“That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin. Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God— as is written about me in the Scriptures.’” First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.”
Hebrews 10:5-18 NLT
Jesus is the Supreme sacrifice!!!
The Old Covenant could not pay the sin debt. The sin of man could only be mercifully pushed away as the Israelites obeyed the ritual God had instructed. Mankind needed a sacrifice that would atone for sin once and for all. The Old Covenant could only allow man to come before God to be forgiven on a yearly basis. The time of year was called Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement. On that day the human high priest (Aaron, Moses older brother who was the first in the Levitical line) would enter the holy of holies to place the blood of an animal on the mercy seat (the lid on the Ark of the Covenant). The Ark of the Covenant (also referred to as the Ark of Testimony) was the place where God met man in His mercy. In fact, the lid was called the Mercy Seat. Two Cherubim (two winged beings) faced each other and spread their wings toward one another. The place between them was called the Mercy Seat. There, God met man with His mercy to forgive their transgressions for the year (see Exodus 25:10-22). Each year, the same process had to occur (see Leviticus 16 - whole chapter and Leviticus 23:26-32). Aaron would offer a bull for his own sin and a goat for the people's sin. The sin could only be pushed away but not washed away and forever forgotten. Two goats were taken from among the Israelites as part of the ritual. One goat was the sin offering, the other was a scapegoat. The scapegoat would be symbolic of the sins that would be carried away into the wilderness. Aaron would lay both hands upon the head of the scapegoat and symbolically impart the sins of the people upon it. The goat would then be taken by an appointed individual and released into the wilderness. Jesus did all of this for us. He was sinless and did not need a sin offering for Himself. He is our Eternal High Priest!!! He offered Himself as the sinless sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Only the blood of a sinless Lamb could cleanse the sin and suffice once and for all time. That blood was the blood of Jesus!!! He is the forever Mercy Seat!!! He is our forever scapegoat!!! He has forever expunged the record!
“Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.”
Hebrews 7:27 NLT
“With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.”
Hebrews 9:12 NLT
“If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.”
Hebrews 9:26 NLT
“so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Hebrews 9:28 NLT
“The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
Hebrews 10:1-4 NLT
Now re-read the beginning text of this devotional (Hebrews 10:5-18).
In Him we find grace and mercy!
“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
Hebrews 4:14-16 NLT
Is anyone shouting yet?? Hallelujah!!!!!!!
Curtis R. Norris
“In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.”
2 Timothy 2:20-21 NLT
God wants to use us for His special purposes. As His prized vessels we must strive to live a life that is pure and holy. We are not paper plates, styrofoam cups, or plastic spoons. We are Fine China dinnerware, silver utensils, and golden cups. We are not cheap and disposable place settings that are only meant for single use. We are bought with the blood of Jesus and we are created in Christ for Gods holy use. Let's consider the practical lesson here.
1. We are created in Christ for holy purposes. When we were saved we were transformed from sinful, cheap, and disposable to holy, valuable, and a precious part of the family.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Ephesians 2:10 NLT
2. We must allow God to use us when and how He chooses. We are His vessels, we do not own ourselves.
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT
3. We must submit to His cleansing because we are exposed to things of this world that require a regular washing. Just like we do the dishes after a meal we must allow God to keep us cleansed and purified as His vessels so we are prepared for each day.
All of us take showers or baths on a regular basis (or at least I hope we do). We don't bathe to become a human being. We bathe because we are human beings. We bathe to prepare ourselves for daily tasks. As Gods redeemed children we do not bathe ourselves in His Word daily to be saved, we bathe in His Word daily to perform our duties well.
“How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.”
Psalms 119:9 NLT
“Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.”
John 17:17 NLT
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
God wants to do very special things with each of our lives. We must not let the devil make us think that we are merely disposable. We are made for better things than what this world offers. Let's give ourselves to the Master as vessels that are purified in His blood, protected in His care, and prepared for His use. The Culinary Chef of the ages wants to place us in this world as His vessels of honor. Don't settle for less than His best!
Curtis R. Norris
“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.”
Titus 2:11-14 NLT
The grace of God - what an astounding thing! John Newton, the author of the song "Amazing Grace" knew that God's grace was, indeed, AMAZING! John was a former slave runner that was a wicked a vile man until he came to know Jesus. His life radically changed. In fact, his life was so changed that he became a pastor and had influence in the life of William Wilberforce, a member the British parliament. Wilberforce was an adamant fighter for the freedom of slaves. Eventually, his efforts paid off and slavery was defeated in the United Kingdom. This was an amazing demonstration of how God's grace can change a man, and the world. You can watch the story unfold in the movie called "Amazing Grace".
The grace of God is beyond the human level. Grace is divine! Only when we understand how awful our sin is can we appreciate the value of God's grace. His grace has been extended, in invitation, to all! The sad thing is that not all receive it. I am so glad I have been called by God's Spirit into this marvelous and matchless grace!! How about you?
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT
Now that we are accepted in Christ, by grace through faith, let us live a life indicative of His wonderful work in our lives. We must turn away from ungodliness of every kind and discipline ourselves to resist the sinful pleasures of this evil world. This world is a cesspool of evil allurement. We must submit our lives to the Lordship of Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to live through us. When we walk in the Spirit we will not yield ourselves to sin's fatal attractions.
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”
Galatians 5:16 NLT
When we do this we are, then, empowered by God to live a life of holiness. God wants us to perform good works as a result of salvation.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Ephesians 2:10 NLT
Good works are not a prerequisite of salvation! Good works are a result of salvation!!
A redeemed, transformed life will evidence that fact. You will know a tree by its fruit.
Jesus said this about false prophets:
“You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.”
Matthew 7:16-18 NLT
We are called to holy living.
“May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ —for this will bring much glory and praise to God.”
Philippians 1:11 NLT
Until Jesus returns, or we die before that event occurs, we must pursue godliness as we look to Him, and for Him!
“But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.”
1 Timothy 6:11 NLT
Jesus is coming back! We must live with this at the forefront of our hearts and minds. Until He returns we must be found doing God's work and will!
We must always be attentive to His ever watchful eye and His imminent return!
“You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.”
Matthew 24:44-47 NLT
Are you looking for His return and are you faithfully fulfilling your duty?
Curtis R. Norris
“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”
Philippians 3:20-21 NLT
Citizens of heaven! Now that's a statement worth making!!
Think about it. We who are born again are green card carrying citizens in a strange land. We don't belong in this evil world. Our citizenship is registered in heaven where Christ lives.
Before we came to Jesus we were under the tyrannical regime of Satan as his slaves. Now we are liberated citizens of heaven because we have been adopted into the family of God. We are now free from bondage. Our service to God is a willing one that flows from a heart of love and gratitude. He is our Father!!!
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
Romans 8:15 NLT
“In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.”
Ephesians 2:12 NLT
“So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.”
Ephesians 2:19 NLT
Can I hear you shouting in absolute glee? You should! If you are saved you should recognize that you are a member of God's family. You are royalty!
“...for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
1 Peter 2:9 NLT
We must behave like we are His children and that we are in a foreign land. We are His ambassadors. We cannot betray our Master and homeland. This world is not our home and we are only here for a short time. We must live in light of this fact. We must not live like we are home because we are on assignment. We must travel light and we must not make our current hotel room, or rented house, into our permanent residence. We must not get caught up in the glitz and glamor of this superficial and sensational society. Satan wants to attract us with his hyperbole and deceive us into thinking that this is home. IT IS NOT!! If this world is all there is, we are miserable creatures. No, God has redeemed us and reserved a place in eternity for us. We must keep our eyes on our homeland!!
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.”
Philippians 1:27 NLT
The "Good News" we are entrusted to carry to this world is freedom from sin in Jesus Christ the Savior! He is the One who has paid our debt, rescued us from death, and has promised us a home in the heaven that is yet to come.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.””
Revelation 21:1-4 NLT
There, we will be translated into new bodies that will never die!!
Our current dwelling is but a tent that is wearing out. One day soon we will move into our permanent dwelling that will never decay!!
“For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? ” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”
1 Corinthians 15:53-58 NLT
There, we will be at home!! There, we will work and enjoy the fruit of our labor. There, we will never know the sadness of sorrow. Satan and sin will be banished forever!!
We're not home yet children! Don't forget that!!
Curtis R. Norris
“Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.”
Acts of the Apostles 8:1-3 NLT
Yesterday I shared the story of Sauls conversion, how God used him mightily to spread the gospel to the known world, and how his name was changed to Paul in Acts 13:9. I included this passage of Scripture (Acts 8:1-3) as a reference to his zealous and vicious efforts to destroy the church of the Lord Jesus prior to his born again experience in Acts 9.
Today I want to focus on the result of the persecution. When this persecution took place the church had grown to a great number. Some estimate the number to be up to 20,000.
Let's rewind a moment. In Acts 1:15 we read:
“During this time, when about 120 believers were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them.” NLT
This group of 120 are the ones who abode in the upper room as Jesus had instructed in Luke 24:49 to wait for the promise of the Father. Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as "Paraclete" - the Greek word for the "comforter, encourager, counselor, and advocate" in John 14:16. The Holy Spirit was going to be sent to empower them. These believers were now capable of having the presence of God's Spirit deposited inside them because the blood of Jesus had, once and for all, purged their transgressions.
“With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.”
Hebrews 9:12 NLT
In Acts 2 we read that this empowerment occurred. The church (God's people) was instituted by Jesus in Matthew 16:18. In Acts 2 the church was inaugurated and empowered when they were baptized by His Spirit. This equipped them to preach and teach the gospel with His anointing. Mary, the physical mother of Jesus was among the number (see Acts 1:14). Even she had to be baptized by the Holy Spirit! Yes, Mary is a respected woman in history. However, she was a human vessel that God used to give birth to the physical Lord Jesus! We call Him the Son of God because He was Divine in His origin, pre-incarnate as God in the beginning (see John 1:1-18; 8:58; 14:8-12; Colossians 1:15-16; 2:9; I John 1:1-5 and more), yet born in human flesh through the woman named Mary. She gave birth to Him humanly. He gave birth to her spiritually. She was here because of Him. He was the Creator and yet he came here among us through the avenue of a baby by a woman. His Father is God!!! Only a sinless blood could redeem us. His blood was sinless because God was His Father!!! He did this to experience humanity in every facet - from conception to adulthood (see Hebrews 4:15). Mary was no more than a human vessel, like any of us, who must have the Spirit of God re-deposited into our lives through the born again experience. Moses, Daniel, Peter, Paul, Billy Graham, etc. We all have to be born again. None of us are holy without the blood of Christ!!! We all need the Spirit of God to baptize us with His presence and power!!!
Getting back to the number within the early church. In Acts 2 we read that 3,000 were saved on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:41).
In Acts 4:4 we read:
“But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000.” NLT
Acts. 4:4 indicates the number of men. When we add the women and children to that equation we easily come to approximately 20,000 people associated with the early church.
There is one problem: The church is just in Jerusalem! God wanted the church to go to all the world (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-20).
Acts 1:8 says:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts of the Apostles 1:8 NLT
Up to this point (Acts 8:1-3) the church is only in Jerusalem. God used the persecution to drive the laity to other regions of the world. He even used the main persecutor (Saul - Paul) to proclaim His truth to the world. From Acts 8:1 through the end of the book of Acts we read how the church took the gospel to the known world of the time.
In Acts 8:1 we read that all the believers "except the apostles" were scattered to the regions of Judea and Samaria. This meant that the laity (members, not overseers) of the church were dispersed. These laity established homes and began sharing their faith with the society around them. We read from Acts 13 and beyond how God used the church to send out missionaries like Paul and Barnabas to preach the good news of the kingdom to the world. This continued until even Caesars household (the Roman Emperor) had even heard the gospel.
“And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar’s household.”
Philippians 4:22 NLT
In Acts 28:17-31 we read that Paul preached under guard to the Roman authorities and anyone else who came to his place of lodging.
We, too, must be about our Father's business of preaching the gospel to the world until Christ Jesus our Lord returns!
Preaching the gospel is every believers responsibility!! No, not everyone is a pastor but everyone can proclaim the message of salvation through Jesus Christ!
“And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.”
Matthew 24:14 NLT
Curtis R. Norris
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Galatians 2:20 KJV
Paul was a new man. The old man was dead. The life he used to live was a thing of the past. When he encountered the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (see Acts Chapter 9) his life was no longer the same. This devout Pharisee was instantaneously transformed by the presence and power of Jesus. His past life as a devout follower of Judaism was now radically changed!
Here is the resume' of this man:
“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Philippians 3:5-6 KJV
His whole life had been spent learning the Torah. He was, likely, the valedictorian of his religious studies class. He was multi-lingual and rising fast and strong among the religious ranks. Then, a man named Stephen, an early church elder, stood to preach a sermon that, by some estimations, brought conviction to the heart of this zealous Pharisee (see Acts 7: Whole Chapter). Saul, later known as Paul, is mentioned in verse 58 as the one who guarded the outer coats of those who stoned Stephen. Personally, I believe it was the conviction of the Holy Spirit, as Stephen preached, that tugged at him. He couldn't get away from the drawing of the Holy Spirit. His zeal against the church of Jesus became more fierce than ever. Perhaps his conviction made him fight all the more. Often, people under the conviction of the Holy Spirit resist His call. When this is the case, their hearts are left in turmoil. Such, I believe, was Sauls case. He viciously pursued those who were preaching Jesus as the Christ (see Acts 8:1-3). Then, although he tried, he couldn't run far enough away to escape the call of God in his life. He, dramatically, encountered Jesus on his trip to Damascus. From that point forward his life was never the same. He forsook all of his previous pursuits and passionately preached Jesus to the known world of his time.
"But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”
Philippians 3:5-10 KJV
Paul (changed from Saul - see Acts 13:9) was destined to be an emissary for the gospel of Jesus Christ. His life and work would be used by God to transform the world as we know it. His dying to self and his complete surrender to Jesus was paramount to his life being used in such a mighty way. This former strict observer of Jewish law was now a professor of liberty in Christ (see Galatians 5:1). I like to compare Moses of the Old Testament to Paul of the New Testament. One proclaimed the law of God and the other proclaimed the liberty of Jesus Christ! One led the children of Israel out of bondage of slavery in Egypt. The other led the children of God (Jew and Gentile) out of the bondage of slavery to sin through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
Application: We, too, must die to self and submit ourselves to the cross of Christ so that we may live to the glory of God and experience the resurrection power of God. Only when we lay our lives down in service to the Master do we truly live a life that matters!
Curtis R. Norris
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:2-4 NLT
Faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted. We can profess our faith with our words but true faith is proved in the fire.
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
1 Peter 1:7 NLT
When gold, silver, or any form of metal is placed in the fire it becomes molten - a liquid form. This is a refining process. In the refiners fire the impurities come to the surface and are separated. This is called "dross". Dross is scum. The scum is discarded as waste and the remaining liquid is a pure form that is ready to be used for whatever the appropriate application may be.
God will use the circumstances of our lives to bring the dross to the surface as well. In the heated moments of our lives we manifest our impurities. This is a moment of sanctification if we submit to the Holy Spirit and let Him clean the scum out our lives. Then, when the pure substance of our lives is formed, we are ready for God's purpose.
Life can be very trying. Trials and testings are a part of life. We can choose to place them in the Master Refiners hands and allow Him to utilize them for our good or we can let the devil use them to injure and destroy us. When we place them in Gods hands we can be assured that He will use these moments to purify, purge, and prepare us for His glory!
Do you want to be pure, purged and prepared? Trust Him to use the trials of life to prepare you for His purpose. God wants you to be a vessel of honor to His name! Don't be afraid of the fire! Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) were, literally, thrown into a fiery furnace. (see Daniel Chapters 1-3). They were threatened by the fire, tested in the fire, taken through the fire, and able to testify beyond the fire because God was with them.
If you truly trust in Jesus, He is with you (see Matthew 28:20) and He will take you through the fire. Let Him use your life to testify of His keeping power. When you trust Him, joy will abound! Joy isn't happiness. Happiness is circumstance related (directly associated with what's "happening"). Joy is the deep down satisfaction that comes when we trust God regardless of the circumstances! Stop trying to fix things and start trusting God to transform it! He can take a mess to preach a message and He can take a test to develop a testimony!
Curtis R. Norris
“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 2:9-16 NLT
For many years I have heard verse 9 (the first verse of today's selected text) quoted or referred to as about heaven. However, after reading the scripture one day I saw the context of this verse. This is not a reference to heaven. The reference is in the context of understanding things that can be known in the spiritual realm. The natural (carnal, fleshly, sinful man) cannot discern the things that God wants to reveal to us. Only by the Holy Spirit will God reveal things to those who are His children. Verse 10 declares that God reveals the deep and secret things to us by His Spirit. The lost man cannot see things that the Spirit filled believer can see. The lost man cannot hear things that the Spirit filled believer can hear. The lost man cannot know the unction of the Holy Spirit within. There are so many things that God wants us to know about Himself and His creation. Only when we submit ourselves to Him in salvation, allow Him to grow us in His Word, and walk in submission to the Holy Spirit will we begin to understand life as it is intended. The natural logic, reasoning, and intellectual analysis of the world cannot grasp the meaning of life, its origin, it's absolute dignity and sanctity, or anything else in it's God given context. Without a transformation that comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a yielded believer a man remains nothing more than an intellectual barbarian.
The Spirit filled believer is the one who can live life to the fullest. The reason is simple. The Holy Spirit reveals, inspires, and illuminates things to us that we cannot know or understand in the natural.
I want to live a Sprit filled life. I want to see things like God sees them, hear things like God hears them, think things like God thinks, speak things as God would speak, and live like God would live. Simply put: I want to live like Jesus! He is the absolute epitome of the Spirit filled life. I am not Jesus, nor will I ever be. He is Lord!!! However, I am His ambassador! I want to represent Him well in this dark world in which we sojourn. I don't want to simply exist, I want to live my life as a born again, blood washed, Spirit filled, scripture instructed disciple!! Nothing less is satisfying to my soul!
“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”
1 John 2:6 NLT
Prayer for today: Father, in the name of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, baptize me in Your Holy Spirit! Live through me as a vessel of honor to Your Great Name! May I see, hear, understand, and live the way You would!
Curtis R. Norris
“You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.”
2 Corinthians 2:17 NLT
Chuck Swindoll, the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary and featured speaker of "Insight For Living" says this about why Paul wrote this second book to the Corinthians:
"Paul still felt the need to articulate a defense of his apostleship and his message. Some in the church had apparently taken his meekness among them to be a sign of moral weakness or lack of authority (2 Corinthians 10:1–2). These accusations led Paul to defend himself by arguing that he was on the same level of importance as the other apostles, that he had deep knowledge of the Christian faith, that he had suffered profound physical punishment in the name of Christ, and that he had received visions and revelations from God (11:1–12:13)."
If you have examined the life and ministry of the apostle Paul you will know that he wrote 13 (Romans - Philemon) of the 27 New Testament books. 14 if you attribute Hebrews to his authorship. Acts tells of his zealous persecution of the early Christians (ch. 7-8), his conversion to Christ Jesus (ch. 9), his commission by the early church as a missionary (ch. 13), his missionary journeys (ch. 13-20), his return to Jerusalem, hardships, arrest, and legal trials in Jerusalem all way to Rome (chs. 21-28). There, in Rome, he would be martyred for his faith in Jesus!
Paul is an extraordinary example of a disciple of Jesus, a man of faith, and a minister of the gospel. In my estimation, he is one of the greatest examples a minister could use to mimic. Of course, Jesus is the greatest example of all time!!! Paul was, indeed, NOT a huckster!! What he endured as a follower of Jesus is extraordinary to say the least.
Listen to this:
“I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.”
2 Corinthians 11:21-30 NLT
Even in all of this, Paul showed that he was a humble servant of God!
Today we have a lot of "ministers" but not enough servants of God! It's possible to get a degree, become employed by a church, serve in a position, and be a fake or a fraud! Ministry should not be looked at as employment or a career! Yes, ministers who serve well should be cared for well (see 1 Timothy 5:17-18).
Ministry is a call! Ministers are not CEOs who oversee a corporation! Ministers are servants of God who are to be highly respected in their office and absolutely devout in their call! Ministry is the highest honor and office in the land! However, if there is no call of God on the life and no anointing of the Holy Spirit, it's simply a career! We don't need someone seeking a form of employment, a fake, or a swindler. What we need in the pulpit is a God called man who understands the call, consecration, and commission!
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a huckster as:
1. : HAWKER, PEDDLER
especially: one who sells or advertises something in an aggressive, dishonest, or annoying way.
I don't want to be a huckster! I want to be a true minister of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Curtis R. Norris
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 NLT
This is the greatest love story! God is the source of love!!!
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
1 John 4:7-8 NLT
Love, in its most holy form, is a characteristic of God Himself. Notice that the scripture says that God is love, not love is God. Love is an outflow of the holiness of God. Therefore, true, biblical love cannot be disconnected from God. When we understand His utter holiness we can properly apply love. We CANNOT separate love from all of the other characteristics of God. To do so would pervert it’s purity and purpose. Listen to how the Holy Spirit says it:
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
“...rejoices whenever the truth wins out” (vs. 6). Real love is always rooted in truth. Truth is absolute. God is the epitome of absolute. This modern form of relativistic love is nothing more than Satan’s deceptive, hypocritical, and false counterfeit of God’s love. True love loves truly and seeks to speak truth into our lives. We cannot say we truly love anyone if we do not desire them to know, and walk in, the truth.
“No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:39 NLT
Jesus is the manifestation of truth. Gods love was demonstrated to us in the Person of Jesus Christ!
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8 NASB
Listen to the conversation of the Roman procurator, Pilate, and Jesus:
“Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. Then he went out again to the people and told them, “He is not guilty of any crime.”
John 18:37-38 NLT
Jesus directly addressed the issue of His accusers. He stated that the people said He is a king (notice the lower case k here). The people thought He was trying to be a ruling monarch. They were looking for someone to overthrow the Roman Empire and restore their Jewish heritage. They wanted a “king” that would do things their way. When He simply brought, and taught, the truth to them, the Jewish religious leaders rejected His claim of being the Messiah and they wanted him killed for blasphemy. Now they had him before Pilate, the Roman governor of the region. Pilate wanted to know what truth was. Truth was standing right in front of him! Jesus was in this world to bring truth back to it. Until truth defeated falsehood, mankind was still in darkness.
Jesus was the King (capital K). He was not “a” king. He was “the King”. His Kingdom wasn’t of this current world. In love, the King of kings and Lord of lords had come to a fallen world that was shrouded in sinful darkness. The light of truth had come to dispel the darkness.
Many people in the world today have the truth, Jesus, staring them in the face and yet they choose to walk in darkness. Jesus is the light that dispels the darkness. He, being the personification of truth, came to proclaim the love of God to man by living a perfect life, proclaiming the truth, and dying in our place. By doing this, He overcame our perversion of the truth. Sin had separated us from God and distorted our view of Him. Life is now in a perverted state. Death has come and only the Author of Life can redeem us with His holy love. The truth, Jesus, has won our redemption! Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (see John 14:6). When we know Jesus we know the way of God, the truth of God, and the life of God!!! This is true love!!
“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”
1 John 4:10 NLT
Everything else is false and will never live past the momentary life we now live. Truth endures forever! Those who know the love of God, in Christ, are loved with an everlasting love!
“Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”
Are you truly born again? Being born again means you are now transformed from darkness to light, from error to truth, and from death to life. Only in a relationship with God, through Christ Jesus, can you be saved!
(see Acts 4:12 and 1 Timothy 2:5). Don’t wander in the dry desert of hate any longer. Stop going to the mirage of this worlds love. Come to the oasis of God’s Love. The Samaritan woman who came to Jacobs well in John 4 had been looking for love. She had been married five times and was now living in fornication with a man. Jesus knew she needed real love. After her encounter with the truth (Jesus) she met love for the first time. She came to the well of natural water with a bucket. There she met the spiritual well of life. She left with the well of His love. Her deepest thirst had been satisfied.
Come to the well!
Rev. Curtis Norris