To Be or not to Be… Born of God

That is the question…

More than a question asked by Hamlet about the meaning of life, for the Christian this is a question about the status of the soul.

This is a test of faith.

In this case the test of faith rests on what apostle John writes when he fights Gnosticism and heresy in the early church.  One of the pearls of John’s first letter is found in 1 John 3:9

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

A clear line can be drawn between those who live in sin continuously (make a practice of sinning), and those who do not persist in their sin but repent of it.   That line is a division between those who are born of God and those who are of the devil (1 John 3:8).

This is a radical concept.  Could it be that there is no in-between?  Is there no such thing as a lukewarm position of transition between these two polar opposites?

The answer is no.  One is either saved or unsaved.

Being born of God does not mean and we are completely free of sin in this life.  But we are not slaves to it.  We do not live in a pattern of continual sin.  The Holy Spirit convicts us and leads us to repentance when we do sin, and He points us to the cross where we find forgiveness.

The presence of this work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is what sets believers apart from non-believers.

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Depression: Physical and Spiritual Perspectives

Major Depression is a state of sadness and apathy which lasts at least two weeks, and typically longer, and is severe enough to interfere with daily life.  In order to have the diagnosis of major depression, five of the following must be present:

(1) depressed mood

(2) markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day

(3) significant weight loss weight gain

(4) insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day

(5) psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day

(6) fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day

(7) feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

(8) diminished ability to think or concentrate

(9) recurrent thoughts of death  and suicide

A medical doctor can make the diagnosis after a careful physical and mental status exam.

These are the physical and emotional aspects of depression and a way for us to diagnose it.

What about the spiritual aspects?

I ask this question because to this day we only have THEORIES with respect to the pathophysiology of depression.  There is no concrete lab test, neurodiagnostic test, imaging test, or any other type of medical test accepted into standard practice TODAY which can diagnose depression.

There is not any palpable, measurable physical test accepted as standard to help with this problem…

Could it be that this particular psychiatric disturbance has a spiritual cause?

I do not endorse the idea that every illness is caused by an evil spirit.  Most of the diseases we are facing whether genetic, infectious, or others, are based in our broken bodies, a brokeness we have carried with us since our fall in the garden of Eden.

But in the case of depression (and other psychiatric disorders) something dark is at work.  In medicine we theorize about neurotransmitter imbalances and impaired synaptic transmission; and we have developed drugs to flood brain synapses with these deficient neurotransmitters with some success in treatment.

But the emotional and spiritual darkness associated with depression raises the possibility of demonic influence over the victims of depression.

This explanation will not be found in the DSM-V, the diagnostic manual for psych disorders.

But the Bible gives us some clues.

The absence of the fruit of the Spirit from one’s life may lead to a state of depression.  Galatians 5 gives us the list of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace…

Without the fruit of the Spirit in one’s life, it could be that the person may not have the Holy Spirit and His power of regeneration.  We can make this judgement based on the evidence at hand since we cannot know for sure what is in that person’s heart.

The absence of joy and peace are mainstay characteristics of depression.  The absence of the fruit of the Spirit could indicate the absence of the Holy Spirit.

This is key to the demonic influence over the persistent emotional state in the setting of major depression.

Christians are not immune to doubts, trials, illness, even feeling down.  But losing hope and losing the fruit of the Spirit in a persistent depression brings into question the presence of the work of the Holy Spirit in their life.

The Holy Spirit is our Intercessor, the One who stands in the gap for us, based on Romans 8, and as His subjects we must appeal to Him when we are down.

Depression must be fought against “by the Spirit.”

Christians have an eternal hope they cannot lose.  They should not persist in a state of depression.

Psalms 42:11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

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To Grieve the Holy Spirit

Isaiah 63:10 may be one the most shocking verse in the entire Bible.

“Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.”

Can a believer who has the Holy Spirit living inside of them fathom this truth!?

The people of Israel have made an enemy of God and His Holy Spirit by their idolatry. And the Holy Spirit Himself fought against them.

What a terrifying thought for a true believer.

This is why Paul gives us a stern warning in Ephesians 4:30

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”

How can we grieve the Holy Spirit?

Under the NIV heading “Instructions for Christian Living” in Ephesians 4, Paul mentions the things that grieve the Holy Spirit: sensuality, impurity, greed, deceitful desires, falsehood, stealing, unwholesome talk, all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Should a believer ever fall in sin, he must not persist in that fall as John explains in 1 John 3:9

“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”

Conviction of sin is the work of the Holy Spirit and repentance quickly follows for the believer. Should that repentance not immediately follow, the Holy Spirit will be grieved.

Other than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, grieving the Holy Spirit may be the biggest spiritual disaster in one’s life.

To listen to the Holy Spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit in us… And we must always thank Him for His presence and guide in our lives.

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Abortion Survival: A Miracle of Life in Ohio

In a classic case of Romans 1 suppression of truth, the irony of ironies has taken place.

In a case of darkness, death, and abortion, God has ordained that life will defeat death.

Ariel Knights is a pro-choice 22-year-old woman who sought to abort her second pregnancy due to a medical condition where the uterus is separated into two compartments.  This condition makes the pregnancy high risk due to increased likelihood of preterm labor and other possible complications.

She underwent the brutal procedure in an abortion mill in Akron, Ohio only to find out in a later emergency room visit that she continued to have a baby in her uterus.

And the baby was alive! And unharmed!

This is an absolute physical miracle.  One has to wonder, even with a divided uterus, how can a tiny, fragile life survive the slaughter of the suction cannula and the forceps of the abortionist?

Blinded by the belief that this baby was a threat to her, Knights sought abortion again, but no clinic would take her complicated case, so she opted to carry the pregnancy and eventually deliver a baby who is doing well.  She calls the little girl her “miracle baby.”

Given the amazing miracle this mom experienced, she continues to be pro-choice and open to the idea abortion.

The Bible tells us that God speaks “many times in many ways” (Heb 1:1) but people “in their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”  (Rom 1:18)

This young woman was asked about the irony of the failed abortion, and she revealed that she is turning a blind eye to it:

“That’s a sore subject to think about. I mean, it’s just hard, thinking she’s here and thinking, if they would have done their job. … It’s just something I don’t like to think about.”

Ariel Knights is suppressing the truth by refusing to be convicted by the miracle that has taken place in her life.

She knows that abortion is murder, but she is not willing to think about it.  This would identify her sinful state which she is currently suppressing, as apostle Paul explains in Romans 1.

Judgement and conviction in our hearts with respect to sin is the work of the Holy Spirit.

I pray that God will use this amazing, awesome miracle to make Ariel realize her need for a Savior.

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Who Raised Jesus from the Dead?

The straight forward answer is that God raised Jesus from the dead as Acts 2:24 states: “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

But I love the trinitarian implications found in Scripture with respect to Christ’s resurrection.

Most references to God raising Jesus up refer to God the Father.  Even the mockers testified truth when they said in Matthew 27:43: “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” The Father-Son relationship was validated by the resurrection, and God the Father proved to be faithful in resurrecting Jesus.

Scripture also gives us evidence that Christ’s power was involved in the resurrection, as Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity.  In John 11:25 Jesus makes the powerful statement “I am the resurrection and the life,” assuming to Himself the power to life.  Jesus also said in John 10:17-18, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again…  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The Father has assigned the task of life to the Son.

The Holy Spirit is also closely implicated in the greatest and most important event to ever grace the face of the universe.  Romans 1:4 says that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”  And Romans 8:11 makes it clear that the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing us to life is similar to the work of resurrecting Jesus: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit have achieved the greatest and most glorious act in this work of redemption when Jesus was resurrected.

And we rejoice as we look forward to God resurrecting up His saints in a similar fashion!

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Father, the Hour Has Come…

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

In the moments and minutes before His arrest, Jesus delivers one of the most amazing passages found on the pages of Scripture.

The glory of God is evident as central in this prayer.

But also central is the subject of Christ’s sacrifice: God’s children.

Because of this prayer the love of God is in us, and Christ is in us via His Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper tonight, let us not forget that Christ lifted us up in prayer in the last hours of His life.

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Was Jesus Too Harsh in Cursing the Fig Tree?

As we progress through Passion Week, I cannot help but to ask this question about the events which took place on Passion Monday.

Jesus was returning to Jerusalem the day after His triumphal entry, and the Bible tells us that he went to look for fruit in a fig tree but He found none.

“When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”” Mark 11:13-14

At first glance one may be shocked at the fact that Jesus was looking for figs when it was not the season for figs as Mark states.  Do we have an illogical God? Why would Jesus look for fruit in this fig tree before its season?

The answer lies in some simple facts about the fig tree and its season of fruit.

1. The season for collecting figs began right after Passover, so they were just about to enter the season.  For that reason alone figs should have been present on the tree.

2. The fig tree produces its fruit before its leaves.  The fact that the tree was full of leaves indicates that fruit should have been present.

3. A clue is given in Mark 11:13 that attests to the expectation of the presence of fruit: “And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it.” The sign was the fact that the tree was in leaf.  The expectation is that the fruit must be present, hence the logical action to look for figs.

Everything that Jesus said and did had deep meaning, and such was the case with the cursing of the fig tree.

First, there is symbolic meaning here about those who appear to have the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, but they do not.  The result of hypocrisy is the presence of leaves not fruit.  Leaves are merely the advertisement for fruit in the case of the fig tree.  This must be a stern warning to all believers that if we have the Holy Spirit in us, we must also have the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit to bless others with it.

Second, the fig tree is a metaphor for the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  The cursing of the fig tree may very well represent the judgement of God upon Israel for their fruitless faith or lack of faith. Israel was an idolatrous nation which repeatedly rejected God despite miraculous interventions by God on their behalf.  Even their godliness in the time preceding the coming of Christ was an empty exercise in ritualism and legalism.

Jesus cursed the fig tree because it did not produce fruit at the appropriate time.

But in the new covenant He sent us the Holy Spirit who lives in us… and if He lives in us we must produce fruit, because He will return one day and He will seek the fruit of His work.

And that glorious work we celebrate this Passion Week.

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And Now, Father, Glorify Me…

We are quickly approaching the Passion Week which is the most important time period in Christendom, culminating with the en-bloc event of death and resurrection of Christ, the greatest event to grace the face of the universe.

Without the death of Christ there is no atonement, there is no substitution, there is no forgiveness of sin.  And without the resurrection of Christ there would not be any Christianity.

This Man left His mark on human history like none other.  Even secular folks will agree with that.

But this Man was infinitely more than just a mere man.  He was divine.  He was God Himself, the Son of God.

We know that Jesus spent long periods of time in prayer communicating with the Father, and in John 17 we are given a glimpse, a revelation, a majestic treat of  the content of one of His prayers.  This special prayer occurred Thursday night of Passion Week, before Jesus went into Gethsemane where His arrest happened, and one day before his death.

He started the prayer with the final motive and outcome of the entire chain of events which would take place, God’s glory: “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.”  John 17:1

The culmination of God’s redemptive plan brings Him the most glory via a most unlikely path, the death of the Son of God followed by His resurrection.  Such a method is contrary to any human approach.  That is why God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and God’s ways are not our ways…

Things that Jesus communicates to the Father in this prayer are incomprehensible for us.  Attesting to His divinity, Jesus says: “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” John 17:5

The same glory that will unfold in His death, resurrection, ascension, and return, the Son already had with the Father before the institution of time and the foundations of this world came to be!  This concept alone, under the revelation of the Holy Spirit, should make every Christian bow down in their spirit and worship God because He left that ultimate glory to come and die in our place!

But this is not the end of the story of glory…

Apostle Paul tells us that we will be glorified with Him, not because of us, but because He is in us: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Col 1:27

As we approach Passion Week, meditate on Christ’s unimaginable glory and the fact that He, by His grace will share it with us one day.

The Promise of Prayer

I will pray for you.

I will keep you in my prayers.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

You are in my thoughts.

There is a spectrum of promises in the above statements from a very strong statement like “I will pray for you” to a much weaker declaration “you are in my thoughts.”

These statements have become clichés in our godless society and I have seen even secular people make them.  We have arrived at a point where such promises have lost their values because people may not follow through on these difficult to fulfill promises.

So we water them down.  We go from promising to dedicate time in prayer for someone to promising to think about someone.

I would like to warn Delight in Truth readers to guard your promises carefully, and not make the promise of prayer if you know you cannot keep it.  Prayer is not something to be taken lightly.  Prayer is antithetical to everything that makes up the carnal man, and that is why prayer is not easy.

When you promise to pray for someone, you promise to engage in a spiritual battle on their behalf, and it is a great thing when you follow through on it.  When you pray for someone you are interceding for them, and it literally means you are standing in the gap for them in prayer.  Paul confirms this in Ephesians 6:18 where he talks about  “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…”

And when you do follow through on your promise to pray you must remember the all-powerful Intercessors you have on your side!

  1. Jesus Himself our LORD and savior is the ultimate intercessor, and the best thing you can do is to lift up your subject to Jesus.  As a man you cannot be an effective advocate in prayer without Jesus.  I love how Isaiah presents Christ as the final intercessor to the Father: “He [the LORD] saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.  Isaiah 59:16
  2. The Holy Spirit is also your intercessor and ally in prayer and will sustain you as you pray for someone.  My favorite chapter in the Bible, Romans 8, provides amazing Scripture about the Holy Spirit helping us in prayer: “26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Prayer is spiritual warfare and it is not easy, but when we have Jesus and the Holy Spirit as intercessors, we can become effective intercessors ourselves for the those who need us to pray for them.

We must take the promise of prayer for others very seriously and ground ourselves in the teaching of Scripture that Jesus and His Holy Spirit will intercede for our prayer subject!

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Hollywood, the Bible, and Weird Things

The Bible is the number one show on TV with 14.8 million viewers during the season premiere.  Given the large amount of professing Christians in the US, that is not a surprise.  The Passion of the Christ enjoyed this type of success for the same reason.

I admit it bothers me (slightly) that the most depraved industry in the world (other than the abortion industry) is taking advantage of the Word of God to make money.  Hollywood struck gold with biblical themes, and The Bible will be on display until Easter making the most of it.

Not only are they using the Word of God to make money, but Mark Burnett the producer of The Bible is now marketing to Christians who are not grounded in the Word of God.

Very ironic.

Burnett has borrowed on old technique previously used by the producers of The Passion to increase the shows audience.

He is marketing his perception that “weird things happened” during the filming of The Bible to invoke the work of the Holy Spirit in the making of the show.

From the Christian Post:

“Reportedly, when Jesus referenced the Holy Spirit as being like the wind, a huge gust of air blew across the entire crew for 20 seconds, which was filming the scene on a very still night in the Sahara desert.

In another incident, the set’s snake wrangler, who usually recovered one or two snakes per day on set to protect crew members, found 48 cobras and vipers hidden near the scene of the cross, where the crew was to film Jesus’ crucifixion.

The third incident, according to Burnett, happened when the crew was filming a baptism scene in a giant Sahara reservoir and part of Jesus’ detailed costume, which took months to create, floated away.

According to Burnett, a young boy from miles away returned the costume days later.”

Could Burnett possibly be trying to fool naive Christians into believing that God has given His stamp of approval to the show?

That the Holy Spirit really had a special presence there during the filming of the show?

That would sure make the audience grow… Naive Christians will be amazed by these incidents.  They would rather watch a show with special effects and beautiful actors, a show about the Bible, than read the Bible itself.

Ultimately, I hope the show will spark the interest of unbelievers to pick up a Bible or perhaps attend a church where they can hear the Gospel.

But for Burnett to imply the work of the Holy Spirit in this project is manipulative.