fulfill your purpose? Do you desire to obtain true, enduring wealth, happiness, and wisdom? Then embark on your path to wisdom by learning about your Creator and His will from His Word, the Bible, and apply His principles to your life, as the fear of Yahweh God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

Obtain an in-depth knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (both the Tanakh and the Greek Scriptures) to help you deepen your understanding of Yahweh (Jehovah) God Almighty and His plans and develop a sacred relationship with your Heavenly Father. In the In-Depth Ultra-Ability Bible Virtual Class via E-mail from Ultra-Ability Ministry, you'll be able to learn the Bible in depth from Genesis to Revelation. Sign up for the free virtual class by filling out the short form at http://www.ultra-ability.com

Dr. Shirley Cheng (b. 1983) is a blind and physically disabled award-winning author with twenty-seven book awards, proclaimer of Yahweh God's good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, Bible teacher, founder of Ultra-Ability Ministry, summa cum laude graduate with Doctor of Divinity, motivational speaker, poet; and author of nine books (including "Do You Love Jehovah?"), contributor to over twenty-five, and an editor of one. Shirley has had severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since infancy. Owing to years of hospitalization, she received no education until age eleven. Back then, she knew only her ABCs and very simple English; other than that, her book knowledge was non-existent. However, after only about 180 days of special education in elementary school, she mastered grade level and entered a regular sixth grade class in middle school. Visit http://www.ShirleyCheng.com



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Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Life of Jesus Christ, A Bird's Eye View

The Life of Jesus Christ, A Bird's Eye View

By Carl Michaelis

To summarize the life of Jesus Christ in an article is an impossible task. Entire books have been written on specific aspects of Jesus life or death and I for one would not presume to have it all in this one article. What I am going to do is give a bird's eye view of the life of Jesus Christ, without going into the deeper meanings (and different interpretations) of his life on earth.

The earliest records of the life of Jesus are those written by his followers in the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There exist also first- and second- century Jewish and Roman accounts of his life. Roman historian, Tacitus, referred to the crucifixion of Jesus. Josephus, a Jewish historian, wrote of the teachings of Jesus as well as his miracles.

Jesus was born to Mary, a devout Jewish woman and to Joseph, a carpenter. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew say that Jesus was, however, conceived by a miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit. The writings also tell that Jesus was born in Bethlehem where Joseph and Mary traveled because of a decree from Rome. Caesar Augustus was ruler, and Rome was the capital of the civilized world. In order to fulfill census requirements, all families had to register in their hometowns. Joseph, a descendant of the great King, David, was thus required to register in Bethlehem.

When eight days passed, the child Jesus was circumcised, and was named Jesus because an angel had given him this name before birth. He grew up in Nazareth, a small foothill village in the of Galilee (northern province of Israel).

Little has been written of the childhood of Jesus, except that when he was twelve, his parents found him astounding the elders by his teaching in the Temple.

Jesus began his public ministry when he was thirty years old. Along with preaching about the afterlife and salvation, Jesus is also said to have performed many miracles and healings. His first recorded miracle was at a wedding feast in Cana. Rather than see the bride and groom embarrassed that the wine for their celebration ran out, Jesus, at the urging of his mother, turned the water in the jugs into fine wine.

Other miracles included the feeding of 5,000 people who came to hear him teach using only a few loaves of bread and fish. It is said that those who approached him for healings needed to display faith in him; e.g., Jesus asked a man seeking healing for his son if he indeed believed that Jesus could do this.

Jesus gave many sermons, one of the most famous is referred to as The Sermon on The Mount. This was a short teaching on morality, stressing love of God and love of neighbor. He also used a story-telling method called parables. In these parables Jesus used teaching-stories which centered around every day life of the time, such as changes in nature or the goodness in a stranger and a despised foreigner (the Good Samaritan).

Jesus' mission was not political. His message was that He came to free men and women from their sins. He gained many followers during his lifetime and attracted crowds. But soon attitudes would change toward him. His teachings offended the political and religious leaders of his day.

During his final week on earth, Jesus would arrive in triumph is Jerusalem on Sunday. Monday, he would display righteous anger by chasing the moneychangers from the Temple. Tuesday he taught about obligations to government and religion. He spoke of the generosity of a widow who gave her last money to charity. He made predictions about his death. Unknowingly, He was anointed for burial on Wednesday by a repentant woman while in Bethany. He shared his final meal (Last Supper) with his disciples on Thursday. This was the Day of Preparation for the Passover. At that time he showed humility by washing his disciples' feet. At the meal, he received the kiss of betrayal from his apostle, Judas. Before his arrest, Jesus prayed alone--and agonized on the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem, while his disciples slept nearby.

About 30 A.D., on Friday Christians call good, Jesus was crucified. Christians believe he willingly gave us his life to redeem souls and open the gate of heaven to all. Gospel accounts assert that he later on rose from the dead. Many centuries later, Christians believe Jesus was the saviour of the world and also believe that he was the son of God.

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The newly released Story of Jesus [http://www.storyofjesusofnazareth.com/the-story-of-jesus/] book by Carl Michaelis paints a vivid picture of the people surrounding Jesus and the way of life of the community of his followers. Although fictional, Carl Michaelis did his best to keep his story of Jesus historically accurate as well as engaging and thrilling.

Check out this webpage - The Story of Jesus [http://www.storyofjesusofnazareth.com/the-story-of-jesus/] to find out more.



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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Understanding the Gospel of Matthew and Why it Matters - Part 10

Understanding the Gospel of Matthew and Why it Matters - Part 10

By Justin Nale

Matthew 3:7-10

John Rebukes the Pharisees and Sadducees

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children of Abraham.

10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

The Brood of Vipers (v.7)

American Christianity is currently divided into two groups: Catholics and Protestants. Similarly, in the New Testament, most Jews aligned themselves with one of two groups: the Pharisees or the Sadducees.

The Pharisees were considered the more conservative group. Their philosophy was one of law-keeping, and their purpose was to ensure that the Jewish people obeyed God's law to the letter. John MacArthur writes:
"The Pharisees formed a self-righteous, 'holy' community within the community; they were legalistic isolationists who had no regard or respect for those outside their sect. They believed strongly in God's sovereignty and in divine destiny and that they alone were the true Israel. They considered themselves to be superspiritual, but their 'spirituality' was entirely external, consisting of the pursuit of meticulous observance of a multitude of religious rituals and taboos, most of which they and various other religious leaders had devised over the previous several centuries as supplements to the law of Moses. They were known collectively as 'the tradition of elders,' concerning which Jesus gave the Pharisees one of his strongest rebukes, charging them with 'teaching as doctrines the precepts of men' (Matt. 15:2-9)."

The Sadducees were the more liberal sect. They rightly rejected the Pharisees' legalism, and accepted the Torah as the only true law of God. Unfortunately, they also rejected many teachings of the Scriptures, including the existence of angels, spirits, and the afterlife. Consequently, whereas the Pharisees sought to store up treasures in heaven by their obedience, the Sadducees' motto could have been carpe diem - "seize the day." Their perspective was noted by Isaiah: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

The Pharisees were certainly the more popular group in the time of Jesus. Their external forms of religiosity were seen by all and admired by many. The Sadducees were seen as traitors for cutting deals with the Romans and helping to enforce their rule. Despite all their differences, one common bond united these two very different groups: they both adamantly opposed the ministry of Jesus and were convinced that His claims to Messiahship were nothing short of blasphemy. Ultimately, it was the working together of the Pharisees and the Sadducees that resulted in Jesus being crucified on the cross of Calvary.

As John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing people in the Jordan River, a group of Pharisees and Sadducees approach him for baptism. His response is shocking: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"

What does John mean by referring to the religious leaders as the offspring of snakes? There is probably a double meaning. Vipers were particularly known in New Testament times as being violent snakes. The common myth was that after the male and female viper had mated, the female viper would kill and eat the male. Then, when the female viper gave birth to her brood, the young would kill and eat their mother. In a similar way, John seems to be accusing the Pharisees and Sadducees of being responsible for the spiritual deaths of their numerous Jewish followers. Jesus later echoed this sentiment as He condemned the Scribes and Pharisees:
"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves."

Also, by calling the Pharisees and Sadducees a "brood of vipers", John is raising the idea that they are children of the Devil, the great Serpent himself. Again, this is a sentiment that Jesus later states more clearly by saying, "Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires."

When John asks them, "Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" the emphasis is on the word "you". "Who warned you to flee, when there is so little chance of you escaping?" John the Baptist understood that it is those people who have long been involved in the external forms of religion who are often the hardest to save. Satan's firmest grip is not on the Hitlers and Stalins of the world, but on the Deacon Jones' who believe themselves safe though they do not have an authentic faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Week after week they hear the gospel preached, and maybe even teach it themselves in Sunday School classes or Bible study groups. Yet each time they hear it, they refuse to be convicted, and their heart is hardened just a little more. No one knew the Scriptures better than the Pharisees and Sadducees, and no one was further way from receiving its central, soul-saving message.

The Importance of Bearing Fruit (v. 8)

Most pastors I know would never turn away someone who wanted to be baptized. Yet that is exactly what John the Baptist did. When some of the Pharisees and Sadducees approached him, he refused them, saying "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." Remember, baptism is an external action that symbolizes and publicly expresses a previous internal change. The symbolic washing in the water is to represent the inner washing that has already taken place when a person has repented of their sins and placed their trust in God. John the Baptist rightly suspected that these religious leaders were trying to pull off the same ploy they were known for: participating in the external action without any corresponding internal change. Put simply, John was not convinced that these men had authentically repented, and therefore he refused to baptize them. Instead, he demanded that they show evidence that their repentance was real.

The Abraham Objection (v. 9)

Having dared to reproach these Pharisees and Sadducees, John the Baptist anticipated their objection and answered it before they could speak. For centuries the message had been proclaimed in Israel that there would come a day when God would set up His perfect kingdom, and that the members of that kingdom would be children of Abraham. The religious leaders wrongly assumed that this meant that anybody who had Abraham's blood in their veins was a shoo in to heaven - whether they had repented or not. Their understanding was that a person could live like the devil their entire life, but because of God's promise to Abraham, they would still be saved.

As the Apostle Paul makes abundantly clear in his letter to the Galatians, heaven will indeed belong to the children of Abraham. But the children of Abraham are not those who share his blood, but those who share his faith:
"Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel before hand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.' So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."

As a child, we would often sing a song called "Father Abraham" in church. The song says:

Father Abraham had many sons,

Many sons had Father Abraham.

I am one of them, and you are too,

So let's just praise the Lord!

Why could a group of American Gentiles sing a song like that? Because Abraham is our father by faith. When John pointed to a pile of rocks and said that God could just as easily make children of Abraham out of them, he was pulling the rug out from under the religious leaders. He was awakening them to the truth that their confidence in their heritage was a false hope. Just as Abraham showed his authentic faith by leaving his home and following God into an unknown land, so they were being called to leave behind their selfishness and pride and to show evidence that they were truly followers of God.

The Warning (v.10)

After answering the unspoken objection, John offers the Pharisees and Sadducees a stern warning: "Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

In the word picture, the trees represent individual people. Each tree has two options - it can either be fruitful, or become firewood. John is calling the religious leaders to examine their lives, and to recognize that they are not bearing fruit that gives evidence to their salvation. The threat of being "cut down and thrown into the fire" is clearly a reference to hell. Sadducees did not believe in hell and may have scoffed at John's warning, but the Pharisees had good reason to be shaking in their sandals. Moreover, John emphasized the urgency of his message by indicating that "the axe is laid to the root of the trees." In other words, an unbeliever has no idea when he will be cut down. Many people seem to think they will live forever, or that they can wait to repent when they get older. Yet John's message is that we do not know the future, and that our lives could end at any moment. An unbeliever has no idea when his life will be "cut down", and it will be too late for bearing fruit.

A Few Questions Answered

The main point of this passage is that a Christian who does not show evidence of change is no Christian at all. If an unbeliever who is living with someone in an unholy relationship chooses to follow Christ, yet remains in this unholy relationship, that person's salvation ought to be questioned.

In a town near to where I live, a man was in the process of building a strip club when he was saved. As a result of meeting Christ, he transformed his strip club into a center for Christian learning. Had he continued to build and then operate a strip club while claiming to be a follower of Christ, his salvation would have certainly been questionable. Yet this man backed up his claims of faith with action that gave evidence of an authentic change in his heart.

As you evaluate your life, consider yourself a fruit inspector. It is by objectively seeking evidence of your faith that you can receive assurance of your salvation. Perhaps answering a few common questions might help:

QUESTION 1: If I am to examine my life for spiritual fruit, what is it I should be looking for?

Our passage answers this question by urging us to bear fruit "in keeping with repentance." In other words, when you are inspecting your life for true signs of salvation, look for evidence that there has been an authentic change in your attitudes and actions since you've met Christ. As you are growing as a Christian, can you identify tell-tale signs that you truly are being transformed into the image of Christ? Is hatred being replaced with love? Self-centeredness with God-centeredness? Unforgiveness with forgiveness? Impatience with patience? Abrasiveness with gentleness? Cowardice with boldness? Pride with humility? These are the kinds of fruits you should look for.

Allow me to offer you one warning as you begin to examine your life for spiritual fruit. Have you ever bitten into a ripe, juicy apple only to find that it was rotten inside? You may have heard this joke before:

"What's worse than finding a worm in your apple?"
"Finding half a worm."

As you examine the fruit of salvation in your life, do not look primarily at the external actions, but at the internal motivations. Just like an apple can look good on the outside and be rotten on the inside, so a person can have many "good works" and yet still be evil inside.

Take Tony for example. Tony contributed to his church's missions offering this past December. He is quick to point to his contribution to missions as evidence that he has experienced an authentic change. "I would never have given money to a missions offering before I was saved," he says.

Instead of looking at the external action, however, Tony needs to examine why he gave to the offering. What motivated him to give? Did he feel that it was his duty as a member of his church to give? Was he reluctant to give? Did he give all that God was calling him to give? By asking these questions, Tony will discover whether he is truly bearing the fruits of love and generosity, or selfishness and pride.

Remember, no one could point to more religiosity and "good works" than the Pharisees. Their failure was that they failed to examine their lives to see that their fruit looked good on the outside, but was filled with worms within. In examining your life, look for authentic transformation in your actions, but also look for a transformation of the attitudes behind those actions.

QUESTION 2: Can anybody really have assurance of salvation?

Yes, absolutely. It is certainly true that even the most devout Christian will always find at least a little rotten fruit in their lives. Nevertheless, the Bible does indicate that believers can have assurance: "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." The more a Christian walks with God, worships God, and obeys God, the more the Spirit of God will provide a sense of assurance. It is extremely important the Christians understand that it is never the responsibility of a pastor or parent to give assurance. Assurance is a gift of the Holy Spirit as a Christian matures in His faith. Only the Spirit can provide it, only the Spirit can take it away.

QUESTION 3: Can Christians backslide for a period of time?

The Bible certainly recognizes that true believers can backslide for a period of time. When a Christian allows himself to be taken by a sin for a season, he should expect these three things:

First, he should expect to lose any assurance of salvation the Spirit has previously granted. When a Christian dwells in sin, all of the warnings of the Bible about hell and damnation apply to him. Nobody can live in disobedience to God and expect to go to heaven.

Second, the backslidden Christian should expect confrontation by brothers and sisters in Christ. This is what is commanded by the Apostle Paul in Galatians: "Brothers, if anyone is caught (ensnared) in a transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness." Any church that cares about its members will take steps to lovingly reprove any Christian who is backsliding in his relationship with Christ.

Finally, a backslidden Christian should expect discipline from God. Hebrews 12 reminds us that God disciplines every child He loves. This discipline can come in a variety of forms: loss of joy, suffering reproach from God's people, sickness, or even death.

QUESTION 4: How does one discern an unbeliever from a backslidden Christian?

This is a question often asked by parents of wayward children. Many children make decisions for Christ when they are young, and then live in a season of disobedience when they enter their upper teens or leave home. Church leaders also often wonder how they can distinguish between their members who are truly saved but backslidden and those who were never saved to begin with. How can we know the difference?

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives us instructions of what to do if a Christian in our midst falls into blatant sin. First, an individual is to approach the backslidden believer and urge him to repent of his sin. If the person refuses, then that individual is to confront him again, this time with two or three brothers or sisters. If the person still refuses to repent, Jesus commands that the matter be taken before the church. If after being confronted by the church the person still refuses to turn from his sin, that person is to be removed from church membership and treated as an unbeliever.

Jesus' message in these instructions seems to be that the difference between a backslidden Christian and an unbeliever is that a backslidden Christian - when confronted about his sin - will ultimately repent, where as an unbeliever will not.

QUESTION 5: If a person truly believes himself to be a Christian, yet is really struggling with a sin, should he doubt his salvation?

No. The Bible is clear that it is those who do not struggle with sin who are in danger. It is those people who are not battling sin that I worry most about. Paul himself struggled with sin. He said, "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."

If a woman is living with someone in a sexually immoral relationship, and sees no conflict with her lifestyle and her relationship with Christ, she ought to question her salvation. If a professional is involved in unethical business practices, or a student is involved in cheating at school, and they do not see any conflict between these actions and their professions of faith, they ought to question their salvation. Any person who neglects the means of grace - Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with other believers - and is not fighting to mend that situation ought to question his or her salvation.

Any person, however, who genuinely loves Christ and is involved in a fight with sin ought not to doubt his or her salvation. The central question is not whether or not you are winning the fight, but whether there is a fight at all. If you are seeking assurance of salvation, then 1) pray that the Spirit would give it to you, 2) examine your life for spiritual fruit, and 3) continue to fight the good fight of the faith, trusting Jesus to save your from your sins.

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Justin Nale is the pastor of Mount Hermon Missionary Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in Rocky Mount, NC - [http://www.mhmbc.org]



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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Holy Spirit POWER!

Holy Spirit POWER!

By Michael Tummillo

A Christian friend came over asking that several of us pray for her. Despite doing all the "right" Christian things, she had been entertaining doubts about her faith.

In the course of our prayer, as I was reminding her of what Scripture says about how God sees her, in a gruff tone of voice, with furrowed brow, she scolded me, speaking in the third person, "She doesn't deserve it! She doesn't deserve it!" In a couple of hours, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, she was free from demonic bondage with a total change of countenance and has, since then, moved forward with marriage and ministry.

On an Easter Sunday morning, as I was attending a Baptist church service, a man sat praying, head bowed, as the congregation headed for the exits. I approached him and asked if I might pray. He ignored me. I laid my hand on his shoulder to pray. The moment I touched him, he bolted upright, began swaying like a cobra about to strike, and started growling as he pointed, "I hate him! I hate her! I hate this church!"

My attempts to minister were interrupted by well-meaning people asking if he needed medication or asking if they should call an ambulance. When the man became unable to open his mouth to speak, I commanded the spirit to release his tongue. Instantly, he was able to understand me then and speak intelligibly in response to me. I told him I was available for further ministry by the Holy Spirit but it was obvious there was no faith present to deliver him at that moment. I made him aware that, until he got help, this WAS his Christian life and he WOULD experience these manifestations again. I left only to be bombarded with questions throughout the week by those who were there.

The young man, it turned out, was a much-beloved seminarian.

Last week, as a group of us were praying, the Holy Spirit showed me a vision of a new attendee standing with tears in her eyes, in the middle of a Civil War battlefield, dressed in a Confederate soldier's uniform, looking at her spouse, dressed in Union blue. As I shared this vision after our prayer time, the woman buried her face in her hands and cried. Her close friend nudged me and whispered, "You read her mail."

On another occasion, a Christian business woman contacted me requesting prayer over one of her many facilities across Texas. This particular facility was not prospering at all and she could not help but consider closing its doors. That particular location had an openly lesbian manager which attracted openly gay employees. I went on a Thursday night with ateam. She met us there. We prayed and, within ten days, the facility's numbers were improving already. The lesbian manager couldn't understand it. In a memo I saw, she wrote, "We must be living right." A week ago, the manager resigned as did several of the most blatantly gay employees.

I could write many personal encounters like these, moments when the Holy Spirit took control, flushed out an unsuspecting demon, healed, delivered, set free or came through with a vision, word of wisdom or word of knowledge. He is no respecter of persons; the gifts He has shared with me, He wants to share with you.

Question is, are you willing? Do you desire more?

WE ARE SPIRIT BEINGS HAVING AN EARTHLY EXPERIENCE. WE ARE ALIENS.

We have no permanent citizenship in this world. Though we are citizens of the United States, the reality is that, as a Christian, our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil 3:20). As the book of Hebrews says, "Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come" (Heb. 13:14) For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. (1 Chron 29;15)

WE ARE ENAGED IN A SPIRITUAL WAR - a term not found in Scripture, but the concept is taught. Mankind is caught in the midst of a spiritual war with the holy God and His angels on one side and the evil Satan and his demons on the other.

(2 Cor 10:3-5) "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

(Eph 6:11-12) Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

(Rev 12:7-8) And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

IF WE RESIST THE DEVIL, HE WILL FLEE

(James 4: 7) Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

WE DO NOT HAVE THE POWER TO RESIST SATAN ON OUR OWN

(Jude 9) But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"

TO RESIST THE DEVIL, WE MUST PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD

(Eph 6:10-12) Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Jesus' own mission statement: "He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening [of the prison] to them that are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Isa 61:1,2)

GOD ALLOWS TEMPTATIONS, BUT ALWAYS PROVIDES AN ESCAPE

(1 Cor 10:13) No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

SATAN KNOWS THE SCRIPTURES AND TRIES TO MISUSE THEM

As described in Matt 4:3-10 and Luke 4:3-12, during the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Satan quoted Him Scripture several times. Jesus replied each time with additional Scriptures refuting Satan's attempts to take things out of context or only use part of a section.

(Matt 28:19-20, Lk 9:1-2 and 10:1-3).

Too many American Christians have become passive and fearful. Others are satisfied to merely acknowledge the right things and attend church services and activities. This type of lifestyle is quite different from that which Jesus requires of His followers.

We must preach and teach about the kingdom of God, focus on the doctrine of Christ, heal the sick and set the captives free.

Why is the Holy Spirit referred to as being "holy"?(HOLY: Belonging to, derived from, or associated with a divine power; sacred.) Distinguishes Him from EVIL spirits.

SAD FACTS REGARDING THE CHURCH AND THE HOLY SPIRIT

A majority (61%) agree that the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God's presence or power but is not a living entity. (2001)

Among the segments of the population more likely than others to deny the existence of the Holy Spirit as a living entity are Catholics (73%), non-Christians (68%), and non-whites (68%). (2001)

A majority of all born again Christians reject the existence of the Holy Spirit (52%). (2001)

WHY IS THE HOLY SPIRIT IMPORTANT?

There is no subject more important in Christianity than that of the Holy Spirit. Unless this is properly understood, a large portion of the Bible, and especially the NT, remains unintelligible. On the other hand, a just view of it will do more than a knowledge of any other particular topic to give harmony, clearness, and consistency to what may be learned to all other matters presented in the Word of God.

Despite the importance of knowing the Holy Spirit and His place in the life of a Christian, there is much confusion and superstition in the minds of many people about the Holy Spirit

WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?

1. A person with characteristics

2. NOT, merely an "influence", or "impersonal force" that emanates from God.

3. We should regard the Holy Spirit as a "He", not an "it"!

I. THE HOLY SPIRIT'S PERSONALITY

A. THE HOLY SPIRIT SPEAKS...

1. He "expressly says" that some will depart from the faith - 1 Tim 4:1

2. The Spirit spoke and gave directions to Philip - Acts 8:29

3. He spoke to Peter and gave him charge concerning the Gentiles - Acts 10:19-20

4. He spoke to the brethren at Antioch concerning Paul and Barnabas - Acts 13:1-4

B. THE HOLY SPIRIT TEACHES...

1. He was to teach the apostles all things - Jn 14:26

2. Please note that Jesus consistently refers to the Holy Spirit as "He", not "it" (implying a personal being, not an impersonal force) - Jn 14:16-17

C. THE HOLY SPIRIT BEARS WITNESS...

1. He was to testify of Jesus - Jn 15:26-27

2. Just as the apostles (who were "personal beings") would bear witness, so also the Holy Spirit

D. THE HOLY SPIRIT GUIDES, HEARS, SPEAKS, TELLS...

1. He would carry on and complete the work started by Jesus - Jn 16:12-13

2. Jesus consistently refers to the Holy Spirit as "He"
The Holy Spirit is a real person who came to reside within Jesus Christ's true followers after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven (Acts 2). Jesus told His apostles...

"I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (Jn 14:16-18)

The Holy Spirit is not a vague, ethereal shadow, nor an impersonal force. He is a person equal in every way with God the Father and God the Son. He is considered to be the third member of the Godhead. Jesus said to His apostles...

"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 the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20)

God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And all the divine attributes ascribed to the Father and the Son are equally ascribed to the Holy Spirit. When a person becomes born again by believing and receiving Jesus Christ (Jn 1:12-13; Jn 3:3-21), God resides in that person through the Holy Spirit (1Cor 3:16).

E. THE HOLY SPIRIT'S PRIMARY ROLE

1. He bears "witness" of Jesus Christ and tells people's hearts about the truth of Jesus Christ. (Jn 15:26, 16:14).

2. He acts as a Christian's teacher/guide (1Cor. 2:9-14).

3. He reveals God's will and God's truth to a Christian. Jesus told His disciples...

"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 that I said to you." (Jn 14:26)

"When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." (Jn 16:13)

4. The Holy Spirit was given to live inside those who believe in Jesus, in order to produce God's character in the life of a believer. In a way that we cannot do on our own, the Holy Spirit will build into our lives love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Rather than trying to be loving, patient, kind, God asks us to rely on Him to produce these qualities in our lives. Thus Christians are told to walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:25) and be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18).

5. The Holy Spirit empowers Christians to perform ministerial duties that promote spiritual growth among Christians (Rom 12; 1Cor 12; Eph 4).

6. The Holy Spirit also performs a function for non-Christians as well. He convicts people's hearts of God's truth concerning how sinful we are -- needing God's forgiveness; how righteous Jesus is -- He died in our place, for our sins; and God's eventual judgment of the world and those who do not know Him (Jn 16:8-11). The Holy Spirit tugs on our hearts and minds, asking us to repent and turn to God for forgiveness and a new life.

F. THE HOLY SPIRIT FORBIDS...

1. He prevented Paul and his companions from going into certain areas of Asia - Acts 16:6-7 This He did by "forbidding" them, and "not permitting" them, despite their initial efforts

G. THE HOLY SPIRIT INTERCEDES...

1. The "Spirit Himself (note Paul's use of the personal pronoun) makes intercession for us" - Rom 8:26
2. Just as Christ "also makes intercession for us" - Rom 8:34 [All these works of the Holy Spirit manifest personality]

II. THE HOLY SPIRIT POSSESSES PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS

A. HE HAS A MIND...

1. "the mind of the Spirit" - Rom 8:27 This suggests thinking on His own.

B. HE HAS KNOWLEDGE...

1. He "knows the things of God" - 1 Cor 2:11 just as the "spirit of man" (a personal being) knows certain things. He has intellect.

C. HE POSSESSES AFFECTION...

1. Paul speaks of "the love of the Spirit" - Rom 15:30 When have you known of an "impersonal force" that could love? He has emotion.

D. HE HAS A WILL...

1. "the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills" - 1 Cor 12:11 It was the Holy Spirit Who decided what person received which gift. Again, these are all characteristics of a being possessing intelligence and personality.

III. THE HOLY SPIRIT SUFFERS PERSONAL SLIGHTS AND INJURIES

A. HE CAN BE GRIEVED...

1. "do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" - Eph 4:30 He can be made sorrowful through our willful neglect

B. HE CAN BE BLASPHEMED...

1. That is, to be spoken evil of, as in attributing His deeds to the works of Satan, the "unpardonable sin" - Matt 12:31-32

C. HE CAN BE INSULTED...
1. One who has "trampled the Son of God underfoot" has also "insulted the Spirit of grace" - Heb 10:29 This is done by sinning "willfully" - Heb 10:26

D. HE CAN BE LIED TO...

1. As Ananias and his wife Sapphira were guilty of doing. Acts 5:3: "...why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit...?"

E. HE CAN BE RESISTED...

1. As Stephen charged the Jewish leaders of doing - Acts 7:51 This they did by resisting the message and persecuting the messengers who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Acts 7: 52-53

In my opinion, much too great an emphasis has been placed on the gift of tongues - so much so that an ungodly caste system of the haves and have-not's has developed in some groups - despite the promise of Scripture that you shall receive POWER (NOT tongues) when the Spirit comes upon you; power to be a witness (literally, a martyr). Request my study entitled "Speaking of speaking in tongues."

Done For You Affiliate Marketing System Magic Submitter by Alexandr Krulik

Pastor Michael is founder of t.e.a.m. ministries (team1min@aol.com). His eMail broadcasts, known as "Your Town for Jesus" (SEARCH it!) are reaching tens of thousands WEEKLY. He ministers by way of email and Instant Message, too. Write him at team1min@aol.com if you'd like to SUBSCRIBE to receive his messages directly.

Michael's mission is to bring Discipleship and Encouragement to the Body of Christ. Michael is the author of numerous booklets on a variey of subjects that will interest the thinking Christian. Since 1999, he has written and broadcast hundreds of inspirational articles and a dozen booklets, all designed to accelerate the process of spiritual development in God's people.



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