Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Godly Obedience

It’s July 8, 1741, in Enfield, Connecticut. Reformation preacher Jonathan Edwards turns the hearts of hundreds of listeners as he explains that their disobedience to God’s commandments [to honor Him and love people] has put them in a precarious position:

Your  Wickedness  makes  you  as  it  were  heavy  as  Lead, and to tend downwards with great Weight and Pressure towards Hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend & plunge into the bottomless Gulf, and your healthy Constitution, and your own Care and Prudence, and best Contrivance, and all your Righteousness, would have no more Influence to uphold you and keep you out of Hell, than a Spider’s Web would have to stop a falling Rock.

Don’t worry—this week’s article isn’t fire-and-brimstone teaching; however, there’s certainly great value in simple instruction about the consequences of obedience or disobedience to God’s commandments. But what are the commandments? Do we really need to do them?

Jesus reiterated two overarching commands from the Torah (the first few books of the Old Testament): Honor God with all we are and have, and love people (cf., Matthew 22:34-40). He stated that everything taught about God’s ways can be wrapped up in those two commands. He went on to say that:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:23-24)

Seems simple—right? Not really. If it were, we wouldn’t continually mess up, treat people horribly, and speed down that highway to hell so-to-speak. Here are a few abbreviated tips I pulled from the Bible that may help you obey, stay in the relationship with Father and Son, and inherit the Kingdom of God:

  • they love is pointless and deadly (James 2:14-26). So, help others; feed the hungry; be slow to speak and quick to listen; be slow to respond as you give reconciliation a chance (Matthew 5:39).

What about next week? Well, I think I’ll tell you about the short guy (not me!) who stands tall in the Kingdom of God: Wacky Zaccy!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven

“Hey, Ron – I just need to say that I believe in Jesus to go to Heaven, right?” Not exactly. Neither God our heavenly Father nor Son we call Jesus need or want our affirmation. They seek willing partners to introduce other people to the Kingdom of Heaven now and to join them in the age to come (2Corinthians 5:17-20, for instance). So, a better question might be: “Hey Ron – how do I become God’s partner?” Great question!

Anyone wishing to enter God’s Kingdom must be regenerated from above (a better rendering of the born again we find in John 3:1-15) through the Living Water Jesus offers and the Holy Spirit the Father gives in return for our devotion. Citizenship in God’s Kingdom begins with receiving the Living Water of Jesus by believing that He truly is the Son of God and then responding with complete dedication of self and resources. This is what ‘Jesus is Lord’ means. Devotion isn’t making God responsible for our choices or actions—it’s an offering to the King of Heaven of all we are and have. We are to put away our selfish nature—die to self (Luke 9:23-24; 1Corinthians 15:31). That requires obedience.

Obedience to what? In quoting the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:34-40), Jesus said that we must honor the Father with all we are and have. He continued by demanding that we love others as we love ourselves (see my earlier post on love). If we love Him, we’ll obey those commandments (John 15:12 & 14:15; 1John 3:14). Everything the Old Testament teaches about what God desires, including about how to treat others, could be done just by putting others first and treating them like we wish to be treated as we live as servants and yet partners with the King.

To sum up, so far, applying for citizenship in God’s Kingdom requires belief, complete devotion, and loving action. When we do this and engage in the things of God through study, discipleship, and prayer, we are changed—transformed. The path of citizenship may seem challenging, if not impossible. But we have help! The Spirit in the born-again conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus is the Spirit of God. He teaches and comforts us and is our partner in devotion to the Father and loving others.  He also helps us change from the inside out, from mind to behavior. The Spirit also makes it possible for us to remain—abide— as a citizen of Heaven (see John 15:1-10, for example).

Believe. Devote. Receive the Spirit of God and move where He leads you! Have you already done and are doing that? Then, welcome, citizen of Heaven! Next week, we’ll continue to consider God’s desires as we delve further into Godly Obedience.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Corroborating Apocalypses

What do you think of when you hear or read the word apocalypse? Nuclear war? Missiles, tanks, death, and other violent stuff? The basic form of the ancient word means “to reveal.” In the Revelation given by God to Jesus to give to John to pass on to the churches in Asia Minor (phew!) in about 90CE, Jesus revealed events to come later. That’s why Revelation is apocalyptic. But do you know that Jesus had already told much of the Revelation events or characteristics when He was on earth about 60 years earlier? It’s true!

During the week of His crucifixion, Jesus and perhaps several of His closest disciples walked from the Temple complex to the Mount of Olives. He had said that the Temple would eventually be destroyed and not one of its stones left in place (Matthew 24:1-2). On the Mount of Olives, His disciples asked several related questions: 1. When would this happen, 2. What will signal Jesus’ return to earth, and 3. When will be the end of the age (Matthew 24:3)?

Jesus answers their questions in Matthew chapters 24 and 25, which inform of the beginning of hard times (‘birth pains,’ according to Jesus (Matthew 24:5-8)) to the judgment at the end of this age (Matthew 25:31-46). He gave much more detail about the same timeframe in visions to John about 60 years later. Here’s a brief comparison of what Jesus revealed on earth to what He revealed to John in about 90CE:

  • False saviors (Christs):                                                                 Matthew 24:5 & Revelation 6:2
  • War/violence:                                                                                    Matthew 24:6-7a & Revelation 6:3-4
  • Famine/pestilence:                                                                         Matthew 24:7b & Revelation 6:5-6
  • Terrible time of trouble and persecution (Great Tribulation) by the Antichrist:   Matthew 24:10-13 & Revelation 6:7-12; 7:9-17; 12:17                                
  • Christ’s second coming (ending the Great Tribulation):                                Matthew 24:29-31 & Revelation 6:12-17
  • The Great Judgment:                                                                  Matthew 25:31-46 & Revelation 20:11-15

A final note about the False Christs of Matthew 24:5 and Revelation 6:2, which can seem confusing: The horse in Revelation is white and the rider wears a crown, which signifies righteousness and authority; however, his weapon is a bow, not a sword, which is the weapon of Christ (Matthew 10:34; Revelation 19:15 & 21).

In summary, Jesus, who came to earth to satisfy our debt to God, is the same Jesus who revealed end-times things again to John 60 years later. So, it makes sense that the information is related. It seems important! Shouldn’t we study the Bible and pray for illumination by God’s Spirit so that we can find out what God wants and do that before it’s too late??

Next week, we’ll leave the end-times and explore a dangerous practice by many Christians in Playing with Fire.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Exploring God’s Will

We often want to know God’s will—especially for us. His will is what He wants to do, primarily to keep us from destruction through our transformation and eventual salvation from His wrath. It is His plan for humankind. In the process, He desires us to be obedient, rejoice, pray, and spread the good news to others. Although we tend to think God’s will is some glorious plan for our individual lives, we should instead focus on helping God see His plan for creation through to completion. That’s all well and good. But what exactly does ‘will’ mean?

The word in the ancient language implies choice, desire, pleasure, or an inclination. So, God’s will can be something He desires (as in Matthew 18:12-14) or His plan for humanity (i.e., Matthew 26:42 or John 6:37-40).

Here are some of God’s desires:

  • That all people are saved from His coming wrath (2Peter 3:9)
  • Obedience, not legalism (Matthew 9:13)
  • Our good works, done because of our faith (1Peter 2:13-16)
  • That we rejoice and pray continuously (1Thessalonians 5:16-19)
  • That we proclaim the good news of His Kingdom & make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)

What are some benefits of partnering with God to accomplish His desires?

  • Redemption and forgiveness; the reward of everlasting life (John 6:40; Ephesians 1:5-13; Hebrews 10:35-36)
  • We get His Spirit and intercession on our behalf (Romans 8:26-28)

How do we participate in God’s plan and accomplish His desires? First, we must obey His commandments to honor the Father and Son and be charitable to people (1John 5:3; Matthew 22:36-40). We must also abstain from sexual immorality (1Thessalonians 4:2-4). We are to imitate God (Ephesians 5:1-20), allow the Holy Spirit to lead us (Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:25). Making God’s priorities our priorities (Matthew 6:33) is critical, and we must obey our civil leaders and submit to them (Hebrews 13:17).

Whew! That seems like a lot of stuff! But, we can learn what we’re to do in accomplishing God’s will or discovering the answers to our prayers by doing these things:

•           Study the Bible, which teaches principles that help in decision-making (2Timothy 3:16-17).

•           Ask for wisdom (James 1:5-6).

•           Seek wisdom (from family, friends, spiritually mature, etc.) (Proverbs 13:10).

•           Pray!!!

But, we can hinder the accomplishment of God’s will or desires – even for us – through:

•           Bad motives (James 4:3).

•           Bad relationships (1Peter 3:7).

•           Unrighteousness due to disobedience and the lack of the Spirit (John 9:31).

Summary: God has a plan for humanity: salvation through Christ. He also desires fellowship and obedience from us in a pursuit of holiness. We can join in and help accomplish God’s plans or desires, or we can rebel and keep Him from using us or even answering our requests. Of course, this rebellion will result in death. Next week, we’ll take a look at demons with job titles & the ‘spirit’ of biblical abuse.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Dealing with Temptation

We’re often tempted to do or say unhealthy things. The temptation alone isn’t an issue. However, losing the battle in our mind by sinning or at least intending to sin (rebel against God’s ways) IS! Here’s what Jesus’ half-brother James had to say about this:

But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. —James 1:14-15.

So, we must learn to squash temptations before they become intentions and sinful actions. But, what is temptation? It’s a strong desire, but still in the mind. So, it isn’t a problem as long as it stays there. By the way: temptation is common.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. —1Corinthians 10:13.

We have the freedom to do what we ought—choose the right path and not let temptation lead to sin. We who have the Spirit of God can walk by that Spirit to ensure we don’t sin.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. —Galatians 5:16-17.

Reading the Bible daily and praying and meditating all the while can help us imitate Christ as we walk in His ways and away from temptations to do bad things.

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. —Romans 13:13-14.

And, we should avoid temptations we can’t control. For instance, anyone with a weakness to gamble should stay away from places that host gaming. Have a weakness for alcohol? Stay away from friends who drink and places that sell or serve alcohol. Tempted by sexual misconduct? Stay away from media that show nudity and sex.

Finally, pray, pray, pray!

Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. —Matthew 26:41.

Next week, we’ll look at the concept of judgment by Christians.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Just Who Did Jesus Tick off, Anyway??

Politics and religion often polarize us. Recently, I’ve heard some people say Jesus was very political and enraged his culture. I disagree. Had He done that, He would’ve kept the unsaved—the ‘unholy’—from the Kingdom of God just as the Pharisees had. A holy war against the unreligious would’ve placed the Kingdom so far out of reach and unattractive (as is often the case today) that it would’ve been unattainable to those who needed to enter. But, in reality, the political background of the Pharisees just didn’t seem to matter to Jesus (nothing in the Bible suggests that it did). The only thing that He ‘raged’ against was the religious nature of some of the Pharisees—a force that kept people from the Kingdom of God. Let’s look at a few examples.

Jesus explained that the Pharisees in their religiosity kept people from His Father’s Kingdom:  But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people … (Matthew 23:13). Considering that Jesus came to introduce the Kingdom to humankind, this makes sense.

Jesus also overturned the money changers’ tables during Passover at the beginning and end of His ministry (John 2:13-22 & Mark 11:15-19). Why? They had commercialized the things of God—not unlike what we often see today in our consumeristic Christianity.

He also verbally attacked Pharisaical attitudes and behaviors in Matthew chapter 23 by pointing out their hypocritical nature (1-4). He calls them “blind guides” (23:16) and a “Brood of vipers” (23:33). Finally, He asks them, “How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (23:33). As I mentioned earlier, He challenged the forces that restricted access to His Father’s Kingdom while tending to teach the non-religious sinners patiently. Perhaps the religious Pharisees were unteachable whereas the nonreligious were.

Just to be clear: we must stand firm when confronting the immoralities of the day. But we must do it gently and lovingly as a witness to the unbelieving world. So, what’s my point, then? Don’t use Jesus as a fall guy for violent or subversive rhetoric, speech, or behavior. Instead, have compassion on the lost, don’t wage holy wars against the unholy, and focus on reforming unhealthy religious behavior starting with ourselves. Only then will we be godly models others will trust and listen to and mimic as we shine the light of Christ and shape cultures.

Next week, I’ll share with you the life and times of John Bar Zebedee – John ‘the Revelator,’ who was the only apostle not to be martyred as he honored Christ’s charge to care for Mary, fostered the church in Ephesus, and warned of things to come.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Love Yourself, Part III: How??

Last week, we learned that being Christian carries the responsibility of remaining healthy in body, mind, spirit, etc., to the best of our ability in obedience to the Father and Son so that we can honor them and help bring the Kingdom of God to others. The good news is that the Bible gives us much of what we need to figure this out in two distinct areas: spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual formation. Once we say, “I do!” in response to God’s call through Jesus, we’re to embark on a journey of transformation—in all areas of life, which is possible with the Spirit of God. Our change matures and forms several areas:

  • Relationships. If we remember that we’re to treat others with the love of Christ and consider them better than ourselves, our relationships will likely flourish (Philippians 2:3-4). Don’t go to bed angry (Ephesians 4:26) and be sure to ‘turn the other cheek’ to allow reconciliation (Luke 6:29). Finally, remember the ‘golden rule’ (Matthew 7:12).
  • Finances. The Bible has a LOT to say about sound money management. Be cautious about borrowing money and be content with what you have (Hebrews 3:5).
  • Physical health. Eat and drink (if applicable) in moderation. Get off the couch and put your body to work, even if just a bit at first. Remember that God desires to move you to action in His plans.
  • Intellect. Stimulate the brain by reading, studying something interesting, playing games, or assembling puzzles, etc. Say “No!” to the electronic stuff more often!
  • Emotional and mental health. Do what you can to keep your emotions and mind healthy by tending to the body, relationships, finances, and intellect. But, again, do what’s within your control.

Spiritual disciplines.

  • Prayer. It is our communications with (not just at!) God. Use Jesus’ model (Matthew 5:6-13) and Adore God, Confess sins, offer Thanksgiving, and Intercede for others (healing, finances, salvation, etc.).
  • Study. Engage God’s words in the Bible and meditate on them—it’s how we ‘put on Christ’ and become spiritually mature.
  • Accountability. We must bear each other’s burdens and confess sins, at least to one person we trust.
  • Giving (money, time, talents, etc.). The Bible demands it (e.g., Matthew 6:1-4 and 25:31-40; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Not only is it a necessary outcome of the Christian faith, but it can also help emotional health too. Giving stimulates the brain and makes us feel better physically and emotionally. It’s also a great way to take our eyes and minds off our troubles.

So, move toward emotional, physical, relational, financial, and spiritual health one baby step at a time in God’s direction as you love yourself. Next week? We’ll put self-love to work as we dive into how to love our ‘neighbor.’

Questions or comments? Email publisher@taylorpress.net.

Blessings and peace, Pastor Ron Braley, Northview Christian Church

Love Yourself, Part I: What??

Early in His ministry, Jesus said something interesting to the religious Jews interrogating Him:

And He said to him, “’YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

What?!? Love your neighbor as yourself?? Just what does that mean, and why should I do it?

First, we must understand that this love of self and others is NOT an emotion that comes and goes with the wind. It’s the kind of unconditional love that is actionable and not negotiable or optional. It’s doing the right thing for the right reason, no matter how we feel.

Second, doing the right things for yourself sets you up for doing the right things for others, to love them with the love of Christ. If you’ve flown on a commercial aircraft, you’ve probably heard something like, “If you have small children, please put on your mask first and then assist your child.” Why? Because you’d be of no use to your child if you’re passed out or dead. Loving yourself is sort of like that—you can be of little or no benefit to others if you’re emotionally, relationally, spiritually, financially, or mentally unhealthy.

So, we love ourselves in that agape action-type love by tending to our relationships, body, mind, spirit, and finances as God has taught through His prophets, our Christ, the apostles, and others in the Bible. And we learn to like ourselves through healthy living and walking by the Holy Spirit, who reminds us of who we are in God and Christ. We can also observe godly examples which, in loving themselves, can now love others properly.

In summary, Jesus has commanded that we love ourselves and, in self-love (care and feeding of our body, mind, and spirit), love others appropriately. Next week, we’ll dig deeper into how we can make this happen.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Faith, Hope, & Love, Part II: Hope

Last week, we were introduced to the belief – faith – confidence – we are to have in God. It’s not meant to be blind faith, but a solid one based on things like Bible study, fellowship, discipleship, prayer, meditation, and illumination by the Spirit of God. Why is a strong faith important? So that we can stand firm in the face of trouble and persecution and know how to honor God in our thoughts, speech, and actions.

Today, we’ll also learn that a solid faith in what God has done and is doing also gives us confidence (faith) in what God will do in the future. That faith in the future is called hope, and it would be just wishful thinking and not expectation without the confidence that faith-building brings. Here’s what the writer of the Book of Hebrews says about the role of faith in hope:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  —Hebrews 11:1.

Hope is the expectation of fulfilling all that we believe will come about: salvation (rescue from coming judgment) and a new age when God will make all things new and dwell with humans. The Apostle Paul puts it this way:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. —Titus 2:11-14.

Similarly, the Apostle Peter reminds us that our hope is possible only because the Son (Jesus) died to pay for humankind’s rebellion against the Father. The Father raised the Son from the dead to become the first of all who the Father will raise for the new world to come.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. —1Peter 1:3-5.

Faith is the confidence in what God has done and is doing; hope is that same confidence in what God will do. But faith and hope are worthless unless they move us to love (faith in action). We’ll revisit that faith-born action (love) next week!

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

How to Read the Bible Part I: Why??

Each Christian can benefit from basic instruction for reading the Bible. Sure, we can read it at a high level and understand most simple messages. For instance, God’s desire to reconcile His creation through Israel and then Jesus is understandable. He loves the world, so He gave. Jesus’ mandate to respond with the same kind of love through obedient charity and personal purity is also pretty straight-forward. However, many messages can be challenging without essential guidance. Reading alone isn’t always enough, though – the texts are often meant to transform us through meditation and application. So, why should we care?

First, we need help in understanding the meanings and applications of things written thousands of years ago. Also, biblical texts in the form of poetry, histories, proverbial wisdom, and instructional letters were often written to or for particular people in a specific place for a unique reason. For instance, the apostle Paul wrote several letters to solve specific problems in particular churches. We’re not those people, and we’re far removed in language, culture, politics, and geography. We may not have been the original intended recipients, but we get a good shot of understanding the author’s intended messages if we use a few basic tools, which I’ll give you starting next week.

Second, we’re responsible for understanding biblical messages – especially if we pass on what we may think we know to others. Be careful: there’s a massive penalty for anyone who teaches anything other than God’s truths, even if out of ignorance (e.g., 2 Peter 2)!

Third, we can’t be what we don’t learn and internalize. In other words, we’re called to imitate Christ and reproduce that image in others through discipleship and godly living. We must become Christ in our communities. The process requires (1) learning truth through reading the Bible aided by tools such as commentaries, a concordance, or a theological dictionary and through illumination by God’s Spirit, (2) meditating on what we learn, (3) applying what we’ve taken in so that it becomes a part of us. Learning can also be aided by applying fundamental concepts such as using sound grammar principles to ‘follow the theological breadcrumbs,’ considering author, audience, and purpose, and thinking about the scriptures’ context.

Next week, I’ll begin giving the techniques I promised and will provide some very provocative examples of how carelessness has resulted in many rotten Christian understandings and sayings. We’ll unmask “Where two or more are gathered . . .” and “God has a special plan for my life . . .” And, you’ll learn about idioms (cultural sayings) and how not to turn them into the religious stuff.

Oh – here’s your first golden nugget of biblical truth: There’s only one meaning to a text but often multiple possible applications. Tune in next week for Part II: How??

Questions or comments? Email publisher@taylorpress.net.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley