Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Our Own Feelings Can Betray Us

It's easy to believe something that feels good is good for us; and something that feels bad is bad for us. However, the Word of God tells us we are to trust in the Lord and not in our own understanding. So then, how can we know when our feelings are truthful, or when they are lying to us?

Before we can start to expose the lies inside of us, we must first acknowledge our guilt. For example, if someone enjoys doing something bad, but they are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions and face the truth, they will always be deceived.

I am an expert on this topic because I was guilty of it. Oftentimes, I would make excuses to justify my behavior because I didn't want to stop doing it. I loved pleasure more than the truth. As a result, I was deceived and suffered the spiritual consequences.

If I'm being honest, though I am obedient now, I still feel the same temptations from my past. The truth is, we never lose our sinful impulses. They only become severely weakened and crucified with Christ, when we allow Him to lead us away from sin.

In my case, spiritual enlightenment began with facing and taking responsibility for my love of sexual lust. As a young man in my late teens, I enjoyed fantasizing about all kinds of women. It felt very good; how could it be wrong?

This attitude was tested when I started a serious relationship with a girl. Even though I did not believe in God anymore, I felt it was wrong to not be 100% faithful to the girl you loved; not just physically, but in your mind and heart as well.

Oddly, that passion for honesty did not carry over into other areas of my life. But in regards to the girl I loved with all my heart, I believed anything less than 100% faithfulness was wrong.

So, one day I decided that I no longer would have sexual thoughts about other women inside my head. I wanted to only have sexual thoughts about the girl I loved. Sounds simple enough, right?

To my surprise, sexual thoughts about other women kept coming inside my head. How could that be? If I made a conscious choice to stop doing something, yet it still happened, then it was no longer me that was in control. It also meant that the thoughts were coming from somewhere else, since they came against my will.

What was happening? I didn't know it at the time but God was helping to expose the works of Satan in my life. It wasn't until I turned my back on selfish, sexual gratification and embraced true love that I began to see the truth.

The reason I did not realize it before was because I enjoyed the sinful thoughts. My will and the devil's will were the same. Once I decided to resist the sinful urges, the devil's cloak of deception was lifted. Now I could clearly see his influence in my life.

As I continued to analyze my feelings, I discovered that even though I wanted to be faithful to the woman I loved, deep down I got a sick pleasure from the thought of sexually cheating with another girl.

So what does it mean, if deep inside I actually enjoy the thought of doing something wrong? It means my heart is bad; there is something wrong with it. When I read in the bible that we are all born into sin, I believed it because of my sinful heart.

It also meant that my feelings were a lie. Even though it felt so very good physically to have sex outside of true love, I knew it was wrong.

How did I know that sexual lust was wrong, even though it felt so right? Because when I engaged in sexual lust, the pleasurable feeling I received was selfish; it appealed to an evil and selfish place in my heart. I only had my own desires in mind, not the other person's feelings. I treated those women like sexual objects without feelings; they were there just to satisfy my urges. When I was done, I didn't care about them anymore.

In regards to our lifestyle choices, I don't believe it is my, or anybody else's job to lecture a grown adult about what is right or wrong. We should never do, or not do something just because someone else tells us to, if we are not absolutely sure for ourselves. Rather, we should ask God for clarity. We should open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to shine a light inside of us; to expose the sin that is hiding in the darkness and to teach us right from wrong.

When we can see for ourselves what is right or wrong, then it becomes easier for God to improve our lives. And, it makes it harder for dishonest people to deceive and take advantage of us.

This process is difficult at first. But when we practice spiritual discernment, in time we will recognize the thoughts of God from the thoughts of evil. Once this happens, we'll be able to make good decisions according to God's will.

If we open our entire hearts to God and are willing to give up anything for Him, He will transform our lives in a way we never thought possible. This has been true in my life. 

There are many things I enjoyed doing that I was very reluctant to give up. These vain pleasures that were so important to me before, I now regard as meaningless. They are worthless, especially when compared to the wisdom and strength God has replaced them with. Just as Jesus taught, if we lose our lives for His sake, then we will find it. 

Anybody who has received Jesus in their heart, did so to turn away from sin. By doing so, we acknowledged our way of living was leading us down the wrong path. Let us all be inspired to open more of our lives to God, so that He can show us where we are being deceived. If we do this to the fullest extent, the riches of God will overflow in our lives.

(Scripture references: Proverbs 3:5-6, Psalms 51:3-6, Proverbs 23:26-28, Romans 7:14-25, Matthew 16:24-27)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Doubt Is Empowered By A Lack Of Fellowship

All of us struggle with doubt. I'd like to talk about why we often struggle and how we can build our faith in God.

Doubt exists where there is uncertainty. Sometimes we fool ourselves by hiding from the truth. Other times, we sincerely want to believe but have a hard time finding faith.

In regard to spiritual matters, doubt is simply the antithesis of faith. Faith is being sure about something, even if we see no physical evidence to support it. Hence, in the bible we are instructed to walk by faith, not by sight.

We can never truly be sure about every detail in our lives, or what may happen in the future. But there is one thing we can be sure of: God loves us and has our best interests at heart.

It's one thing to read those words in the bible, it's yet another to believe them without a doubt. How can we get to the place where doubt is irrelevant in our spiritual lives? By spending more time with Jesus.

Doing this serves two important purposes: One, the more that we get to know Jesus on a personal level, the more His love will grow and become real in our hearts. This will help to increase our faith.

Secondly, by getting closer to God, the devil's influence over our lives greatly diminishes. How does this happen? Anybody who has true fellowship with God, eventually will be urged by the Holy Spirit to turn from something sinful in their lives. By obeying this command, we eliminate an avenue for Satan to negatively affect our lives. This will help weaken the doubt we have in our heart.

We know that sin blinds our spiritual vision and separates us from God. By having fellowship with God, and if we are obedient to His guidance, our spiritual vision becomes more clear. Once we can see the truth clearly, it severely weakens the devil's ability to create doubt inside us; when the truth has a solid foundation in our heart, we are less likely to believe a lie.

The bible tells us that when we ask something of God, we must believe and not doubt. How do we gain confidence that what we ask is God's will for us? How can we know that His love for us guarantees an answer to prayer (though it may come in a way we were not expecting)? By walking with God on a daily basis. By including Him into every thought we have and decision we make.

The devil is constantly trying to deceive and separate us from the love and blessings of God. The doubt that he exploits is empowered by our lack of fellowship with Christ.

Let us all be motivated to give ourselves entirely to Jesus, to include Him in every phase of our lives. When we do, we'll get to know Him more and more. This will give us victory over the power of doubt in our lives. Once the love of God has grown strong in our hearts, we will gain the kind of faith that moves mountains, while rendering doubt powerless in our lives.

(Scripture references: 2Corinthians 5:7, Romans 8:28, Matthew 7:9-12, Isaiah 59:1-2, James 1:5-8)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Temptation Does Not Define Us

When we have a thought of doing something bad, there can be a feeling of guilt associated with it. Today I'd like to help remind everyone that we do not have to accept this guilt; we can choose to separate ourselves from it.

The bible says there is a way that seems right to us but eventually leads to death. Our own feelings, as strong and convincing as they maybe, can actually deceive us. This is because we have been born into sin. Sin has distorted our perception of truth. Only through faith in Jesus Christ and with help from the Holy Spirit can we begin to expose the lies inside our own minds and hearts.

If we begin to analyze every thought that comes into our mind, something amazing happens. You'll start to learn that many of our thoughts are not even our own. Let me explain: The devil is very cunning. He hides behind the cloak of his invisibility. He will pretend to be us inside our own head!

How does he do this? He will suggest thoughts in our head like, "I feel this way", or "Man, I REALLY need to do this." The next thing you know, we are repeating and agreeing with a thought that came straight from hell. By doing so, we are actually chaining ourselves spiritually and submitting to the devil's will. We've all been deceived and fallen into his trap.

Another favorite tactic of Satan is to suggest something, then attempt to use our emotions to try and pressure us into doing what he suggests. For example, if a person does something that is hurtful to us, oftentimes we immediately feel a rush of emotions- pain, embarrassment, anger, etc. In the midst of those feelings, the devil sees an opportune time (while we are most vulnerable) to suggest doing something vengeful in retaliation. Because he uses our feelings and emotions against us, it becomes easier to believe that the evil suggestion in our head is not only justified, it will also make us feel better.

How do we guard ourselves from falling into these traps? We must get to a place where we can accurately recognize between thoughts from God and thoughts from Satan. Absolute victory and success is only possible with help from the Holy Spirit of truth.

The catch is, we can only see through Satan's cloak of deception if we have been lifted out of our sinful lifestyle. For example, our physical vision becomes impaired when we swim in deep waters. We can still see but things are not quite as clear. It is not until we come out of the water that our physical vision becomes perfectly clear.

The same applies to sin and our spiritual vision. The more that we allow the Lord to lift us away from sin, the clearer our spiritual vision will become. This will result in a much greater ability to recognize good from evil.

Another great byproduct of allowing God to completely change our hearts is, we become less vulnerable to making knee jerk reactions based on emotion. The bible says those who live in the Spirit will not fall victim to the urges of the flesh. This also relates to our feelings and emotions.

If we have been transformed by Christ and live a lifestyle dominated by the Spirit of God, we will eventually gain victory over our sinful urges. For example, the temptation to retaliate against someone will dramatically decrease because, the part of our heart that the devil could manipulate before has now been crucified with Christ. Sin becomes like a dog barking up the wrong tree.

The same applies to resisting lustful temptations. Where once there was something for sin to grab hold of inside our hearts, now there is nothing. This is what happens when we allow Jesus to do His perfect work inside of us. Our walk with Him involves reaching new heights, while maintaining what gains we've already made.

I'm telling you right now with confidence and 100% accuracy- We can reach a place of spiritual dominance over our feelings and emotions; over the attacks in our mind that try and bring us down. I know for sure because of experience. I know who I was, I know who I am now and I know why I have this victory. My victory came by obedience to Christ.

Do we ever become perfect? No. But Jesus can bring us to a place where we can dominate our sinful feelings and emotions. We don't have to be punching bags for the bully that attacks us in our mind. We don't have to feel guilty about invisible thoughts that originate from hell. We need simply to discern them as evil, resist, then send them back to hell in Jesus' name.

With this in mind, let us all be inspired to ask God for help in gaining victory over the evil that torments our thoughts. Through prayer, patience and perseverance in Christ, we can be liberated from every spiritual chain that weighs us down. Let's not allow temptation to define who we are; rather, let the children of God be defined by His Word and who He says we are. Amen.

(Scripture references: Proverbs 14:12, Psalms 51:5, Galatians 5:16-17, James 4:7-10)