What is love? In our American culture, we’ve been told and taught and trained that love is based upon feelings. We often think about that ‘high’ feeling when we ‘fall in love.’ Or maybe it’s ‘love at first sight.’
When I was a boy, I heard someone ask this question. ‘How will I know if I love the right girl? How will I know she is the one to marry?’
The answer given was, ‘When the time comes, you will know. And, boy, will you ever know because you will feel the love.’
If love is based upon emotions, what happens when my feelings change, and are not loving?
As humans, we all have emotional highs and lows. We have mountain top experiences, and we have deep emotional valleys. Our emotions (feelings) are constantly changing. We have ups and downs. If love is based upon feelings, then our love fluctuates with our moods.
Often in our culture the idea is …
Understand that powerful emotions ‘may’ accompany love, but the core part of love is not based on emotions.
A search in a dictionary for love brought up the following:
That raises a question, what is love as found in the Bible? There are three Greek words.
Phileo (Brotherly love) = means "affectionate regard, friendship", usually "between equals."
Eros (Erotic love) = means "love, mostly of the sexual passion.
Agapao (Godly love) = means "love: esp. charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes the latter, Godly love:
The Bible does not say God is ‘loving’. Rather it says God IS love. (John 4:8)
Too many folks, including Christians, get caught up in emotions and feelings, which constantly change. It’s not uncommon for people to ‘give up’ or ‘throw in the towel’ when difficulties arrive and things get tough. Or perhaps they turn away and forget that other person.
But God’s love does not change, there is no shadow of turning (James 1:17). His love for you and me is based upon a decision. Throughout the Bible, the term of love is most often explained as Loyal Love. This is a commitment demonstrated by action in the interest of another. This word indicates no reference to self-interest. It’s ALWAYS for another.
Whatever is short of God’s love (1 Corinthians 13) is not biblical love. Anything less will focus on, or point toward ‘self’. ‘Self’ is certainly not what God intended.
Parental-love and sibling-love, both (in the purest sense) focus on another person and are given for the benefit of the other.
In the ultimate definition, the root of love is a decision. That decision must hold firm and be unwavering.
What kind of love do you have?
Rewards and Salvation – Part 1
In this study, we must keep in mind a principle that can be a huge stumbling block.
That principle is condemnation before investigation. — Edmund Spencer
That principle could be used as supposed-proof against all argument and if it is wielded, that principle will keep man in ignorance, barring him from understanding truth.
He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. (Prov. 18:13)
Whoever answers before listening is both foolish and shameful. (Prov. 18:13 ISV)
So let us carefully examine scripture to learn what God wants us to know.
Let’s begin this study with a few questions:
… neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. … and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:28-28)
Notice, there are two hands involved. If you are saved, and if you could lose your salvation, then God’s hand, and Jesus’ hand are not strong enough to keep you.
Therefore, if we are saved, aren’t we going to be equal in Heaven?
Understand, all Christians are equal in being justified which is declared not guilty.
There is a difference between entering the Kingdom vs. Inheriting the Kingdom.
When Jesus said on the cross, ‘It is finished’, the word used means ‘paid in full.’ John 19:30
Salvation has three tenses: past, present, and future.
I am saved. Justification – separation from the penalty of sin.
This is a gift from God of everlasting life received by faith in Christ alone.
I am being saved. Sanctification – separation from the power of sin.
A work in progress that involves the faith and the works [fruit bearing] of the believer.
I will be saved. Glorification – separation from the presence of sin.
All believers will be glorified (resurrected and given a body like Christ).
Justification is for us:
Sanctification is in us.
Justification declares the sinner righteous:
Sanctification makes the sinner righteous.
Justification removes the guilt and penalty of sin:
Sanctification removed the growth and power of sin.
Many Christians have been taught if you’re saved, you will rule and reign with Him.
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ … (Romans 8:16-17)
Most Bible teachers and preachers stop at that point. But notice, Paul adds a footnote:
“… if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
Ouch: a footnote. It has a condition.
Paul also says something else in: But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1Corinthians 9:27)
Wait a minute. Is Paul terrified about losing something? What’s he afraid of?
Keep in mind, Paul is not afraid of losing his salvation. He’s the one who penned Romans chapter eight. He wrote the book on eternal security.
If we should travel across the country and go to a hotel, we can enter the room, but it doesn’t mean we inherit the room. Inheritance means privileges, in other words, rewards.
There are two kinds of inheritance:
The word partakers means: one who shares in, companion, comrade; partner (in work, office, or dignity.)
Throughout scriptures, inheritance is always conditional upon faithful obedience.
In the New Testament, the word for inheritance means a reward for a life of faithfulness.
When we study the Old Testament, we can find where sonship, heir (inheritance), and firstborn, were promised by virtue of birth, however it was subject to conditions of obedience.
The land of Caanan was an inheritance — Deut. 15:4; 19:14; 25:19; 26:1
At the same time, it was to be merited by obedience — Exodus 23:20; Deut. 2:21
Israel was God’s ‘firstborn son’ — Exodus 4:22-23
Other inheritances were forfeited
Esau sold it for a dish of pottage.
Ruben, Jacob’s firstborn
Not Cain, but Abel
Not Japheth but Shem
Not Ishmael but Isaac
Not Manasseh but Ephraim
Not Aaron but Moses
Not Eliab but David
The generation of Israelites during the Exodus was promised an inheritance but failed to obtain it at Kadesh-Barnea. (Numbers 14) It was there that God did the following:
The Lord told Moses that because the Israelites had provoked Him, he would disinherit them. Moses interceded for the people, and God then pardoned them. However, the Lord swore on His own Name that those people would not see the Promised Land. Numbers 14:11-12, 19-21.
Because of Moses, they were forgiven, but they would not receive their inheritance.
Only two persons of the 2 million people took possession of their inheritance, Joshua and Caleb. Even Moses was excluded because of disobedience.
So we see that they [the Israelites in Exodus] could not enter in because of unbelief. (Hebrews. 3:19)
Their inheritance was conditioned upon faithfulness.
Notice Israel did not lose their status as a redeemed people.
They were still the redeemed: the chosen people of God.
Nevertheless, they did lose the blessing of their inheritance in the Promised Land.
Rewards and Salvation – Part 2
Now let’s look at passages in the New Testament.
In reading the parable of the prodigal son, he lost his inheritance, but he never lost his sonship.
Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. (Hebrews 4:11)
The writer of Hebrews is not discussing salvation, rather rest attained from works and obedience.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10)
When Paul said we must all appear, he referred to everyone who was saved.
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor. 3:11-15)
Again, Paul is indicating every believer’s work will be revealed by fire. It’s fire which shall be applied to the work. Rewards will be handed out based upon work. A person’s work will be either consumed by the fire, or revealed as precious by the fire.
It is not the fire of hell, it’s a fire to test the quality of work. The fire does not test the person.
It’s all about rewards. The person is already saved. Only the person’s works are being tested. It’s important to note, this has nothing to do with salvation. These are believers; their justification is not the issue.
But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. (Hebrews 6:9-10)
The writer is encouraging the believers to press on to maturity to receive God’s blessing of rewards.
And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:11-12)
It appears that some promises are optional, and dependent upon faithful works which leads to rewards.
And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. (1 John 2:28)
How could a believer be ashamed before Christ at His return? Because of a lack of faithful works which cancels out any rewards.
For we [believers] must all appear before the judgment seat [bema seat] of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:10)
Believers [already saved] are being judged by Christ according to their works/fruit that they have done while they were believers.
This is a time of rewards for faithfulness:
Some are entrusted with special privileges – some not (1 Cor. 3:11-15)
Some will reign with Christ – some not (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev 3:21)
Some will be rich – some not (Luke 12:21, 33; 16:11)
Some receive heavenly treasures of their own – some not (Luke 16:12)
When we study scripture, we know there are at least five crowns mentioned which believers will earn. There could be more.
Crown of Life – for those who have suffered for His sake (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10)
Crown of Righteousness – for those who loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8)
Crown of Glory – for those who fed the flock (1 Peter 5:4)
Crown incorruptible – for those who press on steadfastly (1 Cor. 9:25)
Crown of Rejoicing – for those who win souls (1 Thess. 2:19)
Those who receive a crown can be called overcomers. In Revelation seven are mentioned.
Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. (Revelation 3:11)
Ouch. Notice that determination and steadfastness are necessary. Or else a believer may lose their reward.
Salvation is never in question. That was sealed at the cross for all who believe. Rewards are determined by the faithful works of a believer after having received the Lord into their life.
Sin is not an issue. That is done at the Cross.
Our fruit bearing is at issue. Our rewards depend upon this.
The opportunities we wasted, or the ones we blew.
The judgment seat of Christ may leave us with tears in our eyes.
Regret, when we realize at what was at stake.
We know the Lord will reward every believer for whatever good he does. (Ephesians 6:8)
Our challenge today is to search-out what the Bible says and not accept what others may say.
As believers in Christ, we are taught and instructed that prayer is an essential element for/in the Christian life. We know this. We hear sermons about the importance of prayer. The Bible is brimming with examples, admonitions, and commands to pray.
However, many believers, when asked if they pray as much as they think they should, and this is the crux of the matter, will shake their head. They know they should pray more but they don’t do it. They know this is important and yet the discipline to pray is left alone or ignored.
A quick browse of websites about prayer reveal that many take time to preach how-to-pray. Others provide scriptural examples and verses to bolster a readers resolve to pray. A check with booksellers and there are numerous volumes about the discipline of prayer. Respected pastors and scholars have written on the subject of praying. I have one in front of me right now, ‘Listening for God’ by Marilyn Hontz. Examples and admonitions are peppered throughout this excellent book. Lists and acronyms are provided for the reader to utilize.
And yet, believers, Christians, and church-goers still admit they don’t pray like they should. When asked why, people often provide answers like: I don’t have time; or My problem isn’t that important; or Praying won’t make a difference.
After a bit of online research, these additional reasons are offered: I sometimes forget; and I feel guilty about not praying more; and I can’t pray like so-and-so does; and I don’t know how to pray; and I get discouraged that God doesn’t answer.
When folks are asked, ‘If you pray, when do you do it?’ Their reply might include: ‘I pray at mealtime’; or I silently pray in church when the pastor prays; or ‘When I’m called on in a group’; or ‘When there is a big problem, I might bow my head.’
If this topic is becoming boring, wait a minute or two. I’d like to present something different. Something that may reveal an unfamiliar idea.
In the Mel Gibson movie, Hacksaw Ridge, the actor who plays the lead role of Desmond Doss, says the following: “I pray to God and I like to think He hears me but it ain’t a conversation ….”
That comment reveals something mighty important. Notice, his talk with God is considered a one-way-chat. Normally, when two people talk, there is a give-and-take as each person contributes. It becomes a back-and-forth as each one adds to the topic under discussion.
However, in prayers to the Lord, it’s always ‘us’ doing the talking. We don’t hear a response or receive a reply. This is discouraging, depressing, and turns ugly. Why pray? There’s no answer.
Some Christians might say, ‘the answer will come later’. Like when? How much later? What if I wait days, or even weeks? What if there’s still no answer, do I keep on? Most believers throw in the towel; they give up talking to God. Their prayer dialogs are one-sided and lack any reply.
Someone may pipe up and say, “I’ve had an answer to my prayer?” My question would be, “Was it answered yesterday?” Silence. “Uh, no.” My next question, “Was the answer this past week or month?” More crickets. My follow up question, “Was the prayer answered this past year?” They hesitate. “It was back when ….” That’s the idea, it’s been a while.
Having a lack of an active conversation with God changes the attitude of most people. Someone might say, “Praying doesn’t work.” Therefore, it becomes easy to find other things to do, other things more important. They give lip-service to the importance of prayer, but in their personal lives they have ceased talking to the Lord.
“Really,” they may think, “why pray at all?” Perhaps there are stories or situations where others have received an amazing answer, but you haven’t. It doesn’t do any good. It doesn’t work. So, why do it? And so, that aspect of the believer’s life drops off, or lags behind.
This article is an attempt to paint a picture of why Christians don’t pray. If what is depicted is close to your experience, read on. There is no promise of a quick-fix, or an amazing formula, or fast answer. All that is offered are things to think about. Perhaps, just perhaps, there might be a nugget to uncover.
It is my contention that God talks to us every day, even hourly. The problem; we aren’t listening. I believe God wants to talk to us, He wants to fellowship with us, He desires to share with us. Again: the problem? We aren’t heeding, or we don’t how to listen.
God’s voice is soft, very soft. He wants us to seek, to search, to look for Him. Listen to this:
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 NIV)
Do you catch all that? I am supposed to be seeking the Lord, crying out for wisdom, looking for God with all my heard, keeping His commands, and searching for Him. There is a great deal of energy, determination, and struggle to find the Lord. He wants us to LOOK, not sit back and twiddle our thumbs while we wait for Him.
Our problem may likely be that we fail to put any effort into listening to the Lord. Rather, we travel through life and hope for the best. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us that we must knock, we must seek, we must look, we must ask. There must be a definite effort in our seeking God.
Do we sit back and expect the pastor or Bible teacher feed us? If that’s the case, then ‘No,’ won’t know when God answers prayer, we won’t hear when God speaks. Why? Because we aren’t listening. We must set aside our personal ‘self’, our own desires, and our problems. We must focus upon the Lord, not for just ten minutes, but for much longer; long enough that seeking God becomes a daily habit.
Let us pray. He will answer but we must listen.
There is a story about a man who was severely troubled about his Christian life. He visited his pastor and shared the problems about his temper: how he couldn’t wait for things to happen; how he moved forward with plans without waiting on the Lord; how he became frustrated with others when they hadn’t accomplished the set goals by the company; how he had no inner peace in his heart; how he was always pushing himself and others.
The Pastor asked the brother-in-the-Lord, “How may I pray for you?”
The man replied, “I need tolerance. Too often I’m in a hurry to get things done. Pray that the Lord will give me patience.”
The pastor placed an arm around the man. “Let’s pray right now.”
They both bowed their heads and the pastor prayed. “Lord, give this brother hardships and difficult times. Let trouble and problems fill his day. Make pressure and adversities his—”
The man jolted upright. “Wait a minute pastor. I didn’t ask for any of that.”
The Pastor smiled. “Yes you did.”
“No I didn’t. I want patience.”
The Preacher shook his head. “Normally the Lord doesn’t reach out, touch the believer, and give the attitude they request. Rather, God wants to teach the person, to train them how to develop the Christlike attitude.”
“But … but,” stammered the man. “What you prayed for will only aggravate my problem.”
The Pastor laid a hand on the man’s arm. “Only if you let it. Your life, and the things that come your way, are intended as homework. You and I are in God’s school. He’s training us to be faithful, to persevere, and to be holy. Those qualities are not granted as if the Lord were to wave a magic wand.”
“That’s so hard,” said the man. “I want God to just give me patience.”
“God usually doesn’t work that way. Everything in our lives, every event, every problem, and every complication: each is intended to make us more like Christ. The key to learning is how we respond. Do we fight the difficulties or do we accept them as something for God to use to modify our attitudes?”
The man frowned. “I don’t like that.”
“I didn’t make the rules. The Apostle Paul wrote: ‘Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances—’”
“Thankful for ALL circumstances? You gotta be kidding.”
“Not FOR all circumstances; IN all circumstances. Each situation is used to draw you into a closer walk with Christ. If your attitude is to grumble or complain, you failed the assignment. If you rejoice that the problem can be used to reshape your attitude, then you’ll receive a passing mark in God’s school.”
The man huffed. “You make this sound like I have to work at changing myself.”
“Something like that. We’re all sinners. God works in our lives to change us. The verse I just quoted ends with this: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Like it or not, this is God’s intent for each of us. Reading our Bible isn’t just for head knowledge. Rather, it should bring about modifications within the heart; an internal change.”
“Hmmm,” the man grunted.
“Well, each of us must make choices. We either fight or follow. We choose what attitude to display every minute of every day. Matthew chapter five starts off with the Beatitudes. Each one listed is an Attitude of heart: poor in spirit, meekness, merciful, hunger for righteousness, etc. We choose how to react. That’s our freewill, how we respond. The choice is yours … and mine.”
She has not obeyed His voice, She has not received correction; She has not trusted in the Lord, She has not drawn near to her God. Zephaniah 3:2 NKJV
In this verse, there are four accusations. This verse could be paraphrased as: “You never listened; you never took correction; you never trusted in Jehovah; you never drew near.”
What did this city do to receive such a terrible condemnation? In Israel, every person had heard God’s instructions, they were given clearly to everyone. The people had agreed to follow these commands down through all generations.
But, they did not, so, there was no excuse.
Really, this is nothing different than what we find in our own country. Our country was begun on the principles of the Bible, godly teaching, and right morals. Down through the years these ideas have slipped and were replaced by retirement accounts, bank balances, insurance, security alarms, body guards, job guarantees and anything else that was looked upon as security. In our world which is overcome by fears of the future, God offers safety.
But we choose money.
ergo: We do not trust.
Let’s continue in our study …
It has been said that Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse (generous gifts) from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasure, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, [which is] always followed by a dictatorship.” – attributed to Alexander Tytler.
Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning. Zephaniah 3:3 NKJV
Power, breeds lions and wolves; lions whose roar is the sound of mayhem and slaughter, wolves who feast on the vulnerable and leave nothing for the morning. This would be like saying: Woe to anyone who believes that the powerful will save them. And woe to those who, when given power, oppress the helpless.
Of all the world’s addictions, power is to be feared the most, because it is the unbridled warrant for destruction. No person who desires to be powerful is fit to wield its sword. Perhaps this is why God selects leaders who are unsuited for the task. If you hear of someone who desires a high-held position and they say, ‘I can straighten things out,’ then we should run from them because they cannot be trusted with that sword.
“No man can hold the sword of power for long without abusing its force and any man who thinks he is able to do so without the humility that comes from standing before a Holy God is a bigger fool than the Father of Lies.” – Skip Moen
What we need then, are leaders who are in constant conversation with God. Prayer makes us human. Leaders who do not pray will become roaring lions and evening wolves. The only answer to power is to stand in God’s presence—often.
But our problem in this modern culture is: we don’t pray. Therefore in our headlong spiral of disobedience to God, only insanity (pride) can explain the complete disregard for the existence of God and failure to heed the call of the Creator.
To be insane (full of pride) means to be in praise of myself. And this leads only to self-destruction.
There is no ground for argument or negotiation with prideful, power-hungry people. Because until they come to their right-mind, and humble themselves before the Lord, they will be dangerous to themselves and to anyone around them.
This warns us, because to remove the spiritual component of our behavior would be a mark of cultural insanity (pride).
-- Micheal Emmert