Category Archives: Salvation

attitude:

Writing from a prison cell in Rome, the apostle Paul wrote about the attitude a Christian should have: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). The “whatever happens” here is a reference to whether Paul can come to visit the Philippians or not. Paul gave this instruction so that “whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). No matter what unexpected disruptions, frustrations, or difficulties come our way, we are to respond with a Christlike attitude. We should be standing firm and striving for the faith. Paul later writes, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:5). He is talking about demonstrating humility and selflessness in relationships. He also encourages us in Ephesians 5:1 to be “imitators of Christ as dearly beloved children.” As children love to imitate what they see and repeat what they hear; we also are charged to imitate and model Christ’s behavior and to be clear reflections of the Lord (Matthew 5:16).

Jesus maintained a perfect attitude in every situation. He prayed about everything and worried about nothing. We, too, should seek God’s guidance about every aspect of our lives and allow Him to work out His perfect will. Jesus’ attitude was never to become defensive or discouraged. His goal was to please the Father rather than to achieve His own agenda (John 6:38). In the midst of trials, He was patient. In the midst of suffering, He was hopeful. In the midst of blessing, He was humble. Even in the midst of ridicule, abuse, and hostility, He “made no threats . . . and did not retaliate. Instead He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

When Paul writes that our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” he had summarized in the previous two verses what such an attitude was: selflessness, humility, and service. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). In other words, the attitude a Christian should reflect is one that focuses on the needs and interests of others. Without question, that does not come naturally to us. When Christ came into the world, He established a whole new attitude to relationships with others. One day when His disciples were arguing among themselves regarding who was to be greatest in His kingdom, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28). Jesus is teaching us that, when we become preoccupied with our own things, it can cause conflicts and other problems with people we know. Instead, God wants us to have an attitude of serious, caring involvement in the concerns of others.

Paul speaks more about this Christlike attitude in his letter to the church in Ephesus: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Many religions of today, including the New Age philosophies, promote the old lie that we are divine or that we can become gods. But the truth of the matter is that we will never become God, or even a god. Satan’s oldest lie was promising Adam and Eve that, if they followed his advice, “you shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5).

Each time we try to control our circumstances, our future, and the people around us, we’re only demonstrating that we want to be a god. But we must understand that, as creatures, we will never be the Creator. God doesn’t want us to try to become gods. Instead, He wants us to become like Him, taking on His values, His attitudes, and His character. We are meant to “be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:23-24).

Finally, we must always keep in mind that God’s ultimate goal for His children is not our comfort, but the transformation of our minds into the attitude of godliness. He wants us to grow spiritually, to become like Christ. This doesn’t mean losing our personalities or becoming mindless clones. Christlikeness is all about transforming our minds. Again, Paul tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

It is God’s will that we develop the kind of mindset described in the Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5:1-12), that we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), that we emulate the principles in Paul’s great chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13), and that we strive to pattern our lives after Peter’s characteristics of an effective and productive life (2 Peter 1:5-8).

Prophet Nathan Emol

KEYS TO BEARING FRUIT AS A CHRISTIAN:

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In the natural world, fruit is the result of a healthy plant producing what it was designed to produce (Genesis 1:11–12). In the Bible, the word fruit is often used to describe a person’s outward actions that result from the condition of the heart.

Good fruit is that which is produced by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 gives us a starting place: the fruit of His Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The more we allow the Holy Spirit free rein in our lives, the more this fruit is evident (Galatians 5:1625). Jesus told His followers, “I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). Righteous fruit has eternal benefit.

Jesus told us clearly what we must do to bear good fruit. He said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4–5). A branch must stay firmly attached to the trunk to stay alive. As disciples of Christ, we must stay firmly connected to Him to remain spiritually productive. A branch draws strength, nourishment, protection, and energy from the vine. If it is broken off, it quickly dies and becomes unfruitful. When we neglect our spiritual life, ignore the Word of God, skimp on prayer, and withhold areas of our lives from the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit, we are like a branch broken off the vine. Our lives become fruitless. We need daily surrender, daily communication, and daily—sometimes hourly—repentance and connection with the Holy Spirit in order to “walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Staying intimately connected to the True Vine is the only way to “bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14), to “run and not grow weary” (Isaiah 40:31), and to not “grow weary in well-doing” (Galatians 6:9).

One counterfeit to bearing good fruit is pretense. We can become experts at the routines, the lingo, and “acting Christian,” while experiencing no real power and bearing no eternal fruit. Our hearts remain self-centered, angry, and joyless even while we go through the motions of serving God. We can easily slip into the sin of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day in judging ourselves by how we think we appear to others and neglecting that secret place of the heart where all good fruit germinates. When we love, desire, pursue, and fear the same things that the rest of the world does, we are not abiding in Christ, even though our lives may be filled with church-related activity. And, often, we don’t realize that we are living fruitless lives (1 John 2:15–17).

Our works will be tested by fire. Using a different metaphor than fruit, 1 Corinthians 3:12–14 says, “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”

God is the judge of even our thoughts and motivations. All will be brought to the light when we stand before Him (Hebrews 4:12–13). A poor widow in a one-room hut can bear as much fruit as a televangelist leading giant crusades if she is surrendered to God in everything and using all He has given her for His glory. As fruit is unique to each tree, our fruit is unique to us. God knows what He has entrusted to each of us and what He expects us to do with it (Luke 12:48). Our responsibility before God is to be “faithful with little” so that He can trust us with much (Matthew 25:21).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY DOES GOD TEST US?

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When we ask why God tests us or allows us to be tested, we are admitting that testing does indeed come from Him. When God tests His children, He does a valuable thing. David sought God’s testing, asking Him to examine his heart and mind and see that they were true to Him (Psalm 26:2; 139:23). When Abram was tested by God in the matter of sacrificing Isaac, Abram obeyed (Hebrews 11:17–19) and showed to all the world that he is the father of faith (Romans 4:16).

In both the Old and New Testaments, the words translated “test” mean “to prove by trial.” Therefore, when God tests His children, His purpose is to prove that our faith is real. Not that God needs to prove it to Himself since He knows all things, but He is proving to us that our faith is real, that we are truly His children, and that no trial will overcome our faith.

In His Parable of the Sower, Jesus identifies the ones who fall away as those who receive the seed of God’s Word with joy, but, as soon as a time of testing comes along, they fall away. James says that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, which leads to maturity in our walk with God (James 1:3–4). James goes on to say that testing is a blessing, because, when the testing is over and we have “stood the test,” we will “receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Testing comes from our heavenly Father who works all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called to be the children of God (Romans 8:28).

The testing or trials we undergo come in various ways. Becoming a Christian will often require us to move out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. Perseverance in testing results in spiritual maturity and completeness. This is why James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). The testing of faith can come in small ways and daily irritations; they may also be severe afflictions (Isaiah 48:10) and attacks from Satan (Job 2:7). Whatever the source of the testing, it is to our benefit to undergo the trials that God allows.

The account of Job is a perfect example of God’s allowing one of His saints to be tested by the devil. Job bore all his trials patiently and “did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22). However, the account of Job’s testing is proof that Satan’s ability to try us is limited by God’s sovereign control. No demon can test or afflict us with beyond what God has ordained. All our trials work toward God’s perfect purpose and our benefit.

There are many examples of the positive results of being tested. The psalmist likens our testing to being refined like silver (Psalm 66:10). Peter speaks of our faith as “of greater worth than gold,” and that’s why we “suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6–7). In testing our faith, God causes us to grow into strong disciples who truly live by faith and not by what we see (2 Corinthians 5:7).

When we experience the storms of life, we should be like the tree that digs its roots ever more deeply for a greater grip in the earth. We must “dig our roots” more deeply into God’s Word and cling to His promises so we can weather whatever storms come against us.

Most comforting of all, we know that God will never allow us to be tested beyond what we are able to handle by His power. His grace is sufficient for us, and His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). “That is why,” Paul said, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW TO STAY FOCUSED ON CHRIST:

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In our fast-paced, attention-grabbing world, it is easy to get caught up in the daily grind, get distracted, and lose sight of our true purpose in life—the worship and love of God (see Matthew 22:37). Yet we are told to run our race with our eyes focused on Christ: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1–2). How can we resist the allure of the world and keep our focus where it belongs, on Christ?

To focus is to direct one’s attention or concentrate on something. If we are focused on Christ, then He has our attention; we are concentrating on Him and His word; He occupies the forefront of our minds. Such a focus is only fitting, because Jesus “is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18). By rights, He should be our focus.

Colossians 3:1–4 contains much that can help us stay focused on Christ: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” We are to focus on “things above,” remembering that Christ is seated in the place of glory and power (verse 1). The reason for the command is also given: because we have been raised to new life with Christ. To focus on the things above, we must consciously remove our focus from “earthly things” (verse 2), and the reason is given: we have died to self, and Christ is our very life (verse 3). Helping us stay focused on Christ is the reminder that Jesus is coming again, and when we see Him we will know glory (verse 4).

Hebrews 2 lists some of the things that Christ has done or is doing for us: He shared our humanity (verse 14), He breaks the power of the devil (verse 14), He frees us (verse 15), He is our “merciful and faithful high priest” (verse 17), He suffered for us (verse 18), and He helps those who are tempted in this world (verse 18). Because of all this, Hebrews 3:1, says, “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.”

Here are some practical ways for a born-again believer to stay focused on Christ:

Commit to reading the Bible. It is impossible for a believer to be consistently in the Word without having his attention drawn again and again to Christ: “The Scriptures point to me!” Jesus said (John 5:39, NLT; see also Luke 24:44 and Hebrews 10:7). To focus on the Word of God is to have the Son of God brought more into focus.

Develop your prayer life. If you want to know how to pray, read Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in Luke 11:1–13. As you speak to the Lord throughout your day, you will naturally be more focused on Him. Little things, big things—we can come to the Lord with any and all of our cares. The command is to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), to always be in an attitude and atmosphere of instant prayer.

Trust the Lord as your only protector: “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare” (Psalm 25:15). Once we understand the spiritual dangers we face on a daily basis, we will focus more on Christ, our one and only Savior, who alone has the power of deliverance.

Recognize your need and the Lord as the source of all good things: “Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us” (Psalm 123:2, ESV). The world offers various means of obtaining love, joy, and peace, but they are destined to disappoint. The believer understands that love, joy, and peace (and a myriad other fine gifts) are the direct result of his relationship with Christ (see Galatians 5:22–23).

See the world for what it is: a sin-filled place of desperate need. The darker the world is to us, the more clearly the light of Christ will stand out. It’s not hard to focus on a light in a darkened room. “We . . . have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). Those who stay focused on Christ will find their perspective on worldly things changing. As Helen Lemmel says in her hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, / Look full in His wonderful face, / And the things of earth will grow strangely dim / In the light of His glory and grace.”

In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Faithful go through Vanity Fair, where they are offered “all sorts of vanity.” Christian’s and Faithful’s response is instructive for us: “These pilgrims set very light by all their wares—they cared not so much as to look upon them; and if they called upon them to buy, they would put their fingers in their ears, and cry, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity,’ and look upwards, signifying that their trade and traffic was in heaven” (Part I, p. 86). May we, like the pilgrims in Vanity Town, practice the heavenward-look and keep our eyes focused on Christ, His glory, and His love.

Prophet Nathan Emol

DOES GOD HEAR MY PRAYERS?

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God hears everything, including prayers. He is God. Nothing gets by Him (Psalm 139:1–4). He is sovereign over everything He created (Isaiah 46:9–11). So the question is not whether God is aware of every prayer (He is), but whether God is tuning in to our prayers with an intent to answer them.

God wants us to pray. He has created prayer as a means by which we can enjoy Him (Revelation 3:20), confess our sin (1 John 1:9), ask Him to meet our needs (Psalm 50:15), and align our wills with His (Jeremiah 29:11–12; Luke 22:42). One kind of prayer is guaranteed to be granted. Luke 18:13–14 describes the prayer of repentance. When we call upon the Lord in humble repentance, He is eager to justify and forgive us.

However, when considering prayer, it is important to remember that most promises of God in Scripture were written to His people. In the Old Testament, those promises were for Israel and all who united with them. In the New Testament, those promises were written to the followers of Jesus. It is a misuse of Scripture to pull out isolated verses and try to apply them to any situation we want, including prayer. Even though the Lord knows and hears all, He has given some circumstances in which He will not listen to our prayers:

1. When we are choosing to hold on to sin, rather than repent and change, God will not hear our prayers. In Isaiah 1:15, the Lord says, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!” Proverbs 28:9 says, “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.”
Example: A young couple are living together in sexual sin, yet they pray for God’s blessing on their home.

2. When we ask according to our own selfish desires, God will not hear our prayers. James 4:3 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”
Example: A man is dissatisfied with his three-year-old Toyota, so he prays for a brand-new Mercedes.

3. When what we ask is not in accordance with His will for us. First John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
Example: We pray fervently for a new job, but God’s plan requires that we stay where we are and be a witness to our coworkers.

4. When we do not ask in faith. In Mark 11:24 Jesus said, “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” However, faith is not believing for something; it is believing in Someone. Our faith is in the character of God and His desire to bless and comfort us. When we pray, we should have faith that He hears us and will grant every request that is in line with His will for us (1 John 5:14–15).
Example: We ask God to supply a financial need but continue to worry and make faithless comments to our families and coworkers, such as “I’m probably going to go to the poorhouse. I’ll never get that money.”

God is holy and desires us to be holy as He is (Leviticus 22:32; 1 Peter 1:16). When He knows that we are seeking that holiness as well, He is delighted to answer our prayers in ways that continue our spiritual growth. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). The secret to prayer is abiding in Christ so that whatever we ask is in accordance with His heart (Psalm 37:4). Only then can we have the confidence that God does hear our prayers with an intent to answer them.

Prophet Nathan Emol