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Spiritual Examination

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5)!

Paul gave a final warning to the church in Corinth, about staying away from sin. He sent this warning on three occasions and confirmed that every charge must be established, by the evidence of two or three witnesses. He spoke on behalf of Christ who was powerful among the saints. Christ had been crucified in weakness and now lives by the power of God. In the same way, saints are weak but live through the power of Christ. Paul warned them to examine themselves to see if they were still in the faith. He wanted them to test their belief and examine if Christ was living in and being manifested through them. If Christ was not alive in them, they would fail the test of faith. Paul wanted the saints to live right so that they would not fail the test.

Paul was also ready to test his own works and was confident that he would pass. Despite the failing of the saints, he wanted them to be restored. “For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for” (2 Corinthians 13:9). He wrote these things to the church and was firm in his correction. His hope was that they would repent so that he would not need to be authoritative when he was with them. His desire was to build them up and not tear them down. His final greeting was for them to aim for restoration, to comfort and agree with one another and to live in peace. Earlier in 1 Corinthians 6, Paul scolded the church about sexual immorality.

““All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). What he was saying in this scripture was that, even things that are not expressly forbidden in scripture can be unhelpful for believers. For example, the bible does not warn against watching television. However, binge watching movies and shows while neglecting prayer and bible study is unhelpful. The devil uses things that seem insignificant to pull people away and to keep them distracted. Constant distractions and neglecting our fellowship with God will stunt our spiritual growth. Paul cautioned that our bodies belong to God and as such, should remain consecrated to him.

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Paul’s advice was to run away from sexual sins as this was committed against a person’s body. The main reason is that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is from God. We belong to God and he lives in us. We each have to do regular examinations of our selves to see if we are in the faith. Although I have mentioned sexual sin, there are other sins that can stand between us and God. Pride, envy, jealousy, bitterness and resentment will also separate us from God. We are not perfect and we live with daily temptations. We need God’s help to live free from sin and he is able and willing to help us as we surrender and remain connected to him.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24).

A.P.-Y.

Faith Requires A Fight

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).

After Jesus had fasted for 40 days and was led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, he faced a fight against his faith. Just like us Satan bombarded him with half truths and false doctrines. He tempted him to throw himself off a cliff and reminded him that God promised to give his angels charge to bear him up. What a suicide mission. He then tempted Jesus with idolatry and promised him the world, if he bowed down and worshipped him. This joker does not even own the world and look at what he gives to people who gain the world anyway; they loose their souls. Food was the final temptation because he knew that Jesus was hungry from his fast (Matthew 4:1-11).

Although Jesus was hungry and tired from his fast, he stood firm on the word of a God and resisted the Devil. It was his knowledge of the word of God and his confidence in God’s ability to help him, that kept Jesus standing in faith. His faith kept him strong as he spent this time in prayer and fasting, to strengthen his faith and to prepare for his mission.

Faith also acts as a shield against the weapons that the enemy throws at us daily. In addition to the other weapons that we armour ourselves with, we have the weapon of faith to help in our fight. “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians‬ ‭6:16‬).

Faith requires us to fight doubt, fear and anxiety. We have to fight to see the light in the midst of the darkness. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Life is not easy and facing challenges is not for the faint of heart. But if we do not fight we cannot win. Our fight is set and when we fight not in our own strength, but through the spirit of God, then we are destined to win. Stand on the word of God and fight the good fight of faith.

A.P.-Y.

Hope Beyond Hope

“In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be”” (Romans 4:18).

We must never loose hope in what God has promised and never be afraid to hold unto his word. Even when it seems impossible in the natural, God is able to make things happen beyond all human possibilities. Abraham had a promise from God to become the father of many nations. How would this be possible when he didn’t have a child at 30, 40 or even 50. Abraham was almost a hundred years old so how would this promise even be remotely possible? “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead ( since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb” (Romans 4:19).

I imagine that doctors would have said to Abraham. ‘You are not likely to be able to have children at your age. In fact it’s completely outside of the question and something like this would require an act of God. In fact Abraham why don’t you adopt a child or get another woman to have a baby for you?’ Abraham’s faith did not budge despite the reality of his situation. “fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness”” (Romans 4:21-22).

Sarah actually convinced Abraham to try to help God and to conceive a child by his maid. God told Abraham to send that son away because he wasn’t the son of promise. God didn’t need Abraham or Sarah’s help. What God needed was their faith in order to please him and hope beyond hope in the impossible.“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

A.P.-Y.

Reward or Consequence

“Can two walk together, unless they are agreed” (Amos 3:3)?

Chapter 3 of Amos speaks to the authority of the prophet’s message and he prophesied about Isreal’s disobedience. God made a covenant with Israel and brought them out of Egypt using signs and miracles. Despite God’s grace and mercy, the people rebelled against God and his prophets. God has a principle which precedes judgement and recompense. “Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). God always sent a word of caution to his people, with an opportunity for repentance. I had a conversation with my sister the other day about parenting. She spoke about the importance of boundary setting with children and explained the importance of following through on a caution, when a child oversteps a boundary.

She said that when a parent gives a warning and promises a punishment, if the warning is not heeded, then not following through on a punishment, can send the message to a child that they are allowed to cross that line again. Following through on a punishment helps to reinforce a boundary and allows a child to know what can be expected. God is our father and the bible speaks about godly chastisement, rewards for obedience and consequences for disobedience. Like a parent, God will send a warning when we have crossed a boundary and are living in sin. “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). The difference between God and most earthly parents is that he is long suffering.

God can spend years warning people about error before their final destruction. Not all sin leads to ultimate destruction, but there are consequences for sin. Many people are living under the grace of God and we all have sinned. We daily make confession for sin so that God can cleanse us. It is living in a state perpetual disobedience which leaves us open for destruction. It is not God who destroys, but living in disobedience means that we are outside of his protection. We each have to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. It is much easier to identify and point out error in others, than it is to reflect on our own wrong doing.

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (II Corinthians 13:5). God is not the author of confusion and when he speaks, he means what he says. None of his words will return to him void and he does not want destruction for anyone. “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel’” (Ezekiel 33:11)?

A.P.-Y.

The Uncertainties of Newness

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

How do we handle the discomfort during seasons of transition? We often assume that change and progress is smooth sailing and won’t come with any hassle. Often progress brings with it some discomfort. While we relish the idea of change, it also brings uncertainty and some raised anxiety. Our expectations of a new situation is not always the reality, but we step out in faith, placing one foot in front of the other as we walk towards our new assignment.

Imagine the Israelites being freed from slavery and then plunged into a wilderness situation, that was unfamiliar to them. Then came the complaining and murmuring from the uncertainty. “Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 24:12). No wonder Moses lost his temper so many times and missed out on reaching the promised land. He had been prepared all of his life for this mission. He risked his life going back to Egypt to tell Pharaoh, “God says to let my people go.”

Just before the complaining the people were rejoicing, because Pharaoh had set them free. They marched out of Egypt praising God and hailed Moses as a hero, for helping them to gain freedom. Fast forward and they are faced with a Red Sea on one side, that seemed uncrossable and Pharaoh and his army are in pursuit on the other side. I can imagine that they must have felt bombarded. They blamed God and Moses, because they feared that he had brought them in the wilderness to die.

God is not the author of confusion and there is no way that he would have opened the way and released them out of Egypt, to bring them into the wilderness to perish. God opened the Red Sea, allowed them to cross over and then closed the sea when Pharoah and his army pursued (Exodus 14). Similarly, God did not deliver you from that test or trial, to abandon you in this new situation that appears impossible. It maybe unfamiliar and uncomfortable and you don’t know which way to turn, but God will make a way through that sea of doubt and confusion. “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you”
‭‭(Deuteronomy‬ ‭31‬:‭6‬).

A.P.-Y.

Life in the Spirit

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he encouraged them to walk in the spirit, so that they would not give heed to the lust of the flesh. The lust of the flesh includes adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousy, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, envy, murder, drunkenness and all other forms of sin and wickedness. The flesh relates to our Adamic nature which is predisposed to sin. It is our salvation and the grace of God, through faith, which allows us to live and walk in the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. The opposite of the works of the flesh are the fruits of the spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22).

Walking and living in the spirit is allowing God to live through us. In this way, we are not controlled by our human desires and passions, but the life of Jesus Christ is alive in us. When Jesus died on the cross, he put to death the works of the flesh, so that we are no longer slaves to sin. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). We are now dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus as new creatures. Paul spoke about crucifying the works of the flesh and the need to die daily. In this way, we keep the flesh and it’s works under subjection to the spirit of God. Walking in the spirit requires that we listen and remain in step with the Holy Spirit.

The flesh is hostile and contrary to the spirit and the spirit is contrary to the flesh. Both the flesh and the spirit are engaged in an ongoing battle for dominance. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18). Paul said that he observed the law of the flesh, warring against the law of the spirit. This law of the flesh often causes people to do those things, that they desire not to do and fail to do those things that they want to do. This law also seeks to wage war against our minds to bring us into captivity to the law of sin. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher, Comforter, Counsellor and friend. He guides us into all truth and helps us to grow and live in the spirit.

We have to daily crucify and deny the flesh in order to grow in the spirit. Daily disciplines of reading the bible, praying, quiet time to listen to the Holy Spirit are what will help us to grow in God. We have to develop the habit of spending time to listen to what God has to say. It is not only Pastors and Prophets who can hear the voice of God. The Holy Spirit is always speaking through a still small voice, but many of us are not trained to listen and hear. Schedule time in between praying to ask God questions and then pause to listen. You can’t develop a relationship with God where you do all of the talking. Listening and heeding the voice of God is the most important ingredient to living life in the spirit.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

A.P.-Y.

Unstoppable

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).

Joshua was one of the most formidable characters in the bible and the army that he led at the time was also quite fierce. The word formidable means inspiring fear through being impressively large, powerful, intense or capable. Let us consider Joshua’s journey through scripture and learn more about how he developed his reputation. In Numbers 12, Joshua and Caleb were two of the twelve spies, that Moses sent to spy out the land of Canaan. Ten of the men brought back an evil report about the land which caused the people to be fearful. “Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there” (Numbers 13:28).

It was Caleb who first quieted the people and encouraged them to go forward. Joshua also spoke up and was willing to stand with Moses and Aaron. “Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them”” (Numbers 14:9). For this the people wanted to stone them, appoint a new leader and return back to slavery in Egypt. God was angry at the people’s rebellion and the result was that entire generation died in the wilderness, except Joshua and Caleb. Later on, Moses was instructed to anoint Joshua to be his successor as he would lead the people into Canaan.

Joshua was full of the spirit of wisdom and the people listened and followed his lead. God also promised to be with him in the same way that he was with Moses. “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses”(Joshua 1:3). Joshua learnt how to listen and heed the voice of God for victory over the enemies. He first sent two men to spy out the land of Jericho and they brought back a good report. “And they said to Joshua, “Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us”” (Joshua 2:24). They crossed the Jordan, circumcised the people and then Joshua met with the Commander of the Lord’s army.

Jericho was the first city after the Jordan and the walls were high and the people shut up the city to try to stop them from gaining entry. God gave Joshua the strategy to tear down the walls and to take possession of that city and every city after that. On one occasion in chapter 10, Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, until Isreal had completely defeated their enemies (Joshua 10:12-13). Joshua took all the lands which God promised to Moses and his people and drove out the inhabitants. Just as God had promised, they were unstoppable and formidable and absolutely no one stood in their way. We are the seed of Abraham and like Joshua, we are unstoppable and no one can stand against us with God on our side.

“No man shall be able to stand against you; the Lord your God will put the dread of you and the fear of you upon all the land where you tread, just as He has said to you” (Deuteronomy 11:25).

A.P.-Y.