BE SET FREE

Series: Understanding Scriptures

Part 4

A lot of us love hearing sermons, worshipping Jesus but when it comes to reading the Bible, we slack behind. I’ve heard common reasons like “I don’t like reading much”, “I don’t have time to read, so I just pray”, “I feel sleepy”. Let me tell you, it is by knowing (understanding) the TRUTH (the word of God), that you and I can be set free from chains, bondage and every weapon that the enemy attacks us with. That is why Jesus told those who believed in Him, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I know there are so many of us who read the bible, maybe every day, and still do not experience this freedom or closeness to God. Do you know why? It is simply because you are reading the bible like any other book, sometimes just for the sake of following what your parents or church or friend taught you.

That is not going to work.

Jesus asked us to ‘hold’ to His teaching. Holding on to someone’s teaching would mean to accept it, imbibe it and follow it practically in our life. No wonder He said that only those who ‘hold’ to His teaching are really his disciples. In Matthew, 7 : 21, Jesus said that in the end some will come to Him saying ‘we prophesied in your name’, ‘we did this in your name or that in your name’, but He won’t ‘know’ them. Why? He says, it is because they didn’t do what He wanted them to do. They didn’t do His will. The real disciples of Jesus are those, who by understanding His word and practicing it in their lives, do the will of God.

Know the truth and the truth will set you free. This truth that Jesus talked about is the very words in the Bible that you have with you in your rooms. The only way to learn how to hold on to God’s word is by meditating on it through prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit, by allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to you through God’s word.

Holding on to someone’s teaching would mean to accept it, imbibe it and follow it practically in our life. No wonder He said that only those who ‘hold’ to His teaching are really his disciples.

Too long and too many times, we see Christians struggle. Struggling to overcome sin, sinful patterns, an addiction, a broken relationship, an emotional breakdown, and certain ungodly traditional mind-sets and so on. But, the fact is that someone who believes in Jesus and has access to His Word and Spirit really need not struggle with these. If only we understand His word, the truth, all these shackles around us will begin to break and we’ll be set free.

The word of God is the SWORD OF THE SPIRIT (Ephesians 6 : 17) and any sword is meant to be used to fight against enemies. So, the Word of God is key to fight all those enemies attacking you and tying you down.

Let’s BE SET FREE –

  • FROM BEING SLAVES TO SIN TO BECOMING SLAVES TO RIGHTEOUSNESS

When we meditate on God’s word and allow God to work in our hearts by making us obedient to His teaching, the WORD will sanctify us (John 17:17). The word of God in us will help us overcome sin and do what is right.

Obeying God’s teaching redeems us from being tied down by sinful patterns and sets us free to live Godly lives.

Paul says this in his letter to Romans, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness… But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6 : 17-18, 22).  

Obeying God’s teaching redeems us from being tied down by sinful patterns and sets us free to live Godly lives.  

  • FROM DISOBEDIENCE TO PURPOSE

In Colossians 3 : 9,10 – Paul reminds believers in Colossae about putting off their old self (when they disobeyed and rebelled against God and His will for their lives) because they are now made new through the knowledge that they received in Christ Jesus.

Understanding scripture transforms us inside out and we will then know the will and purpose God has for us.

The word of God, as James puts it, acts like a mirror to show us what is wrong in us and in turn, we realise the right way and the purpose for our lives. When we understand the word, we are set free from disobedience and our minds our renewed to understand God’s will and purpose for us. And, we all know that if we pursue God’s purpose for our life, it will only bring forth fruit and fruit that will last. That is what Paul says in Romans 12 : 2 – “Do not conform 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.”

Yes, understanding scripture transforms us inside out and we will then know the will and purpose God has for us.

  • FROM CONDEMNATION TO CONVICTION & REPENTANCE

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8 : 1-2)

Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins of all mankind, and through Him we now have access to everlasting life.

It is true that you need to realise your sins and turn away from them, but in Jesus you are set free from condemnation and guilt.

Paul is reiterating this truth to the church in Rome – that if we believe in Jesus, we are no longer going to be condemned but we will only be convicted of our sins for which Jesus has already forgiven us. God desires repentance from us, not guilt. It is true that you need to realise your sins and turn away from them, but in Jesus you are set free from condemnation and guilt.

  • FROM DEPRESSION TO REJOICING

King David is pouring out his heart before God, and then He declares, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalms 16 : 11)

This path of life is God’s instruction and word that guides us into His presence that will fill us with his everlasting JOY. When we are depressed and low, going to God’s word and understanding ( knowing and believing) what He is saying, turns our sorrow to joy. It gives us eternal pleasure and not earthly or temporary joy, setting us free from the yoke of darkness that enslaves us (Psalms 107:14).

Beloved, understanding scriptures will help set you free from every bondage that stands against you. Reach out to God, read His word, listen to Him and obey His word, and watch shackles break away from your life.

If this post touched your heart and changed your life, share it with friends and family

BEARING FRUIT THAT LASTS

SERIES: Understanding Scriptures – Part 3

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last.”

JOHN 15 : 16

Have you tried to change that habit or that sin over and over again and failed? Or you’ve tried to do better in life but continue to struggle? Jesus says in John 15 : 5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Jesus is reminding us here that we can do nothing without him. Therefore, the only way that we can be fruitful is when we ‘abide’ in Him. 

What does abiding mean? It means to stay connected with and in the person, or thing. As Jesus describes it, the branches need to be connected to the vine in order for it to bear much fruit. It needs to abide in the vine so that it can be strengthened and nourished. The branches once broken or disconnected from the vine will automatically dry up and bear no fruit.

What you abide in, is what you become. And so, if we want to bear fruit, fruit that will last for eternity – we must abide in Christ, who is eternal. 

You see, we could abide in anything. Abide in our family, in relationships, in our career, in our leaders or mentors and everything in this world. Yet, sadly but truthfully, none of that can sustain us and none of that will help us bear fruit the way we are meant to. At some point, we will dry up and fall away. 

That is why Jesus said, ‘I am the TRUE vine’, and ‘apart from me you can do nothing’. Why would Jesus make such a statement? It is because he is not talking about bearing fruit for this earthly life alone, he is talking about bearing fruit for eternity. You see, if we abide in any other vine like our career, we can earn loads of money and soar high, but that will cost us our family, our relationship with God and so much more. The same goes when we abide in anything of this world, the result will be bearing fruit only in that aspect. Whereas, when we abide in Christ, we will bear fruit in every way, beginning with an inward change that shines through on the outward. 

We are ‘jars of clay’ – weak, feeble and breakable. But, when we allow God’s word and truth to dwell inside us, we immediately become valuable because the power of Christ in us transforms us.

Also, these branches of a vine are not strong and sturdy, instead they’re really flimsy and weak. Yet, it is this weakness that gives them reason to stay with the true vine that builds them up. It is the same with us. As Paul puts it, we are ‘jars of clay’ – weak, feeble and breakable. But, when we allow God’s word and truth to dwell inside us, we immediately become valuable because the power of Christ in us transforms us. This is why we need to abide in Christ. In Matthew 7:17, Jesus says, “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

What you invest in is what you will harvest. If you invest your time, energy and efforts in filling yourself with earthly things, you will bear fruit accordingly. And, if you invest in filling yourself with godly things, you will see yourself becoming godly. What you abide in, is what you become. And so, if we want to bear fruit, fruit that will last for eternity – we must abide in Christ, who is eternal. 

So, how do we really abide in Christ? Jesus answers that too, in John 15 : 3-4, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

Abiding in Christ really means understanding His word and obeying it. We can stay connected to Christ through His word. When we soak ourselves in God’s word, we begin to abide in Him, stay in Him, rest in Him, remain in Him and eventually bear fruit. It is not about merely reading God’s word, but more about understanding it and obeying it. 

In John 17 : 17, Jesus prays that we would be ‘sanctified’ through the word. This is why understanding scriptures is very crucial to us staying connected to Christ and bearing fruit. 

Abiding in Christ really means understanding His word and obeying it.

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4 : 17 -24, that we need to stop living the way we lived, before we knew Christ. And, he points out that those who don’t believe in Christ are ‘darkened in their understanding’ and so separated from God. But we who believe in Jesus, have been taught (through the word of God) to put off our old self and be made new in the attitude of our minds. He shows us how understanding God’s word truly transforms us and helps us bear much fruit. He repeats the same in Romans 12:2, where he says, ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. 

Even when we look at the life of Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob, who was betrayed by his own brothers and sold off as a slave. We see how because he abides in God, he bears the fruit of forgiveness and love. In Genesis 50:20, he was able to love his brothers who betrayed him only because He understood God’s heart, His word.

Understanding scriptures is very crucial to us staying connected to Christ and bearing fruit. 

Beloved, if you are struggling to see fruit in your life, go back to God and stay connected to Him by understanding His word and you will see how you bear so much fruit that lasts forever.

If this post touched your heart and changed your life, share it with friends and family

GROWING INTIMACY WITH GOD

SERIES: Understanding Scriptures – Part 2

Have you ever watched a shepherd calling out and leading his sheep? It is a fascinating affair. All that the shepherd does is speak a word to call out to them, and in no time, his sheep listen to him from no matter how far they are, come to him, and flock around him.

Watch this short clip to
see how the sheep hear their
shepherd’s voice
and flock around him!

Source:
https://youtu.be/Coq_grSFlNs

It is no wonder that Jesus used the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep as a parable to explain His relationship with those who love Him and believe in Him.

In John 10 : 14, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me”. Jesus does not say ‘all sheep’, ‘few sheep’, ‘many sheep’, but He says ‘my sheep’. You see, not every sheep is His sheep. There are only a set of sheep that are Jesus’ sheep. So, how is Jesus separating His sheep? How are the ones who He is calling ‘my sheep’ different from the rest?

He gives us the answer in John 10 : 27, where He says, “My sheep listen to my voice, I know them, and they follow me”. That is it. His sheep listen to His voice and follow Him. Like the sheep of any shepherd, who listen to their shepherd’s voice and follow him.

Listening to the shepherd’s voice goes beyond merely hearing his voice. It is a process of understanding, accepting and obeying what He says. It involves a sense of commitment to the shepherd. The sheep have to commit to train themselves to recognise their shepherd’s voice from all the other voices. They have to stay under the guidance of their shepherd. And, it is only by listening to their shepherd’s voice constantly, that the sheep begin to know their shepherd, and the shepherd begins to know them.

The key to go from knowing about God to knowing God is listening to His voice and following Him.

It is one thing to know about someone, but another thing to know the person. I can know about the president of my country, but do I really know the president of my country personally? In the same way, some of us know about Jesus, about God; but only some know God. Today, let us become sheep who know their shepherd unlike the sheep that wander hopelessly lost without one.

We can know our Lord Jesus intimately, but the only way is by listening to His voice – understanding His word. The key to go from knowing about God to knowing God is listening to His voice and following Him. The Bible is full of God’s words to us, his voice to us. His words are there to teach us, train us, correct us and rebuke us (as Paul puts it in 2 Timothy 3 : 16). But, the question is – Are we listening to His words? Are we understanding and obeying them?

There are 3 keys to listening to our good shepherd’s voice to grow in intimacy with Him –

  • STAY CLOSE AND CONNECTED TO HIM

Spending more time meditating on God’s word is one of the most important aspects of listening to His voice. The Bible teaches us that all scripture is God-breathed. So, that in turn means that we need God’s help, through the Holy Spirit, to understand His word. That is why just reading the Bible with no desire to understand God will become a mundane task that is religious and forceful. However, reading the bible to truly understand God with the help of the Holy Spirit will fill us with an unquenchable thirst for more of Him.

Stay in the light of His presence, and see how the Lord becomes your closest companion!

Job, at a time when he had lost everything including his wife, said in Job 23 : 11, “My feet have closely followed his steps…”. How did Job endure all that He was going through and not doubt God? It was simply because he was so close and intimate with God. The only way he could believe in God at that point was because he understood God’s word; a result of him walking closely in step with God.

The Psalmist says in Psalms 89 : 15, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
    who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.”

Stay in the light of His presence, and see how the Lord becomes your closest companion!

  • LET HIS WORD BE THE FINAL WORD

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

Beloved, closeness to God is so intricately knit to obeying His word. Jesus wants to make His home with us and be with us all the time, only if we can truly accept Him in our lives by obeying what He says. Your disobedience to Christ reflects your distrust in Him and His ways, which inevitably pulls you away from His heart.

When you and I put God’s words above our thoughts, the thoughts of this world and the lies of Satan, we immediately begin to embrace His closeness to us and our lives. Slowly, everything in our life becomes an easy affair of handing over our situations to Him and resting in His presence.

Jesus wants to make His home with us and be with us all the time, only if we can truly accept Him in our lives by obeying what He says.

Look at Shedrach Meshach Abednego in Daniel 3, simply because they let God’s word to them be their final word, God himself walked with them in the fire. Close to them in the furnace!

  • PURSUE HIS DEEPEST DESIRES

Something so unique about Moses was that he is the only man whom the Lord knew face to face in all of Israel (Deuteronomy 34 : 10). Wow! Don’t you long to be in that place? How did Moses get so close to the Lord? Well, as we read his journey with the Lord, we see how Moses often secluded himself from everything and everyone and pursued God in the tent of meeting. He feared the Lord. He longed for God.

God will confide His heart’s deepest desires to those who pursue Him in reverent fear.

And, the word of God says, in Psalms 25:14, “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.”

God will confide His heart’s deepest desires to those who pursue Him in reverent fear. He wants to make his covenant known to us. But are we pursuing Him? Are we longing to know Him more and more?

The journey of knowing God is endless. Each time you know Him a little more, there is still more to know. That is why, this is so crucial to listening to His voice – longing to know God’s deepest desires.

Truly understanding God’s word and following it is key to drawing closer to His heart.


If this post touched your heart and changed your life, share it with friends and family

CULTIVATING A STEADFAST MIND

SERIES: Understanding Scriptures – Part 1

How often do we find ourselves fluctuating between good and bad moods, joy and sorrow, fearlessness and being fearful, like a wave tossed back and forth, high and low? For some of us, this is a reality that we are getting used to and beginning to live with.

Yet, the word of God tells us that this is not God’s will for us. In fact, the Bible teaches us to rejoice ‘always’, to give thanks to God in ‘all’ circumstances. God wants us to be steadfast in our lives, relationships, purposes and more than anything, in our minds. A steadfast mind is one that is unwavering and at peace at all times because it is a mind that trusts the Lord, His heart and His word. Isaiah puts it clearly – You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you (Isaiah 26 : 3)

God wants us to be steadfast in our lives, relationships, purposes and more than anything, in our minds.

This constant fluctuation in our mind and emotions results in hurtful, broken and wrong attitudes and responses.

In the Gospels, we notice that there is something different in the responses of Jesus’ disciples (particularly Peter) about Jesus’ death and resurrection at two different occasions.

In Matthew 16 : 21-22, we see Peter, the one who knew that Jesus was ‘the Messiah’, rebuke (reprove) Jesus when He tells them about how He is going to suffer at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again. Peter told Jesus, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” He didn’t understand that what Jesus was saying was to fulfil scriptures. Then, Jesus rebukes him back, even calling him ‘satan’. He points out to Peter, ‘you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns’. Jesus knew that the reason Peter was overcome with sadness and fear was because his mind was being ruled by the flesh and not the Spirit of God, the word of God. He knew that Peter’s mind was closed and he could not understand what Jesus said.

Later, in an instance after Jesus’ resurrection where he met the disciples and then ascended to heaven, Luke records that they (the disciples) worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and they stayed continually at the temple, praising God (Luke 24 : 51-53).

The same disciple, Peter, who was at one point sad and fearful about Jesus’ death and resurrection, was filled with ‘great joy’ and ‘praised God continually’ after Jesus’ ascension to heaven.

Wonder what changed it all for him? How did he transform from being sad to having great joy about the same situation?

Well, we see that just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He opened their (disciples) minds to understand scriptures (Luke 24 : 45). That opening of their mind to understand scriptures not only changed Peter’s perspective of Jesus’ death and resurrection but also changed his heart. His heart was now filled with great joy.

Beloved, it is going to be very easy for some of us to waver, be fearful and shaken by what is happening in our lives and around us. Sometimes the fear of the past troubles us, sometimes the worries of the present or, sometimes insecurities of the future. Peter, too, was shaken, upset, fearful, and worried by the thought that his Master and Teacher was going to die. Note that though Jesus did share about rising again on the third day, Peter’s focus was on his Master’s death.

That opening of their mind to understand scriptures not only changed Peter’s perspective of Jesus’ death and resurrection but also changed his heart. His heart was now filled with great joy.

You may know scriptures, even read them regularly, but unless you allow God to help you understand them, God’s word will not quite transform you. True transformation that changes us inside out is a result of understanding (which includes believing) the word of God. So ask God to open your mind to understand His word just as He opened Peter’s mind – who now understood that the resurrection of Jesus succeeded his death. That the resurrection of Jesus is the hope of all mankind to overcome sin and death by believing in Jesus. When Peter’s mind was opened to understand God’s word, we see that he was filled with great joy – a transformed response. Pray and persist in prayer to have open minds to understand the word of God.

Your situation might seem miserable, but run back to the word of God. What does God tell you in His word? Is your mind open to understand it? If you allow God to minister to you through His word in your toughest battles, and your mind is open to understand it, your mind will be steadfast. You will begin to be at peace even when the harshest storm rages around you.  

Peter’s mind was once concerned about not having Jesus beside him in the world, but now His mind was concerned about taking the resurrected Jesus to the ends of the world. Once wavering, but now steadfast. This shift in his response and attitude was only because his mind was now opened to understand God’s word.

Open your mind to understand His word, trust Him and you will see your mind being steadfast. A steadfast mind that will keep you in perfect peace and fill you with great joy!


If this post touched your heart and changed your life, share it with friends and family