1. The Fear of God: The fear of God is the beginning (alphabet) of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). This is the first lesson in the school of wisdom. If we do not learn the alphabet, we cannot proceed further. “To fear the Lord is to hate evil”, because God Himself hates evil (Prov. 8:13). When we have heard the call of God to be holy because He is holy, and are gripped by that call, we shall hate sin. Many believers find it quite easy to overcome some sins (anger, sexual sins, etc) when in the presence of other believers, for they are afraid of losing their reputation. But they sin in the same areas quite easily, when alone. Therefore it is not because they are not able to overcome these sins that they fall, but because they love their reputation more than they fear God. They value man’s opinion more than God’s. Such Christians need to mourn and repent for “worshipping the creature (man) more than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25), and need to cry out to God with all their hearts that God will teach them His fear. The promise is that if you cry out and lift up your voice and seek the fear of the Lord as you would hidden treasures, then God will teach you His fear (Prov. 2:3-5; Matt. 5:6). He will be found only by those who seek Him with all their hearts (Jer. 29:13). Only those who mourn over their failures will be comforted (strengthened and helped -(Matt. 5:4) by the Comforter. We need to develop the habit of living before the face of God alone. The reason why God has given each of us a private area – our thought life – is so that He can test us to see whether we fear Him or not. If we are concerned only about our external reputation before other men, then we shall be careless about sin in our thought life. Thus God makes a separation between those who are desirous of total victory and those who desire only an external victory over sin. If we mourn over sin in our thought life as over external sin, we shall enter into victory very quickly.
The secret of a godly life lies in Jesus Who lived on earth as a Man, and Who was tempted in every way as we are, but never sinned even once in thought, word, deed, attitude or motive or in any other way ( 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 4:15).
Temptation is not the same as sin. James. 1:14,15 makes that clear. Our mind has to agree with the temptation before we sin. It is clear from Matthew 4 that Jesus was tempted. But His mind never agreed with any temptation even once. Thus He never sinned. He kept His heart pure.
1. Exchange your strength with Divine strength: Isaiah 40:29-31 teaches that Almighty God Whom we worship and serve will give us strength when we are weak. When we lack might, He will give us power. He will give us health and strength to serve Him. Even young people may grow weary and tired and vigorous young men may get exhausted in trying to serve the Lord. But those who wait on the Lord, no matter what their age, will gain new strength. What a wonderful promise! And when young people are collapsing, these older men “who wait on the Lord will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and won’t get tired. They will walk and they will never become weary”. I want to encourage everyone to learn to wait upon the Lord in simple trust for all your needs. You will gain new strength, as this verse says. Or as another translation puts it: “Those who wait on the Lord will exchange their strength”. That means that we give our human strength to the Lord and He gives us His Divine strength in exchange! Hallelujah!! It is wonderful to exchange everything we have with the Lord. Jesus told the Father, “All that I have is Yours, Father. And all that You have is mine” (John.17:10, 11). In the Lord’s service you need the Lord’s strength to see you through. All those who serve the Lord really need to trust the Lord to give supernatural strength from above, His resurrection power – not only in our spirit but in our bodies too. Then we will bear fruit for Him even in old age (Psa. 92:14).
Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians is centred around the great truth of believers being one Body in Christ. Christ is the Head of the church, and the church is His Body (Eph. 1:22,23). Each believer is a member of this Body. The first half of the letter to the Ephesians deals with the doctrine of the Body of Christ. The second half of the letter deals with the practical outworking of this truth. And this is how the second half begins: “Therefore….. walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…..(for we are all parts of) one body” (Eph. 4:1-4). In other words, once a person has understood and “seen” this truth of the church being the Body of Christ, he should long to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, love, unity and peace with his fellow-believers. When a Christian does not walk like that, it indicates that he hasn’t seen the Body of Christ.
In Hebrews 5:7, we are told of how Jesus prayed “in the days of His flesh.” He “prayed with loud crying and tears to be saved from death”. This is not referring to the last day of His life when He prayed in Gethsemane only. God’s Word is exact when it says that He prayed like that “in the days of His flesh”. “Days” refers to His entire 33½ years on earth. The death that Jesus prayed to be saved from (and from which He was saved, as this verse says) was certainly not physical death, but spiritual death (which results from committing even one sin). Jesus prayed that He might never sin even once. And He was so earnest about that, that His prayers for help were with loud crying and tears. That is why He never sinned. Many imagine that Jesus overcame sin because He was the Son of God. No. He overcame sin because He prayed with loud crying and tears to be saved from sin. He loved righteousness and hated sin so earnestly that He prayed so fervently – and His Father anointed Him with power, more than other believers who don’t pray as earnestly as He did (Hebrews 1:9).
In Hebrews 5:8, we read that “although He was a Son He learned obedience from the things He suffered.” Jesus had to learn obedience. Learn’ is a word connected with education. Jesus had to get an education in obedience in the days of His flesh. As God in heaven, He had never obeyed anyone. If you have never done something in your whole life, then when you do it for the first time, you learn something. Jesus learnt to obey when He came to earth as a Man. Then He not only had to obey His Father, He had to obey Joseph and Mary as well. Joseph and Mary were sinful, imperfect people. They must have made mistakes, just like all parents do. Yet Jesus obeyed them. That must have been difficult. He obeyed and suffered in His obedience. That means that He suffered the pain of denying His own will and obeying His Father, all through His life. That is how He learnt obedience when it cost Him suffering.
God’s Word says about Jesus, “He learned obedience and was made complete” (Hebrews 5:7-9). The word “learned” is a word that relates to education. So what this verse is saying is that Jesus received an education in obedience as a Man. In each situation, He obeyed His Father and thus completed His education as a Man. Thus He became a Forerunner for us, so that we too can follow in His footsteps, overcoming temptation and obeying God (Hebrews 6:20). Our Lord can sympathise with us in our struggles against temptation, because He too was tempted like us (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15; 12:2-4). The purity of Jesus as a Man was not something that He received on a platter, but one that was acquired through battle. But those battles were not endless ones. Every temptation was conquered – one after another. Thus, over the period of His lifetime, He faced every single temptation that we are tempted by – and overcame.
In the Old Testament, we find that each prophet had a unique burden given to him by God – but all of them were concerned about the lack of holiness among God’s people.
The burden God lays on your heart is almost always an indication of the ministry He has planned for you. So, wait on the Lord to receive a burden from Him. If you serve the Lord without a burden, you will get bored with the Lord’s work after a while, and you are likely to end up seeking after money, man’s honour or earthly comfort. It is unfortunate that many who claim to be serving the Lord today have no God-given burden for their ministry.
Take Up the Cross Daily
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “ You have circled this mountain long enough” (Deuteronomy 2:2,3). If we are always at the same level spiritually, we are going around in circles. We should be making progress in overcoming sin – and not be constantly defeated by the same old sins that defeated us many years ago. We should not be losing our temper or lusting with our eyes after women, as we did 10 years ago. If we are still defeated in these areas, then we are going around in circles. The Lord is now calling us to move forward. Did you take up the cross yesterday? Perhaps you did. But that was sufficient only for overcoming the evil of yesterday (Matt.6:34). Today is another day. And you have to offer up your body and your self-will as a sacrifice again. Today you have to die to your lusts, to your anger, to your pride, to your love of money, to your love of man’s honour, to your bitterness etc. These lusts are present in our flesh and will be with us as long as we live. That is why we need to have “a daily cross”, right until the end of our earthly lives. Is there this daily sacrifice in your life? If not, then the spirit of the Antichrist has certainly deceived you.
The Jews gloried in the fact that they had God’s Word unlike the rest of the world. But they did not live according to that Word; and they finally rejected the One about Whom God’s Word had prophesied, when He came into their midst. It is possible for those of us who have understood the new covenant also to glory in a similar way and to deceive ourselves.
The following is an adaptation of Romans Chapter 2 (from the Living Bible) – adapted to the danger we face:
You may be saying, “How sad it is that so many Christians have not understood the new covenant that we have understood so clearly”.
But wait! Examine your life honestly and see if it is better than the lives of those other Christians who have notunderstood the new covenant. Are you perhaps boasting only in a theoretical knowledge of the new covenant? Or have you actually entered into the new-covenant life?