Saturday, October 15, 2016

Seeking Glory from God

Thou Art Worthy by Charity Lacroix
Dear God-seekers,

From whom are you seeking praise and honor? Is it from men or from God? The Lord taught about this in a discourse with the Jews recorded in the fifth chapter of John's gospel. He said:

"I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" (Joh 5:41-44)

To begin with, let's focus on two phrases. He said, "I do not receive glory from men," and "you receive glory from one another."  In order to correctly understand these statements, we need to define a coupe of key words first. In this passage, the Greek word for "glory" is "doxa" meaning "glory, honor, praise, or worship." So some translations use the word "praise". Moreover, the word "receive" is a bad translation on the part of most English translations, and the use of the word "accept" in the NASB is just as inadequate. The Greek word is "lambano" meaning "strive to obtain, reach after, take, lay hold of, get, get back." It is not a passive word.

Therefore, when Jesus said, "I do not receive glory from men" (Joh 5:41), He meant did not strive to obtain or reach after honor from men. He also said, "But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges." (Joh 8:50). Even though He is worthy of glory, He still did not seek it for Himself, but the Father sought it. And Jesus sought to bring glory to the Father. He explained, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, 'He is our God'." (Joh 8:54)

One example of Jesus not seeking the honor of men was when they decided to make Him their king. "Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, 'This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.' So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone." (Joh 6:14-15). He withdrew to a solitary place, so that they could not accomplish what they wanted to do. He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mt 20:28), not to be made king on earth by men and die a natural death. He was already a King, but His kingdom was and still is from another world (Joh 18:36-37). His Kingdom is a secret kingdom. He first had to suffer and be rejected by men before He was glorified (Lk 9:22; 17:25; Mk 8:31).

However, He did accept it when it was appropriate, such as the time when the little children were praising Him. "As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.' But Jesus answered, 'I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!'" (Luk 19:37-40). He also accepted honor from His disciples. For He said, "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am." (Joh 13:13, NIV). For example, there was the occasion when Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." (Mat 16:16-17). So we see that Jesus did accept glory, honor, and praise from men, however, He did not strive to obtain it.

On the contrary, the Jews, especially the Pharisees, sought after and strove to obtain praise from one another. They enjoyed the praises of men. They loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God (Joh 12:43). He said, "They love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called 'Rabbi' by others." (Mt 23:7, NIV). They did not seek the glory that is from the only God (Joh 5:44). The word "seek" is "zeteo" meaning "seek, seek for, seek after, aim at, strive, after, desire, crave, demand something."

We must not seek to obtain, strive after, or try to get praise from men (1 Thes 2:6). "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." (Mt 6:2, NIV). If you strive after honor from men, you have already received your reward in full, and there will be no reward in heaven for you. "We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts." (1 Thes 2:4b, NIV). "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal 1:10b, NIV). Jesus told the Jews that did not receive Him (Joh 5:43) that their seeking of honor from men was a hindrance that was keeping them from believing in Him. He said, "How can you believe" when you do that? (Joh 5:44). You cannot be a servant of Christ and seek to gain honor from men or to be a man pleaser.

As with the Jewish religious leaders of Christ's day, titles are still one way that men today seek to obtain honor from men. In my article, Visitation of Jesus to Samuel Oghenetega, I reported that the Lord gave a warning to those answering to big titles. He said, "Preach the Truth or else you will be cast into the bottomless put. Tell those answering with big titles like Bishop, Archbishop, Most Reverend, Reverend, Right Reverend, I don’t know them by that. I know them by their name and their works." (see Matthew 23:8-10). Our "Senior Pastor" is the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pe 5:4), as I wrote in my article, Our Senior Pastor. Nobody else truly deserves to be called by that title.

When people seek honor from men, it keeps them from obeying God. That's why Peter and John did not pay attention to the Jewish Sanhedrin council, when they ordered the apostles to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men." (Ac 5:29).

On the other hand, King Herod is an example of a man pleaser. He "laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also." (Ac 12:1b-3a). Herod's desire for praise from men ultimately cost him his life. "On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, 'This is the voice of a god, not of a man.' Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died." (Ac 12:21-23, NIV). Governor Felix was another one like that. He left Paul imprisoned as a favor to the Jews (Ac 24:27). Governor Festus was the same way, wishing to do the Jews a favor (Ac 25:9). Governor Pilate was another example of a man pleaser, agreeing to have the Lord crucified to satisfy the crowd, even though he knew Jesus was innocent (Mk 15:15). There are plenty of examples of those who seek the praise of men, rather than the glory of God. But this must not be so in the Church.

We must make every effort to obtain glory from the only God. We must seek after and strive for honor from Him. "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." (Rom 2:7, NIV). We seek the glory not of ourselves, but of the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We seek to glorify God. We must do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). And in the end He will glorify us in His presence. We will share in the glory of Christ, if we share in His sufferings now (Rom 8:17).

If anyone honors us or praises us, we need to deflect it to God and not accept it for ourselves. What do we have that we did not receive? (1 Cor 4:7). We have no reason to be proud or take any credit, since all that we have comes from Him. Any gifts, talents, or abilities we have all come from His hand. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, flowing down from the Father of the heavenly lights (James 1:17). We can do nothing apart from Jesus (Joh 15:5). Anything good you see in me is Jesus, and all the mistakes are mine. We say, "Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness." (Ps 115:1). But, "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17). He alone deserves all the praise, all the glory, and all the honor. He alone is worthy. "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Php 4:20). "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." (Rom 11:36)

Attribution notice: Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, except where otherwise noted. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. The "Thou Art Worthy" illustration is by my daughter, Charity Lacroix. You may find more of her lovely artwork at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, you may also like For the Glory of God Alone, The Light and the Glory, Whatever You Do, Do All Like This, Pleasing the Lord, Success in God's Eyes, Having a Servant's Heart, Holy Living in a Perverted World, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, Seeing Jesus, Loving Him, Character and Glory, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, One Thing, Our Senior Pastor, Ask for the Ancient Paths, Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God, Living a Life Worthy of the Lord, Aim for Perfection, and The Wardrobe of the Saints. I highly recommend reading Visitation of Jesus to Samuel Oghenetega, Only the Holy -- Three Shocking Testimonies and Holy Fire Baptism. You may find the Main Directory for this blog at Home, and also 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.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Loving Deeply

Dear God-seekers,

There is a verse in Scripture that some may misunderstand to mean that we should pretend to love others. It says, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col 3:14). When we think of putting something on, we might think of play acting, pretending, or faking it. But this is not what the Word teaches.

The apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1Pe 4:8, NIV).  Another version says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another...” (1Pe 4:8a, NASB). Notice the level of importance Peter gave to this. He said it was “above all” or top priority. And he called for us to love each other deeply. There is no way that such love can be faked.

When we love one another deeply, it comes from the heart, so it is not a shallow love that is only visible on the surface like a plastic mask we wear. The Lord can see all the way down to the heart and He knows if it is deep or not. If we love deeply, then it is coming from deep within us, and is not that which we only give the outward appearance of doing.

Paul said, “Love must be sincere.” (Rom 12:9a, NIV). Other versions say, “Let love be genuine” (Rom 12:9a, ESV), and “Let love be without hypocrisy” (Rom 12:9a, NASB). If we love deeply, it is sincere love, genuinely from the heart, unfeigned, and has no hypocrisy to it. It is not make-believe, made-up, simulated, artificial, or false. It is real, and people can tell the difference.

The Lord has not called us to only have this kind of love for those who love us. If we did that, we would be no different from the pagans, for even they love those who love them (Mt 5:46). The flesh can easily do that. He has called us to love our enemies and to bless those who curse us (Mt 5:44). The only way to love others like this is to die to self. When people love us, it is pleasant, and it is easy to love them in return. But when we love those who hate us and spitefully use us or mistreat us, then it is not something the flesh can do. It is only possible by the power of the Spirit, which is why it is a fruit of the Spirit.

Genuine love comes from God, not from the natural man. John said, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1Jn 4:7-8).

It is only possible to love others genuinely when you first know the love of God for you in Christ, which surpasses knowledge. "We love because He first loved us." (1 Joh 4:19).

When we find ourselves in a situation where it is very difficult to love someone, we must remember that it is not optional, it is a command. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Joh 13:34)

John affirmed this in his epistles. He said, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1Jn 3:23). He also said, “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1Jn 4:21)

John taught that hatred is incompatible with the Light and has no place in the life of the disciple. “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1Jn 2:9-11)

However, what we find so commonly in the church today is cold love. We may receive a smile and handshake and that is all. Or we may receive worse than that. Many are they who love with words but not with deeds. But the rare kind of love is the genuine kind.

Jesus always demonstrated genuine love for others. But the Pharisees, for example, did not. They simply flattered Jesus for their own advantage to deceive and trap Him.

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, ‘Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?’” (Mat 22:15-18).

This kind of love is mere lip service that covers over what is truly in the heart. As the proverb says, "Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart." (Prov 26:23. NIV).

Judas also had this kind of love. “Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you have come for.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.” (Mat 26:48-50). Luke’s gospel records Jesus asking him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luk 22:48). Like the Pharisees, Judas could kiss Jesus with evil intent. It may have looked good on the outside, but Jesus could see right through it.

The church of Ephesus experienced a lapse of love. The Lord said to the angel of that church, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.” (Rev 2:4-5). They had left their first love and consequently no longer did the things they did when they first came to know Jesus. Therefore, the Lord rebuked them, told them to remember the great height or high-quality love they once had, which they had fallen from, and He called them to repent or else have their lampstand removed.

Jesus warned us that in the last days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Mat 24:12, NIV). As wickedness increases around us, we must be careful not to let our love grow cold and dull. We must keep asking the Lord, “Don't let my love grow cold! Light the fire again.” We need the fire of God’s love, His holy fire, to burn inside our hearts, so that we would be real and not be ashamed.

As we go through life, our every thought, every motive, every word is being recorded, and we will one day have to give an account for it (2 Cor 5:10; Rom 14:10-12; Rev 2:23; 22:12). God is monitoring us to see if we do everything with love. After all, He is love and the meaning of life is love. That’s why the two greatest commandments are about love.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:30-31, NIV).

Love is the mark of a true disciple. The Lord said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (Joh 13:35). That is the distinguishing characteristic by which we are supposed to be known worldwide. That's what I want, and I hope you do, too. Therefore, may the Lord help us to deny self, and live the crucified and Spirit-filled life of love.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted."His Love Endures Forever" calligraphy by my daughter, Charity Lacroix. You may find more of her artwork and calligraphy at A Brush with Life.

Author's note: You may also want to read my other posts called Filled Up to All the Fullness of God, Law of Love in the New Testament, The Wardrobe of the Saints, Is Obedience Optional?, Holy Fire Baptism, The Burning Ones, The Refiner's Fire, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, The Law of Christ, Fruit in Every Season, As the Still, Fair Court, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, and The Apostasy Parables. 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?"
_________________________________________________

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.