Thank you for your interest in Simply Rhetorical.
My life’s desire has always been to be more like Jesus, to live a life exemplary of my Savior and Lord. But no matter how hard I try, it seems I always fall short of my quest. I have spent years studying the life of Jesus, but I seem to lose touch with the reality of being Christ-like. I marvel at the victory Jesus had over His flesh. He was tried, tempted, and enticed to pursue the dictates of the flesh, but not once did He succumb to its offerings! We know that Jesus was Divine as well as human. We know the Divine nature in Him could not sin, but the human aspect of His being was not immune to the temptations in life. He struggled just as much as any other individual, yet without fault, slip, or failure. What was the ingredient in Jesus’ life that made Him victorious throughout His brief earthly ministry? What was it that enabled Jesus to overcome every trial and testing? He was not immune to sufferings and struggles, yet there was never a situation in which He failed to achieve the victory. Is it possible to achieve such a Christ- like life that we can say at the end of each day, “It is no longer I that live, but Christ?”
I believe that the key to Jesus’ success was His prayer life. Beginning at His baptism, He stood in the water praying. ( Luke 3:21) He would go up into a mountain and pray all night long. ( Luke 6:12) Just before selecting His twelve disciples, He spent all night praying. ( Luke 6:12) After the feeding of the five thousand, He took His disciples with Him and prayed. ( Luke 9:18) One time, He took Peter, James, and John up into a mountain to pray and as He was praying, He was transfigured before them. ( Luke 9:28, 29) There were times He would get up before dawn and go and pray. ( Mark 1:35) Jesus’ life was highlighted by prayer. All the way to the cross, His road was covered in prayer.
When I look at my prayer life, I see my spiritual scale completely out of balance. I pray, but not with the regularity and sincerity that is required from God’s children. I pray, but it is more with an attitude of compliance and obedience than with a heart-felt desire to commune with my Heavenly Father. We Christians tend to traditionalize our prayers around the food table and the bed. Between our regimented petitions, we scatter our supplications of wants and needs. If time permits and we don’t forget, there are the quick prayers for those for whom we said we would pray. When is the last time we remember “saying” our prayers at the end of the day and being able to say “amen” before the “zzzzzs” take over?
I want to be more like Jesus, but without understanding the value of prayer and its role in my life, I will never be able to achieve the Christ-likeness that I desire. We love to talk about the miracles, signs, and wonders Jesus did, but we fail to understand the importance of prayer in His life. Jesus followed God’s directions for His life, and His destinations were achieved through His communion with His Father! We may be able to quote Scripture by heart. We may be able to exhibit some of the characteristics of Jesus’ life, but we will never to able to truly be like Him until we understand the importance of prayer in His, and our, life.
For many Christians, the subject of forgiveness through God’s wonderful Grace has been stored in the recesses of our minds. We know through God’s Word that, when we accepted God’s offer to expunge our sins through the blood of His beloved Son, we became a new creature. We realized that our old life passed away and the reality of continual fellowship with our Redeemer lay before us. It has been hard for me to fathom how soon we forget what was accomplished through God’s intercession in our lives. Look around next Sunday as we gather to worship with our spiritual peers. How many of us are displaying the joys and thankfulness for God’s intervention in our lives? If we are honest, we will readily admit that our foundational Christian experience of repentance and forgiveness is no longer holding a place in our consciousness. Yet, if it were not for that experience, none of us would be where we are today. We must never loose sight of our salvation for that is how it all started. Have we become so calloused that our inauguration into the Faith has little significance to our lives today? When we think of what we were before Christ, how can we sit in our Sunday morning pews/chairs looking bored and complacent?
Take a look at the forgiven sinner who came to Simon the Pharisee’s house to hear the teachings of Jesus. (See Luke 7:36-50) As Jesus was sharing with His host and company, this woman came in and stood weeping behind Jesus. As her tears fell upon Jesus feet, she knelt down and began to wash His feet with her tears. She then took her hair down and wiped His feet with her hair. Reaching for her alabaster box of ointment, she then anointed His feet. Reading this account correctly, one would assume that Jesus had previously encountered her and had forgiven her sins. Simon was incredulous and could not understand why Jesus would let such a sinful woman touch Him. For Simon’s benefit, Jesus reiterated what He had done previously and said to the woman, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” There is so much more to this story, but the important teaching is that when one is forgiven much, that person will love much and that is not an inaugurated love, but an everlasting love!
How can we ever forget God’s forgiveness? How can we ever become complacent? How can we ever let our joy fade into obscurity? How can we ever close up our tear ducts of thankfulness? How can we ever become a spectator instead of a participant in Kingdom living? How can we ever take our salvation for granted? How can we ever stop worshipping? How can we ever stop expressing outwardly what has happened inwardly? How can we ever live like the world when we are not of this world?
When we walk into our worship arenas this week, let us enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise, for we were once lost and are now found! Let us exchange our lemon faces for smiley ones. Let us exchange those defeats into feats of victory and adoration. Let us exchange our cosmetic frowns into the image of our Creator. When is the last time we fell to our knees and shed tears of thankfulness? If it has been sometime, let us resolve to start exhibiting our gratitude daily! We can all do this because of what God has done for us and in us!
I marvel at how many times we misread or misinterpret God’s Word. Maybe we think that God needs our help in explaining the intent of the Scripture. Maybe we think we need to translate His Words into an easier rendering and application so people can have a greater understanding. Maybe traditionalizing the Holy Book into our own personal experiences will help develop a better connection between God and man. Maybe we think paraphrasing the Word will help gain a greater audience. Piecemeal Scripture, in which only the feel good verses are promoted, has caused the Word of God to be downgraded to simply Christian psychology. When are we going to accept God’s Word as He intended it? It is not simplifying the Word to a common denominator; rather, it is lifting the reader to the realm of spiritual understanding through the Holy Spirit’s tutorage. It is amazing how much literature is produced to explain the Bible and its relevance to our daily lives. There are books that are keyed to explaining Biblical overviews. There is even one entitled “DUMMIES GUIDE TO THE BIBLE.” Much of the Christian literature today is keyed to learning how to get from God: as long as one is willing to give something green to the promoter. It seems we are in the neo-DaVinci Code era in which secret codes are supposedly hidden in the Bible. We are challenged to unravel the secrets that will lead us to such things as financial prosperity and weight loss. We need to stop looking for hidden treasure and realize the wealth of God’s Word is right before our eyes. We need to stop trying to unveil what has not been veiled. We need to have an attitude of simply accepting God’s Word as He said it. It is true that the Bible will make little or no sense to the unregenerate reader, but to the true Believer, it is the inerrant, infallible, and eternal Word of God. We must never dilute the Word through human interpretation, but promote its truth to one another in love. Many of the false doctrines that have been activated through out the years are so aligned with real Truth that it is has been hard to separate truth from fiction. Verbal promotion of heresy is usually hidden within the tenets of faith in Christian organizations. Whenever we find something is taken away from or added to the Scripture, there should be alarm bells sounded in the heart of the true Believer. Whenever promoted Scripture conflicts with other Scripture, there should be a spiritual uneasiness. One case in point is water baptism. Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19); yet, some believe that after Pentecost, people should be baptized in Jesus’ name only. (Acts 2:38) After commissioning His disciples, Jesus told them not to start their ministry until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4) Jesus’ command did not include a change or contradiction of direction; rather, an enablement to carry out His orders through the authority of the Holy Spirit. The Scripture is God’s Word dictated to His scribes through the Holy Spirit. We must learn to accept God’s Word by faith, and not to scrutinize the intent of the Scripture to our own satisfaction. As we open God’s Word, we will discover His unlimited riches. There is no need to look for hidden treasures and new truths for they are already before us in plain sight!
When is the last time we stopped in the middle of our problems and simply began to praise the Lord? Ignorantly, we have limited our praises to only times of jubilation and victory. When an answer to prayer or an unexpected blessing is experienced, we are quick to express an internal joy and celebration. If we were not so concerned with how others would respond to our emotional outbreak, we could easily express our emotions outwardly. Have you noticed how some Christians act at a sporting event? There is no hesitation to have an “out-of-body” experience of controlled insanity when our team scores the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Where is that joyous expression when someone walks down the aisle to surrender his life to the King of Kings? Should we not jump to our feet and extend our hands in praise and adoration to God who has drawn that lost soul to Him through His Son? Why is it that during an invitation the instruction is for everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes: someone is about to sneak into the Kingdom? When someone is on their way to a new life, should we not run with them to the waiting Savior? In the churches that still have invitations, should we not shout encouragement as people join the army of the Lord? Should we not high-five each other as they round their last hesitation and head for home? Should we not surround the “prodigal” and have a celebration, for he that was lost is now found? Christians have a tendency to get excited about sensual things, but show little emotion about the spiritual. We need to fine tune our priorities, and then learn to correctly express our adoration through praise.
Some people say they are not wired to be emotionally expressive when it comes to spiritual things. Yet, when a problem comes, there is a large range of outward emotions that are displayed through their countenance. Anger, sadness, depression, pouting, doubting, temper, blame throwing, and an out-of-control tongue are all expressions that come out of people who claim they can’t express themselves. All of us have a choice as to how we will respond to life’s situations. Praise is as natural as breathing. Take the “P” off praise and you have “raise;” we are called to raise our hands, voices, and countenance unto Him who has so gloriously saved us. When we are in difficult situations, we need to praise our way to the victory. When we praise Him in the trials, we are acknowledging that God is in control and will not let us go it alone, but will be there with us all the way! The next time Satan attacks begin praising God, knowing that Satan can only do what God allows. Many of our challenging situations can bring glory to God if we just understand what praise is. God and you make a majority. When we are not praisers, we become grazers that walk around with our heads down, looking for some crumbs so we can survive.
Why not start right now and lift your hands and face toward Heaven and just begin to praise Him? No one is looking, go ahead! Once you start, you won’t want to stop. When you feel comfortable, ask someone else to join you; like your wife, husband, and kids. How about in church next Sunday? Some say they don’t “feel” the presence of the Lord in their church service. Praise is the answer. The Bible says God inhabits the praises of His people. (Ps. 22:3 KJV) Praise Him and you will never be the same again! Praise Him and you will never doubt His presence again!
The phrase “led by the Spirit” has been so maligned and misunderstood. The populist view is that if you let the Spirit direct your life you will experience the joys of Christian living as well as enjoying the benefits of the Kingdom of God. There is a reality of truth to these viewpoints, but we fail to realize that the trip to the mountain top sometimes includes a guided tour through the valley. There are times the Holy Spirit will lead us into situations that will try our faith. These “trials by fire” are intended for our refining that our faith may be found unto praise and honor at Jesus appearing. (I Peter 1:7)
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to face Satan and his temptations. After 40 days of relentless pressure, Jesus walked out of the battlefield in the power of the Spirit. Notice how the Spirit worked in His life. First, the Spirit descended on Him at His baptism, (Mk. 1:10) then he was led by the Spirit, and finally He experienced the power of the Spirit.
There are some Christians that want the power of God without the daily influence of God’s Spirit in their life. They desire the supernatural signs and wonders, but to be led by the Holy Spirit is only acceptable when they can dictate the direction. Some seek the experience of being overwhelmed by the Spirit, in which they are literally taken off their feet. This “slain in the Spirit” phenomenon electrifies their minds as they charge ahead in pursuit of emotional releases that overshadow their lack of spiritual obedience. Within shouting distance of these spiritual pep rallies are people who are “slain in the flesh” by drugs, alcohol, and immorality. As long as Satan can keep Believers seeking emotional and personal gratification, his legions of lost souls will continue their march to self destruction.
When will Believers understand directional motivation? Instead of analyzing why a certain path is awaiting our journey, we need to look forward to a time of learning and discipline. We must never be afraid of the road less traveled. Let us stand in unity and proclaim that where He leads, we will follow.
The Apostle Paul learned through the Holy Spirit how to be abased and how to abound in all situations. There was nothing Paul could not accomplish when directed by God’s Spirit. Let us realize the Spirit is our enabler. He is our lifeline to God through Jesus Christ. He is our source of power. He gives us boldness to present the Gospel message. As He enters our lives and leads us through the courses of life, an explosion of power develops that will affect all those with whom we come into contact. Sadly, some look at this power as an implosion, affecting only them.
Church, we must get this right. The Holy Spirit’s ministry is not to emotionally satisfy, but to spiritually motivate us to reach out to the lost! If you are looking for a great spiritual rush in life, it will not be upon your back, but on your feet as you bring the Gospel to the lost!
If Believers have truth, which can take the negatives in life and make them into positives, why are there not more converts to this great Faith? It seems to reason that the presentation of that Truth is dwarfed because of the inaction of the Believer. Inaction stems from head knowledge of the Truth instead of heart changing reality. Jesus made it clear that if one wants to enter the Kingdom, one must be born again. In fact, He even said that no one can see the Kingdom without dying to the natural and becoming alive to the spiritual. (John 3: 5, 3)
Nicodemus came to Jesus to question the reality of what He was teaching. What he encountered was a life changing experience. Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews, yet his Scriptural understanding was shallow and misguided. When Jesus told him that he must be born of the water and the Spirit, he should have recalled Ezekiel 36:25-27, but due to his “selective reading” he missed the essential Truth that the true meaning of life begins within, not without.
To be able to reach the unconverted with the life changing truth of Jesus Christ, one must have not only an acceptance, but an understanding of God’s Word. When the Believer achieves the foundational Truths, he is then called upon to be a living example of those Truths. It is then that he becomes a living epistle, a light in the darkness. When there is Scriptural ignorance, there is a danger of man made doctrines. There are many well intentioned Believers that have a zeal for God, but not according to Biblical knowledge. Man made doctrines and biased interpretation of Scripture produces flawed individuals that are easily recognized by the world. There are many Believers today that have adopted theology without first seeking verification through their own reading of the Bible and the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. All Believers must learn to “trust, but verify,” whenever they receive teaching from the Christian community.
Believers need to understand that when they have received spiritual truth, they are to share it with others. When a prayer has been answered, tell somebody. When victory over situations in life has been achieved, tell somebody. When valley challenges have given way to mountain top victories, tell somebody. When defeats have turned into victory, tell somebody. The same zeal that was used to petition God should be used to display God’s Grace. Believers need to be contagious. Believers need to be salt that awakes a thirsting within others. Believers need to be a light that draws people from the darkness. Where are the converts? Waiting for the Believers to show them the way!
What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Believer? Some Christians believe the Holy Spirit only functions in a secondary role in their lives. They acknowledge His role in the New Testament church, but believe that is not how the Holy Spirit works today. They see the Holy Spirit as a dispensational factor in which His ministry was limited to the birthing and expanding of the early Church; the Spiritual Gifts which include healings and miracles had a purpose unique to the Biblical generation, but not for modern day Christians. They believe that the Fruit of the Spirit is what really matters. There is also a group of Believers that sees the Holy Spirit as the primary focal point of worship. The Dove replaces the Cross as Believers seek the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for personal gratification. Signs and wonders become the evidence of God’s pleasure with His followers. It is not my intent to address the polarization of these different movements, but to draw attention to how the Holy Spirit interacts with Believers today.
The Scriptures make it clear that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is three fold in purpose. He will convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:8) To achieve this ministry, He will use the Believer to represent the Kingdom in power. Under the Anointing and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Believer will be the physical manifestation of the Kingdom and will draw people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit will also illuminate the Believer with a holy and contagious righteousness that will draw the world to the righteousness of God. Finally, the Holy Spirit will reveal through the Believer God’s judgment on the world. The Holy Spirit is never to be the center of attention; rather, He will glorify the Son and will reveal unto the Believer whatever is revealed to Him. (John 16:13-15)
One of the favorite phrases that are uttered around emotional worship services is, “I feel the Spirit in this place.” The evidence of His presence is not goose bumps and emotional releases, but an empowering to spread the Gospel message. The Holy Spirit is the revealer of our Savior and Heavenly Father. When we do not respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to reach out with God’s message, we are “grieving” the Spirit, which is to cause Him grief and sorrow. (Eph. 4:30) To those who don’t understand the Holy Spirit’s ministry, His role becomes secondary in their lives. The problem is that without the Holy Spirit, the continuation of Jesus earthly ministry is severely handicapped. By not responding to the leading of the Spirit, we not only grieve Him, but are in danger of “quenching” Him, which is to limit and extinguish the spiritual fire within us. (I Thess. 5:19)
Many times we hear sincere Christians promote the ministry of the Holy Spirit by claiming that if one does not exhibit a certain evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, then he does not have the Spirit. Scriptures are elasticized and taken out of context to promote teachings that support biased interpretations. The real evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is the outreach we exhibit. If we do not share the Gospel message, or exhibit the righteousness of God’s Kingdom, or climb the watchtower to proclaim the coming judgment, we have grieved the Holy Spirit and are in danger of quenching His consuming fire. The Holy Spirit is a vital part of the Divine Commission. He does not keep us warm and cozy until Jesus returns; rather, He sets a fire within us that will continue to burn until all the lost are found or God calls us home!
Despite the acknowledging of a crisis within the Church, its leadership and veteran constituency continue to search for the antidote to curb the exodus of young people from the confines of its establishment. Pastoral leadership scourers the Internet looking for ways to stop the rising number of young people leaving their environment. Programs are invented or adopted from other visibly successful organizations. Relevance and the integration of the worldly standards are copied with the hope it will not only stem the exodus, but lead to enticing those who have left to return. Some churches even offer two types of services. One is called the contemporary service which attempts to make the worship experience more inviting to the younger generation. When is the Church going to understand that the youth don’t want their faith dressed up like the world, rather they want a living hope that distinguishes itself from the world. Many contemporary services resemble a pre concert warm up in a secular venue. It is highly emotional with little substance. The other type of service is called the traditional. Here the experience is ritualistic with little relevance to the contemporary world. The Church seems to think the answer to the youth exodus is to bring the Gospel down to their level, to disguise the Bible in a shroud of modern day words which tend to parallel a funeral service. When are we going to understand that our young people are a lot more discerning than we give them credit for? They hear the messages of the Church but fail to see the results in the people. At home they see a totally different set of parents than they do at church. They hear their mother and father stressing the importance of going to church, but fail to see them exhibiting the truth that they supposedly heard on Sunday morning. If the exporting of the Gospel message is not imported into the home, how do we expect the youth to have an interest in Church?
What young people want and need is authenticity. They are drawn into the world by the enticement of worldly pleasures, but soon outgrow their influence and seek yet another plateau of temporary fulfillment. On and on it goes, as they continue to seek satisfaction in their lives. They are looking for real purpose in life. They are looking for peace. They are looking for lasting fulfillment. They are looking for happiness. They have been drawn by the counterfeit for so long that it begins to look like the real thing. But when the worldly pleasures let them down, their life begins its spiral descent. Then there is the Church. Not recognizing the situation the Church adopts the things of the world with just enough coating to distinguish the difference. The young people see this and recognize it for what it is: hypocrisy!
The Church needs change; a change back to what it once was. It is not Christian psychology from the pulpit, but the Word of God. It is not new ways but back to the time when God was honored and His Son presented with the Holy Spirit influencing and directing the message. The Church needs to be relevant, not by imitating the ways of the world, but by presenting Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life!
If there is any hope to stem the exodus of young people from our churches, the pew warmers need to live the life that God has commanded us to live. We must stop being a religious club and start being living examples! Parents, it starts in the home. The Bible is not a decoration for the home, but the Living Word of God that needs to be read daily as a family. Don’t depend on the pew bible next Sunday, but let everyone bring his Bible in anticipation of the presented Word. The youth are looking for truth; let them see it in the adults that claim to know God!
The true testing of our faith is in how we respond to the daily challenges of life. If we truly are pupils and disciples of Jesus, we will look at every situation as an opportunity to grow and express our status as a true Believer. When we neglect our daily communication with God and rationalize our absence from His Word, we have paved the way for our carnal nature to dominate the situation. The success ratio of victory over circumstances diminishes to a single figure when our human nature plays a leading role. Worry, fear, exaggeration of the challenge, doubt, anxiety, and reasoning all lead to an early defeat. The Bible states that God has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness…” (II Peter 1:3) What we have to do is appropriate and display those things. It is not a question of what kind of challenge awaits us; rather, it is the answer we display! There are a growing number of Christians that are fighting depression as a result of the lack of spiritual stamina. Depression also comes from a lack of spiritual expression. Every day we should stand in front of a mirror and proclaim who we are in Christ. Instead of reading and listening to the daily reports of how bad this world is, why not read the Word and see how God has everything under control?
If Christians fail to exhibit the reality of the Word, the chances of reaching the non-believer for Christ become even more remote. We can huddle with other Christians for worship, but if we don’t reach out with our lives and words to a dying world, our faith will diminish. Inactive faith brings limited results. Neglected faith promotes reasoning. Sight replaces faith. Worry dwarfs peace. Fear overcomes hope. Sadness covers joy. Turmoil upends contentment.
Many of the trials that we face in life are here for a purpose. These are learning experiences that will help promote spiritual growth. The problem is that many Believers don’t understand the role they play in their spiritual journey. The next time you face a challenge in your faith arena, look at it as an opportunity to advance in your spiritual walk. God’s trials are there to enhance our progress in His Kingdom. Satan counters the trials with temptations. His purpose is to draw us away from God. He wants us to fail the course on spiritual dynamics. God’s trials are for our construction, while Satan’s temptations are for our destruction. Learn to distinguish between Trials and Temptations.
Let us evaluate our spiritual walk and see if we are making progress for the kingdom of God. Let us realize we are responsible for our spiritual walk. We decide if we are going to read our Bible and talk with God daily. We decide if we are going to share our faith. We decide if we are going to walk by faith or by sight. We decide how to respond to our trials and temptations. It is not up to God or Satan what we will do; rather, it is up to us how we respond to the circumstances in our life.
It is amazing how Christians defend religious traditions, especially those which have no Biblical support. The Jewish leadership of Jesus day made the Word of God ineffective through their interpretation of Scripture. They substituted their understanding of the Law for the written Word of God. Down through the ages, there has been a legalistic defending of rituals and non-Biblical promotions that have served only to distant individuals from God’s intended purposes. Religious exercises have replaced personal relationships with God as the way of worship. There is nothing wrong with tradition as long as it lines up with the Word of God, but to follow non-Biblical based tradition under the guise of spiritual truth is to hinder the working of God.
The reality of salvation has been misunderstood. So many new Believers have taken the road to God through the accepting of Jesus Christ as their Savior. They repented of their sins and then asked Jesus to come into their heart. Depending on the sincerity of the seeker, this approach can bring one into a valid Born Again experience. The problem with this approach is that we are trying to fit Jesus into our life style. If we are truthful, we will readily admit that our “new life” is so full of problems that some fall into lukewarmness and even backslide. It is not a question of Jesus coming into our house of occupancy; rather it is the vacating of our residence and abiding in Christ! The reason so many Christians have a difficult time in life is because we are sharing our living quarters with Jesus. It is not a question of Christ abiding in us, but are we abiding in Him?
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians makes it clear that when God raised Jesus from the dead, He had Him sit with Him in “heavenly places.” (Eph. 1:20) Not only did God restore Jesus to His rightful place, but every Believer is also “seated with Him.” (Eph. 2:6) The Scripture tells us that God continues to bless us with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph. 1:3) Instead of laboring for the blessings through our horizontal eyesight, let us set our “mind on the things above.” (Colossians 3:2) When we begin to realize who we are in Christ, we will truly understand what it means to be part of the family of God.
Once we have vacated our temporal residence and have taken permanent residence with Christ, the Holy Spirit then seals the relationship! (Eph. 1:13) Satan can huff and puff with his temptations, but he can’t blow the house in!
Tradition says to ask Jesus to come into your life, while the Scripture teaches us to leave all and enter into His life. When we realize who we are in Christ, we will not entertain a thought such as “Can I lose my salvation?” We will not question God, for we know He has everything under control. (Rom 8:28)
The traditional salvation experience is just as valid as the Ephesians’ approach. The only real difference is the road one travels after the rebirth. Christ is within us as well as we are within Him. God sees us through and in His Son, and that is where the blessings lie!