Having a permanent love affair with God does not mean we cease to have close relations with other people. On the contrary, with our deepest needs satisfied by our relationship with God, we no longer have to try to squeeze satisfaction out of human relationships. This frees us to approach human relationships with a new attitude. Our demands upon other people become less and we are then able to focus more on giving to others rather than receiving.
Your Lord loved you while you were still his enemy (Romans 5:8,10). Since in the extravagance of his love God treated us the exact opposite of what we deserved, we have a duty to continue his kindness by loving our own enemies (Matthew 5:44-48). Jesus emphasized that it is vital for your spiritual welfare that you hold no grudges (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:21-35. See also Matthew 5:23-24). We must love others, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Beyond this, however, you have a special obligation to love those who are your true brothers and sisters in Christ. Many people are not (spiritually speaking) Godís children (John 1:11-12; 1 John 3:10). Only those who are fully committed to God and are trusting Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, have God as their spiritual Father. But all of those who enjoy such a relationship with God are brothers and sisters (in a spiritual sense), by virtue of the fact that they all have the same Father. It is Godís desire that all of his children appreciate each other and form one, big happy family.
Unless you love all of Godís children, you canít love God (1 John 4:20). Since God has an intimate union with each of his children, anything you do to one of them is regarded as if you did it to God himself (Matthew 25:40).
Our love for our spiritual brothers and sisters should be immense (1 John 3:16-18). Those who selfishly refuse to share their material possessions and time with those who need are in great spiritual danger (Matthew 25:41-46; Luke 16:19-25; 1 John 3:14,17).
Even if you donít feel that great love is being expressed by believers that you know, that is no reason for allowing your love to diminish. (Never allow the failings of others to influence you.) Not even true Christians are perfect. Some are easy to like. A few are not. Some will greatly help you. A few may deeply disappoint and hurt you, but we still have to love them. You are capable of such love only by maintaining a close relationship with God and allowing him to love others through you (Romans 5:5; John 15:5).
Of course, people who love one another, enjoy each otherís company. You will want to spend much time with your brothers and sisters (Malachi 3:16-17). This will extend beyond church meetings (Acts 2:46; 20:20) but it is important for you to be involved in a good church (Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42).
Donít wait for others to take the initiative. Do everything in your power to develop deep friendships with those who really love Jesus.
Those of Godís children who are in fellowship with each other, enjoy greater security and satisfaction than those who are isolated from other believers (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). They are also more likely to experience (in a special way) Jesusí presence and answered prayer (Matthew 18:19-20).
A further advantage is that each individual has greater power than if he were alone. For example, if an individual could overcome 1,000 foes, two (together) could overcome not 2,000 but 10,000 (Deuteronomy 32:30)! This principle also applies to larger numbers. For instance, the power of a group of 100 (when unified and involved in the same task) is much greater than that of 20 groups of five (Leviticus 26:8).
Unfortunately, we canít personally be fully acquainted with large numbers of people. But ensure that you are able to share your inner-most thoughts with at least one or two people who really love Jesus and know him intimately. If you experience difficulty finding such a person, you should make it a matter of earnest prayer.
Praying aloud with other believers can be a wonderful experience. Especially if you are a little shy, this may seem awkward at first. You may, for instance, feel a need to rehearse in your mind what you say. We often do such things when we are a little apprehensive, but the prayer may then seem artificial to you. You are conscious that God knows your prayer before you voice it. But donít let this bother you. Vocalizing your prayer adds power to it because the hearers can add their faith to yours, as they agree with what you pray.
Donít be concerned if your prayer is short. A sincere short prayer is much more effective than a long one that is prayed without sincerity or without faith or is spoken merely to impress others.
Donít be embarrassed. You are with people who love you and have almost certainly gone through the same experiences in learning to pray. But do persevere. Itís more than worth it.
Your choice of church is very important. You should pray much about this matter. If at all possible, choose a church that not only teaches the truth (this, of course, is essential and will be explained later), but a church that also puts the truth into practice. For example, it should not only teach that God is all-powerful, but it should act as though it really believes it. Its members should expect God to do for them exactly the same sort of things that God did for his children in Biblical times (see 2 Timothy 3:5). If you really love Jesus and yet still find it quite a chore to go to church, it may be that you need to change churches. Unfortunately, some churches have dull, dry services that make a mockery of the vibrant, exciting life that Jesus died to give us. Going to church should be the highlight of your week.
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Fun ways to grow spiritually
No book is as precious, reliable and of such lasting value as the Bible. Modern Christian books, however, are most helpful and I highly recommend them, not, of course, as a substitute for Bible reading but a valuable supplement. Many of these books are most gripping and encouraging. You should find it no hardship to substitute these for television or video viewing and they will do you much more good.
Of course, I recommend my own entertaining book, Waiting for Your Ministry. I think youíll get a lot out of it. My all-time favorite Christian book is an unusual one: The Final Quest by Rick Joyner. I enjoyed Godís Smuggler, by Brother Andrew, although itís getting rather old now. Another old book that inspired me is Born To Reproduce by Dawson Trotman.
Share your book discoveries with friends. Visit some Christian bookshops and have a chat with the staff. Some churches have lending libraries.
At least glance at Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Volume 1 by Josh McDowell.
Be aware of this resource. Also become aware either of computer Bibles or Strongís Exhaustive Concordance that allow you to look up original Greek and Hebrew words. Donít trust the dictionary meaning of these foreign words. Instead, look up the different Bible contexts in which these words appear. This gives a much more reliable indication of the true meaning of the words. Youíll probably find a Bible College or Seminary that would permit you to visit their library.
Christian music is a great way to learn and be reminded of wonderful spiritual truths. Hunt around and youíll find Christian music catering for virtually every conceivable taste.
If you can find a good Christian teaching cassette library try listening while driving.
Videos, websites, (have a look at Search) Christian television and radio, are other possibilities.
Another easy but valuable help is simply chatting about spiritual
things to Christian friends.
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Never Ďflirtí with others
You must love other people, but if ever there is a conflict of loyalties between God and anyone else, you must willingly choose God. If a situation arises where you cannot please both God and someone else you love, then you should choose to please your Lord as decisively as a person would choose someone he loved in preference to someone he hated (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26).
Donít give your Divine Lover any cause to be jealous. Love others, but let your attitude be like that of the Psalmist (Psalm 73:25), ĎSince I have you, what else could I want on earth?í God must have first place in your affections.
You now belong to Christ, body, soul and spirit. Jesusí sacrificial blood has made you holy. A non-Christian, on the other hand, belongs to Satan and is unclean. In Godís sight, sexual union makes two people physically one. How dare anyone take that which is holy and belongs to Christ and try to unite it with that which is unclean and belongs to Satan? It could be argued that such an act would be a perversion worst than bestiality (1 Corinthians 6:15-20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
Yet God so hates divorce (Malachi 2:6) that if you are already bound to a non-Christian marriage partner, he will make the union holy by sanctifying your partnerís body (1 Corinthians 7:12-16, 39). In every other sense, however, your partner still belongs to Satan, unless he/she becomes a Christian.
On the other hand, if you are not already one flesh with a non-Christian it is important to shun romance with anyone who does not belong to Christ. Even Solomon, with all his wisdom, fell away from God because of ungodly wives. If you became a Christian only after you had married, you didnít sin by entering a spiritually mixed marriage. You were both non-Christians. God is eager to forgive and to allow the union to continue in holiness. For a Christian who dishonors God by knowingly marrying a non-Christian, however, forgiveness is much harder to obtain. God wants to remove sinís corruption, but he cannot, while a person still wants to hold on to his/her sin. God sees right through pretense. Unless a Christian truly regrets having married a non-Christian, forgiveness is not possible.
One of the important themes of Jesusí teaching is that there are basically two, diametrically opposed types of people in the world (Matthew 6:24; 12:30,33; 13:30,48; 24:40; 25:2,32; etc). Humanity is divided into two: those who have Jesus as their master and those who do not. On the surface, there may not appear to be a great difference between these two basic types (hence the many Ďshades of grayí) but, in reality, the difference is as great as that between light and darkness, or Jesus and Satan, and their final destinies are as different as heaven and hell.
Therefore, those who are united to Christ are not to have close relations with those who are not fully committed to him (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). You should immediately break off any close relationship with a person who has not given his/her life over to Jesus. Naturally, this will be a very difficult thing to do if you have been deeply in love with the person. But the Lord requires that you choose between him and your uncommitted friend. You cannot have both God and your friend unless that person gives his/her life completely over to Jesusí control. Your friend will only drag you into Hell. He/she may be a very nice person, but spiritually he/she belongs to Satan (the only alternative to not belonging to Jesus) and Satan is always opposed to Jesus. It has rightly been said that if you marry a child of the devil, youíll have big trouble with your father-in-law! Any close relationship with the uncommitted is dangerous.
Naturally, you must continue to love, respect and, when needed, look after non-Christian relatives (Ephesians 6:1-4; 1 Timothy 5:8). However, the ideal is to be close enough to non-Christians to influence them for Christ, without being so close that they begin to adversely affect our spiritual lives.
2. Spiritual Powers
You must separate yourself from sin (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:l9-21; Ephesians 5:4-5; Revelation 21:8). This includes envy, hate, anger, greed, bad language, occult practices, dishonesty, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, stealing, getting drunk, and practices that are injurious to health.
Because you have made God your God, you must obey him and look to him alone for direction. It is therefore wrong to resort to horoscopes, palmistry, tarot cards, seances, ouija boards, and so on. (Deuteronomy 18:10-15; 1 Chronicles 10:13,14; Isaiah 8:19).
Have nothing to do with things that are associated with non-Christian religions, such as yoga, Transcendental Meditation and the like. Despite the propaganda, these practices are as basic to Eastern religions as prayer and Bible study are to Christianity.
The Bible clearly teaches that there are evil spirits, as well as good spirits (eg. 1 John 4:1). God is the Good Spirit and he is in charge of all other good spiritual beings (angels). Since the only way to God is through Jesus (John 14:6), any spiritual experiences that occur without complete reliance upon Jesus Christ, cannot be from God. Such psychic phenomena must therefore be due to the activities of evil spirits. Note that I am referring to actual psychic phenomena and not to instances when trickery is used to simulate these practices. Donít be fooled by the quasi-scientific explanations and the apparent harmlessness of many occult practices. Evil spiritual powers that are violently opposed to God are behind such seemingly innocent things as ESP, telepathy, clairvoyance, astral travel, levitation, magic, table-tipping, water-divining, charms, automatic-writing, witchcraft (white and black), telekinesis, parakinesis and psychometry. Most of us have had some association in the past with one or more practices like these. Many of us thought they were quite harmless, but now that we know better we need to break the hidden hold they could have over us by confessing them to God as sin. Ask your Lordís forgiveness and protection and have nothing more to do with such practices.
God is far more powerful than anything in the occult (eg. see Acts 8:9-13:16;16-l9; Romans 16:20; Exodus 7:10-12). When Jesus returns to earth all evil powers will be totally destroyed. With Jesus, youíre Ďbacking a winner.í
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What to do when you grieve your Divine Lover
1. ĎMake upí with God straight away
Your wonderful Lord has feelings, and because you are so important to him you can cause him much grief if you neglect him or do wrong. When you discover that youíve hurt him, you may feel too ashamed to approach the God of Perfection. Or you may feel so disappointed that youíve let him down that you delay your return to God because you think you donít deserve to immediately recommence a close relationship with him. But this only increases Godís grief because it extends the period of time over which that sin affects your relationship with your loving Lord.
Some dear people are so aware of the seriousness of sin that they donít feel itís right that God should let them off scot-free and so they try to punish themselves! The most common self-imposed punishment is to deliberately feel miserable and deny oneself certain legitimate pleasures for a period of time. (This generally includes not allowing themselves the right to enjoy their relationship with God.)
On the surface, it seems a noble thing to punish oneself for sin and it indicates a strong desire to please God. However, it is important to realize that your life is not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19). Youíre Godís child (John 1:12) and you belong to him. The way a parent disciplines his child is solely the parentís concern. Just as it would be wrong for you to interfere and punish someone elseís child, so itís wrong for you to play God and try to punish yourself for your own failings.
Some people even punish themselves in the vain hope that it may help to secure their Lordís approval. But this only insults Jesus by implying that his death wasnít sufficient to gain your full forgiveness. Furthermore, believing you can help gain the Lordís approval by punishing yourself, puts yourself in a spiritually dangerous situation. It is vital to your forgiveness that you place your complete faith in Jesus alone. Only Jesus is able to obtain Godís approval of you, and so you must place no faith in your own futile attempts to please God.
Unforgiven sin separates us from our Holy God (Isaiah 59:1-2). The sooner this rift is healed, the better. So if you happen to sin, return to God straight away, sincerely ask his forgiveness and trust him for the strength to overcome that sin, so that you will not commit it again. Once God has forgiven you, you are obligated to forgive yourself, because you should have Godís attitude towards all things. To refuse to forgive ourselves is to imply we have holier standards than God!
2. Donít allow a failure to discourage you
Because Christ is now dwelling inside of you, (Colossians 1:27) you have so much power at your disposal that Satan is terrified of you (James. 4:7; 1 John 4:4). When it comes to a display of power, you will win every time. The only thing the devil can do is to try psychological warfare. If he could trick you into giving up, he has nothing to fear. He will try to discourage you. So banish all thoughts that you are Ďno good,í Ďweak,í or Ďhopeless.í Such lies are from the pit of hell. God believes in you. He is more than strong enough to overcome your every weakness. Youíre on Godís side and that means youíre on the winning side (Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 5:12; 12:9-11; 20:7-10). You are more than a conqueror through him who loves you (Romans 8:37 Ė see also Psalm 60:12; Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 15:57). Quote this Scripture to Satan: ĎRejoice not against me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall ariseí (Micah 7:8 Ė see also Psalm 34:19; 37:23-24; Proverbs 24:16).
Satan will put evil ideas and desires into your mind (temptation) in order to try to entice you to sin against God. But you can just ignore these thoughts. God has promised that no temptation will ever be too strong for you (1 Corinthians 10:13). Satan, of course, will try to fool you into thinking that his temptation is so strong that you will eventually have to give in to it. He will continue his bluff by trying to convince you with the lie that failure is inevitable and so there is no point in holding out any longer. He will attempt to excuse the evil act or make you feel that you canít stop yourself from sinning. If you were to believe his lies, then you will not bother to continue resisting the temptation and so, of course, you will give in and commit the sin. However, if you believe the Lordís promise (1 Corinthians 10:13) instead of Satanís lies, you wonít be bluffed into surrendering to the Satan-inspired urge to sin, even when that desire gets really strong. As you continue to hold out you will find that you will always overcome temptation because Godís Spirit dwells in you.
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