Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Living for Christ and Eternity -- Part I

Life as We Know It

What are we to gain from living our lives here on earth? We know that God originally created us to love Him, glorify Him, and to communicate with Him. But as we know, the human race, i.e., Adam and Eve, chose to rebel and to believe the lies of the devil instead of God. Consequently, the human race fell from grace and from then on had to struggle to regain the righteousness that would be needed to live with God in eternity. However, the human race could not become righteous on our own. We needed a Deliverer. We needed someone to deliver us from the plans of the devil, which included but were not limited to, everlasting eternity in hell. So, God sent His only Son to teach us the correct or righteous way of living and to then die on the cross for the sins of the entire human race. 

Gloriously, Christ arose from the grave conquering eternal death and defeating the devil, so that all who will believe on Christ will have, instead, eternal life with God. But that doesn't mean that the devil has given up! No, he wants to thwart God by keeping as many people as he can from believing on Christ and from asking Christ into their hearts. But even when a human hears about and believes on Christ, the devil still doesn't give up. He does everything he can to keep the born-again believer from producing fruit for the Kingdom of God. However, it is much easier for the devil to keep the non-Christian from getting to know Christ, because the devil uses the things of this world to keep people focused on their immediate life.

People have gotten comfortable in this world. Today, most people are focused on living as long as they can, because they think that this life is all there is. But, what they don’t realize is that our soul lives forever somewhere. Unfortunately, many do not believe in an eternity, let alone an eternity with God. This means that righteousness often takes a back seat to daily living, to their survival, and to their plans for life, as they live it to the fullest. Consequently, many people want to just live life to the fullest and do not even know or want to know how righteousness plays into their life here on earth as well as into their eternal life someday.

What many people do not understand is that God values righteousness more than life or death. Moreover, in striving for righteousness, people who choose to live for God and set righteous and virtuous examples for others by their behaviors and attitudes are actually ambassadors for Christ and eternity. In fact, Christians are to be living examples of righteousness through our truth, honesty, love, and the many other virtues that Christ spoke of and represented to us while He was here on earth. However, it is the cleansing righteousness that we have received through our belief in and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the living Son of God that will someday be rewarded in an eternity with God and His Son in Heaven.  

Born-again Christians are to be Christ’s ambassadors and are to live in such a way that others will want to know more about the grace that God offers to those will believe on His Living Son, Jesus Christ. Many, though, who claim to be Christians do not live the Christian life. They do not stand for goodness, love, and truth. Rather, they live just as non-Christians in the secular world live floundering around day to day with no hope of a future eternity. Although they claim to be believers, they are not actually “born-again” Christians. Moreover, even though they claim to care about others, they really just care about themselves. Consequently, many of these “so-called” Christians can seldom be told apart from non-Christians any more.  To make matters worse, even some “born-again” Christians have actually fallen into the habit of living for this world instead of living for Christ. They no longer or perhaps never did produce fruit for the Kingdom of God, nor do they work at living for Christ or at being different from the rest of the world. Instead, they allow their emotions and the values of this world to control their lives to the point that they can hardly be told from non-Christians.

The Apostle Paul told Christians in his letter to the Colossians that “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.– (Colossians 3: 17. NIV). Unfortunately, many so-called Christians fail to live according to the words of Jesus Christ or exhibit even a portion of the love that He showered upon the world. But if we spend time in the Bible, we will learn that Paul told us that “as God’s chosen people holy and dearly loved, (we are to) clothe y(ourselves) with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  -- (Colossians 3: 12-14. NIV).

How, though, can authentic Christians live in this world that puts so much emphasis on momentary pleasure and immediate gratification and at the same time actually live for Christ and their future eternity, especially if they allow their human emotions and the values of this world to control their lives? Well, there is a way, that Christians can set themselves apart from the fleshly secular world. It is really very simple. We just have to live our lives in such a way that we are daily glorifying and honoring God and His Son in all we do. Christians have to make an effort to be different and live by God’s standards rather than the world’s standards. Moreover, we have to attempt to reach out to other people to show the true way of Christ, and we can do this through many Christian services such as Active Relational Christian Mentoring and by being an example of Christian virtues. Christians need to learn how to live daily for Christ so that we can provide those positive examples of Christian love for the rest of the world.

Learning how to live for Christ

God did not leave us alone to just flounder in a sea of temptations. For not only did Christ send the Holy Spirit to live within each born-again Christian to guide them, but God has also given humans a manual on how to live for Him. That manual is called the Bible. Furthermore, it is within the Bible that God shows every human who reads the Bible how to come to repentance and Salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. Moreover, God then gives the “saved” person both directions and instructions that Christians can follow in order to live for Christ and in order to be an example of Christian values, emotions, and integrity.

It was God’s chosen authors of the Newer Covenant/ Testament who were given the words of God, which explain and encourage Christians on how to be honest and loving and how to live for Christ. For, it is through our living examples of Christ-likeness that we can represent Christ to non-Christians. In fact, there are specific books and specific chapters of the Bible that address how true Christians are to live and act within this fallen world. Moreover, the Apostle Paul is just one of the Biblical authors who wrote about how we are to live for Christ and His Father. In fact, the book of Ephesians is just one of the books that the Apostle Paul wrote to encourage and teach new Christians how to live for Christ daily and to teach us how to be a good example of how all Christians are to live for Christ.

Previous to my Easter Post, my last two or three posts focused on the importance of the actions and behaviors of authentic Christians. In this post today, I am going to continue to discuss how an authentic Christian is to deal with the emotional and living challenges of the secular world. The issue of anger in today’s world is just one of the emotional challenges that all humans, including Christians, have to face. But how are Christians to deal with anger in a world that expresses anger in ever increasing and hostile ways. It is also an emotion that can hinder our being a witness for Christ. So, I will focus specifically on the emotion of anger in this blog and discuss how we can control our anger through the Word of God and through prayer.

 Anger is just one of the important emotional characteristics that can affect the lives of true authentic Christians in a very negative way. For any negative characteristic portrayed by a Christian can make all the difference in how someone else sees the Christian faith. It can even have an effect on whether or not someone will be willing to look at the life-saving gift of Salvation offered through Christ. So, the first thing you should ask yourself is this: if you say you are a Christian, can others tell that you are a Christian by your actions and your lifestyle? Or are you just trying to play like you are a Christian and hope for the best? Are you deceiving yourself, but in reality your actions actually tell a great deal about the real you behind the scenes? The second question is this: What kind of affect is your life having on those around you? In other words, will someone else be able to see Christ in you and want to know who Christ is? Or, do others see you letting your fleshly anger control your life?

To help you answer those questions, we will continue to take a look at the Apostle Paul’s fourth chapter in the book of Ephesians. We will look specifically at a couple of the last few verses of the chapter so you can determine for yourself if you are living in a manner that glorifies God and Christ, or not. Remember, that every born-again Christian must work continually on living for Christ. So, don’t become frustrated, but instead work toward becoming a Christian that will someday hear Christ say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” And if you are walking in the Christian way, would you consider being an example and role model for others by becoming an active relational Christian mentor?  

Walking for Christ Means Not Letting Anger Control Our Lives

One of the hardest things that every authentic Christian has to face is the many human emotions that can sidetrack us when we least expect it. One of those emotions is the emotion of anger. In fact, whether you are a Christian or not, everyone has felt the emotional response of anger toward a particular person or situation at some time or another. It is not the anger, though, that becomes the problem, so much as it our reaction to the anger. For, our reaction to anger can lead us into sinning even more than the momentary angry emotion that has taken control of our life. In fact, it the reaction to the anger emotion and its control over us that has the potential to derail our life and cause us to sin in monumental ways.

The Apostle Paul recognized the destructive force of the emotion of anger and that Christians need to have control of their anger in order not to be pulled into the destructiveness of anger and its accompanying sinfulness. In verses 26 and 27 in chapter four of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we are told that even though a Christian may become angry with someone, that we are not to let that anger fester or use it in any way to hurt the other person. For Paul said, Be angry, AND YET DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. – (Ephesians 4: 26, 27. NASB).

But why should we not allow anger to control our lives? Well we shouldn’t allow anger to control our lives, because we can then sin even more. Obviously, if we allow our anger to ‘become the rule’ in our lives, it can cause us become bitter. When we become bitter, we often want to cling to or hold tighter to our anger, which helps us to feel justified in the anger. Sleeping on our anger will not make it go away and will even further our belief that we are justified in our anger. This justification of our anger then leads to bitterness against the person who made us angry. Consequently, bitterness then leads to the unforgiveness or worse. It is through our bitterness that we can begin to feel even more justified in our anger and thus become unwilling to forgive the other person, simply because we cling to our belief that they hurt us or did us wrong.

Unforgiveness will keep us in bondage and can then lead us to many other sins. For example, you have probably heard the old saying that “bitterness is a pill we swallow in the hopes that the other person will die.– (unknown). Sadly, it is true that with this bitter attitude, we are essentially only hurting ourselves when we fail to forgive someone. For, our hearts can be damaged with our desire to cling to our bitterness and unforgiveness. Consequently, our joy and peace is taken from us as we dwell on our anger, which can then lead to the development of even deeper bitterness. One of the reasons that we lose our joy and peace is that we are sinning in our thoughts and are sinning with our desire for retribution against the other person.

Another reason that we lose our joy and peace is because our anger and bitterness keeps us in bondage or slavery, because it is hindering the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. For how can we hear the Holy Spirit’s voice when we are constantly in a state of anger, which is a sin in and of itself. In fact, anger is kind of like a slow dripping acid that over time damages our hearts so much so that we no longer look at the world through the eyes of Christ, nor can we let others see Christ in us, for the anger completely surrounds us. Furthermore, this type of bitter anger can even lead to debilitating health issues for the person that clings to their anger and bitterness. Obviously, Christ would not and could not represent anger and bitterness to the world as He is love and peace, so if we are representing anger and bitterness we are not representing Christ to the world.

Forgiving Others

It is only when we allow our anger to dissipate and when we decide to forgive the other person that we are then freed from all the sinful encumbrances that are associated with anger and unforgiveness. But if we hang on to our anger, the penalties of anger and unforgiveness can last a long time and for even decades, which can then create a sad and unforgiven life. We know this, because Jesus told His followers that “If you forgive those who sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your father will not forgive your sins.”  -- (Matthew 6:14, 15. NLT).

Christ sent His Son to die for our sins so that through His shed blood and His resurrection from death we can be cleansed from our unrighteousness or sins and never have to be held by the grips of eternal death ever again. To receive this Salvation, though, we must repent of our sins and then in believing on the living Son of God we must ask for forgiveness of our sins. This means that we have to give up all anger and unforgiveness of others in order to accept the forgiveness of Christ and be Saved.  Our acceptance of this personal forgiveness from Christ means that we realize what forgiveness actually means, for we have been forgiven of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christ paid the penalty for our sins. But, when we deny forgiveness to others after we have been forgiven by Christ, we fail to acknowledge our common ground as sinners and fail to acknowledge the price that Christ paid for our sins. But, if Christ can and did forgive us our sins, then we must also forgive others of their sins. For, Christ came to earth to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If He can do that, then the least that we can do is forgive someone for our perceived or real hurt from them. As a true Christian, we must let all anger and unforgiveness go and forgive the other person. Moreover, the only true and ultimate judge of sinfulness and/or hurt is Christ. As God, Christ has the right to not forgive us, but instead He chose to forgive even the most horrific sins imaginable, if we will just accept His grace and repent and believe on Him. So, if we are unforgiving of some earthly hurt that we have received, we have not only made ourselves judge, jury, and executioner, when God is the only one who is to judge and discipline us or others for their sins, but we have diminished our Christian ambassadorship in the sight of others.

Avoiding the pitfalls of the devil

The devil still loves to get a foothold in our lives in any way that he can, and we have discovered that anger is just one of his ways of doing so. Not only does he encourage us to get angry, but he encourages us to cling to our anger and develop bitter strongholds in our hearts and minds. These strongholds, whatever they are, can keep us from living our lives fully for Christ and can keep us from producing fruit for the Kingdom of God.

For each person, the devil knows what works to get under their skin or to lead them down the primrose path of sinfulness. Obviously until Christ returns and throws him into the lake of fire, the devil will continue to use what works in derailing our lives and promoting sinfulness. Moreover, the devil starts his attack on our lives long before we are Christians. In fact, if we look back over our lives, we will discover that early in life as children we often got angry when we didn’t get our way. We might have even stamped our feet and thrown a fit. Eventually, though, our anger dissipated, if we had loving caring parents who did not give into our little tantrums and instead showed us how to deal with out anger.

Later in childhood, we might have gotten angry when we thought that another child had physically or emotionally hurt us through some actual or perceived slight or action. But here again Christian parents who followed the laws and discipline of the Bible, taught their children that anger was not something that we were to hold on to. Christian parents then taught their children how to deal with each situation based upon the Scriptures of the Bible, and they also taught their children not to hang on to anger. But, if children weren’t taught about the pitfalls of anger and its sinfulness, somewhere along the way as they grew and matured, they could become bitter and begin to think of vengeful things that they could do to get even with the other person who had hurt them, even if that hurt was accidental. Without the love of their parents or without direction on how to deal with anger, as well as without the knowledge of the love of God, some children will grow up to have an underlying disposition of anger that will control the overall direction of their life. This is just what the devil wants.

Anger and Murder

One of the Ten Commandments states, “Thou shalt not murder”. We all understand what murder is and that we are not to take another’s life. But why do some people commit murder? Could it be because they are angry with another person for some reason or another? In other words, anger is the basis of murderous actions. We know this to be true, because Jesus Christ underscores this destructiveness of anger. For Jesus said, “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not commit murder’. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment. But I say, if you are angry with someone you are subject to judgment.– (Matthew 5: 21, 22. NLT).

I like the way the Amplified Bible says the same thing because in clarifying the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words, it gives us a better understanding of what Jesus was telling the people about the role anger plays in murder. Verse 22 in the Amplified Bible says it this way: “But I say to you that everyone who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court. …” So, just as the murderer is sent before the court for judgment, so too will the person who harbors anger in their heart be sent for judgment. The judgment given by God will be imposed upon them just as God would impose judgment for murder. For a heart that harbors anger is a heart that can easily take the next step and murder the person for what she did to cause their anger and bitterness. Certainly, the devil jumps for joy when humans cling to and stew over their anger, for it can then lead to even greater crimes and sinfulness such as murder.

The devil also knows that the heart is often in control of our actions. In fact, the words of God in the Bible tell us: “The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I know! I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.”  -- (Jeremiah 17: 9, 10. NLT).

Understanding the harmful effects of anger and the destruction that it wrecks upon our hearts and lives can only come from reading and meditating on the Bible and from letting the Holy Spirit guide our minds into all truth. But this study and understanding must start at an early age so that humans are not tripped up and caught in the trap of anger. Therefore, it is important for parents to explain to their children that anger is bad and sinful. Children need to be taught that anger could be hurtful to both the other person and to them, while at the same time teaching them that they are to be kind and thoughtful to others. Hopefully, with a life focused on Biblical study young people can eventually began to see that vengeance and anger are inappropriate and hurtful, as there are many examples in the Bible of people succumbing to their anger.

Most children who are taught how to handle their anger and to instead focus on love eventually begin to understand the ramifications of this anger trap that the devil sets for humans. Sadly, though, for the children that do not get Sunday school teachings, who do not get parental teachings about the Ten Commandments, or who do not get the Christian teachings about caring about others, or who cling to their anger, bitterness and vengeful attitude can have their lives eaten eat up with anger. They can often fall into the devil’s trap of a life engaging in anger and bitterness. Their life of anger then creates great hurt on both sides of the anger equation.

What Happens When We Don’t Teach Our Children about the Ramifications of Anger

Today we are reaping what we have sown or in this case what we have not sown. We are reaping at least a couple of generations of angry people. That is because we have not shown our young people how to handle anger in a positive and forgiving way. We have allowed our children to think that anger is okay. Consequently, we have young people on college campuses that are heart angry and bitter about many things in life. For, they have never met the Savior. Many have not even been told about Him. Furthermore, they have never been taught by their parents that God loves them. Young people today, including those in their thirties and forties are only focused on what they want or think that they can’t have, and are angry that they can’t get what they want. Moreover, they are so angry inside that they do not want to even talk to Christians or other people who are not angry for fear that they could learn something that might take away their anger. They also have strongholds in their hearts and minds that they guard closely for fear that they will see the light. The devil and the devil’s secular society have really done a number on them. But the ones who have played into the devil’s plans are the parents, both Christian and non-Christian parents, by not teaching our children about manners, caring, love, and kindness.

If authentic Christians teach and mentor their children and young people in Christian kindness and love, then our teenagers and young adults, and even our younger children can be a lighthouse for others; showing other people that they understand the uselessness and hurtfulness that surrounds anger and bitterness. Indeed, the young people who are living out their Christ-centered life for others to see, are the ones that have been actively and relationally mentored by their Christian parents and grandparents, or by other Christians such as their Sunday school teachers and their youth leaders. Many of these young people will have been taught that even holding onto their anger over night means that the one who takes anger to bed with them will awake in the morning with that anger filling their souls even more. Remember the verse, “… do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” It is imperative that our children and young people be taught to let go of their anger and to instead fill their hearts and souls with forgiveness and love for others.

Sadly, in our day and age, there are many young people who have not been taught or mentored about letting go of anger. They have not been taught about forgiveness, or about the opportunity and gift of coming to know Christ as their Savior. Consequently, we have many young people who are running amuck as well as using their anger to justify their hateful attitudes toward adults and others. Their anger even takes the form of bullying and humiliating others. Because they do not know how to deal with anger, we now have riots over situations such as not wanting to hear someone speak because they have a different opinion than theirs. Moreover, instead of going through the justice system we now have riots that include the destruction of other people’s property; all in the name of “I want my way no matter what” or “I can take justice into my own hands.” What happened to the positive mentoring that was to take place by loving parents and relatives?

Unfortunately, many times our children and young people simply repeat what they have seen in the lives of their parents and grandparents or other adults. They see that their parents show anger and bitterness toward another person and then they think that it is okay for them to do so too. So, even when we think that we are not overtly mentoring negative emotions or beliefs, we can still be passively mentoring those negative things to our children. Remember too, that humans are intuitive and observant. We can often see what others are really trying to hide, because we can also see within their actions, within the tone of their voice, and with the negative words that they have used what they might not otherwise want us to see. That is why it is so important to live in such a way that only the light of Christ shines through our lives for others to see.

Choosing Christ and Being an Authentic Christian

Are you a true authentic Christian? Do you attempt to live your life in a way that glorifies God and Jesus Christ or have you succumbed to the devil’s  and the secular world’s version of momentary happiness? Life is much more than just the few fleeting days and years that we spend here on earth. For no matter how long we live, what we are experiencing now here on earth is but a moment in time compared to the eternity that each of us will enter once we leave this earth. But the type of eternity that we spend is up to each of us. Will you spend an eternity in hell in anguish and without love, or will you spend an eternity in love, peace, and joy with God? The destination is up to you!

Christ is the only One who can give you the gift of eternal life that is lived in love, peace and joy. Indeed, it is only through belief on Jesus Christ as the living Son of God, who gave His life for your sins and mine, that you can enter into this eternity. If you have not given your life to Christ, now is the time to do so. Please do not wait another day, because we are not guaranteed tomorrow, and once we leave our earthly bodies in death, we are immediately transported spiritually into an eternity. Do you know where you will go when you die? I do! I know that I will spend eternity with God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you believe that you are a Christian, but have allowed anger to control your life, please take the time to pray for Christ to take away your anger. Then, turn to the Bible and study the Word of God so that you can see what anger really does to you and to others around you. Let Christ heal you of all your anger. Learn how to forgive! Only then, can you become an Active Relational Christian Mentor to others who may also have anger issues or need other mentoring. For every Christian must understand that they are ambassadors and representatives of Christ and the Gospel of Salvation. In fact, all born-again Christians should look at their daily lives closely to see if they are portraying Christ to the world. Certainly, if other people cannot see Christ in you and your actions, then they may not want to find out about Christ or may not want to ask Him into their lives. Remember, as a born-again Christian we are to be Christ’s ambassadors living by His Word and Virtues!

May God Bless each of you. I pray that you will benefit from knowing more about the detriment of anger and not letting anger control your life. I also pray that you will come to know the One and Only God and will be able to truly represent Christ to the World through your actions and words. The following is a poem by Anne Graham Lotz that gives you just a glimpse of what Christ went through on the cross in order to give you the gift of Salvation and an eternity with God.

Blessings of the Day:  Day 24
by Anne Graham Lotz

He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up
His spirit. John 19:30
After nine hours of standing on His feet,
after being scourged, slapped, and manhandled, after six
hours of hanging on the cross, the average person would
have barely had enough life and breath left to even
whisper. But Jesus, the Lamb of God, with life still fully
flowing through His body, shouted out in a clear, ringing,
triumphant voice, “It is finished.” The price for our
redemption had been paid! The sacrifice for our sin had
been made! Sin was forgiven! Guilt was atoned for!
Eternal life was now offered! Heaven has been opened!
It is finished!
You don’t have to do more good works than bad
You don’t have to go to church every time the door
You don’t have to climb the stairs to some statue.
You don’t have to be religious.
You don’t even have to be good!
It is finished! The price has been paid!

Revelation 3: 20
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” – (NIV).

Is Christ knocking on your heart? 

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