REMAINING FAITHFUL

1 John 2:24 – If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father (KJV).

Abiding is an important topic of the New Testament. In the last hours of His earthly life, Jesus taught His disciples what it meant to abide in Him. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

For some, John 15 can be a difficult chapter because of the illustration of removing branches and casting them away. It is important to understand that Jesus is speaking to His apostles. They are the ones He is sending into the world to lay the foundation of His Church by preaching the “goodness of His kingdom.” Judas, who was named among the apostles, was really an agent of the devil. The Jewish people saw themselves as the “special people of God.” Jesus is now defining who the people of God really are. Apart from Jesus, nothing can be done that has eternal significance.

The sum total of what Jesus came to accomplish is found in the Father and the Son taking up a place of residence in the believer through their indwelling Holy Spirit. In John’s gospel account, he calls this “abiding.” In John’s letter to the church, he again calls this work of God “abiding.” God’s will is to abide in every part of the believer’s life. The Father and the Son’s desire is for the believer to manifest their nature in every area of one’s life.

The word abiding speaks of fellowship. “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete” (1 John 1:3-4). Abiding in Christ is what produces fellowship with the Father and the Son. It also is the foundation of relationship among believers. There is a wonderful joy when one learns about an individual they know who has entered into a fellowship with the Father and the Son. The other day, a friend was sharing with me his recent experience with God. I was filled with joy and it allowed me to share with him deeper things in Christ than I had previously shared.

Father, I want to grow in my relationship with You. Lead me to abide in You so that Your will might be established fully in my life. I have determined to press into You. I ask You to supply the needed grace in my life to be Your faithful servant.

DO NOT LOVE THE WORLD

1 John 2:15 – Do not love the world nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

What a great verse of Scripture to remind us of how easily we can become separated from the love of the Father. The Father does not forsake us, but we can be drawn away from His presence as we are filled with things. Some years ago, I began to change a habit of saying “I love a particular item.” I realized the habit focused on “things” rather than a person. The Father is concerned about persons. Love is meant to be organic and not about objects.

The world is corrupt through sin. Sin gave Satan a right to rule the nations and corrupt the world through systems. Jesus conquered Satan and made it possible to bring the nations under God’s government. The objective of salvation in the life of a believer is to destroy the works of the flesh with its lust and remove the love of the world in the saints of God. Jesus made it clear when He prayed to the Father saying, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Jesus prayed these words because He understood, while the disciples were in the world, the attacks against them would be rooted in Satan and his domain.   

It is not wrong to have possessions as long as the possessions do not possess us. There is an expression I learned many years ago, “Hold on to things loosely.” I enjoy restoring old radios and transmitters. I continually need to practice not becoming emotionally attached to a nice piece of equipment. I am grateful for all that the Lord has blessed my wife and me with, but I know I can be satisfied with little because I have known both little and abundance.

The Holy Spirit wants to develop a kingdom culture in us. That is, everything we own, time we spend, and places we go must have a foundation in the kingdom of God.  Whether or not I am purposely involved in a particular kingdom activity, the kingdom of God is to be my first priority.

Father, reveal to me if there is any worldliness in my life. Help me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be free from any love of the world. I choose to only make room for the love of the Father in my life. 

WITH ALL PRAYER IN THE SPIRIT

Ephesians 6:18 – With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit.

Prayer is one of the most important disciplines of a believer’s walk in Christ. Prayer is our means of communication with our heavenly Father. Prayer is what we have been called to as priests of God. The authority Jesus has given to His church to overcome the kingdom of darkness is implemented by prayer. Prayer is not our thoughts being expressed to God, but rather through relationship with the Holy Spirit we receive God’s desires, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Paul used the word all – “With all prayer and at all times.” When writing the Thessalonians, Paul admonishes them, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is not a ritual, but rather a lifestyle. Prayer must be Spirit-led to accomplish God’s purpose, and not from one’s own soul life. “God’s house will be a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). 

The New Testament gives us an expanded dimension of prayer. “To pray” is always used of “prayer” to God. “Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection” (2 Corinthians 13:7-8 KJV). I site the KJV because the quote uses the word “wish.” Paul is praying his desire or wish to God for the Corinthians.

Paul’s injunction in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is “to pray without ceasing.” This describes his burden for the Lord’s Church to enter into her calling of prayer at all times. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is most insightful when he says, “This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless” (Philippians 1:9-10). Locating the prayers of Paul and the other apostles is a profitable study. Incorporate them into your prayer life. This prayer in Philippians is a powerful prayer which truly identifies the Father’s heart for His sons and daughters.

In tomorrow’s devotion, we will discuss a number of meanings for prayer. I will include: proper prayer and how faith relates to prayer. The Holy Spirit is present to help us enter into Paul’s encouragement to the Saints at Ephesus, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit.” Daily, ask the Father and the Son to fill you with their Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will lead you and direct you throughout the day. You will find yourself praying more as the Spirit of God gives you insights and direction in the day’s activities.

Father, I thank You for inviting me to partner with You every day through prayer and petition. Fill me with Your Spirit as often as needed so that I might be alert to Your will and guided in my daily decision making. Use me to pray for others in their walk, that by faith I would see Heaven’s will brought to pass.

THE HELMET OF SALVATION AND THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT

Ephesians 6:17 – Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Paul says that we must “take” both the helmet and the sword. They are not placed in our hands; rather we must take responsibility for picking them up. The helmet of salvation covers our head. Salvation is holistic in its nature and is intended to minister daily to our souls. The soul has three main areas that need to experience God’s salvation daily: the will, the emotions, and the mind. All three areas need to be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. The mind has at least five areas which the Lord wants to bring into conformity to the mind of Christ. Satan has his designs on each of these areas as well.

The five areas of the mind are described by Paul. We read in Colossians 3:2 about the affections of the mind. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Paul mentions our imaginations in 2 Corinthians 10:3, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” He writes about the conscience in 1Timothy 1:19. “Keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” Paul describes the use of the memory in 1 Corinthians 15:2. “Keep in memory what I preached unto you.” Finally, Scripture illustrates our ability to reason in Acts 19:8-9 when Paul “entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.”

We must “take up the sword of the Spirit.” The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. It is two-edged and can be dangerous if mishandled. One edge cuts away the fleshly nature of my own heart. The word of God is essential in changing my perspective and helping me see from God’s point of view. The other edge is the side of the blade for helping free others. When the sword is handled properly, bondages can be cut off those to whom you are ministering. It is important to read, study, memorize, and meditate upon the word of God. When we give ourselves to these four areas, it will cause us to become skillful with the sword of the Spirit.

Father, I thank You for these two important pieces of armor. Help me to put on the helmet of salvation daily, and to take up the sword of the Spirit. I ask You to make me a skillful warrior in Your army. I want to walk in the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ every day.  

WEARING THE ARMOR OF GOD

Ephesians 6:14b -16 Put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

The breastplate of righteousness covers your heart region. Righteousness is a heart issue. The enemy shoots his arrows at our hearts to try and kill the life of God. Many have received arrows from others, from childhood through adulthood. Believers can have great difficulty in their Christian growth because of wounds to their heart from the past. The Lord wants to heal us from the inside out. As we are healed, it is important to put on the breastplate of righteousness to stay well in one’s heart.

Putting on the shoes of the gospel of peace is for our daily walk. We are to walk in peace and bring peace wherever we go. Just as we take time to prepare our natural feet for walking, we must take time to prepare for our walk in Christ. It begins with intimacy with our heavenly Father. As we experience peace in the morning with the Lord, we are readied for the day and our experience with others.

Paul says, “Taking up the shield of faith.” It takes effort to put on the armor, but it is a necessary daily activity. We are called to walk in faith. It is the person of faith that overcomes the world. It is the person of faith that advances the kingdom of God. It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). The devil hates people of faith because they cause his kingdom great problems. Only through faith do we “extinguish” his flaming arrows. The picture Paul is illustrating is that of a Roman soldier. The Roman soldiers would stand together with their shields interlocked. As believers we are to interlock with other believers against the enemies attacks. We do not have to go into the battle alone.

The “evil one” has a very ordered kingdom; he rules his domain with control and oppression. His purpose is to cause chaos for God’s plans. Satan is ruthless in his attack on God’s kingdom purposes and God’s covenant people. Paul outlines what we are up against in this battle. Many Christians try to meet the challenges they face through their own natural reasoning. The wisdom of man is not sufficient to deal with the kingdom of darkness. It is important for the believers to understand the warfare in which they are engaged. The armor is very important to our success in the battle.

It cannot be emphasized enough how important righteous living and a life of faith becomes as it relates to the subject of “spiritual warfare.” Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart daily and expose any area that has not been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and surrendered to His kingdom rule. Invite the Holy Spirit to establish your life habits in an atmosphere of faith. Repent of any areas He reveals that are not motivated by faith. Paul reminds us, “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

Father, I thank You for both the breastplate of righteousness and the shield of faith. Grant me grace to put on both these essential parts of the armor that You have supplied. Strengthen me in the battle of advancing Your kingdom on earth.

WE ARE IN A BATTLE

Ephesians 6:12 – For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

At times, it takes a number of English words to adequately communicate the meaning of the one Greek word. Words such as: deliverance, healing, safety, and wholeness bring a larger view of the salvation our God has provided. They also give us a larger view of the areas of attack from the enemy, areas such as demonic strongholds, sickness, disease, and persecution. Each one of these represents areas of battle in which the believer engages. Then there are the daily challenges of the flesh and dealing with temptation.

The armor must be put on daily. The practical application of God’s armor is to help His warring church conquer evil. Our verse today clearly identifies the forces behind the battle. Do I believe the word of God concerning the battle? The proof of my belief is found in obedience through application. “Put on the whole armor of God.” This is not a suggestion, but a command.

“Take up the full armor of God,” (are you?) so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13). Have we done everything? “Stand firm therefore having girded your loins with truth” (Ephesians 6:14). The armor begins with truth. The belt of truth holds all the armor together.

Consider what Jesus said about truth. “Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed on Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’. They answered Him, We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, you will become free?” (John 8:31-33).   

Deception can be ruthless. Throughout Jewish history, they were in bondage to the nations around them. For seventy years, the Israelites were captive to the Assyrians. Presently, they were captive to Rome. They really were slaves and the one speaking to them was “the Son of the house.” “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever’” (John 8:34-35). We are no longer slaves, but sons. We must put on the truth every day, exercising our position in Christ against the enemies of our soul. Gird yourself with truth every day. All truth is eternal. In this case, truth is a man. Paul said, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14).

Five elements of entering into truth are: honesty, confession, repentance, receiving and giving forgiveness. Releasing others who have sinned against us opens the prison door and sets the captive free!

Father, I thank You for the freedom You have made possible in Christ. I choose to put on the “full armor of God.” Thank You for the girdle of truth I wear which holds all Your provisions together in my life.