Keep Me From Evil

2 Thessalonians 3:3  But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

Drawing close to the Lord gives us the ability to get a stronger grip on our profession of faith.  The closer we get to God the more strength and stability He gives.  This verse tells us that God is faithful.  This means God is able to be trusted.  We can always rely on God. He is our greatest strength, and He is our stability.  It is through this strength and stability that we access the ability to stay away from evil.  We have to always remember:  God is faithful.

What keeps me from evil?  I mean the presence of evil is never silent.  It is constantly calling, pulling, and enticing.  I also find that God is speaking, drawing, and calling as well.  He is so faithful in his ability to keep me from evil.  It is my relationship with God that impacts whether or not I allow myself to be drawn further away or closer to the Lord.  I have come to a place this morning where I notice God’s faithfulness is not dictated by my actions.  God is faithful.  While God’s faithfulness is constant, what does mine look like?  God is constant and steady.  He is not deterred.  He has never been derailed.  His faithfulness aligns with His character.

If we want to avoid evil, we have to get in line with the Lord.  God’s faithfulness is there.  Are we willing to access it?

The Message from the Miracle

Acts 3:11-26

  • Reviewing the Miracle:
    • The miracle performed was not done in order to bring comfort to a beggar. It was done in order to validify or authenticate the message and ministry of the apostles.
    • The miracle performed drew a crowd in order for the gospel to be preached

Note:  It is important to realize Acts 1:8 has been instituted at Pentecost, and is now being implemented in daily activity.

  • Peter utilized this opportunity to explain the purpose of this miracle as well to proclaim the gospel to a group of people who needed salvation.
  1. He Exalted the Savior v. 12-13, 16
  • Peter begins with clarification: Why are you staring at us as though we did something from own power?  This was a work of God, done through the very name of Jesus.
    • Principle 1: If we are going to allow God to use us in ministry then we must be willing give him credit for what He does through us.
    • Principle 2: Just because does something miraculous through us, does not indicate we are more spiritual than others.
    • Principle 3: We must never put a person on a pedestal when it is God that must be exalted.

Will you be a John saying “He must increase, I must decrease”?

Will you downplay yourself in order to make much of Jesus?

  1. He Exposed their Sin: 13-15
  • Once he clarified the author of this miracle, he then moved into the convicting part of the message. He began to expose their sin.
    • You Delivered, Denied and Disowned Jesus in the presence of Pilate who had already determined to let him go. v. 13
    • You chose a murderer over the Pure, Holy, Just and Blameless. (You didn’t just choose it, but demanded it)
    • You killed the very source of life whom God raised from the dead. (We are all witness to this) 

Any rejection of Jesus is replication of the same action.

  1. He Extended a Solution: v.17-26
  • Conviction is always mingled with compassion is how people are drawn to Christ.
    • There was a Proclamation of Ignorance
    • There was a Prophetical Announcement
    • There was a Plea for Repentance
    • There was a Promise of Forgiveness

  God never sends conviction without offering a solution.

Practical Applications:

  1. Do we see a people as a problem or an opportunity?
  2. Do you realize we have what is necessary to help people?

 

Drawing Close to God

Psalms 73:28  But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

The desire to draw close to the Lord is often countered by a force pulling us farther away.  There are so many distractions.  It is amazing how easy it is to divert my attention away from what God really desires out of my life.  For example, a scroll down the social media aisle, three thumb rolls later, and you awaken to the fact that you are in the flesh.  Your mind is filled with negativity, argumentative agendas, and fake news articles.  The next thing you know you are being pulled farther away from the Lord rather than being drawn closer to Him. Our lives are filled with these forces that pull us away from God’s presence.   We need to be aware of what pulls us away.  We need to make sure our spiritual antennas are alert to the world, the flesh, and the devil pulling us away from God’s presence.  It could be social media, it could be a relationship, or it could be your job.  Maybe it is time to remove what is pulling you away.

Knowing the forces pulling you away are important but it is never good to eliminate something without replacing it with something that does the opposite.  What helps me draw closer to the Lord?  Here are some things that help me:

  • Christian Music.  I love all kinds of Christian music.  Putting my headphones in my ears helps block out the noise and focus on God’s presence.
  • Bible Reading.  Spending time in my Bible gives me the guidance, focus, and direction I need to navigate through the storms.
  • Prayer.  In order to hear God’s still, small voice we must be close enough to hear Him.
  • Christian Movies. We are affected by what we see.  Watching positive, uplifting, spiritually challenging movies will motivate us to draw closer to the Lord.
  • Attend Church.  Iron sharpens iron.  We need each other.  There is nothing like a Spirit filled Church service to draw closer to the Lord.

These are what we call “magnets” that draw us closer to the Lord.

God’s Glory and Contentment

Philippians 1:20-21  According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.  21  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

This is one of the greatest statements regarding contentment we will ever read.  The only thing that matters is that Christ is magnified.  One of the great attributes of contentment is that life and death revolve around the glory of God.  Contentment does not look for personal gain.  Contentment does not look for more stuff or better circumstances.  Contentment strives to bring glory to God.

Have you ever thought of your life as a magnifying glass pointed toward Jesus?  I have often said that when people look at us they should see Jesus.  Our lives should not just be a lens by which people “see” Jesus.  Our lives and/or our death should be a magnifying glass that causes people to see Jesus in a more clear manner.  A magnifying glass does not actually increase the size of an object.  It directs all the focus on an object so it can be seen much more clearer.   While we cannot control what comes into our lives, we can control what we magnify.

Hopefully our goal today will be to focus on Jesus Christ and allow both life and death to magnify him.  Will magnifying Jesus Christ be the pathway to your contentment?

Watch Where You’re Looking

Proverbs 27:20  “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”

Our eyes are never satisfied.  This is a principle that does not change.  Now, it is up to us as to how we apply this principle.  The eye is a bottomless pit that craves information.  It is the gateway to the mind.  What we allow our eyes to see has a direct impact on how we think.  For example, the next time you drive by a parking lot full of new cars you will always notice one vehicle you like better than the one you are currently driving.  My eyes are drawn to the beautiful blue Chevrolet pickup in town.  My mind immediately starts to think of all the possible ways to have it.  It is like that with everything.

The desires of our heart affect the direction of our sight.  We cannot satisfy the eye, but we can change the direction by which we look.  In other words, our desires have an impact on the information we observe.  The eye is going to be constantly and continually looking.  It will never be satisfied.  We have a choice:  we can use that unquenchable force to grow spiritually or grow carnally.  Our desire for the Lord can dictate the information that fills our eyes.

The eyes are never satisfied.  It is a dangerous reality to consider.  We need to make sure we are looking in the right direction.

Conflict or Contentment

James 4:1-3  “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?  2  Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.  3  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”

Conflict among others is a direct reflection of a lack of contentment.  We often think that contentment only exist in the desire to have things.  It is so much deeper and more spiritual than the desire to have “things.”   Conflict comes from the lust of the flesh.  It is the desire to have, and when not harnessed it creates conflict.

Harnessing the lust of the flesh is one of the most difficult practices we face.  It takes on so many different forms.  However, we must come to the realization that it is always hungry.  It never gets enough. When it does not get its way it acts like a spoiled child at the check out line of the grocery store.  The lust of the flesh will fight and not rest until it gets what it wants.

How do we control this?  I think it’s prayer.  “We have not because we ask not.”  It may seem as though this goes against our “prayer of contentment”.  However, in the context, it goes right along with it.  Go deeper with this for a moment. We don’t have contentment because we do not ask for contentment.  We have conflict with others because we have not asked for peace between one another.  We have an inner conflict going on within the inside of our spirit, and we have failed to ask God how to maneuver through it.

We also must learn to dig deeper and ask ourselves whether or not our own prayers are being driven by the lust of the flesh.  This is so difficult because it takes a high level of humility.  It takes accessing the desires of your own prayer life and seeing if they are Christ centered or self centered.

Do you sense the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit at war with one another?  Do you find yourself so frustrated that you are arguing, complaining, or becoming bitter?  Reach deeper into your daily prayer life and instead of looking for answers or results, look for the presence of God.

Just Add Grace

2 Corinthians 12:9-10  “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

The backstory to these two verses is Paul was given a thorn.  It was described as a messenger of Satan that buffeted (beat) him.  The scripture says that Paul sought the Lord multiple times to remove this thorn.  What does this say about Paul?  It demonstrates levels of discontentment in the life of Paul.  I believe this is what Paul meant when he said had to “learn” how to be content.  We see a true struggle between pain and contentment.  Does God remove this pain?  No.  God does divert Paul’s attention from his pain toward His grace.  I can’t help but believe grace is a key ingredient to contentment.  Once grace was recognized, Paul went from praying for the removal of the pain, to taking pleasure in this pain.

Paul learned a valuable lesson about God’s grace.  He learned that grace is greater than the pain of rejection, persecution, problem, and physical pain.  He learned that God’s grace was enough to move him to an attitude of complaining to a position of contentment.

I truly think we all, including myself, underestimate the ability of God’s grace.  Life can look like a recipe gone wrong.  You start to put the ingredients together, but it never tastes good.  Regardless of how you try it never looks like the picture you envisioned it to be.  Most of the time there is a missing ingredient.  My suggestion is just add grace.  Grace does not change the recipe, but it makes things taste a lot better.  Grace is often the missing ingredient between a life of discontentment and a life of contentment.

Let me ask this question:  has grace been applied?  Please understand that contentment is evidence that grace has been applied.

A Prayer of Contentment

Hebrews 13:5  “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

A great test of contentment is to examine our conversations.  Are our conversations full of wants, desires, and needs?  Do we sound like a little kid in the check out aisle telling his mom or dad they need that?  When was the last time our prayer life sounded like a mature conversation between a father and a child?

There is nothing wrong with making requests, and expressing needs.  Matter of fact, it is very scriptural to do such things.  I think the balance is found in our contentment with what we have at the present time.  God wants us to express needs, make requests, and share our desires with him; however, he also would love to hear how thankful we are for what we have presently.  He would really love to hear how thankful we are for his constant and continual presence.  It brings me back to the question of whether or not we are truly satisfied in Christ and Christ alone.

I want us to spend some time telling God how thankful we are for his presence in our lives.  For the next few days, we need to make sure we spend time being content and thankful for God’s presence within our life.  Maybe we can call it our conversation of contentment.  Maybe it could look something like this: (feel free to make your own)

Lord, I am thankful that this verse promises that you will never leave me or forsake me.  While my flesh wants stuff, my spirit wants to say thank you for your personal presence in my life.  You know my needs, and we can talk about that later.  For the next few moments I want to thank you for what I already have, and most importantly I want to thank you for being such a good father and friend.  If I had to make one request, it would be for me to sense your presence today.  I am determined to be perfectly content in you and you alone today.  AMEN!  

Contentment’s Partner

1 Timothy 6:6  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Contentment alone is a great thing.  Learning how to be content is something that we all must strive to do.  However; I think there is a way we can get to place of contentment faster.  It is by adding godliness to it.  A deep rooted relationship with Jesus Christ will bring us to a place of contentment a lot faster than a self motivated route.  If you are like me then you find contentment seems to slip out of your grasp.  Somewhere throughout the day we get so self consumed that something or someone will set us off.  While the desire to be content in all things is a great goal,  I think the greater goal is godliness partnered with contentment.  When we come to a place where we are operating in a oneness with the Lord then we will automatically find ourselves in a place of contentment.

I guess the question we must ask ourselves is whether or not Jesus is enough?  Is the phrase “in Christ alone” a reality in our lives or is it just some statement we make in order to sound spiritual?  Contentment may be a great goal, but I believe if contentment is partnered with godliness it automatically happens.  I guess what I am trying to say is rather than make contentment the goal, make godliness the goal and contentment will happen.  I personally believe that being satisfied in Christ and in Christ alone brings us to a place of spiritual contentment which is far greater than self managed contentment.

I wish I could sit here and tell you I have mastered this.  I would like to partner with each of you reading this to make godliness the partner with contentment.  Put away the desires of this world, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.  I would like for all of us to focus our attention on experiencing a oneness with the Lord.  Based on scripture, it is the fast track to contentment.