The outside of a house can be misleading. It could be weather beaten. It could be dark. The shades could be down. It might not seem to be a pleasant house. Conversely, the outside of a house might be very nice. It might be assumed that the inside was nice, as well. The forbidding looking house might be thought to be very unpleasant within. Scripture pictures our body as being the house of our spirit on this earth. Now some of these houses may look nice on the outside and be a disaster inside or they may not look too good on the outside and yet be filled with beauty on the inside. Sometimes a well-meaning song leader may say something like this: "If you're happy, then let your face know it!" That may be a mistake! If there is joy inside, it isn't necessarily proven by pasting a grin on your face. Contrariwise, you might have an appearance of peace and calmness on your countenance and be coming apart on the inside. Looks can be misleading. In our analogy, a house may have an unpleasant exterior and yet be full of love, warmth and pleasure inside. Now the ideal is to have both inside and outside looking good. However, that's not always the way it works. Just as we should never judge a book by its cover, we should never question what's going on inside somebody by how they look. Nevertheless, If a Christian is walking in the Spirit consistently over an extended period of time, it will manifest itself in beauty of character and may even be reflected in a radiant glow shining through the outward demeanor. Selah! We should strive to have our "outside" looking as good as possible, while letting God make the inside wonderful! Ron
"….the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." (From I Samuel 16:7).
Many voices are trying to gain the attention of saved and unsaved people. Unsaved people are hearing voices saying things like: "Go ahead. If it makes you feel good, do it. It can't harm you. Everybody is doing it." Here's another one: "You don't want to be a Christian. You would not have any fun." For the Christian, there are voices like this: "Don't be fanatical. Go slow. You are too tired to attend services today, etc." There are, however, some other voices clamoring for the Christian's attention that are less likely to be recognized. They are good voices but there is a danger. It may be the voice of a good idea for a program, a social activity, church leaders giving you a list of things that are expected of you. Perhaps it is the voice of "sanctified?" entertainment. It could be a voice praising you for something or suggesting that you could make an impact for God. While many of these voices may be good and even correct many times, they can drown out the Voice that matters above all. In the sounds of many voices, can you clearly hear His voice? Or is it lost among the clutter of many voices seeking your attention? What does He have to say to us? What does He say about other voices that are urging us to action in some area? How are we to discern His voice from the others? A disciple will discipline himself or herself to spend much time in consistent study of the Word of God. It is here that we hear from God. It is here that He speaks clearly. By becoming very familiar with His voice, we can quickly and effectively distinguish between His voice and other voices. It is here, in His Presence, that we can learn to identify and avoid many siren voices. Selah! It's polite to listen when someone speaks to us. It is vastly more important to not "tune out" His voice! Ron
"And He said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice" (I Kings 19:11-12).
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…." (John 10:27).
When some who are saved and some who think they are saved are challenged as to the validity of their claims, they often ask this question: "What right do you have to undermine anyone's assurance of salvation?" Having gone through a time (many years ago) of having almost no assurance, I am sympathetic to their concerns. However, even the Apostle Paul warned, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (II Corinthians 13:5). Far too many are the victims of false advertising by well meaning pastors, evangelists, and other Christians. The potential convert is offered an anemic substitute of the gospel, often described by discerning saints as "easy believe-ism." To insist that true saving faith is evidenced by repentance, progress in holy living and yielding to the Lordship of Christ is condemned by many. It is thought that insisting on these indications adds works to salvation and thereby compromises the doctrines of grace. If this is true, then Paul and others compromised "salvation by grace alone." Unthinkable! The fact is that salvation, by grace alone, changes our thinking, our hearts and our lifestyle. These are the inevitable results of true faith, not the cause. Many have been misled to assume that by "making a decision," signing a card, agreeing to certain facts, etc. that they are saved. As I mentioned yesterday, what a shock it would be on Judgment Day to discover that you only thought you were saved! A good question to ask ourselves is: Has my supposed salvation given me growing love for and gratitude to God, an appetite for Spiritual things, a desire for a holy life and a willingness to let Him rule in my life and choices? This doesn't happen all at once but it starts at salvation and develops and strengthens throughout our lives. Anything less is insufficient! We should undermine a false assurance and encourage folk to make sure that they are saved. If they do this, they will have valid assurance and it will be blessed. Selah! A warning sign at a dangerous intersection saves lives. Warnings against a false assurance can rescue souls from eternal loss. Ron
It is a wise thing to do some periodic heart-searching. Questions can help us determine if our faith is authentic. All too often, a passive acknowledgement of Scriptural teaching to be the "Truth" passes for proof that those agreeing are actually saved. This could give a false sense of Spiritual security to those who believe the great doctrines but have never thoroughly submitted to His reign in their lives. While the Bible is true and is indeed God's way of speaking to us today, mere intellectual agreement with its teachings is not the same thing as being "saved." Here are a few questions to test the reality of our profession of faith: 1). Have I truly turned (and am I turning) from my sins? "And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from (not in) their sins" (Matthew 1:21). 2). Do I crave to know God on the deepest possible level? "And ye shall seek me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). 3). Do I have a heart and will to be submissive to His leadership? "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). 4).Do I long for holiness of life and to honor Him in my daily life? "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). I'm sure that additional questions could be asked but these are, at least, a starting point. Selah! I can think of nothing more horrible and devastating than to assume, because you believe the Truth, that you are saved and then stand before God and learn that you had only an intellectual faith and are not saved at all! Make sure of your relationship with God while you can. Ron
Larry came to Christ. Before he was saved, Larry never was that interested in the Bible. He considered it hard to understand and, in all honesty, very boring in quite a few places. However, since being saved Larry couldn't get enough of the Bible. It took on a whole "new life" for him. It spoke to him in many ways and he was fascinated with Truths that he was coming to see. He was learning principles, applying them and seeing them work in his life. He was increasingly able to share his discoveries. Friends were thanking him for the help and were telling others how he had helped them. Eventually, a number of Christian friends asked Larry to teach a home Bible Study. It was a success from day one. Attendance grew and calls for Larry to teach and counsel grew as well. He soon was devoting more and more time to counseling more and more people. Larry was frequently complimented on his range of Bible knowledge. Several thoughts grabbed his attention: "I do have a good grasp of Scripture." "I seem to discern Truth and gain insights easily." "People look to me for help so I must be doing something right." "I'm ahead of people who have been saved much longer than I have been." Early on in his new life, Larry was grateful to God for his salvation and was excited about how God was helping him to understand the Bible. As the initial attitude faded, a stealth attack was launched on Larry's thoughts. Slowly, subtly, thoughts of pride were inserted in Larry's sub-conscious. Appreciation for the Holy Spirit's enabling gave way to the idea that Larry was somehow the one who had reached this level of accomplishment. The "stealth sin" had sabotaged Larry's ministry at great cost to him and those that gave him credit instead of giving it to God. These articles have given just a few examples of how effective Satan is in diverting our minds from God to self. It's even possible to be proud of realizing how pride can damage us, so that we? can help others by warning them. We all need to keep our guard up 24/7, depending on God to protect us from pride. Selah! The first warning of imminent attack is when we start believing our own "press." Ron
"Though the LORD be high, yet hath He respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off" (Psalm 138:6).
I.Q. Smart was blessed with Christian parents. He started school at a Christian school, went through the grades and high school, all in Christian schools. He graduated and went on to a Christian college and then seminary, graduating from both with honors and degrees. He was ordained and pastored several churches over the years and eventually became a teacher of theology at a fine seminary. Dr. I.Q. Smart was at the pinnacle of his career. He had a right to be gratified with what he had accomplished. He had worked and studied hard and with his "steel trap mind," he could very effectively refute any error and many times did. He was a good mentor to his students and enjoyed their admiration and respect. He was in demand as a speaker, to lecture on his areas of expertise. At this point, however, there came an unexpected visitor. This visitor came in the back door. I.Q. was so pre-occupied with his studies, responsibilities and thoughts that he didn't even know that he had a visitor. This visitor was "the stealth sin:" pride. Before I.Q. could stop to consider, pride started reminding him of all the great things he had done and enumerated his virtues and called to his mind the many good things that had been said about him. Buried deep in I.Q.'s thoughts was the "feeling" that he was a champion of righteousness and the church was indeed blessed to have him in its ranks. A man of God had fallen into the trap! Nothing that he had unwittingly taken credit for would have been possible, except for the good grace of God. He had strayed away from recognizing the source of all his blessings and gave himself credit, instead of praising God from Whom all blessings flow. Selah! Never lose sight of the fact that the stealth sin is always lurking nearby, awaiting an opportunity to slip under our guard. Ron
Beware! "A man's pride shall bring him low…." (From Proverbs 29:23).
Don, Pete, Marla and Jane have at least two things in common. They are all born again Christians and all have considerable musical ability. They have appeared in a number of churches presenting a musical ministry for an evening or for Sunday services. They have quartets, duets, trios and solos, as well as some instrumental numbers. During the program and at the end, there is much applause. On the way out, there are many expressions of appreciation and compliments. These singers have worked hard and spent much time "on the road." They deserve to be appreciated. However, there is a danger here. They usually can tell when they have been at their best. It is at that point that something can happen that can nullify the effectiveness of their ministry. Subconsciously they give the stealth sin an opportunity to strike. They start to think something like this: "We did it well tonite or this Sunday. It was one of our best. The people loved it." This "feeling" is reinforced by the enthusiastic clapping and maybe a standing "O." Has the ministry been changed into a "performance?" Have the servants become "stars?" Has the congregation become an audience? Hopefully not. Nevertheless, there is that danger and doubtless it actually does happen too many times. It's quite easy for fallen "flesh" to be proud of their talent and lose sight of the fact that it's God-given. When people clap it may be gratitude for the ministry but it may also be that they loved the "show." Selah! It will take a determined discipline to avoid giving ground to the stealth sin by taking personal credit for what God has given and to maintain a strong and consistent devotional life to ward off this kind of a subtle attack. Congregations have a responsibility to avoid contributing to the problem. They must remember to give God the glory and not man. Perhaps 'Amens" should replace clapping. Ron
"That no flesh should glory in His presence" (I Corinthians 1:29). "I am the LORD: that is My name: and My glory will I not give to another…." (From Isaiah 42:8).
Since he came to Christ, Bob has struggled with doing what he should do and not doing what he shouldn't do. He has struggled with being what he should be and not being what he shouldn't be. Behind the scenes, the devil has been tempting Bob to be and do what he shouldn't be or do. Satan has done this with some success. Bob has become discouraged because the devil has reminded him, over and over, what a poor excuse of a Christian he is. However, Bob wants to be and do right and is determined to "hang in there." The enemy of our souls decides on a new strategy. He leaves Bob completely alone. Bob finally begins to make progress in his Christian life. Time goes by and a new thought has found its way into Bob's mind. "This is great, I've finally managed to stop doing some of these wrong things; I've finally become a Godly person." The "stealth sin" has struck again. "I've gotten the victory." Bob, the devil has left you alone for a reason. He is putting this thought of you getting victory in your mind so that you take pride in your supposed Godliness. Only God gives victory. I Corinthians 15:57 says, "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." This gives the devil another opportunity. By not tempting Bob for a period of time, this has resulted in Bob letting his guard down. With an unexpected attack, Bob "caves in" and now he is really discouraged. Pride and discouragement are powerful weapons. Selah! Thank God for any victory, never yourself! Remember victory comes not through self effort but through the Word of God, as we study it, apply it and obey it, out of love for and gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy Word" (Psalm 119:9). Ron
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).
Talk about being victimized, without seeing it coming, look with me tonight at a very effective sneak attack. The study of prophecy is very important. There are a number of different views among genuine Christians. Hopefully, we give a lot of study to see what is Scriptural and what isn't. After exhaustive study, we become firm in our view. We become dogmatic (not bull-dogmatic, please) because we are certain that we are right. If we've been thorough and careful and kept ourselves abreast of any additional understanding of the Scriptures, we become settled in our position. I'm not speaking about who is right and who isn't. Here is where the attack begins. Someone might say, "I'm right. I've studied it. What's the matter with these people who can't see the truth? Evidently they don't know their Bibles." If we are not careful, we start to look down on people who disagree with us. Then we begin to take "pride" in our scholarship. We may even put someone down before others. Where there is a different understanding between brothers, wouldn't a far better approach be to sit down with a brother and study the Word together, not to prove ourselves right and a brother wrong but to prayerfully have two sets of eyes searching for Truth in the Bible? We could have a wholesome discussion with points and counterpoints, thanking God for any understanding that He gives to either one of us. Selah! If we learn more of the Truth by studying together, we can both thank God for using us to help each other grow spiritually. If we don't see eye-to-eye, let's humbly agree to disagree, agreeably. Ron
"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Proverbs 27:17). Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up…." (I Corinthians 13:4).
I am calling this sin that we are considering the "stealth sin" because it flies under our "spiritual radar" all too many times. Incidentally, we increase the effectiveness of our "radar" in proportion to our intensive use of the Scriptures. Let's look at "work" today. A man or a woman works hard. Perhaps they get a raise or a promotion or both. They are recognized for their dedication. They have a sense of accomplishment and they feel good about themselves. Friends are impressed. Enter the "stealth sin." "Well you earned it and you deserve it!" "I did, didn't I?" "Actually, I'm worth it because of my efforts, loyalty and abilities. I've a good head and I used it." "They are fortunate to have me." "Other companies would hire me in a heartbeat." Hard work, dedication and loyalty are virtues. However, if we take pride in all of this, we have succumbed to the stealth attack. Who gave us a good mind? Who gave us the physical ability to work hard? Who enabled us to find a good job? Who caused people to notice us and our work ethic? Who enabled us to breathe? Who saw to it that we had opportunities to learn? Have we truly expressed gratitude to God for His goodness to us? Do we look for ways to honor Him with the blessings that He has lavished on us? Do we give credit to him for His enabling? If we forget Him and credit ourselves for His blessings, we have fallen into pride! Selah! Our fallen natures are prideful and we all have a strong inclination to be proud. We too often fall into this trap. We need to be sure and keep our "radar" in place and be constantly alert to know when to use it. Ron
"….God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." (From James 4:6). "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up" (James 4:10).