Chapter 5 - Practice From The Heart


 

 

Chapter Five

Practice From The Heart

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“I will praise You … with my whole heart .”  Psalm 9:1

 

“I will praise the Lord with my whole heart , in the assembly
of the upright and in the congregation.”  Psalm 111:1

 

“Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the [their] whole heart !”  Psalm 119:2

 

“With my whole heart I have sought You ; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!”  Psalm 119:10

 

“And yet for all this … Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart , but in pretense,” says the Lord .  Jeremiah 3:10

 

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him , and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”  1 John 1:6

 

“Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God.”

1 John 3:10

 

 

Apostle Paul Boldly Proclaims: “I Do Not Lie!”

 

“I am in Christ, and I am telling you the truth; I do not lie.  My conscience is ruled by the Holy Spirit, and it tells me I am not lying.”  Romans 9:1 NCV

 

Apostle Paul wrote that he “serves God with his whole heart” in Romans 1:9 NCV.  The New King James Version reads “whom I serve with my spirit.”  You can conclude from these two translations that serving God with your “whole heart” is tantamount to serving God with “your spirit.”

 

“But you are not ruled by your sinful selves.  You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you.”  

Romans 8:9 NCV [Part A]

 

“But the person who does not have the spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ.”  Romans 8:9 NCV [Part B]

 

“If you use your lives to do the wrong things your sinful selves want, you will die spiritually.  But if you use the Spirit’s help to stop doing the wrong things you do with your body, you will have true life.”  Romans 8:13 NCV

 

“The true children of God are those who let God’s Spirit lead them.”  Romans 8:14 NCV

 

Yes, it is possible to live your life “ruled” by God’s Holy Spirit and Apostle Paul tells us how in Romans 8:9 with the operative word “IF.”   If that Spirit of God really lives in you , then your life is ruled by the Spirit .  Paul continues on immediately by stating further in verse 9 [Part B].   If you do not have the spirit of Christ, then you do not belong to Christ.

 

Note two points here and the apparent contrast from Paul.   First , you are ruled by the Spirit of God IF the Spirit of God lives in you.   Secondly , you belong to Christ IF you have the spirit of Christ.  I will come back to this particular topic later in the book for more of God’s Word and further study.  For now, reread this section of Romans 8 using the NKJV Bible.

 

“So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

 

“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Now if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he is not his.”

 

“And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”  Romans 8:8-10  

 

Is it possible to be led by the Spirit of God [in righteousness] and yet not know Jesus Christ?  Maybe, having never even heard about Jesus?  Yes.  Is it possible to have the spirit of Christ and yet really not know God?  No.  We will deal more with this area of conflict in Christianity later in the book.  Before we get there, do some thinking about the Spirit of God and the spirit of Christ.  Are they the same?  Different?  Is Christ God?  Why would Paul use this language?  Why didn’t he simply state in the second half of verse 9 “If anyone does not have the Spirit of God , he is not His [God’s]?”  Can some people belong to God and others to God through Christ Jesus His Son?

 

For the moment, Paul seems to have literally “hit the nail on the head” concerning the controversial topic of “real Christians vs. false Christians” when he used the operative word IF in verse 9.  Real Christians do have the Spirit of God dwelling within them.  The Holy Spirit influences their actions and you can actually “know them by their fruits [actions and the results of their actions].”  This explains why Paul can write with passion in Galatians.

 

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 3:20

 

The modern Christian songwriters Phillips, Craig & Dean in their 1996 song Crucified With Christ (Star Song) write: “For I have been crucified with Christ … and yet I live.  Not I … but Christ who lives within me.”  Every time I hear their song, it just thrills my soul.  I can literally just let this song cycle and cycle and cycle.  My heart leaps with joy inside as the Spirit of God testifies to me about the validity of that statement: “I am crucified with Christ.”  Are you crucified with Christ?  If not, why?  Are you really then a Christian?  Isn’t this also a hallmark sign of the true believer?

 

Paul at the very depths of his soul simply knew that he could not do God’s will on his own.  He needed help.  The solution was the Spirit of God, which Paul found through his faith in Jesus.  Paul had taken a step through a spiritual gateway [Christ] in time back into fellowship with the Father .  As Paul found himself in the loving caring arms of his heavenly Father , he also discovered that he was back in Eden on planet Earth.  In the midst of trials and sufferings, Paul found perfect peace and the fullness of joy!  These flow only from the Father [God].

 

Lord , I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”  Jeremiah 10:23  

 

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You , because he trusts in You .”  Isaiah 26:3  

 

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:11

 

If you think earthly pleasures are great, then you haven’t really tried the pleasures from Heaven that result in “perfect peace”; “fullness of joy”; and “pleasures forevermore.”  There is simply no comparison.  No matter how much money and resources you have acquired on planet earth, it will never bring you this type of peace, joy and pleasure.  When you walk with God’s Spirit, then you will truly start to live an exciting adventuresome life.  Even if you first are crucified in Christ and even if you still have to “suffer.”  

James tells us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Why?  James gives us the answer immediately by stating: “The testing of our faith produces patience.”  Still, doesn’t this sound weird?  Joy in the midst of trials?  I can tell you from my own walk with God that James is telling the truth.  In the midst of your trials, God will be there “inside of you with His kingdom.”  Then you will know what Jesus meant in Luke 17:21.

 

 

   Jesus said: “The kingdom of God isn’t ushered in with visible signs.  You won’t be able to say, ‘It has begun here in this place or in that part of the country.’  For the kingdom of God is within you.”  Luke 17:21 Living Bible

 

Yes, Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you.”  If you think about this and meditate on this verse, you will have to conclude that it is you and only you that are in the driver’s seat concerning the eternal destiny of your soul.  Only you can make the choices that will either lead to eternal life or to eternal damnation.  Only you can choose to obey God or to ignore Him .  However, no matter how hard you try to ignore Him , you cannot avoid the eventual emptiness and the feeling that you lack something very important.  This is because God’s laws are “in your mind and written on your heart.”

 

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord : I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  Jeremiah 31:33

 

“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them.”  Romans 2:15

 

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord : I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  Hebrews 8:10

 

Clearly God did not create you with the intention that you would have to live this earthly life on your own [spiritually speaking].  As His creation, the design was for us to live in daily fellowship with Him .  To live in Eden knowing only the goodness that God and this earthly life had to offer.  We are a long way from that perfect picture and we are certainly out of practice.

Back to Apostle Paul.  He was very out of practice [fellowship with God] at the time of his conversion on the road to Damascus.  Do you then think that God made him perfect once again [on his own]?  Or, did Paul now have to get back into practice?  Well, how about the Apostle John who wrote the following compelling words on sin?  Was Apostle John perfect?  Sure sounds like it, doesn’t it?  He cannot sin!  Can you?

 

“Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His [God’s] seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”  1 John 3:9

 

“He Cannot Sin, Because He Has Been Born Of God!”

 

Paul stated in Romans 9:1 that — “I do not lie.”  We have previously discussed God’s Spirit, as the Spirit of truth and that if the truth is not in the situation then God is not in it.  Speaking a lie is sinning and God has some strong words to say about this type of behavior in Revelation chapter 22.

 

Who Can Enter Heaven?

 

“Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”  Revelations 22:14

 

Who Can’t Enter Heaven?

 

“But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”  Revelations 22:15

 

We have already studied in Hebrews chapter 10, God’s Word about willfully sinning after having received Christ.  The Bible teaches us that anyone who does willfully sin [at this point] no longer has the blood of Jesus covering his or her sins.  In fact, such a person has serious judgment from God awaiting them for treating His Son in such a “cheap” and “common” fashion.  This has to be the “ultimate insult” to a holy and righteous God.

Clearly you should have learned from God’s Word that there are certain expectations that He has on the part of believers [who are sincere].  The two major questions now looming in this chapter are: Do we have to be perfect?  Or, is it — practice, practice, and practice?

 

Is it possible to be a Christian and yet be a liar?  Is it possible to be a Christian and tell even a single lie?  A single small lie?  A single very small white lie [whatever that is in our modern twenty-first century culture]?  

 

What is God telling us when His Word talks about “lying and not practicing the truth” in 1 John 1:6?  Exactly what does it mean to “practice” righteousness as we are told to do in 1 John 3:10?  Do you suppose the very word “practice” has connotations that speak of some duty and action on the part of Christians?  Again we are forced to confront the issue of whether we actually have to do something for our salvation or if it is simply a free ride, as many Christians now believe.  What do you think?

 

Clue: Does the receipt of any valuable free gift ever carry with it any responsibilities on the part of the recipient?  If so, under what conditions and why?  Or is the recipient of the valuable gift free to do with it as they wish.  After all, a gift is a gift, isn’t it?  Don’t confuse the nature of receiving a free and valuable gift with the responsibilities associated with owning it.  Also, think about under what conditions your behavior towards the valuable free gift might be construed as either a direct insult or lack of respect towards the giver.   By others observing your attitude towards the gift?  By the Giver Himself ?  Review the discussion on page 7 for more thought on this subject.

 

For now imagine that you are a Christian in Nazi occupied Holland during World War II and you are hiding Jews in your attic to save them from the death chamber.  Maybe you are hiding Anne Frank, her father Otto and their family up there in your secret place.  You have hidden the entrance to the attic with a clever bookcase that now conceals the extra space you have.  If the Nazi’s find these Jews, you know that they plan to kill them.

 

Suddenly, the door rings and a Nazi officer who is backed up by 15 Nazi soldiers asks you the pointedly direct question: “Are you hiding any Jews in your home?”  “JUDANS???”  What would your answer be?

You hesitated as you said NO because you realize “in your heart” that you are now lying on top of everything else.  Perhaps Revelation 22:15 just flashed across your mind.  You want to serve God and you take His Word very seriously.  You certainly don’t want to be considered a “practitioner and lover of lies.”  Still, you think, this particular situation must be different in God’s eyes?

 

The officer then pulls out his Bible because he knows that you claim to be a Christian.  He turns quickly to Romans 13 and reminds you that your Bible commands you to tell the truth and to obey the authorities that now rule over you.  Your mind thinks: “Now what should I do?”

 

If you think this sounds like a far-fetched scenario, think again.  It has actually happened and only God knows how many times.  Yes, you did lie!  You chose to attempt to save the lives of the Jews you were hiding.  You reasoned correctly that God would not hold this particular lie against you.  

 

You reached the limits of your human understanding.  You only knew that you wanted to do what was right for God’s people.  In the process, you also found out that you couldn’t be “perfect” on your own in this matter.  

 

Jesus Asks: “So, You Want To Be Perfect?”

 

Parable Of The Rich Young Ruler!

 

“Now behold, one came and said to him, ‘Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’  So he said to him, ‘Why do you call me good?  No one is good but One , that is, God.  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ ”

 

“He said to him, ‘Which ones?’  Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and your mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

 

 

“The young man said to him [Jesus], ‘All these things I have kept from my youth.  What do I still lack?’  Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow me.’ ”

 

“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

 

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.’ ”

 

“And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  Matthew 19:16-24

 

Don’t think for one moment that Jesus was saying that this rich young ruler was not going to get into Heaven [have eternal life].  That is not the message of Jesus in this parable.  Actually, just the opposite occurred.  Jesus confirmed to this rich young ruler that he would get into Heaven by his words in verse 17 when he says: “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

 

Keeping God’s Commandments Means Eternal Life!

 

Right about now, many Christians will be faced with a very difficult choice to make.  Maybe this is you?  Should I believe the church that says I have to do nothing for my eternal life?  Or should I listen to the words of Jesus who tells me that eternal life will come to me by keeping God’s commandments?  Ever hear this message preached from a pulpit?

 

The choice for you is clear.  Choose to listen to God’s Holy Word and if it conflicts with the pulpit of the church you are attending — deal with it.  Confront the false teachings or leave the church and find another fellowship.  If you listen to apostasy from the pulpit because the fellowship of others within that particular church is more important than God’s Word — you are simply one of those folks that Jesus is referring to in Matthew 7:21-23.

Jesus was very clear in his instructions: “If you want to enter into [eternal] life, keep the commandments.”  The rich young ruler says, “I have kept [these] from my youth.”  That means he is assured of eternal life!  Notice that Jesus did not tell him that he must profess belief in the Son of God because he [Jesus] was the only way to receive eternal life.  Why?  Is it because Christ did not come for the righteous?  Yes.  He came for sinners.

 

Certainly, if this person kept God’s commands, he was a righteous man in God’s eyes.  It is that simple and Jesus knew it.  Try to understand this simple message from Jesus even if it goes against the grain of all your Christian programming.  I know that you have been taught that no one can get into Heaven without Christ.  This is a lie and part of the mythology.  If you stick around long enough, I will guide you through those parts of God’s Word that will make this fact clear to you.  However, your understanding starts with these words of Jesus.

Note that Jesus also states in verse 17 that there is only One God that we serve.  “No one is good but One , that is, God!”

 

This also may come as a shock.  Yes, Jesus was the only human [in the flesh] begotten Son of God.  Jesus stated clearly that the Father and he were one.  I too will state this clearly for you.  I too am one with the Father and Jesus.  What we are talking about here is a spiritual oneness in which the Father ’s Spirit controls our life.  Jesus never said that he was God, he only said he was here on God’s (the Father ’s) business.  That is, if you wanted to see the Father , all you had to do was look at his actions.  The same can be said of any true believer that is led by God’s Spirit.  All real believers are going about the Father ’s business.

 

After he confirms he had kept God’s commands since his youth, the rich young ruler asks the penetrating question: “What do I still lack?”  What is it?  It is the lack that everyone runs into when what you have in life is not enough to fill the emptiness that emanates from within your soul.  As stated above, your money only gets you so far in terms of satisfying your soul.  The bottle of booze or even drugs will only get you so far.  No matter what you do or have in this earthly life, it will never be enough.  There will always be a lack inside of your soul until you return to fellowship with the Father .

Yes, God has put His laws in your mind and has written them on your heart.  Fellowship with the Father is a matter of practice, practice, and practice.  Specifically it is a matter of us getting back into the practice of fellowship with our heavenly Father .  Jesus [and God’s Holy Word] has made it very clear that you don’t have to be perfect.  But, you do have to try.  You at least have to practice.

 

Jesus responds to the ruler’s question with: “If you want to be perfect … do these things.”  The message is that nothing in your earthly habitat will make you perfect in God’s eyes except selling it all off, giving it to the poor and following Jesus [God’s direction].  It is a simple message.  You should build up for yourself a treasure in Heaven.  You should be friends with God and not of the earthly stuff.  Yes, indeed you have to live here in the flesh.  But, your heart and spirit can dwell with God in this earthly existence.  That is the message from Jesus.

 

Jesus continues in verses 23-24 by pointing out how difficult it will be for a rich man to enter into Heaven.  Remember that Jesus has already confirmed that this particular man will receive eternal life because he is keeping God’s commandments.  However, Jesus is now pointing out to his disciples the difficulties that a rich person will face.  What Jesus is referring to here is that it is very difficult for rich people to give up their earthly possessions.  That will become a major stumbling block for many.  Why?

 

The danger in riches lies within the simple principle of control.  With wealth you can easily have a feeling of controlling your own destiny.  You hire things done for you and might even command an army of servants to do your bidding.  With a focus on what you can do with your own resources, it is easy to lose sight of Who allowed you to have those resources [wealth].

 

In 1993, I gave everything I own away.  I gave up ownership in favor of stewardship.  I no longer worry about money and assets.  I let God worry about them for me.  Whatever He decides is fine with me.  I can tell you that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.  It helped move me from an earthly focus to a heavenly focus.  While I still have huge goals in life, I am ever aware of this simple principle of control.  God’s Word says to lean not on your own understanding.  That is what Jesus is talking about.

Study God’s Word and you will find that He has loved murderers, adulterers and thieves.  Name your sin here and you will find that God has loved all the sinners.  Some of these people turned out to be great saints of the Bible.  However, once they encountered God, they stopped the sinful behavior and entered into the practice of fellowshipping with the Father .   You won’t find God in fellowship with sin, wickedness, lawlessness and evil.  Those Christians who think they can dwell in any of these areas are only deceiving themselves.  They are certainly people Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7:21-23.

 

So we can observe throughout the Bible that our own perfection has never been a criterion of the Father .  If it were, not a single soul would be saved.  That leaves us only with the issue of practice.  By now you might think I was way off base when I made the statement earlier that: “You reasoned correctly that God would not hold this particular lie against you.”

 

I have used the illustration of lies for a couple of reasons.  For one, lying comes quite easy to all of us.  Often, our lying takes the form of not telling the whole truth of a matter.  By withholding certain facts, we try to color the truth to get our own way.  We rationalize that this is okay because official statistics tells us everyone lies an average of 25 times a day.  Yes, I actually heard that bunk on a national network television show recently.

 

Let me ask you this question.  Have you ever known someone who did not lie?  If you are honest, you should have answered yes.  If you couldn’t answer yes, I suggest you find another church to attend and some new friends to associate with.  Lying is not built within us as a default type of behavior; and, Apostle Paul is not an isolated case in history of someone who doesn’t lie.  It is not natural for anyone to lie his or her way through life.  While it may come easy out of the mouth, lying takes a lot of effort to be clever enough to not get caught.  Telling the truth is much easier and requires no memory bank or catalogue dedicated to deceit.  People who practice lying have to work at it to be successful in this evil endeavor.

 

With God, a lie is a lie and there is no big or little lie.  However, with God there are also those who “are lovers and practitioners of lies.”  These are clearly people who love to lie and think that they are very clever about it.

The now infamous words of former president Clinton are illustrative of the principle God cites in Revelation 22:15.  Who can ever forget: “It depends on what the word IS means.  If this is the present tense of IS, then it means… if it is the past tense, it means.”  You get the picture.  Then there is this statement before the entire nation: “I did not have sex with that woman.”  I want to be very clear about God’s Word.  These are statements from a “lover and practitioner of lies” and the Holy Spirit confirms this fact to me.

 

There are liars that God says are outside of the kingdom.  They play around with the words in sentence structures to cloak or hide the truth.  To get their own way.  They know, like a lot of lawyers, the very same words of any given sentence can take on many different meanings by shifting the emphasis from one word in the sentence to another.  Consider for the moment the following variations of Clinton’s second statement.  Read each sentence out loud and place an emphasis on the word in bold capital letters.  See how the meaning of the sentence is changed by the word emphasized.

 

  • . I did not have sex with THAT woman.  

  • . I did not have sex with that WOMAN .  

  • . I did not have SEX with that woman.  

  • . I did not HAVE sex with that woman.  

It is a sad commentary today that our society now lends itself to the arrogance of such lies before a nation from a place of high honor.  While people who lie can get away with deceiving other humans, God will know the truth of every situation.  We cannot hide our lies from a heavenly Father who sees it all.  I will leave it up to God to judge Mr. Clinton’s repentant heart.  Suffice to say that sincerity in this situation should not be an option.

 

The Nazi lie illustration is also similar to a biblical story.  Let’s now review the story of Rahab the harlot in Jericho.  Rahab lied to the authorities to protect Jewish spies.  What happened to her?  What did God do to her?  The story unfolds in the book of Joshua chapter 2.  In my New King James Version, the story is titled: “The Faith of Rahab.”

 

The Faith Of Rahab

 

[1] “Now Joshua the son of Nun sent out two men from Acacia Grove to spy secretly, saying, ‘Go, view the land, especially Jericho.’  So they went, and came to the house of a harlot named Rahab, and lodged there.”

 

[2] “And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, ‘Behold, men have come here tonight from the children of Israel to search out the country.’  [3] So the king of Jericho sent to Rahab, saying, ‘Bring out the men who have come to you, who have entered your house, for they have come to search out all the country.’ ”

 

[4] “Then the woman took the two men and hid them.  

 

[Rahab lies]

 

So she said, ‘Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from.  [5] And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark that the men went out.  Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.’ ”

 

[6] “But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.

 

[7] Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords.  And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate.  [8] Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, [9] and said to the men: ‘I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you.’ ”

 

[10] “For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.”

 

 

[11] “And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in Heaven above and on earth beneath.”

 

[12] “Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord , since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death.”

 

[14] “So the men answered her, ‘Our lives for yours, if none of you tell this business of ours.  And it shall be, when the Lord has given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with you.’ ”

 

[15] “Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall.  [16] And she said to them, ‘Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you.  Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned.  Afterward you may go your way.’ ”

 

[17] “So the men said to her: ‘We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home.’ ”

 

[19] “So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless.  And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him.”

 

[20] “And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear.”

 

[21] “Then she said, ‘According to your words, so be it.’ And she sent them away, and they departed. And she bound the scarlet cord in the window.  [22] They departed and went to the mountain, and stayed there three days until the pursuers returned.  The pursuers sought them all along the way, but did not find them.”

 

[23] “So the two men returned, descended from the mountain, and crossed over; and they came to Joshua the son of Nun, and told him all that had befallen them.  [24] And they said to Joshua, ‘Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.’ ”  Joshua 2:1-24

 

“Now the city shall be doomed by the Lord to destruction, it and all who are in it.  Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.”  Joshua 6:17

 

This is the very same kind of lie that was illustrated earlier in the Nazi example.  God honored Rahab for protecting the Jews.  Yes, God viewed Rahab’s lie in a different light.  It is a righteous thing to help God’s people in their time of need and God will certainly reward those who do.

 

James reaffirms God’s Word in James 2:25-26 stating: “Was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  Yes, this is another message that conflicts with modern day Christianity.  Why?

 

Can we be perfect?  The answer is clearly—No.  But like Rahab, we can recognize God for who He truly is.  We can recognize His Holiness and righteousness.  We can discern what really matters to Him .  We can give up and abandon our self-serving positions that rationalize our sinful life.  We then enter into a relationship with Him through fellowship.  This, in turn, means that we keep His commandments and we practice certain things to demonstrate that we are part of the kingdom of God.  

 

What are these things we need to practice?  What should we avoid practicing?  The following list is not meant to be all-inclusive.  Instead, it is a starting point.  The kingdom of God is within you according to the words of Jesus.  Make the most of it by now reviewing what you are practicing.

Practice & Do Not Practice Checklist!

  • . Practice the truth.  1 John 1:6 

 

  • . Practice righteousness.  1 John 3:10 

 

  • . Do not practice divination or soothsaying.  Leviticus 19:26 

 

  • . Do not practice wicked works. Psalm 141:4 

 

  • . Do not practice ungodliness.  Isaiah 32:6 

 

  • . Do not practice divination.  Ezekiel 13:23 

 

  • . Do not practice lewdness.  Ezekiel 23:48 

 

  • . Do not practice iniquity or evil. Micah 2:1 

 

  • . Do not practice lawlessness.  Matthew 7:23 

 

  • . Do not practice lesbianism.  Romans 1:18-32 

 

  • . Do not practice homosexuality.  Romans 1:18-32 

 

  • . Do not practice unrighteousness.  Romans 1:18-32 

 

  • . Do not practice lies.  Romans 1:18-32; Revelation 22:15 

 

  • . Do not practice envy.  Galatians 5:21 

 

  • . Do not practice drunkenness.  Galatians 5:21 

 

  • . Do not practice revelries.  Galatians 5:21 

On two separate and distinct occasions this week, I was reminded of the story of Belshazzar in Daniel chapter 5.  Perhaps, more than any other story in the Bible, this one illustrates why you need to pay attention to God.  Why you need to practice truth and righteousness and why you need to avoid sin [as God has defined] in your life.  Perfection?  No.  Practice?  Yes!

 

The message came to me in such a way that I again simply “knew that God was speaking directly to me.”   He was speaking to me in a way that related to how I should end this chapter.  The message started coming last Sunday evening as I pondered whether or not to go up town and see a late night movie.  As I looked over the listing I debated which movie to see.  My mind just needed a mental break and I have found that a good movie can be a great mental relaxation for me.  I made some phone calls to find out what the movies were all about and after some consideration I decided to go see a movie entitled “A Knights Tale.”

 

I enjoyed the movie and was struck by some unusual language during the course of the movie.  The movie was about a peasant who wanted to be a Knight jousting with lances against other Knights.  He got the opening and found himself competing against a very experienced “evil” Knight.  During the first competition, the evil Knight won.  The peasant said: “The next time … I will win.”  In response came the curious words: “I have measured and weighed you and found you wanting.”  The message was clear: “You don’t stand a chance competing against me.”  The evil Knight repeated the same message to the peasant a couple of times.  At the end of the movie, the evil Knight lost and the message was then repeated back to him.  The whole dialogue was very interesting to me but I did not know why.

 

The next day [Monday], I was listening to a Bible teacher who was studying Daniel chapter 5 and the message came again to me from God through this teacher.  It was God’s response to Belshazzar.  The essence of the message was: “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”  [Daniel 5:27 NKJV]  The Living Bible has a little more clarity.

 

“You have been weighed in God’s balances and have failed the test!”  Daniel 5:27 Living Bible

I spent some time studying it today and was astonished again by the message from God.  Belshazzar was the son of Nebuchadnezzar and was now the ruling Babylonian king.  He had a great feast in the company of a thousand.  During the feast, he gave the command to fetch the gold and silver vessels, which his father had taken from God’s temple in Jerusalem.

 

The king and his lords, his wives and his concubines drank wine from them and “praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.”  It literally incensed God who sent Belshazzar a direct message.

 

[5] “In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.”

 

[6] “Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.”

 

[7] “The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers.  The king spoke, saying to the wise men of Babylon, ‘Whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck; and he shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.’ ”  Daniel 5:5-7

 

Imagine looking at the wall and seeing only the fingers of a hand, writing a message with no arm or body attached.  This is what Belshazzar was witnessing.  Verse 24 of Daniel 5 tells us that the fingers were sent from God.  You might just feel a little sick yourself.  I wrote earlier that God would take only so much from man.  God has limits.  This time, the king had crossed God’s limit.  How much mercy and grace will God display to you?  I cannot say.  I can only state that you had better get yourself straight with God and stay that way.  That includes whether you claim to have Jesus or not.  The principle is the same.  God tolerates sin up to a certain point and then no more.  Belshazzar had gone too far and God had responded with a message on the wall that none of his advisors could decipher.  Now what?

Turning to the New Century Version we see with clarity the message of God and its meaning.  Daniel had to be called to decipher the meaning of the message for Belshazzar.

 

[25] “These are the words that were written on the wall: ‘Mene, mene, tekel, and parsin.’ ”

 

[26] “This is what the words mean: Mene: God has counted the days until your kingdom will end.”

 

[27] “Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found not good enough.”

 

[28] “Parsin: Your kingdom is being divided and will be given to the Medes and Persians.”

 

[30] “That very same night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonian people, was killed.”  Daniel 5:25-28, 30 NCV

 

Daniel 5 states that Belshazzar “was not sorry for what he had done” and that he had set himself “against the Lord of Heaven.”  Further that he “did not honor God, who has power over your life and everything you do.”

 

I am wondering about you.  Do you realize that we serve an awesome God that has expectations and limits despite any past programming?  Do you realize that He will stand by His Holy Word despite any Christian belief you have that might try to contradict it?  In a “party” atmosphere or sheer moment in time, you may find that you also have crossed the line with God.

 

For Belshazzar this meant immediate death and an end to his earthly existence.  He certainly wasn’t Heaven bound either.  This king set himself against the God of Heaven who has His own fixed values and definitions of what is right and what is wrong.  What is good and what is evil?  You might think that homosexuality or lesbianism is of God because it has a “love” component.  However, you have simply perverted the ways of God by taking such a position.  You have in fact crossed a line with God.  Nothing in Jesus has changed the ways of God or the nature of the kingdom of God.

 

The lesson of Belshazzar should be heeded by all that call themselves a child of God [or Christian].  It is a lesson of obedience.  It is a lesson of limits to God’s grace.  It is a lesson of an individual who felt they could do whatever they wanted to do despite what a holy God requires of us.

 

Today, in Christianity, many believe they can live exactly like king Belshazzar did.  So, let the party begin?  These Christians believe they can simply do their own thing without any fear of consequence from God.  They have adopted a new more sin-friendly god who they call either the “god of forgiveness” or “the god of health/wealth” without realizing that the God of the Bible has not changed.  Often they refer to one of these new gods as Jesus.  In the process, the Father is insulted by a cheap grace that treats the blood of Jesus as a common thing.  Has Jesus redefined God’s nature?  No.

 

Yes, our God has forgiveness.  However, he expects fruit worthy of repentance.  That fruit manifests itself in our behaviors and in our habits.  What we do in life in terms of actions or lack of actions confirm to God exactly who we are.   He knows we can’t be perfect, but fully expects that we can try.   He also fully expects that we practice doing good and not evil.

 

Getting back into fellowship with the Father means practice from our heart in a way that conforms us to God’s Holy Word and His idea of right and wrong, not the other way around.  It means that we have reached a point in humility where we understand that it is God who really controls our life.  You know that there is more to life than what your senses and intellect can discern.  Just look at the wonder of God on this earth wherever you turn.  No matter what you acquire on this earth and the resources you have, you will ultimately reach the point that the rich ruler reached and ask yourself, “What do I lack?”  That is when you will know it is time for some practice from the heart, because that results in true fellowship with God Almighty!  

 

Fellowship With The Father ,

 Means That You …

Practice From The Heart

 


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