Monday, February 16, 2015

Listen to Jesus, Who Upholds Moses and the Prophets

These days it is rare to find anyone who is correctly teaching the proper relationship of the Law and the Prophets to the kingdom of God.  Many are confused about the New Covenant of grace through our Lord Jesus Christ, and they fail to preach the whole counsel of God.  So let's take a look at what Jesus said on this topic.

Jesus with Moses and Elijah in the Kingdom of God
In Luke's gospel it is recorded that Jesus said:

"But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God."  (Luk 9:27)

So He said some of his disciples would see the kingdom of God before they tasted death.  He meant that they would see the kingdom before they left this planet at the end of their lives.  And just as He said, eight days later He took His three closest disciples -- Peter, James, and John -- up onto a mountain to pray.  That is when the three disciples saw the kingdom of God. There the Lord's face and clothes became as white as lightning.

“Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus.” (Luk 9:30, NIV)

The disciples saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. It is important to notice who was talking with the Lord in the glorious kingdom of God there on the mountain.  Not only was Jesus appearing glorified, but so were Moses and Elijah. These two men represented the Law and the Prophets.

Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!"  (Luk 9:35)

So the Heavenly Father identified Jesus Christ as His Son, His Chosen One, which was an important seal of divine authority and remains so today as recorded in Scripture.  The Father commanded the disciples to listen to Jesus.  So this changed the focus, so that from that point forward all disciples of Christ would listen to Jesus.  There is still Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets, but we listen to Jesus now.  Therefore, we must ask whether that means we listen to Jesus to the exclusion of the Law and Prophets, or in conjunction with them.

The Law and the Prophets Fulfilled in the Gospel of the Kingdom of God
Jesus answered this question later when He said:

"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail. Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.” (Luk 16:16-18)

Since Jesus came, the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is forcing their way into the kingdom.  It was only until Jesus came that the Law and the Prophets were proclaimed. However, Jesus did not do away with the Law and the Prophets or annul them.  He upheld them!  Although He established a New Covenant with God's people, according to the prophet Jeremiah, He upheld the Law and the Prophets. He said, "it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail."  And in Matthews gospel, he said:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 5:17-19)

In the kingdom of heaven, whoever keeps and teaches the Law and the Prophets is considered great. Far from abolishing the Law and Prophets, the Lord gave them a place of very high importance. He said that not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. So let nobody annul one of the least of these commandments, or teaches others to do the same.  In fact, if you read the rest of the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7, you will clearly see that Jesus taught the Law and the Prophets.  For example, He said, "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 7:12). Other topics He taught about from the Law and Prophets in that sermon were murder, adultery, reconciliation, righteousness, and more. 

Likewise, in the context of Luke's gospel, where Jesus said it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail, He immediately referred to adultery in connection with divorce. That was a connection that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law were not preaching about. He said, "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery." In doing so, He accurately taught the meaning of the Law and the Prophets, tying together and unifying passages from the Law (like Genesis 2:24 and Deuteronomy 24:1-4) with passages from the Prophets (like Jeremiah 3:1 and Malachi 2:13-16).  He carried the same message in the gospel of the kingdom as the Lord said through Malachi and other prophets, "you are not keeping My ways."

Another example of Jesus tying together and unifying the Law and the Prophets with the gospel of the kingdom is in regard to the commandments to love. "One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, “'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."  (Mat 22:35-40).  Therefore, Jesus summarized in two commandments everything that was written by Moses and the prophets. He showed that the whole Law and Prophets are unified or tied together by the one common, central theme of love.

Now back to the Luke passage we were examining a moment ago. In the same context of Jesus' instruction about the lasting nature of the Law and Prophets, He immediately told the account of the rich man in hell and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom.  This was not a parable, because it contains a proper name, which is Lazarus, and a parable never uses proper names.  Most of us are familiar with this account of the two men in the underworld.  But do we fully understand the final impact of the story's lesson?  Listen to Abraham teach us the lesson:

"But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them…If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'" (Luk 16:29,31).

First of all, Abraham in his lifetime came before Moses and the Prophets, as well as before Christ.  Yet Abraham taught that people on earth should listen to Moses and the Prophets.  He upheld their teachings. In fact, he said that if people will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead. And that is a veiled reference to both the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the first fruits from the dead, as well as the many genuine and proven testimonies we hear in these last days of people rising from the dead with a message from the Lord about heaven and hell.

Secondly, it was the Lord Jesus who told this true account of the rich man and Lazarus, and He used it to further emphasize His point that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.  In this story that Jesus told, He declared through the mouth of Abraham that people should listen to Moses and the Prophets.  As I said, that was the main point of the story, which most people miss.  In saying this, Jesus upheld the Law and the Prophets. In fact, if the rich man had listened to them, he would have remembered the poor and been kind to Lazarus.

Therefore, we can see that the Law and Prophets have not lost their importance and have not been abolished by the New Covenant.  The way we relate to God now has changed under the New Covenant, because of the great and loving sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for us, shedding His own blood, so that we sinners could be made righteous.  In the gospel of the kingdom, we preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. But the ways of God have not changed!

And the message of the Lord to the apostate Church today is still "you are not keeping My ways." The message of the gospel is that you must repent of sin and believe on Jesus Christ in order to receive forgiveness of sins.  The Father said to listen to Jesus and Jesus said to listen to the Law and the Prophets, which taught a pro-love message against sin. We need to listen to Jesus, Who will teach us by His Spirit to properly understand the deeper meaning of the Law and Prophets, as He did in His Sermon on the Mount and the rest of the gospels, in order to show us the ways of God.  Then we will see where we have gone astray, so that we can repent, be forgiven, and return to God.

Learning the Ways of God in the Law and Prophets
I recommend you read my other articles about the Law, in order to understand clearly what I am teaching about the ways of God, which is not a return to living under the Law, since we are under grace and not Law. We are not endeavoring to keep up the law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel of Christ. Therefore, I strongly recommend reading the following articles below, beginning with the ones in the left column:

Is Obedience Optional?
The Law of Christ 
The Law Fulfilled in Us
The Law Established Through Faith
The Cost of Discipleship
Faith Works!
Costly Grace
Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?
Did Jesus Nail the Law to the Cross?
The Obedience of Faith
Righteousness by Faith not Law
Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God
Aim for Perfection
Righteous Deeds and White Robes
Doing What is Right
Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice
Partaking of the Divine Nature
Walking in the Perfect Will of God
Pressing on Toward the Goal
Obedience by the Spirit
The Law is Good if Used Lawfully
What Then Must We Observe?
Remember the Eternal Law of God

Believe All That the Prophets Have Spoken
Jesus taught us to believe all that Moses and the Prophets have spoken.  He said, "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" (Joh 5:46-47).  From this it is clear that Moses and Jesus are in harmony with each other.  And it is necessary to believe both Moses and Jesus.  If you do not believe the writings of Moses, you will not believe the words of Jesus.

Another passage in Luke’s gospel that I would like to mention is the account of the Lord meeting the two men on the road to Emmaus on the day of His resurrection. 

“And He said to them, ‘O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luk 24:25-27)

Notice that he rebuked them for being slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. The prophets spoke of how it was necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory.  One example of that is in Isaiah 53, in which Isaiah prophesied about Christ’s suffering and crucifixion around seven hundred years before it happened (also see Yeshua Ha'Maschiah in the Tanakh).  And notice how Jesus explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with Moses and with all the prophets. So as they listened to Jesus, He taught about Himself from the Law and the prophets.

“Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’” (Luk 24:44-47)

Notice that all things that are written about Jesus in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. So Jesus emphasized His harmonious relationship with the Law of Moses and the Prophets.  In Him we find the fulfillment of what is written in those Scriptures, including their fulfillment in Him within our lives.  His suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection from the dead were all in fulfillment of those Scriptures. Likewise, we proclaim to all nations repentance for forgiveness of sins in His name, just as it is written in the Law and the prophets. It is always just as it is written in the Law and the prophets, since they must always be fulfilled.  And Jesus is the One Who opens our minds to understand those Scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Listen to Him!

As Philip said to Nathanael, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote--Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." (Joh 1:45).  We proclaim as Peter did,  "Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins."  (Act 10:43). As Paul did, we believe everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets. (Ac 24:14).

Finally, if you notice in the many divine revelations of heaven and hell that I have posted on Eternal Destinations, the message in these revelations typically refers to the ways of God that are found throughout the Bible, including the Law and the Prophets. Let's keep the ways of God according to Scripture, and not be like the rich man in hell and countless others who failed to do so, because they didn't listen to the Law and the Prophets.  They were slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken. Just as it is written, let us prepare in holiness for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is coming right away! The call is going out today, "Sinner, come home!" Repent and believe the gospel, for the Kingdom of God is near.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.  The calligraphy in the "Every Word of God is Flawless" image used in this article is by my sixteen-year-old daughter, C.V. Lacroix.  The "At the Cross" illustration was also created by her. You can find more of her fine artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this article, I recommend, Rachael Mushala Second Testimony of Hell, Restored Truth, Zipporah Mushala's testimony of hell, The Cost of Discipleship, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Remember the Eternal Law of God, Is Tithing Required?, Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations, Carrying Your Cross or Cross Dressing?The Straight and Narrow PathA Trip to Hell, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, The Top Ten Things Jesus Taught, Separation from the World, The Rise of Antichrists, and Ask for the Ancient Paths. You may access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Peculiar People

We are a peculiar people, according to God’s Word.

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1Pe 2:9, KJV)

What does it mean to be a peculiar people?  Does it mean we are weird or different?

The English word “peculiar” comes from the Latin word, “peculiaris,” which is derived from “peculium,” meaning “one's own property,” which was taken from “pecus,” meaning cattle.  According to Webster’s dictionary, peculiar means:  1. Appropriate; belonging to a person and to him only. Almost every writer has a peculiar style. Most men have manners peculiar to themselves. 2. Singular; particular. The man has something peculiar in his deportment. 3. Particular; special. 4. Belonging to a nation, system or other thing, and not to others. (Webster’s).

The Greek word translated as peculiar in English is “peripoiesis,” meaning “acquisition (the act or the thing); by extension preservation: - obtain (-ing), peculiar, purchased, possession, saving.” (Strong’s). Therefore, when the Scripture says we are a peculiar people, the NASB correctly translates that verse to say “a people for God's own possession.”  We are a people belonging to a God and to Him only.

Since we belong to God and Him only, our characteristics should also be like His, which are not the characteristics belonging to other people or nations. So in that sense we are completely unique and unlike anyone else in the world.

In the context of the passage, one thing that makes us quite unique is that we are a holy nation.  We proclaim and practice holiness, which shows on the outside. For “ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

The expression “shew forth” means to “show forth” (Webster’s).  It comes from the Greek word “exaggello,” meaning “to publish, that is, celebrate: - shew forth.” (Strong’s). This is not just something we do with our mouths. The Scripture tells us that if we only love with words and not with deeds, then our faith is incomplete. 

That is why in the context of the passage, Peter said, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1Pe 2:11-12). 

As aliens and strangers in this world, we are to abstain from fleshly lusts that wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles. 

Peter also said in this passage that “He [Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1Pe 2:24).  That means the cross of Christ was not just so we could be saved and healed, but so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  If the cross has not resulted in you dying to sin and living to righteousness, then you have believed in vain, because that is central to the purpose of the cross.

At the Cross by C.V. Lacroix
Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that you could simply be forgiven, become a Christian, get your free ticket to heaven, and then go on living like the world as one who is alive to sin.  Rather, he died so that you might live to righteousness.

We must each hate our own lives and carry our own cross!  Jesus said, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." (Luk 14:26-27)

"So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Luk 14:33-35)

You are not your own any more. You were bought with a price. The apostle Paul said, “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1Co 6:20).  Notice he said, glorify God in your body.  It’s not just with your heart that you glorify God, but also with your body.

Peter exhorted us in his epistle, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;” (1Pe 1:14-17).

So let me leave you with that same exhortation today.  Conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.  Be holy in all your behavior like the Holy One who called you. You shall be holy, for the Lord is holy.  Let us prepare in holiness for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is coming right away.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. The "Holiness" calligraphy and "At the Cross" artwork is the property of my sixteen-year old daughter, C.V. Lacroix.  You can find more of her fine artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: You are invited to read Holy Living in a Perverted WorldMichael Shigaba's Encounter with Jesus, The Straight and Narrow Path, Strive to Enter the Kingdom of God, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, A Warning for Married Christian Couples, Rachael Mushala Testimony of Hell, Rachael Mushala Second Testimony of HellZipporah Mushala's testimony of hell, Zipporah Mushala’s Third Testimony of Hell, Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations, Carrying Your Cross or Cross Dressing?, A Trip to Hell -- in pictures, Alcohol and Cigarettes -- Ten Divine Revelations, Messages from the Lord for Catholics Worshipping Idols, Keeping Sundays Holy - Part I, Keeping Sundays Holy - Part II, Rock, Rap, and Reggae Music -- Three Divine Revelations, The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness, Separation from the World, and Ask for the Ancient Paths. You may access the Main Directory for this Seeking the Lord blog for more articles like this, as well as my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

A Trip to Hell Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies Angelica Zambrano Hell and Heaven
The Forgotten Sin of Worldliness Taken to Hell Angelica Zambrano Second Visit to Hell
Australian Pastor Raised from the Dead Nigerian Pastor Raised from the Dead Revelation of Hell to Seven Colombian Youths

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Unhealthy Competition

Peyton Reed – Sr. – Valparaiso H.S.
As I wrote in a previous article,  we must keep Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God. We must also be careful not to let the devil outwit us in the process and cause us to miss the very kingdom that we are striving to enter.  One area he uses is competition, especially between Christians.

Brother Yong-Doo Kim wrote in his fourth book, “My wife and I always tried to compete for the Lord’s attention. Our competition for His attention caused jealousy and envy between us. When I was a child, my mother used to carry my infant baby brother on her back and she carried a big bundle on her head as we went to the market place. As my mother walked through the narrow alley in the countryside, I would follow right behind her in short steps as I cried and grizzled. I reminisced of my childhood as I walked the narrow path into hell. As I glimpsed at my wife from time to time, I would notice her humming a song through her nose. It appeared as though Jesus was enjoying the situation. The Lord and my wife intimately dialogued to one another as they looked at each other face to face and moved forward. My church members with opened spiritual eyes would tease me. ‘Pastor, you must be very jealous, right?’” (Baptized by Blazing Fire, Book 4)

He said, “People who possess gifts are more inclined and exposed to the forces of evil spirits. They are relentlessly attacked ever more. The devil will make the people with gifts targets. The devil and his forces are greatly attracted to these types of spiritual areas and taste. They will intensely attack. The devil will focus and concentrate a plan of attack. The devil begins by stimulating the consciousness of people. He will plant thoughts of overtaking others, getting ahead, competition, and eventually planting the seed of greed. The greed to win others. As a result, men, women, people of all ages become deluded or degenerated continuously by the indiscriminate attacks of the evil spirits.” (Baptized by Blazing Fire, Book 5)

King Saul's Jealousy of David
This same kind of problem arose between King Saul and David. We read in Scripture:

“So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants. It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. The women sang as they played, and said, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.’ Then Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him; and he said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?’ Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on. Now it came about on the next day that an evil spirit from God came mightily upon Saul, and he raved in the midst of the house, while David was playing the harp with his hand, as usual; and a spear was in Saul's hand. Saul hurled the spear for he thought, ‘I will pin David to the wall.’ But David escaped from his presence twice. Now Saul was afraid of David, for the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul. Therefore Saul removed him from his presence and appointed him as his commander of a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. David was prospering in all his ways for the LORD was with him. When Saul saw that he was prospering greatly, he dreaded him.” (1Sa 18:5-15)

From this passage we can see that after David defeated Goliath, he became great and won the favor of the people.  For the Lord was with him and caused him to prosper in all his ways.  That is what made Saul very angry.  He was displeased to hear the women giving David praise for greater achievements than he himself had accomplished. Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on. In fact, when Saul allowed that sin to operate in his life, it opened a gap for an evil spirit to come mightily upon Saul, which caused him to be raving mad in his house and to seek to take David’s life. 

Warning Against Sins That Keep You From Heaven
The apostle Paul wrote: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  (Gal 5:19-21)

I would like to focus on three words in this passage: jealousy, envy, and strife.  First we will look at the Greek word meanings and then the English dictionary definitions for each word.

JEALOUSY, n.
The word “jealousy” comes from the Greek word “zelos,” meaning “properly heat, that is, (figuratively) ‘zeal’ (in a favorable sense, ardor; in an unfavorable one, jealousy, as of a husband [figuratively of God], or an enemy, malice): - emulation, envy (-ing), fervent mind, indignation, jealousy, zeal.” (Strong’s)

“1. That passion of peculiar uneasiness which arises from the fear that a rival may rob us of the affection of one whom we love, or the suspicion that he has already done it; or it is the uneasiness which arises from the fear that another does or will enjoy some advantage which we desire for ourselves. A man's jealousy is excited by the attentions of a rival to his favorite lady. A woman's jealousy is roused by her husband's attentions to another woman. The candidate for office manifests a jealousy of others who seek the same office. The jealousy of a student is awakened by the apprehension that his fellow will bear away the palm of praise. In short, jealousy is awakened by whatever may exalt others, or give them pleasures and advantages which we desire for ourselves. Jealousy is nearly allied to envy, for jealousy, before a good is lost by ourselves, is converted into envy, after it is obtained by others. (e.g., Jealousy is the apprehension of superiority.); 2. Suspicious fear or apprehension.” (Note: This means the fear of a belief that is founded on sufficient evidence to give preponderation to the mind, but insufficient to induce certainty). (Webster’s Dictionary).

The Bible tells us that it was out of jealousy or envy that the Pharisees had handed Jesus over to Pilate to be crucified (Mk 15:10).  They saw the multitudes who followed Him and listened to Him. They saw the miracles He did.  And they were jealous of Him.  Just as the jealousy that King Saul had for David caused him to try and take David's life, so it was with the Pharisees with respect to Jesus.

STRIFE, n.
The word strife comes from the Greek word “eris,” meaning “Of uncertain affinity; a quarrel, that is, (by implication) wrangling: - contention, debate, strife, variance.” (Strong’s)

According to Webster’s dictionary, one of the definitions of strife is: “1. Exertion or contention for superiority; contest of emulation, either by intellectual or physical efforts. Strife may be carried on between students or between mechanics.” (Webster’s Dictionary)

For example, a student can think to herself, "My classmate is always getting excellent scores, so I have to be as good or better than her."  Or "She is such a gifted artist and is always receiving accolades for her artwork, I must outdo her and create more impressive artwork."  They are always trying to "one-up" the other person. 

This can even occur in spiritual aspects of life.  For example, a young man can strive to pray as much or more than his brother in Christ.  If he sees that his brother prays for one hour, then he prays for at least an hour or more.  If his brother prays for two hours, then he will pray for two or more hours. And so it is.

But it is not just the quantity of your prayer that matters.  It is the quality of your prayers. Our Lord Jesus told a parable about two men who went to pray.

"And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 'Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: "God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me, the sinner!" I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.'"  (Luk 18:9-14)

Both men could have prayed in the temple for the same amount of time, let's say one hour.  However, only one man returned home justified.  God was pleased with one and not the other, even though they prayed in the same place for the same period of time.

You can be like the Pharisee and pray for just as long as the other person beside you. But if your heart is not right with God, if you don't have love, if you seek to put yourself above that other person, if you trust in your righteousness, if you seek to be superior to them, and you view them with contempt, then you will not be pleasing God at all.  In fact, he may be pleased with the other person, rather than you, even though you pray just as much or more than them. So watch your attitude and be careful. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

EN'VY, v.t.
The word envying in Paul’s letter to the Galatians comes from the Greek word “phthonos,” meaning “ill will (as detraction), that is, jealousy (spite): - envy.” (Strong’s)

According to Webster’s dictionary, one of the definitions of envy is: “1. To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account.”  Webster’s also gives the Latin origin of the word envy: “L. invideo, in and video, to see against, that is, to look with enmity.”

As I stated in my article Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, the apostle Paul said, “I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:21b).

In that same passage he said, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” (Gal 5:15).

This can even find its way into the heart of God's ministers. If you are a pastor, don't envy another pastor, because he has a larger church with more members or a better building. Be content with what you have. (Also see Popularity of the Gospel and Persecuted or Popular?).

Regarding One Another as Better Than Ourselves
So what kind of attitude should we have toward one another? Paul said, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.” (Gal 5:22-26).

He also said, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Gal 6:3)

And he wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Php 2:3-4).

If we are all regarding one another as better than ourselves, then we will be lifting each other up, helping each other to reach heaven, and the Lord will be pleased.

Members of One Body
Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.” (1Co 12:12-31)

We are all members of one body, the Body of Christ.  We need each other!  Not all of us are called to be an eye or a mouth.  Some are called to be a hand or foot.  And we should be content with our identity in the Body. We should be satisfied with who God made us to be. Each member has it’s own unique purpose, and that does not make it better than the others.

For example, even utensils have their own unique purpose. A spoon has its purpose and a fork has its own purpose. There are times when we need a spoon, like when we need to scoop honey or eat soup.  In those instances a fork will not do.  But what if the spoon envied the fork, because it was used so much more and for such important tasks like eating meat and potatoes. Likewise, the butter knife is so important for tasks like spreading butter or peanut butter on our bread.  But what if the butter knife was jealous, because the steak knife was so sharp and could cut through the toughest meats?  Not everyone can be the sharpest knife, but we all have our own purpose for which God created us, and let us be content with that.  Let’s walk with excellence in the purpose God has called us to, not wishing we could be like someone else.

The More Excellent Way 
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he wanted to show them a more excellent way, which is the way of love.  He wrote:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1Co 13:1-13)

We should earnestly desire the greater gifts, as Paul said. However, let's be careful that in our pursuit of the greater spiritual gifts that we always continue to walk in love. Otherwise, you can be a very gifted person and it will profit you nothing.

Motivated by Others
Paul wrote to the Hebrews, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." (Heb 10:24). There is nothing wrong with being motivated by others to do the right thing and to please the Lord, as long as we are walking in love and not in jealousy, envy, or strife.  Often times we are motivated to excellence by the godly actions of others.  When you see someone living in a way that is pleasing to the Lord, it should encourage you to do the same. It is not only with words that we encourage one another, but also by our actions. Therefore, if your brother or sister's walk with God spurs you on toward love and good deeds, that is a healthy thing.

Divine Revelations about Sports
Finally, I would like to say a word specifically about sports. These sins that will keep you from heaven, including jealousy, strife, and envy, are especially evident in the realm of professional and collegiate sports, where there is hatred, anger, brawling, envy, greed and covetousness, which is idolatry. Both the players and the fans are guilty.

In my article Vision of Hell by Emmanuel Agyarko, I wrote that in this vision, Emmanuel saw people in hell for involvement in the occult.  This included many famous and not so famous football players. He also saw Marc-Vivien FoĆ©, the Cameroonian footballer who died during a football match in France in 2003.  He even saw the fans on their way to hell, because many of them were involved in idolatry.

In Rachael Mushala's End Time Visitations blog, on November 20, 2014 she wrote the following about the god of Soccer: "Last night, as I prayed, the Lord Jesus Christ showed me a common form of idolatry. It's not worshiping statues. It's soccer. In a vision of the Lord, He showed me a lot of soccer fans and before each one of them was a small carved idol."

"The Lord made me understand that these were not literal carved idols but that they represented the idol of soccer which many people worship. The Lord Jesus Christ showed big chains that bound these people. In a separate vision, the Lord Jesus Christ said we need to strip down everything that stands between us and Him. He also told me that we need to seek Him more diligently as time is running out. We need to pray without ceasing."

Putting it All Together
If you are always striving to be better than someone else or to be like him or her, you will miss what God has in store for you. Don't covet people's spiritual gifts. If you are envying others, being jealous of them, and striving with them, you will surely miss heaven. This can even happen with respect to how you view yourself in relation to the spirituality of others, such as their prayer lives. It also applies to every area of life, including ministry, Church life, academics, fine arts, business, and sports. 

This sort of unhealthy competition or spirit of "one-upmanship" should not even be named among God's holy people. Beware of any such sinful attitude that may creep into your heart. Those who live like that do not inherit the kingdom of God. So let us be completely humble and determine in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit to walk in love, which is the greatest of all. It’s the more excellent way.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Photo of runner used with permission by Indiana Runner.

Author's note: You may also want to read my other posts called, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Pressing on Toward the Goal, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, Taking Heaven by Force, Holy Living in a Perverted World , Salvation with Fear and Trembling, The Obedience of Faith, Doing What is Right, Faith Works!, The Apostasy Parables, and Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?  I also recommend Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, in which she saw a man of God in hell for relying on His obedience to the Law to save him. You may visit the Seeking the Lord Directory, and also find a collection of my most popular blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.