Should You Do What You Think Is Right?

“Always let your conscience be your guide.”

“Follow your heart.”

“Trust yourself.”

Those are the kinds of self-affirming advice we often hear. The basic argument is that most of us are pretty good people and if we listen really closely to our inner guiding light, then we’ll make good decisions.

But as Christians, we’re not supposed to do what’s right in our own minds. We’re supposed to do what God thinks is right. To some, this might just seem like a subtle shift in semantics. Of course what I think is right and God thinks is right are the same thing. Aren’t they?’

Not necessarily. While the holy spirit is transforming us to “have the mind of Christ,” we’re not all the way there yet. That’s one reason why it’s so important to spend time studying scripture — to make sure we know how God thinks and line-up with Him.Should You Do What You Think Is Right? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

What God Has To Say About Your Heart

When God made the choice to destroy everyone but Noah and his family in a flood, He did so after seeing “that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil” (Gen. 6:5, WEB). Even though we are made in God’s image, every single person has sinned and we’re corrupted by the fallen world we live in. And yet even in this state, human’s tend to trust that they know what’s right. But we’re often very wrong.

Yahweh says: Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from Yahweh. … The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jer. 17:5, 9-10, WEB)

Human being can’t trust their hearts. You might get some things right, but you can’t even really know yourself unless you ask God to share His perspective on you. But that verse in Jeremiah is addressed to the person who’s heart departs from the Lord. What about once you are in relationship with God and making Him the one your trust? What does that do to your heart? Continue reading

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Keeping The Law On The Way To Eternity

If you’re a Christian, it’s a good bet you’ve read and/or heard the Sermon on the Mount more than once. And if you’re like me, you probably think you’re pretty familiar with this straight-forward message Jesus delivered during His time here on earth. But in a sermon a few weeks back, the speaker said something that prompted me to take a deeper look.

I hadn’t thought before about what a radical message this must have seemed when first preached. Matthew even tells us people who heard Jesus were “astonished at his doctrine” (Matt. 7:28, KJV). Throughout Jesus’ words a message is woven that tells us our human way of looking at things is wrong. Something that makes no sense to us might be exactly what God is looking for, and the things we’d consider reasonable might not be what He wants at all. This sermon is about showing us a new way of thinking and living.Keeping The Law On The Way To Eternity | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Questions Of Law

Following the Beatitudes (which we talked about last week), Jesus describes people who follow Him as salt and light. All the attributes described earlier are meant to be visible in His people, showing the world good works that will cause them to “glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:16, WEB). Jesus then makes a statement about how His teachings relate to the Old Testament Law and Prophets. People often like to take Paul out of context and say Christians today have nothing to do with the Law, but that’s not what Jesus (or Paul, for that matter) taught. Continue reading

A Closer Look At The Beatitudes

When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, He began at what we now call the Beatitudes. He says, “Blessed are” the sort of people who probably don’t feel all that blessed — those who are poor, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted, and reviled. We don’t like being poor, or in grief, or humble enough to put others first, or attacked by the people around us. It’s hard work being a peacemaker, or showing mercy, or staying pure of heart, or constantly yearning to get closer to God’s righteousness.

It’s interesting that two of the beatitudes mention righteousness: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” and “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:6, 10, KJV). This word refers to “the condition acceptable to God” and/or “the doctrine concerning the way which man may attain a state of approval by God” (Thayer’s G1343, dikaiosune). It relates to our state of being and the way we live. In fact, when you think about it, all the beatitudes relate to something we do and/or become as we follow God.

We Need A Relationship

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:3, KJV)

There’s more than one word that could be translated from Greek as “poor.” This one means “reduced to beggary” and “lacking anything” (Thayer’s G4434, ptochos). When we’re like that in our spirits, we’re really in a place to recognize how much we need a relationship with the Father and Jesus. We become the sort of person the Lord is talking about when He says, “to this man will I look, even to he who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word” (Is. 66:2, WEB).

We Have Broken Hearts

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Matt. 5:4, KJV)

We all experience grief. The death of a parent, child, or dear friend. The loss of a hope held close to our hearts. The decay of a relationship. Betrayal from a friend. And even in the midst of that mourning, we’re blessed because God promises comfort (John 14:16-18; 2 Cor. 1:3-7). He can respond to our tears as powerfully as He did for David in the situation recorded in Psalm 6. Continue reading

How To Love The Lord Your God

Jesus told us “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark. 12:29-30).

Even though this commandment forms the basis of all other commands and is most important for us to remember and obey, it can also be easy to overlook. It sounds so simple: “Love God, check. Yup. I’m good.” But Jesus went into more detail than just “love God.” He started out by reminding us Yahweh is echad. He is united, preeminent, and the only one worthy of the title Lord.

With that reminder in place, Jesus goes on to quote an Old Testament passage telling us how to love God. The way we should love our Lord isn’t left up to our imagination or emotions. We’re told what we’re supposed to do.click to read article, "How To Love The Lord Your God" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

With All Your Heart

As today, most people in Jesus’s day didn’t just think of the heart as a muscle pumping blood. It was seen as the “seat of emotions” and the core of your “inner man” (labab, H3824). In Greek, kardia metaphorically referred to the “center of all physical and spiritual life” and the “fountain and seat of thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors (G2588, Thayer). That’s the first way we’re supposed to love God — with all our emotions, thoughts, and yearnings that come from the very core parts of who you are inside. Continue reading

Can We Lose Our Salvation?

The notion that we could lose our salvation is not a popular one among Christians. It is far more comfortable to believe that God will welcome us back with open arms no matter what we do. And yes, we do see that God rejoices over repentant sinners (Luke 15:4-7) and welcomes back prodigal children (Luke 15:11-32). We have all sinned and we’ve all been “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Rom. 5:20-6:2)

Though we are not suddenly incapable of sin once we receive grace, the direction of our lives must be moving away from sin. God’s love covers a multitude of slips and stumbles on our walk with Him, but our hearts must change so we can learn to practice righteousness instead of sinfulness. We could talk about this in theory indefinitely, but let’s go to an example instead.

A Lost Kingdom

We all know about King David, the “man after God’s own heart” who was so faithful that God promised to establish his kingdom forever (1 Kings 9:5), even including him in the genealogy of Messiah (Matt. 1:1). David is an example to a man who sinned, sincerely repented, and received grace so he could continue to walk with God. He was even forgiven for what we think of as Really Big Sins, like committing adultery and then murdering the woman’s husband.

But before David, there was a king who did not measure up. Saul was offered the same promise made to David — that his kingdom would be established forever. He could have been in the line of Messiah. He could have been David, but he lost that opportunity.

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (1 Sam. 13:13-14)

This happened after Saul’s first sin at Gilgal, when he stepped out of line by offering a sacrifice that could only be offered by a priest. On the surface, that doesn’t look as serious as David’s sins, but at it’s core there was a much bigger issue. Saul’s heart was no obedient, and he didn’t change. In fact, he just kept getting worse.

Can We Lose Our Salvation? | marissabaker.wordpress.comSaul’s second sin at Gilgal was also one of direct disobedience. He was ordered to “utterly destroy” Amalek, but he thought it would be a good idea to spare the king of Amalek’s life and save some of the best livestock. Compounding sin upon sin, Saul insisted that he had “performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Sam. 15:13). When he was confronted about his disobedience, he kept back-peddling and blaming everyone but himself, insisting he was actually doing what was right because he intended to sacrifice the livestock to God. This is in stark contrast with David’s attitude after being confronted with his sins (2 Sam. 12:7-14; Ps. 51:1-19).

So Samuel said, “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel? Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”

So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam. 15:17-23)

Saul was rejected because he thought he had a better idea for how to conduct himself than God did. He rejected the leadership of God, and so God said, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments” (1 Sam. 15:11).

Could that happen to us? could we do something that would make God “regret” choosing us? Are there things we read about in the Bible and rebel against, thinking we could come up with something better than what God commands? How about some of these (just as an example to give us something to think about):

“I Never Knew You”

Jesus told us that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). The love comes first — what God is chiefly concerned with is having a relationship with us, like He had with David. But obedience is also essential, and that is something Saul lacked.

 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:23-25)

This is one reason why fellowship and friendship with other believers is so important. We help keep each other on-track and encourage each other to never give up. God gives us these people to help save us.

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Heb. 10:26-29)

Brethren, these are scary scriptures. It’s talking about turning our backs on and actually despising what God has offered us. This is doubly scary when we read Matthew 7:21-23, where Christ says that there will be people who thought they were being faithful but were really “practicing lawlessness.” To them, He will say, “I never knew you; depart from Me.”

Never Let Go

The good news is that this doesn’t have to happen. God is committed to pursuing a real, life-giving relationship with each one of us. He doesn’t just sit around twiddling His thumbs waiting for people to wander towards Him. He is constantly working to develop real relationships that save lives.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)

God gives us every opportunity to come to Him. We are precious in His sight, and He is pursuing our hearts in the greatest romance ever told (Is. 43:1-7). If we do lose our salvation, it will be because we turned away from Him and walked away, not because He gave up on us.

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb. 10:35-39)

Can We Lose Our Salvation? | marissabaker.wordpress.comThese are the verses which follow the warning in Hebrews about rejecting Christ’s sacrifice. It’s like the writer is telling us, “Look, you need to know how serious it is to turn away from God. Let that scare you — it should. Now that you know how bad it is to reject the Lord, don’t do it! We’re not that kind of people. We are the ones who can and will continue in the faith with God. Take courage, because the Creator of the whole universe is on your side and He wants you to succeed.”

All I Ask Of You

I’ve been reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge (or rather, re-reading, though it’s been 6 or 7 years and I only realized I read it once before when I recognized passages that spoke to my heart the first time). One of the main themes, and the one that left an impression on me from my first reading, is how much God wants me. He truly longs for a relationship with each of us, and it goes far beyond what we often mean when we say “God loves me.” God loves everyone. He has to, right? But when God tells us He loves us, He doesn’t mean an automatic benevolence that happens just because “God is love.” He means a real, passionate desire to be in relationship with you.

To be spiritual is to be in Romance with God. The desire to be romanced lies deep in the heart of every woman. It is for such that you were made. And you are romanced, and ever will be.” – from Captivating

This is speaking directly to women, so perhaps it won’t resonate so much with my guy readers. But God’s longing to be in relationship with us applies to both men and women in His church. Perhaps a glimpse of how being romanced by God looks to a woman will give you gentlemen some insight into what it means when Christ calls the Church His bride.

Almost 10 years ago, I started collecting favorite quotes in a notebook. One of the very first things I wrote down were the lyrics to “All I Ask Of You” from The Phantom of the Opera. On the opposite page, I lined it up with scriptures that spoke about the love between us and Jesus. Years later, I turned that into a video I never shared. For today’s post, I went back and updated that video with a few new scriptures. I think perhaps this is the best way to share what I’m trying to say today. Enjoy 🙂