May 2018

Love life, love Christ, and resist hedonism

Deep within human nature is the hedonist; being devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. When hedonism becomes the guiding belief which determines all other beliefs and behaviour, there can only be one outcome – idolatry. Why idolatry you ask? Because; to the hedonist “self” must dominate God. Therefore, everything and everyone is to be manipulated and sacrificed in the pursuit of personal pleasure. When the hedonist attitude gets into the church, conflict with God is certain.

Hedonism wrapped in Christian belief is not only a lethal weapon against the Church but a self-destructive disease. A spiritual condition which lures people onto a path in life which is “the highway to hell (which) is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way” (Matthew 7:13 NLT). It’s a popular road walked by the majority. Everything is evaluated by emotion; mocking God as being irrelevant and not fit for the purpose of pleasure.

Now, realise that God is not a kill-joy! “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil  and his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Peter 3:10). A God honouring life desires to love life and to develop that love for life through integrity and not selfishness or sin. If you cannot imagine joy without sin being involved, then you don’t need a new god, you need a Saviour.

Mankind was created in the image of God, therefore God is the ultimate reason and purpose for mankind’s existence (Genesis 1:26). Ultimate pleasure, fulfilment, and security is only found in a surrendered life under the leadership of our loving Heavenly Father. Just as “there is one God, there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus Christ is the only way to enter into a satisfying relationship with God. For the Christian, God is the greatest reason and meaning for life. When self steps up to the leadership role, God steps back, and you have idolatry.

It remains God’s constant desire for everyone to come to Him through repentance of sin and dependant faith. For mankind this is a problem. Why you may ask? Because sinful people want God to accept them on their terms without any change. They expect God to engage with them without having to deal with the sin that separates them from Him.

However, through Jesus alone “forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you” (Acts 13:38), and “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…” (Romans 10:9-10).

I encourage you to love life, love Christ, and resist hedonism. Follow Christ’s instruction to; “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself” (Luke 10:27).


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Guard against subtle idolatry

Ramah would be remembered for the twist on idolatry that changed the nation. It was a straight forward request that many would have thought to be harmless. Possibly it made good sense to some. However, as Samuel explained to Israel, if he was to appoint “a king to judge us like all the nations (1 Samuel 8:5), this would cost them everything (1Sa 8:11-18).

But why, when on the surface it seemed to be a good idea? Because, beneath lay motives compelled by selfishness and idolatry. Although the Lord had foretold through Moses that Israel could “set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose” (Deuteronomy 17:14-15), they got it all wrong. Israel didn’t want the Lord to appoint a King at all. No, they wanted Samuel to appoint a King to replace Yahweh. One who would “go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20), doing away with the need for the Lord to win the victory for them.

The Mission Exposed

Make no mistake; idolatry has only one goal; total dominance over your life in place of Jesus Christ. Our arch enemy is not fussy as to which method of take-over he uses, just as long as the primary mission gets accomplished. Obviously, there may be some discomfort during the early days of migration from Jehovah to whatever. But as idolatry gradually pervades your thinking unnoticed, you become increasingly comfortable with it.

No wonder the apostle Paul bluntly tells us to “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). You see; anything that takes your preeminent position, other than the Lord, is idolatry. Ezekiel explained the offense of idolatry as anyone “who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face…” (Ezekiel 14:4).

It looked like this; people chose to make idols the center of their heart’s affections. They would acquire physical items which they would focus their affections on. Their attention would be directed at those idol things and in so doing they became guilty of worshipping them. Imagining their wrong affections to be OK, they would “come to the prophet” of the Lord (Eze 14:4), associating and blending their idolatrous affections with worship of Yahweh as if it was all good. How very wrong they were!

The nature of it

The stealth nature and seductive methods used by idolatry are often subtle to begin with, but remember its goal is to dethrone Christ as Lord. Don’t be fooled, it’s sneaky and devious in the ways that it messes with your thinking so that you increasingly accept it’s beliefs as genuine and OK.

Most of the time idolatry’s victims don’t recognise what’s changing. Behaviour, language, relationships, isolation from the Church, selfishness through the all-consuming “I, me, and myself” are some of the ways you can be seduced. These will take you through a spiritual metamorphosis allowing a non-Christ centred life-style to become the new and acceptable norm.

The familiar words offered by the apostle Paul are possibly the most concise remedy for us. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Every form of thinking that challenges or dilutes the absolute truth of God being our only sovereign is to be fenced in by the Lordship of Christ.

Today, guard against subtle idolatry, not only in your life but also in the lives of those you care about. It’s believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).


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Continually direct your hearts toward the Lord

It was at Kiriath-jearim that Israel’s last Judge called the nation to “direct your heart to the Lord and serve him only” (1 Samuel 7:3). Samuel was not known for mincing his words; He spoke to the centre most issue, calling the entire nation to return “to the Lord with all your heart” (1Sa 7:3). God’s people, from the leaders to the labourers, had been deliberately chasing after foreign gods and it had to stop.

If Israel’s return to the Lord was to be genuine, it meant they would “put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among” them (1Sa 7:3). This was no small request. The Lord required a deliberate change in the nation’s heart affections. For decades they had been chasing after religion which pleased their fleshly desires, where “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). Combining worship of Yahweh with the sexually perverted and barbaric rituals of Baal and Ashtaroth could not continue.

The cost of idolatry was high, with thousands of Israelites having just lost their lives under divine judgement; Israel was feeling the pain of her unfaithfulness (1Sa 4-6). But it did not need to be this way! Israel could have responded favourably to the Lord’s gracious patience at any point. But no; they wanted what they wanted, and since judgement was slow coming they assumed there were no consequences for their sin – WRONG CONCLUSION.

The solution was straight forward and required a radical change in the nation’s thinking. Beginning with the leadership, which was now Samuel, undivided loyalty in belief, thought, and behaviour belonged to the one true God alone. There could be no compromise, no negotiation, and no shared loyalties. No longer would mixed affections and amalgamated beliefs with other gods be tolerated by the Lord. “So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the Lord only” (1 Samuel 7:4).

Today, we face the same challenge. Those who call themselves Christian are to “worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (Luke 4:8). Joshua’s challenge to “fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness” (Joshua 24:14) is as valid today as it ever was. Believers in Jesus Christ are those with conviction and courage, who unashamedly declare as Joshua did; “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

Surrendered belief, behaviour, and speech remain the only true expression of a heart that directs itself to the Lord. Make no mistake; this is the work of the Holy Spirit within you. “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ,” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) because He alone is your source for spiritual life and vitality. With the Lord Jesus steering your life, you are to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16) because the Bible fuels your ability to “be filled [Controlled] with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

With the many distractions of life before you today, I encourage you to continually direct your hearts toward the Lord. Make it your “aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9); to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11).


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Give thought to how you praise God

We live in an age where the world gives little thought to many of its beliefs and activities as impulse and instinct propel people away from the Lord. However, the Christian thinks about their life. Beliefs, plans, activities, friendships, etc. are so important that thought should be applied in order to be the very best we can for Christ.

Praise is God’s designed activity for humanity, permeating all of life, engaging all that we are and possess. “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him” (Romans 15:11). In other words, our entire being, all that makes us who we are, is to be intelligently engaged in praise for the purpose of God’s glory. In this sense, praise is to speak well of the Lord which involves the bringing together of all your faculties in a unified expression of His glory. By design, believers are more than simply mouths speaking praise to God; they are to be the embodiment of the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12).

Bad language, smutty humour, blasphemous use of the Lord’s name, should never be acceptable in the Christian life. These negative behaviours contradict the very faith claimed by the child of God and deny the Lord’s holiness.

The Big Picture in Life 

The apostle Paul summarized this thoughtful praise when writing to the Philippians. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Praise is to be an organic spiritual process which is deliberate, engaging the whole person. Praise is not haphazard, nor is it accidental. It’s not a special activity which is entered into on special occasions or reserved for Sunday worship only. Praise is who believers are!

Don’t be deceived, the great enemy of God knows that if left to your own natural processes, “your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). It happens so easily, so naturally, and so comfortably; if praise is neglected, after a period of time you will forget that your life is all about Christ. This is why Christians “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Believer’s give thought to how they keep Christ central in their thinking and living.

Paul explained that his mind was never to be disengaged from praise in order to worship. “I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (1 Corinthians 14:15). Praise that truly speaks well of the Lord gives thought to the truth being expressed. Your whole inner person should be involved in acknowledging what you know of God’s character through His Word, and telling Him of your surrendered gratitude to His Lordship.

The Cross

Praise enters worship through the truth and person of Jesus Christ found in the Cross of Calvary. Believers look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Praise realises the living supremacy of Jesus Christ and speaks that truth while living it.

Christian friend, today I encourage you to give thought to how you praise God. He will be glorified; you will be joyfully assured while others shall be spurred on in their spiritual integrity.


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Think of God’s compassion

Compassion is a wonderful quality for any human to experience and possess. But of course, if you want to taste compassion beyond comparison, you look to the Lord. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him” (Psa 103:13). Yahweh’s compassion is not cheap or superficial. Nor is it changeable or determined by emotion. Rather, His compassion is determined by mercy, by His unchangeable holiness which prevents inconsistencies or double standards.

King David, writing Psalm 103 presents a brilliant rainbow displaying some of the many facets of our Heaven Father’s loving compassion. For the Christian, exploring God’s nature provides understanding of what compassion is, and how it’s expressed. This creates a template from which to evaluate your spiritual state of health and the future direction for your life.

There’s always choices

Obviously, not everyone recognises God’s goodness or his kindness. That’s because appreciation of the Lord is determined by whether a person fears Him or not. If respectful admiration of God does not exist within the human heart, a terrible disconnection from Him will rule. This produces indifference with resentment, which in turn empowers isolation and entrenched disbelief.

However, a right attitude toward the Almighty begins by acknowledging your mortality. “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (Psa 103:15-16). We are finite, fragile, and temporary. We constantly change, and not always for the good either. We have this fearful habit of thinking we are better than we really are, and that God is less significant than He actually is.

God is amazingly patient, even with those who disrespect and have no time for Him. He patiently provides unbelievers both time and space to turn to Him. The Lord “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). However, sooner or later, everyone must accept responsibility for their choices toward God.

That said; God “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psa 103:14). Realising our fleshly vulnerabilities and failings actually magnifies “the steadfast love of the LORD” which “is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him…” (Psa 103:17). Those who love the Lord are marked by a profound respect for Him which looks beyond this mortal existence.

Unequalled Grace

The fact is; “the LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psa 103:8). God does not treat us the way we treat each other, nor does he “deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psa 103:10).  This in itself should inspire great thankfulness from hearts alive with worship which are quick to speak well of Him at all times.

However, nowhere is the Lord’s compassion seen clearer than at the cross of Calvary. Christ didn’t wait for you to become righteous. No, he “shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us(Psa 103:11-12).

Today, I encourage you to think of God’s compassion for you which is seen and experienced best in Jesus Christ.


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