FORGIVING OURSELVES:

Never does the Bible talk about the idea of “forgiving yourself.” We are told to forgive others when they trespass against us and seek forgiveness. When we ask for God’s forgiveness based upon Christ having already paid for our sins and our having trusted in Him as Savior and Lord, He forgives us. It is as simple as that (1 John 1:9). However, even though we are released from the bondage to sin (as spoken of in Romans chapters 6-8), we can still choose to wallow in it and act as though we are not freed from it. Likewise, with guilty feelings we can accept the fact that we are forgiven in Christ, or we can believe the devil’s lie that we are still guilty and should therefore feel guilty.

The Bible says that when God forgives us, He “remembers our sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). This does not mean that the all-knowing God forgets because He forgives us. Rather, He chooses not to bring up our sin to Himself or others. When our former sins come to mind, we can choose to dwell upon them (with the resulting guilty feelings), or we can choose to fill our minds with thoughts of the awesome God who forgave us and thank and praise Him for it (Philippians 4:8). Remembering our sins is only beneficial when it reminds us of the extent of God’s forgiveness and makes it easier for us to forgive others (Matthew 18:21-35).

Sadly, there are some people who don’t “forgive themselves,” that is, who don’t move beyond their past, because they really don’t want to forget their former sins. Some choose rather to continue getting a vicarious thrill out of reliving past sins in their minds. This, too, is a sin and must be confessed and forsaken. A man who lusts in his heart after a woman is guilty of the sin of adultery (Matthew 5:28). In the same way, each time we mentally relive our sin, we commit the same sin over again. If this is happening in a Christian’s life, the pattern of sin/guilt/sin/guilt can be destructive and never-ending.

Remembering that our sins are forgiven should make it easier to forgive others their sin (Matthew 7:1-51 Timothy 1:15). Forgiveness should remind us of the great Savior who forgave us, undeserving though we will always be, and draw us closer in loving obedience to Him (Romans 5:10Psalm 103:2-3,10-14). God will allow our sin to come to mind (Satan may intend it for an evil purpose, but God allows it for a good purpose), but He wants us to accept His forgiveness and rejoice in His grace. So, the next time your former sins come to mind, “change the channel” by choosing to dwell upon His mercies (it might help to make a list of verses that encourage you to praise) and think about how we should loathe sin.

Prophet Nathan Emol

EXPERIENCING JOY IN YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE:

Joy is something we all long for but that often seems difficult to grab hold of. Experiencing joy should be a part of every Christian’s life. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, produced by God’s work in us, and it is part of God’s will for us.

We know that even the most mature of God’s people experience periods of joylessness. For instance, Job wished he had never been born (Job 3:11). David prayed to be taken away to a place where he would not have to deal with reality (Psalm 55:6–8). Elijah, even after defeating 450 prophets of Baal with fire called down from heaven (1 Kings 18:16–46), fled into the desert and asked God to take his life (1 Kings 19:3–5). If these men struggled, how can we experience consistent joy in the Christian life?

The first thing is to realize that joy is a gift from God. The root word for joy in the Greek is chara, which is closely related with the Greek charis for “grace.” Joy is both a gift of God as well as a response to the gifts of God. Joy comes when we are aware of God’s grace and relish His favor.

With this in mind, it’s evident that one way to experience joy is to focus on God. Rather than dwelling on our difficulties or those things robbing our contentment, we can dwell on God. This is not to say we should deny our discontent or stuff negative emotions. Following the example of many of the psalmists, we can pour out our hearts to God. We can tell Him bluntly all the things that ail us. But then we submit those things to Him, remember who He is, and are happy in Him. Psalms 3131843, and 103 are good examples.

The book of Philippians has much to say about joy, even though Paul wrote the epistle from prison. Philippians 4:4–8 gives some guidelines for experiencing joy in the Christian life: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! . . . The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Here we see the importance of praising God, remembering that He is near, praying about our worries, and keeping our minds focused on the good things of God. We can experience joy when we intentionally praise. David wrote that the study of God’s Word can bring us joy (Psalm 19:8). We experience joy by communing with God through prayer. And we experience joy by keeping our focus on godly things rather than on difficult circumstances or discontentment.

Jesus also gave some instructions regarding joy. In John 15 He talked about abiding in Him and obeying Him. He said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:9–11). One of the keys to joy is living in obedience to God.

Another way to experience joy in the Christian life is through community. God gave Elijah rest and then sent a man, Elisha, to help him (1 Kings 19:19–21). We, too, need friends that we can share our hurts and pains with (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12). Hebrews 10:19–25 says, “Brothers and sisters . . . let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Because of the grace of God, we know we can approach God confidently in prayer (Hebrews 10:19). We know we are cleansed of our sin (Hebrews 10:22). And we are joined into a new community, a family of believers. With our fellow believers, we hold firm to our faith, trusting in the character of God. We also encourage one another. Christians do not belong to this world (John 17:14–16Philippians 3:20). We long to be with God, finally restored to our original design. Life can be lonely and discouraging. Others help remind us of truth, carry our burdens with us, and strengthen us to continue on (Galatians 6:10Colossians 3:12–14).

Joy is meant to be a hallmark of the Christian life. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and a gift of God. We best receive this gift when we focus on the truth of who God is, commune with Him through prayer, and rely on the community of believers He has provided.

Prophet Nathan Emol

HAVING PASSION FOR JESUS:

This question fits right in with God’s greatest commandment, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, to love our God with all of our being. Here is some guidance in how to bring that about from Scripture:

1) It goes without saying that we cannot love someone we do not know. Get to know God and what He has done for you. Before the command to love God is given in Deuteronomy 6:5, the statement is made, “Hear O Israel, The LORD our God is one LORD.” One aspect of this statement is that He is unique, and the better we get to know what He is like, the easier it will be for us to love Him with our whole being. This also involves getting to know what He has done for us. Again, before the first command is given in Exodus 20:3, God states what He had done for Israel in bringing them out of slavery in Egypt. Likewise, in Romans 12:1-2, the command to offer our lives as living sacrifices is prefaced with the word therefore–a word meant to remind us of all of the mercies of God toward us recorded in the previous chapters.

To grow in love with God, one needs to get to know Him. He has revealed Himself in nature (Romans 1), but so much more through His Word. We need to make daily Bible study a perpetual habit—as much a part of our lives as eating every day. We would do well to remember that the Bible is more than a book; it is truly God’s love letter to us, revealing His love for us through the centuries, especially through the ministry of Jesus Christ, His Son. We must read the Bible as a letter from Him, asking His Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts about what He wants us to glean from it that day. Memorizing important verses and passages is also essential, as is thinking of ways to apply what we learn (Joshua 1:8).

2) Follow Jesus’ example of praying constantly and consistently. When we examine the life of Jesus as well as that of Daniel and others who had a passion for God, we find that prayer was a vital ingredient in their relationships with God (even a quick reading of the gospels and the Book of Daniel reveals this). As with Bible study, prayer—sincere and open communication with God—is essential. You cannot imagine a man and woman growing in love without communicating, so prayer cannot be neglected without expecting one’s love for God to grow cold. Prayer is part of the armor against our greatest enemies (Ephesians 6:18). We may have a desire to love God, but we will fail in our walk without prayer (Matthew 26:41).

3) Walk closely with Him NOW. Daniel and his three friends chose to obey God and refused to compromise in even the food they ate (Daniel 1). The others who were brought from Judah to Babylon as prisoners with them caved in and are never mentioned again. When the Jewish prisoners of war had their convictions challenged in a far greater way, it was only these few who stood alone for God (Daniel 3 and 6). In order to ensure that we will be passionate for God later, we need to walk with Him now and begin to obey Him in the smallest tests! Peter learned this the hard way by following God “at a distance,” rather than identifying himself more closely with Christ before his temptation to deny Him (Luke 22:54). God says that where a man’s treasure is, there his heart will be also. As we invest our lives in God through serving Him and being on the receiving end of persecution for Him, our treasure will increasingly lie with Him, and so will our hearts (1 Timothy 3:12Matthew 6:21).

4) Eliminate the competition. Jesus said it is impossible to have two masters (Matthew 6:24). We are tempted to love the world (those things which please our eyes, make us feel good about ourselves, and gratify our fleshly desires) (1 John 2:15-17). James says that to seek to embrace the world and its friendship is enmity (hatred) toward God and spiritual adultery (James 4:4). We need to get rid of those things in our lives (friends who would lead us the wrong way, things that take up our time and energy and keep us from serving God more fully, pursuit of popularity, pursuit of possessions, and the pursuit of physical and emotional gratifications). God promises that if we pursue Him, He will not only provide for our needs (Matthew 6:33) but will give us our desires as well (Psalm 37:4-5).

5) If straying, begin to do what helped you grow in love with God in the first place. It is not uncommon to have dips in a relationship. Peter dipped in his (Luke 22:54), and David dipped in his (2 Samuel 11), but they got up and pursued after God once again. John, in Revelation 2:4, states it is not a case of “losing” one’s love but “leaving” one’s love. The cure is to do the “first works,” those things that caused one to grow in love with God in the first place. This would include those items mentioned above. The first step in this is confession and receiving the forgiveness and restored fellowship that are the result of that confession (1 John 1:9). There is no doubt that God will bless the pursuit of a passion for Him and will glorify His name through it.

Prophet Nathan Emol

SUBMITTING TO GOD:

In all the New Testament incidences where the word submit occurs, the word is translated from the Greek word hupotasso. The hupo means “under” and the tasso means “to arrange.” This word and a root of it are also translated by the words subject and subjection. The word’s full meaning is “to obey, put under, be subject to, submit oneself unto, put in subjection under or be under obedience or obedient to.” The word was used as a military term meaning “to arrange troop divisions in a military fashion under the command of a leader.” This word is a wonderful definition of what it means to “submit” to God. It means to arrange oneself under the command of divine viewpoint rather than to live according to one’s old way of life based on a human viewpoint. It is a process surrendering our own will to that of our Father’s.

The Scripture has a great deal to say about being in submission to the “higher powers.” This has reference to the establishment principles that God has ordained in our world—the government and the leaders, in whatever capacity, that God has placed in authority over us on this earth. Passages that teach this principle are Romans 13:1-7Hebrews 13:171 Peter 2:13-14; and Titus 3:1. The principle is that being in obedience to the authority over us, whatever that authority is, will bring a temporal blessing in real time here and now and, for the believer, reward later. The highest authority is God, and He delegates authority to others; so, in order to submit to God, we submit to the authority He has placed over us. You will notice that there are no caveats that distinguish between good or bad authority or even just or unjust authority. We are just to humble ourselves and obey as “unto the Lord.”

We are also told to submit ourselves to God (James 4:7). In Ephesians we read the wife is to submit to her husband as unto the Lord and the husband is to “love” his wife (Ephesians 5:22-25). The Apostle Peter writes, “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:5). The theme here is one of humility. One cannot submit to God without humility. Obedience requires us to humble ourselves to surrender to the authority of another, and we are told that God resists pride—the opposite of humility—and the arrogance that fosters that pride.

Therefore, having a humble and submissive heart is a choice we make. That means as born-again believers we daily make a choice to submit ourselves to God for the work that the Holy Spirit does in us to “conform us to the image of Christ.” God will use the situations of our lives to bring us the opportunity to submit to Him (Romans 8:28-29). The believer then accepts His grace and provision to walk in the Spirit and not after the manner of the old nature. That work is accomplished by choosing to apply ourselves to the Word of God and to learning about the provisions that God has made for us in Christ Jesus. From the moment we are born again, we have all the provisions we need, in Christ, to become a mature believer, but we have to make the choice to learn about those provisions through study of the Word and to apply those provisions to our daily walk.

We have to choose to submit to God for the process of learning in order to grow spiritually. It is a process begun at salvation and ongoing with each and every choice that we make to submit ourselves to God. This process will continue until the Lord comes again or He calls us home. The wonderful thing about this is that, as the Apostle Paul so aptly states, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

God does not require us to submit because He is a tyrant, but because He is a loving Father and He knows what is best for us. The blessings and peace that we gain from humbly surrendering and submitting ourselves to Him daily are a gift of grace that nothing in this world can compare to.

Prophet Nathan Emol

CHRISTIANS HAVE AUTHORITY TO REBUKE THE DEVIL:

There are some Christians who believe they not only have the authority to rebuke the devil, but also they must be about the business of rebuking him continually. There is no biblical basis for such a belief. Satan, unlike God, is not omnipresent. He can only be in one place at a time, and the likelihood of his personally harassing individual Christians is miniscule. Of course, he has legions of demons who do his bidding, and they are everywhere seeking to destroy believers’ testimonies. It should be noted here that the Christian cannot be possessed by a demon in the same way people in the Bible are described as being possessed.

As Christians, we need to be aware of the reality of the presence of evil. As we struggle to stand firm in our faith, we must realize that our enemies are not merely human ideas, but real forces that come from the powers of darkness. The Bible says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Clearly, God has allowed Satan significant amounts of power and influence over the earth, at least for now, and always within God’s sovereign control. The Bible tells us that Satan prowls around like a lion in search of prey, looking for victims to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is the power at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God (Ephesians 2:2). Anyone who is not under the control of the sovereign God is under the control of the devil (Acts 26:182 Corinthians 4:4). Born-again Christians are no longer enslaved to Satan or to sin (Romans 6:6-7), but this does not mean we are immune to the temptations that he puts before us.

The Bible does not give Christians the authority to rebuke the devil, but to resist him. James 4:7 says to “submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Zechariah 3:2 tells us that it is the Lord who rebukes Satan. Even Michael, one of the most powerful of the angels, did not dare to accuse Satan, but rather said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 1:9). In response to Satan’s attacks, a Christian should appeal to Christ. Instead of focusing on defeating the devil, we should focus on following Christ (Hebrews 12:2) and trust that He will defeat the forces of evil.

It is not necessary for a Christian to rebuke Satan because God has given us His full armor to stand against evil (see Ephesians 6:10-18). The most effective weapons we have against the devil are our faith, wisdom, and knowledge about God and His Word. Christ, when tempted by Satan, answered him with Scripture (see Matthew 4:1-11). To gain victory in spiritual matters, we must maintain a clear conscience and have control over our thoughts. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Prophet Nathan Emol