Thursday, March 30, 2017

Is my faith real? Is my relationship with God genuine? <> PART 3 of 3

Is my faith real? Is my relationship with God genuine? PART 3 of 3

Why do we do what we do? Is it for self-promotion—to please another person—self-satisfaction—obligation? We need to keep our motives under the examination of the Holy Spirit—NOT so He can hammer us but so our spiritual walk can grow and remain wholesome.

[Continued from March 11 and 16, 2017 Blog Posts]

7 Questions to ask yourself to help you know how genuine your faith and relationship with God really is:

6. Do I desire to give myself to God’s Word and prayer?
Not long ago I heard a preacher say that a person who claims to be a Christian but does not read and study the Bible and does not spend quality time is prayer needs to do some soul-searching and determine if they’re truly born-again.
I believe this is true for many people. The gospel writer says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21a).

Folks in this group may attend church regularly; may watch their favorite TV preacher religiously; and may have even walked down an isle and professed faith in Christ at one time. But in reality they may not have believed and received Jesus into their hearts. 

When a person genuinely accepts Jesus as Savior and Lord they sincerely invite Him and receive Him as their Savior and their Lord. That person is born-again, which means they’ve experienced a new birth. The old person has died and the new person, in Christ, has emerged into new life. That’s not to say that person never again sins or has an evil thought.

But that person is changed from the inside out and should desire the things of God. What better way is there to know what the things of God are and be spiritually strengthened to do those things than to learn what God Himself says in His Word?

Sadly, there are many people who are dismally shocked when their last breath is released and they find themselves in the abyss of outer darkness. That’s the moment of no return, with no hope of reconciliation to their Creator.

One’s eternal destiny is way too important to not be certain of and the good news is that we can be certain of it. Having a desire to know God and Jesus better through the reading and study of God’s Word is a good indicator that a person’s faith is real and that their relationship with God is genuine.

The same is true of one who claims to be a follower of Jesus yet does not pray or only calls on God when they have a need or when a life crisis has arisen. A person who really knows God and enjoys a genuine relationship with Him should desire to commune with Him, to praise Him with a grateful heart, and to seek Him for direction. 

Ask yourself these 2 questions: “What draws or compels me to pray?” AND “What draws or compels me to read/study the Bible?”

I recently took a non-scientific survey on Facebook asking these two questions and got some interesting, thoughtful responses.

Linda said, “I’m drawn to prayer many times throughout the day—to give thanks and when I’m weary. I read my Bible to keep myself in His Word.”

Cherilynn said, “Life in general compels me to pray. I’m compelled to worship God and want to know God better so I read the Word.”

Heather said, “Because I love God and want to have a better relationship. I want to learn more about Him and His Word. Because He and His Word give life! Because His word is amazing and because I need Him.”

Charlie said, “I know I need God.”

Judy said, “1. Fear, gratitude, healing, and direction. 2. To draw closer to Him.”

Katy said, “1. I want to see what God can do in a situation, not me or others in our own ability. I pray because I love Him. 2. I want to know God better and grow in my relationship with Him. He gives me direction through Scripture. And I want to learn more so that I can share the truth with others.” 

Laura said, “1. I am compelled to pray many times throughout the day—to praise God for the beauty of the creation when flowers bloom, when the sun peeks over the horizon at dawn, or when the moon lights up the night. When a friend or family needs a healing touch, or a hurt needs to be healed. When I see a lost soul in need of redemption. 2. My heart longs for my daily bread every morning, I seek God through the Word. He is my life and heart’s desire.”

My response: “I’m drawn and compelled to pray because I know God loves me beyond anything I can imagine even though I’m undeserving. Also I’m confident that He hears my prayers and cares about my needs. I’m drawn to and compelled to read and study His Word because I love Him and am grateful for His love and all He does for me and others. I want to get to know Him better and understand His ways as much as possible. This is best accomplished by time in prayer and Bible study.”

I’m certainly not the judge of another person—thank God. But if you’re a person who claims to be a Christian and you have no desire to or do not take time to pray and read/study your Bible I suggest you do some soul-searching and ask God to show you the truth about your spiritual condition. You may find that you need to get real with God and profess faith in Jesus Christ, receiving Him as your eternal Savior and as the Lord of your life. 

Perhaps you are a born-again believer in Jesus, but are immature or simply lazy. If so, it’s time to grow up and to get serious about what you believe. These days in which we live are not for the weak. Our Heavenly Father wants all His children to be over-comers.

Maybe you need to get to know God better by getting to know Jesus better. A good way to do this is to read through the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as well as the Book of Acts. I’m not suggesting you limit yourself to these books but it’s a great place to start.

7. Do I tell others about Jesus?

For many of us this is where the rubber meets the road.

I have had some tough encounters with God over this subject. Regarding certain people I have even said (to God): “So-and-So does not want to know about Jesus. They’re not one bit interested!” This may be true but every person, whether they know it or not, needs the Lord.

And here’s one of my responses to God that probably made Him frown or shake His head: “But God, I think So-and-So wants to go to Hell!” Yes, I’ve said that to Him. 

What an ignorant thing for me to say! Nobody wants to go to Hell! Even if a person actually says they do, in reality no one wants to spend forever and ever in the hellacious misery of damnation, separated from God and other people, as well as anything good or pleasant, moreover suffer the fire and brimstone with no hope of ever getting a miniscule iota of relief. No one really wants to go to Hell. 

But millions of people end up in Hell. And it’s not because God is mean but it’s because they never believed and received Jesus as their Savior and Lord. The Bible even says that more people will end up in Hell than in Heaven. That’s so sad and does not have to be the case. See the words of Jesus: “Enter by the narrow ate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult (restricted, limited) is the way which leads to life and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). –Italics mine.

A few years ago my granddaughter, Grace (11 yrs. old at the time), and I were taking a trip together. The interior of car is a great place to chat. (Thankfully she did not yet have a cell phone.) We were having a conversation about things going on in her life. She began complaining about being mad at her parents for not allowing her to go to a certain movie with her friends. I tried to explain that her parents were strict about such things because they love her so much and ... –you know the routine. 

Grace had recently accepted Jesus as her Savior and Lord so the conversation naturally leant itself to a spiritual learning opportunity. I told her that Christian parents are ultimately concerned about the eternal destination of their children—that is whether they will go to Heaven or Hell when they die. They also desire that their children live lives in accordance with biblical values, knowing they will therefore have the most abundant life possible. She agreed that it made sense this would be true.

I went on to tell her that most people in the world—even nice people—will end up going to Hell when they die because they never received Jesus. I told her there’s a Scripture verse that states that fact. We ended our discussion and after a few minutes of silence I resumed the Scripture CD where we had left off earlier.  

My heart leapt when the voice on the CD spoke that very passage from the Book of Matthew. I didn’t plan it nor did I even remember where, in the Bible, the passage was located. But God knew and in His wisdom we heard the appropriate verse, spoken with authority, right from the Gospel.

At the end of Chapter 7 I stopped the CD and asked Grace if she heard the verse to which I had made reference. She said, yes she has heard it.
In my spirit I praised God and rejoiced in how He never ceases to amaze and delight me. 

I know that was a bit of a lengthy story but it’s a true story and helps bring home the point that people need Jesus and He’s the only way a person can get to Heaven. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John14:6). 

We must ask ourselves if we’re genuinely concerned about the eternal destiny of others, especially our loved-ones. If there’s no concern there, then we need to consider whether or not we believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ is truth.

If we don’t really think its truth then we’re not really a Christian. If we do believe its truth, then we need to be willing to inconvenience ourselves and even humble ourselves, if need be, to tell others about Jesus.

The Lord got my attention a few years ago when I was studying the Book of Ezekiel. God told Ezekiel to go and tell His people certain things. Ezekiel was hesitant, knowing the people wouldn’t like what he had to say. God told him to go and tell them anyway and that he was not to be dismayed or afraid by the things they would say or even by the looks on their faces (Ezekiel 2:1-7).

As I read that passage back in 2011, the Lord clearly spoke into my spirit that He wanted me to be his witness and not concern myself with people’s reactions. He even gave me the names of some individuals He wanted me to speak to and to pray for.

Not only that, He put an exclamation point on the end with this vision: I saw people walking, one by one, to the door of Hell. As each one reached the door they stopped, turned and looked me in the eye and said, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Then each one stepped through door, right into Hell.

Needless to say, I was shaken to the core. I wept and repented and asked God to help me boldly proclaim His Good News to people who are on their way to Hell. In case you’re wondering, I did not recognize any of the faces of the people in the vision. But they were nonetheless people whose eternal destiny might have been different if I had witnessed to them.

So question number 7 is, “Do you tell others about Jesus?” If your answer is, “No,” ask God to help you understand the reasons why and to help you be more mindful and bold and in tune to His leading in this area.

There we have the 7 Questions to ask ourselves to help us know how genuine our relationship with God really is.  

Thanks so much for tuning in. If you’d like to participate in the conversation, your comments are welcome. God bless you as you grow in Christ and let’s be real.

©Copyright 2017 Connie Wohlford

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Is my faith real? Is my relationship with God genuine? PART 2 of 3

Is my faith real? Is my relationship with God genuine? PART 2 of 3

Why do we do what we do? Is it for self-promotion—to please another person—self-satisfaction—obligation? We need to keep our motives under the examination of the Holy Spirit—NOT so He can hammer us but so our spiritual walk can grow and remain wholesome.
[Continued from March 11, 2017 Blog Post]

7 Questions to ask yourself to help you know how genuine your faith and relationship with God really is:

4. Do I love the way Jesus loves?
I don’t know about you, but for me, to love like Jesus loves is a challenge. By nature, I’m not a critical person and I usually tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. But I have to admit that to love everyone with the Jesus kind of self-sacrificing agapĂ© love is a tall order.

We know from Scripture that Jesus is one with God (John 10:30; Colossians 2”9). We also know that God loves all people with unfailing, unconditional love. Even greater than that—God is love. 

Those of us who grew up going to church have heard, all our lives, “God is love.” Contemplate that statement for a moment—“God is love.”

The apostle, John, gives good detail and instruction to the body of Christ regarding God’s love. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11 NKJV).

God is the origin of love and is the source of love.

For those of us who are in Christ—that is born-again followers of Jesus—God is our Father and, as we much as are willing, His attributes can become our own. The ability to love like Jesus is one of them. The Holy Spirit in us is our enabler, thus it’s not just an insincere forced act. 

It’s hard to love a person who dislikes us, tries to harm us, or disagrees with us coming and going—just to name a few scenarios. I’ve experienced all these situations in my own life and have found that it really helps to sincerely ask God to help me see these people as He sees them. 

Many times God has shown me things that have caused my heart to break and initiated compassion for individuals which would not have been possible in my own self-determination.  

In John’s passage about love, he went on to say, No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:12-19).

As we get to know God better and mature in faith and trust in Him, we will naturally have greater love for Him and for others. We will abide in Him, abide in love, and His love will be perfected in us.

Let God’s love be perfected in me.

So, as I ask myself how genuine my relationship is with God, I must take a close look at how well I love others.

5. Do I really have faith in God?

The Bible says that without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). By all means, as followers of Christ, we want to please God!

Maybe we should each ask, “Where’s the evidence of my faith?”

We need to first believe in Jesus—that He is who the Bible says He is—that He is the only begotten Son of God who did all the things the Bible tells us. We need to be confident that He spoke truth when He said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 NKJV).

Because of God’s great love and in spite of man’s sinful ways, God gave His Son, Jesus, as a sacrificial atonement for our sins. This is God’s amazing grace toward us, making a way for restoration. But we must open our hearts and receive this gift of grace.

When we open our hearts and say, “Yes,” to Jesus we’re expressing faith in Him. “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8a).

This salvation experience is the launching pad of our faith walk. How we grow and where we go from there depends on each of us individually. Do I want to be a person of weak faith, mediocre faith, or great faith?

“Great faith” is what Jesus called the faith of a Roman soldier in the Gospel of Matthew. This unnamed centurion came to Jesus regarding the severe illness of one of his servants. 

Jesus said, “I will come and heal him” (Matthew 8:7 NKJV).

The centurion’s response was quite surprising and showed great confidence—faith—in Jesus. He told the Lord that He didn’t need to bother to go to his house—that he wasn’t worthy of having Christ under his roof. 

He said, “But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).
Jesus marveled that the man had such faith and said, “’Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you’ and his servant was healed that same hour” (Matthew 8:10).

I would love for Jesus to describe me as a person of “great faith.” Wouldn’t you?
Let’s ask ourselves, “How much do I trust Jesus?”

How much we trust Jesus is a good indicator of our faith. As we read and study the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, plus the Book of Acts, we get to know Jesus better and better. As we get to know Jesus better, we find that He is trustworthy. To know Him is to trust Him.

As we trust Him more we will walk in obedience to the things He say to us—the things He tells us to do. This is different for each of us as I described in Part 1 of this blog series.  

I spoke of our ILP (Individualized Life Plan). In order to walk out our God ordained ILP we’ll be taking some risks and will often find ourselves outside of our comfort zones.

In this we see evidence of having faith in God and in Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Again I want to refer back to Part 1 where I wrote about How to walk in obedience to God. The same strategies hold true for growing in faith. I repeat, (from Part 1):
The best way to know what that (ILP) is is to get to know God through His Word and to spend quality time with Him in prayer—listening to Him as well as talking to Him. In addition to that, we need to be in fellowship with other Believers by connecting with a good Bible believing church, sitting under sound biblical teaching.
In addition to these things, we need the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to give us the courage and power to follow through. When we believe and receive Jesus as our Savior the Holy Spirit moved into our own spirit to help us in all things.

Surely we don’t want to have the same level of faith today that we had yesterday, or two years ago, or twenty years ago. And surely we’d like to see ourselves with greater levels of faith tomorrow than today. Think of the example we set for our children and, grandchildren, and others in our sphere of influence.

Let’s revisit the question: “Do I really have faith in God?” Consider your answer.
When we believe God has instructed us to do something and then we do it, we are showing faith. As we do this thing, the greater the risk, the greater our faith—especially if this thing is completely out of our comfort zone.

When we go through trial and tragedy yet lean on the Lord, our faith is evident. When we confidently say, “I’m believing God,” we’re expressing faith. 

Please join me in declaring: “I want to walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). I want to walk on water in the midst of the storm (Matthew 14:29). When I reach my final destiny, I want to hear the words ‘Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21).’” 

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).

As we continue to contemplate the original questions: “Is my firth real?” AND “Is my relationship with God genuine?” we need to consider our responses to the questions: “4. Do I love the way Jesus loves” AND ”5. Do I really have faith in God?”

Please prayerfully ponder your answers and search God through prayer and His Word for His response to your answers. I’m doing the same thing.

Yes, I said 7 questions we should ask and today’s post brought us up to number 5. Please tune in to my next post for the rest of the questions. Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you’d like to participate in the conversation, your comments are welcome.

©Copyright 2017 Connie Wohlford