By Neil Anderson
I started reading a book by Watchman Nee called Normal Christian Life. So far I have only read the first chapter, but within that first chapter something really stuck out to me. He said “a clear conscience is never based upon our attainment; it can only be based on the work of the Lord Jesus in the shedding of His Blood”. The entire first chapter is about the Blood of Jesus Christ and how it applies to the life of a Christian. I thought that the chapter laid out beautifully what the Blood of Christ truly means to us as followers of Christ.
The chapter starts first by pointing out that the Blood of Jesus really isn’t so much for us, as it is for God. Now at first reading you may say, “Hold on a minute, the Blood of Christ is what saves me!” Yes that is very true and Nee is not dismissing that very important truth. What he means is that the only way God pardons our sin is if He sees the Blood of Jesus paying for the debt of our sin. Think about the Israelites when God commanded them to eat the Passover lamb inside the house, but spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. Then, when God passed over Egypt on the Passover night, God would see the blood and pardon the household. This is the same with us and the Blood of Christ. When God sees the Blood of Christ applied to our hearts, He can forgive and pardon our sin because of the great sacrifice of Jesus. So consequently, the amount we value Christ’s Blood is directly linked to the value that God values the Blood.
After realizing the value of the Blood, it is crucial that we base our life around that. Without the Blood of Christ, we can not go into the Presence of God without fear and shame. On the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament, the high priest alone was to go into the Most Holy Place to offer the sin offering to God. As it is with Christ. He is our High Priest who applies His blood to our sin to make retribution before God. When we allow this to become true in our everyday life, then it shapes our entire relationship with God. Some days I can feel really connected with God. I read my Bible and get a lot out of my reading. I feel like really connect with God in prayer and hear from Him. I am able to reflect the love of Christ well. I feel like I’m serving God well. Other days, it can be just the opposite. I don’t feel the same connection during my Bible reading or prayer time. I don’t reflect Christ’s love well. I may be mean or nasty. But listen to this: our standing before God is not based on our works, our merits, how we feel, or anything we can furnish. It is by the Blood of Jesus that we are able to be seen as forgiven by God!Do not allow the way you feel ditate how you think your relationship with God is based. It is only by the Blood of Jesus that we have relationship with God!
It is very easy as Christians to allow ourselves to get beat up when we fall short of the glory of God. We believe the lie that we have to earn our way into God’s love or we have to preform for God to be accepted. But praise be to God that it’s not about what I can do, it’s about what I can’t do. Only Jesus can bring me back into restored relationship with Jesus. When we try to base our status with God on anything other than the sacrificial Blood of Jesus, we play right into Satan’s schemes. The Bible calls Satan the Accuser. His tricks aren’t new. He has used the same tricks all through history; lying and accusing. He will try to accuse us of our sin before God and lie to us saying that we are failures and can’t be forgiven. By ourselves, we are failures and we can’t be forgiven. We can’t save ourselves. But by the Blood of Jesus I am redeemed and by His grace I can be pardoned of all my sin!
I pray that as you read this blog, you will ponder in your own heart whether or not you are applying the Blood of Jesus to your life. Does it really impact your everyday life, or is it more than a passing thought. I encourage as the Lord to reveal more of Himself to you, and share His value of His Son’s Blood with you. As always, I pray this blog encourages you or helps you! Blessings!
Most people have probably heard the story about Jesus’ birth. Here’s Luke’s account:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
There’s something about the birth of Messiah that’s somewhat controversial, even among some Christians. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Many ask, “Was Mary actually a virgin? Was the birth of Jesus truly a virgin birth?” Well let me take you back a few hundred years before Jesus Christ was born.
Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Isaiah clearly prophesies a virgin birth here. The original Hebrew word that was used for “virgin” here is “almah.” This Hebrew word means a “young, unmarried woman who has had no sexual relations.”
The angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary in the book of Luke. Luke 1:26-38 says:
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
My point is this: The Messiah MUST be born of a virgin. It was prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Hundreds of years before the book of Luke was written. It was something that had to be fulfilled. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. If Mary had not been a virgin, Jesus would not have been Messiah. Without the virgin birth, there is no Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), no Savior, and we are completely lost. But Jesus fulfilled ALL of the prophesied requirements for the Messiah. Jesus born of a virgin. That fact is essential to the Christian faith.
For may people, Christmas means a lot of things. For some, it means lots of shopping, traveling, and scrambling all over town to get those special gifts for special people. For others, it may mean getting together with family that they are unable to see throughout the year. These are great things. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get special people gifts. It is greatly important as well to spend time with family. However, Christmas marks a day much more important than gifts or family. It celebrates the day that God sent Hope back into the world.
Picture this. From the time the prophet Malachi, which is the last recorded Old Testament book, to the time of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) there was 400 years of silence. God’s chose Israel as His chosen people. Starting with Abraham, God promised a linage that would never perish and would bless all people. Abraham descendants were enslaved by Egypt for over 400 years, when God sent a leader, Moses, to bring them out of Egypt. After leaving the bondage of Egypt, Israel remained faithful to God for a time. Unfortunately, the longer Israel lived around the pagan nations, the more they grew into to practices of those nations. They eventually started worshipping and serving dead idols rather than the one, true living God. God began sending prophets to various parts of Israel. Those prophets began speaking the words of God and pleading for people to turn back to the Lord. Eventually Israel, was broke into two nations (Israel and Judah). Israel was wiped out by the Assyrians and Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon for 70 years. The prophets began giving snapshots of a Messiah that was to come and lead God’s people and save them. After the people of Judah were liberated from Babylon, the people turned back to God. But their worship to God became nothing more than dead religion. So with the last of the prophets, Malachi, God did not speak to Israel for almost 400 years.
The people of Israel, however, still held on to the hope of the coming Messiah. Although the Pharisees of that time taught hypocrisy, there were still those in Israel who were looking forward to the coming Messiah. Then one day, prophecy started being fulfilled. The forerunner of Messiah spoken about in Isaiah, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3), John the Baptist, was born. Not too much later, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born in Bethlehem by the virgin Mary, in a manager because there was no place in the town inn. This fulfilled the Scripture that said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,Mighty God,Everlasting Father,Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Hope came back into the world when Jesus was born. Jesus came and ministered to all of Israel, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again three days later from the grave, overcoming death. He not only paid the ransom for Israel, but opened up the door of salvation to all who believe in His name an turn from their sin. He now seated at the right hand of God and He will return for His Church.
Jesus came in the most humble of ways. He came as a baby. He didn’t come in with an army. He didn’t come in as a conquering king. He came as a baby, in human form, to relate to us and give us hope that once seemed lost. So this Christmas season, really reflect on the fact that Jesus chose to step out of divinity, and live as a human only to be hung on a cross for the sin of the world. I encourage you to read the Birth of Christ in the book of Matthew and Luke. When you are unwrapping your gifts, spending time with family, and eating hearty meals, remember Jesus this year. Jesus is the reason for the season. Truly.
The book of Acts is a tremendously important book in the life of a Christian believer. It contains some of the earliest history of the early church and provides great information about the church’s growth. Such rich information about the history of the Christian faith should be treasured! Acts serves as a connector or bridge between the Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testament, providing great historical and introduction information to the Pauline Epistles. Without the book of Acts, Christians would be left with many unanswered questions about the New Testament such as who were the authors, what happened after Jesus returned to the rather, and how did the church start? Clearly, Acts has an irreplaceable spot in the Biblical canon.
The book of Acts also provides information about a crucial event in Christian history, Pentecost. This book is unrivaled in its information about the work of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit, and the functions of the Spirit’s gifts operated in the life of a Christian. “Pentecostal theology appears elsewhere in the New Testament; however, any Pentecostal theology founded without the full benefit of the book of Acts would be severely impoverished”. It is often stated the book should be named “Acts of the Holy Spirit” because of the many circumstances that the Holy Spirit guided the early church and made a way for the advancement of the church.
It is true that the actions of a person stems out of what they believe. Some want to separate faith and practice, but this is not consistent with the Bible. The Bible uses positive and negative examples all throughout the Scriptures to illustrate lifestyles affected by beliefs. Historical information is meant to guide future generations into right living, and the book of Acts is no different. The material found in Acts is meant to guide Christians in their walk with the Lord and help them understand what they believe.
There are many theological and hermeneutical emphases found in the book of Acts. One main theological theme found in Acts is the continuity of the Holy Spirit’s activity. From the very beginning of the book, the Holy Spirit shows up and shakes up the life of believers. After the day of Pentecost, the Spirit inspired such boldness and passion in the hearts of Peter and John that they went out to preach in the synagogues of the city. The people were amazed at their teachings (much like they were at the teachings of Jesus) and recognized the authority in their words because it came with power from the Holy Spirit (Acts 3). The Spirit continued to guide the church and grow the church all throughout the book of Acts.
Another emphasis is that of the redemptive-historical perspective. This attempts to understand each verse, passage, and book of the Bible in the scope of God’s overall sovereign plan. This theology seeks to focus on the unity of the entire Biblical message and necessarily individual stories. The focus is events in history unfolding in God’s perfect timing. A great example from Acts can be found when Jesus tells his disciples, “wait for the gift my Father promised…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). The disciples had not yet received the Spirit nor had they went out preaching the name of Jesus because it was not time for them to do so. The time would be right when God was ready to carry out His plan, which can be seen in Acts 2.
A third emphasis, but certainly not the last, in the book of Acts is the primary role of the Holy Spirit. Over the years many viewpoints have been presented about what the role of the Spirit really is. The Holy Spirit has been said to be an agent of holiness, empowering the believer for service, and increasing the intimacy of relationship between Jesus and the believer. All of these things are true and the Holy Spirit certainly works in sanctifying a believer and creating a deeper relationship with Christ, the book of Acts is undeniable in defining the primary role of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8). The primary role of the Spirit according to the book of Acts is to empower the believer for service and to make greater witnesses.
Luke, the author of Acts, included theology and practice in historical-narrative that can be seen all throughout the book’s entirety. One of the most obvious methods that should be observed is that Luke wrote Acts much like the format of the Old Testament book of history. In the Old Testament, there are statements made by monumental figures that were intended to affect the practice and beliefs of those who read the books. “A look at Acts and the Old Testament accounts for many features of Acts. There is evidence that in writing Acts, Luke used Biblical language and models.”
By looking at the writings of Luke, it is clear that Luke intends to be more than just an observer or historian. Although he makes sure to record the events of history accurately, even if it means illustrating bad qualities in the early church, he also adds editorials to his work. He gives clues in his writings that reveal whether he approves or disapproves with the characters that he is narrating. Luke wants not only for his readers to learn accurate history, but also come to conclusions about the actions depicted in his writings and whether or not they are just. Pentecostals draw much theology and practice from the book of Acts and would be at a terrible loss if it were not appropriate to do so.
As valuable as drawing theology and practice from the book of Acts is to the Christian believer, it is important to exercise correct methods of doing so. It is quite possible to draw things from the book that the author never intended. When reading Acts, extra attention must be given in the clues that Luke left to illuminate what he intended for the reader to learn. An example is his tendency to report things repeatedly or report things that are similar several times. It is most likely that Luke wanted to reader to find extreme importance in those instances and repeated those things for emphasis. Again, one must not read deeper into the narrative than Luke intended. It may be tempting to add things or draw conclusions about certain topics with vague description, but such practice can potentially harm interpretation and must be avoided.
Our God is powerful and mighty. He is the God of Angel Armies and is always by our side. Therefore, whom shall we fear? Why do we fear? He has everything under control. He is not worried about the battle ahead so we shouldn’t be worried either.
Fear can rob many Christians of the compulsion to move forward and accomplish that which God has ordained for them to do. Fear can paralyze even the strongest believer. The enemy knows our weak spots and aims his fiery darts right at them. Putting on the spiritual armor of Christ will protect you from such attacks.
Fear need not be an obstacle in our life, if we remember God is at the head of the angel armies doing battle on our behalf.
We need not remain in the Family of Fearings crippled by doubt and terror. We need not cower at the feet of these retched relatives. Rather, we must learn to resist or ignore their threats….. but how?
The Word of God is our instruction manual. We need to read it and seek out the promises of God. It is our responsibility to ACTIVELY pursue a right heart and walk with Christ. God does not like a lazy child! He has given us all we need to make it on this planet and His grace is sufficient when our trails seem too much for us.
God hears the petitions of His beloved children. He strikes fear in the hearts of our foes. He goes before us and stands behind us. He will hedge us in and protect us when we cry out to Him. Be strong and very courageous, you soldier of God.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.
2 Timothy 2:4
No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer.
“You hear me when I call, You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night, It cannot hide the light
WHOM SHALL I FEAR?
You crush the enemy, underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield, though troubles linger still
I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind
THE GOD OF ANGEL ARMIES IS ALWAYS BY MY SIDE.”
Chris Tomlin wrote “Whom Shall I Fear?”
Of course we have to come to the place in our lives where we are willing to ask God’s forgiveness, claim the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as a full pardon for our sins and ask Him to take over the control of our lives.
An amazing sense of freedom will come into our lives at that moment as the Holy Spirit of God works the age old miracle of transformation and justification in our lives and we are forever changed!
There can be a problem through!
Sometimes we feel we have lived such a rotten and unholy life that we can’t possibly ask God or anyone else for that matter to even think of forgiving let alone forgiving and then forgetting.
God promised that He will “remember our sins no more”. That simply means forgiven and FORGOTTEN – Forgotten – that’s right – no memory of them at all.
Are you in a situation where you can’t possibly think that God can forgive you? – or maybe handing your already-forgiven sins over to God again and again? Maybe you just simply can’t forgive yourself.
Gods love, grace, faithfulness and promises are boundless and free – God has smashed your past sins – don’t cart them around your neck like some putrid old carcase.
Claim God’s promises that He remembers your sins no more! They may kick, squeal, bite and struggle but ultimately they are doomed – they have no real hold over you any more.
So yes! claim those promises that your sins are forgiven – don’t keep dredging them up all the time.
Every brand new day is a special gift and a blessing from God. We are forgiven. The chains of sin are broken. Don’t continue to go stumbling around lost in the darkness of guilt.
Dry your tears, don’t continue to be embarrassed by your weaknesses, feeling abandoned in this on-going fight against already forgotten sins.
Boldly come to the Father, He is also a friend who is eager to hear and willing to help you.
Every time you cry, every time you hide your face, every time you run away, every time you turn your back on God, He is saying “I’m still here – I’ve always been here – I love you – I remember your sins no more.”
Accept His offer of forgiveness – keep breathing – keep believing – hang on tight to His promises that the chains of your sins are broken.
Listen to what Jesus says – Listen to His promises – don’t rush around praying over and over for forgiveness that has already been given – It’s like saying to God “Please Lord, don’t interrupt me now I’m praying.”
You know gazing into the face of Jesus is gazing into wondrous love and grace – what He says He will do – He will certainly do – you can bank on it – rest in Him.
Satan is the one who says can’t while God says can – Satan says won’t while God says will – Satan says GUILTY while God says INNOCENT.
Don’t listen to Satan – the king of liars.
Listen to the one who can set you free – free from the on-going guilt of dragging around already forgotten sins.
We will all keep on sinning while we live in this world – unfortunately that is the price we pay – It is the on-going work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of these sins so that we can bring them to God. BUT…
Forget the past sins – Jesus died so that we can live - He nailed them to His cross. Claim God’s promise and start to really trust Him
There comes moments in our lives where lines must be drawn. Points where we say, “I have made my decision and I’m not going back.” Times when we choose our side and raise our battle-flag so that our loyalty is unmistakable.
This last few days has been one for me of choosing sides. I knew what God wanted, and I knew what I felt like doing. The decision was not a momentous one, and yet I knew it would affect my destiny quite a bit. The choice came down to taking the hard, the steep, the world-changing path or settling for normalcy. I knew which way God preferred. I also knew He had left the decision to me.
You see, God never forces us. He shows us our options. He lays the cost and the benefits out plainly. He tells us His perfect plan – the one that we were made for. But then He steps aside and lets us choose.
Remember Samson? He was a man with a great call. A very unique call. He was called to live like no one else. Yet, he craved the life of everyone else. He wanted parties, and women, and luxury. He wanted fame and respect. He lived for the moment. He fulfilled his own cravings, and those cravings got the better of him. They cost him his freedom, his sight, his calling, and, in the end, his life. He was made for a spectacular mission, yet, when it came down to it he lived an almost worthless life. He only accomplished a small piece of what he was made for – doing more good in his death than he ever did in his life. And why? Because he could not make the hard decision to do what God asked and nothing else. He toed the line between God and self until he couldn’t really see the line any more.
For me the decision I made had nothing to do with anything that anyone else saw. It was all in the realm of thoughts and confessions of the heart. But not only will this decision affect a great deal of my personal life from here on out, it will also affect my ability to make future decisions correctly. You see, once you make one correct choice, the next one will be that much easier, and on until you have set a habit of wise decisions.
What is the first thing that happens when we make a decision? It is tested.
That’s how it was for me. I made my choice, I drew the line, but then I had to walk it out. All week long the other option would ride up in my face, flaunting its so-called benefits, trying to seduce me to back down from the choice I had made. The only way I can make it through times like that is to fix my eyes on God and not even look another direction. The pages of my journal are full of prayers and God’s responses, my voice is worn from reading the Bible aloud to myself, and my stereo has been playing worship music non-stop for days now.
Setting new habits of life or new patterns of thought is not easy. The trick is not making an excuse to “do it one more time”. It takes vigilance, carefulness, and a great deal of will. It takes the strength of the Lord. It takes grasping Him by the hand and not letting go. It takes burning your bridges behind you so you can’t go back. Remember the story in Genesis of Lot’s wife? She was miraculously delivered from a horrible situation. She lived in the most wicked city on earth, and when God decided to destroy it with fire, she was told to run for the mountains and not look back. But she could not resist one last parting glance of the life she had known. Instantly, on looking back, she was turned into a pillar of salt. And there she stayed. Looking back forever. A warning for anyone else that would look with longing back to the old lifestyle.
You will reach a crossroad in your life. Actually you will probably face many. The first will be the initial choice to follow Christ. Then after that, you will have many opportunities to choose your way or God’s. Selfishness or love. Offense or forgiveness. Compromise or purity. Sleep or intercession. Indulgence or discipline. Normalcy or victory. Worldliness or holiness. Often the decision will need to be made when you are tired, or frustrated, or weak. Usually it will have a much larger impact on your life than you may realize at the time.
When the time comes, make the decision that God wants. Then walk it out. Burn your bridges immediately. Don’t go back. Don’t even look back. Don’t allow yourself the luxury of even one excuse. Don’t consider another way. Don’t leave a back-door option.
Is God asking some change from you today? Draw your line in the sand and remain steadfast on the side you chose. Fly your standard high so the world will recognize who you are loyal to. Make certain that when the Lord looks down for one whose heart is turned perfectly to Him, He will spot you in an instant and know you for one of His own.