"Showing the way, Teaching the truth,
Experiencing the life in Christ"
God’s Strategy for Spiritual Development: Knowledge
(II Peter 1:5-7, NKJV)
“For this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
Basic Life Principles
(II Peter 1:2, NIV)
“Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
The primary reason that God wants His people to add “knowledge” to their faith and virtue is that by gaining more “knowledge” we gain access to the abundant supply of His “grace and peace.” Peter wrote, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (II Peter 1:2, NIV).
Underlying all the “knowledge” that Jesus dispensed to His disciples are principles which have the potential to impact our spirits and our lives! That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63b, NIV). The word “principle” is defined as a fundamental truth related to a cause-and-effect sequence.
Paul summed up the essence of a “principle” when he wrote to the believers at Galatia, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows [a cause and effect sequence]. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:7-9, NIV). When these facts are applied to an agricultural enterprise, they are “The Laws of the Harvest,” but when they are applied to the issues of life, they are “Basic Life Principles”—clearly established sequences of cause-and-effect.
God wants us to gain more “knowledge” so that we can recognize and apply His basic life principles, which are essential for successful living! In the Old Testament King Solomon said to his sons, regarding the principles found in God’s Word, “My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body” (Proverbs 4:20-22, NIV).
II. Seven Basic Life Principles
The goal of this sermon is to introduce you to seven basic life principles that are clearly revealed in Scripture. When one or more of these basic life principles is violated, neglected, or misunderstood, conflicts result in fundamental life relationships.
#1 The Principle of Design. This principle has a direct effect on the way a person responds to himself. This principle determines either self-acceptance or self-rejection. The principle of design clearly stated says that when God created each human being he custom-designed him to fulfill a specific life purpose. He carefully thought out all the details of each person’s spirit, soul, and body so that everyone is specially designed to accomplish a unique ministry for Him! King David wrote, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:14-16). When King David understood the way God had made him, he experienced self-acceptance!
#2 The Principle of Success. This principle has a direct effect on the way a person responds to the decisions of life. The people of Israel were camped in the plains of Moab east of the Jordan River. Moses had died and Joshua had been commissioned as the nation’s new commander-in-chief; but before he assumed leadership God wanted to ensure Joshua’s success. So He said to him, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8, NIV). The key to a successful life is consistently meditating on Scripture.
#3 The Principle of Authority. This principle has a direct effect on the way a person responds to God. The principle of authority says that God gives protection, direction, and great faith to those who submit to the authorities He has placed over them. Paul encouraged believers to voluntarily submit to God-ordained authorities when he wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities…he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1a…2b, NIV).
#4 The Principle of a Clear Conscience. This principle has a direct effect on the way a person responds to the devil. Gaining and maintaining a clear conscience is listed in Scripture as one of our most essential weapons for effective spiritual warfare. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked” (I Timothy1:18-19, NLT). You have a clear conscience when nobody can point their finger at you and say, “You wronged me and you never attempted to make things right.”
#5 The Principle of Personal Rights. This principle has a direct effect on the way a person responds to those who offend him. In order to understand what the Bible teaches about the personal rights of Christians, we must understand one important aspect of every believer’s relationship to the Lord Jesus. Paul wrote, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV). The phrase “you are bought at a price” was taken directly from the Roman culture of the first century. It was used to describe the transaction that took place when a wealthy Roman citizen went to the slave market to purchase a slave. When a price had been negotiated and the transaction was closed, the wealthy Roman would announce to his newly purchased slave, “You were bought at a price.” An important aspect of a Christian’s relationship to the Lord is that it is a Master/slave relationship—and slaves don’t have any personal rights!
#6 The Principle of Freedom. This principle has a direct effect on the way a person responds to temptation. Jesus was speaking to a crowd of Jews who had just become believers when He said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31b-32, NIV). This statement made by Jesus is significant because it reveals that becoming a believer does not automatically guarantee that you will be instantaneously free from the slavery of your past. You may very well remain in bondage to the sins of your past and yield to them when you are tempted, until you learn principles of truth that can “set you free.” Freedom is not the right to do what you want to do. It is the power to do what you ought to do!
#7 The Principle of Purpose. God gives everyone opportunities to achieve His purpose for our lives, and this principle has a direct effect on the way a person responds to the opportunities of life. The Bible clearly reveals that there is only one way to discover and achieve God’s purpose for our lives. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV). We “please God” when we achieve His purpose for our lives—and that requires “faith!”
The Bible calls the ability to discover and apply God’s basic life principles “wisdom.” King Solomon described the wonderful benefits of wisdom when he wrote, “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men…It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words…Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:12a…16…20, NIV).
Scripture reveals that the best way to gain wisdom is to simply “ask God” for it. James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5, NIV). It is vitally important, then, that we ask God for the ability to discover and apply His basic life principles.
#1 - The Principle of Design
(Psalm 139:14-18a, NIV)
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.”
The principle of design clearly stated says that when God created each human being he custom-designed him to fulfill a specific life purpose. He carefully thought out all the details of each person’s spirit, soul, and body so that everyone is specially designed to accomplish a unique ministry for Him! This principle has a direct effect on the way a person responds to himself. It determines either self-acceptance or self-rejection. King David wrote, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:14-16, NIV). Because he understood the way God had made him, King David experienced self-acceptance!
Paul confirmed that each person is a masterpiece—an expression of God’s creative genius—uniquely designed to perform a specialized ministry for Him, when he wrote, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10, NIV). The Greek word translated “workmanship” literally refers to a piece of fine craftsmanship—a masterpiece! So every human being is a masterpiece, created by God to perform the “good works” of ministry that God determined “in advance.”
When we understand this principle, we begin to see that God’s design for us is an expression of His grace toward us. Paul wrote, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (I Corinthians 15:10a, NIV). Realizing that God’s design is an expression of His grace toward us, will enable us to accept His design and experience His “power” working through us…even if His design includes an infirmity. Paul wrote, “There was given me a thorn in my flesh [some kind of infirmity], a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me” (II Corinthians 12:7b-9, NIV).
Rejecting God’s design is actually a form of arguing with God. Paul clearly expressed this truth when he wrote, “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:20-21, NIV).
Arguing with God regarding His design brings man under a curse. Isaiah wrote, “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker” (Isaiah 45:9, NIV). The Hebrew word in this verse translated “woe” literally means “cursed.”
II. Evidence of Rejecting God’s Design
There are many evidences of the rejection of God’s design in the lives of His people. We don’t have time to discuss all of them in this sermon, but I want us to briefly examine the two most important ones.
Inability to Love God. When people reject God’s design—feeling that He somehow cheated them, or that He made a mistake when He created them the way He did—it often becomes difficult for them to love Him. Their reasoning is something like this: “Since God designed me like this, how can I possibly love Him?” This all-to-common inability to truly love God is a hindrance to obeying His greatest commandment. Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38, NIV).
Difficulty Loving Others. If you look in the mirror and quietly think, “I hate what I see looking back at me.” You are rejecting God’s design! When you look in the mirror you should quietly think, “I love what I see looking back at me, because I am designed by God and am a reflection of some aspect of His glory. Moses described the scene during which God created mankind, when he wrote, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, NIV). There is a healthy way in which we should love ourselves, and failure to do so will result in difficulty loving others the way God wants us to love them. Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19, NKJV). Difficulty loving others is a hindrance to obeying God’s second greatest commandment which is, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39b, NIV).
Not only has God designed each person to perform a unique ministry for Him, He is still in the process of “fine tuning” each of us for greatness in His Kingdom. When Paul wrote, “We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV), he used a Greek verb that is translated “are” which refers to present continuous action. That means that as long as we live God will continue to work on us to equip us and enable us to fulfill His purpose in our lives. In this process of “fine tuning” us for greatness in His Kingdom, He wants to teach us to accept His design for our lives.
There are ten unchangeable aspects of God’s design for every person that must be accepted in order to avoid the curse of self-rejection. They are:
Each of these is part of what King David had in mind when he wrote, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14, NIV).
#2 - The Principle of Success
(Joshua 1:8, NIV)
"Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."
This principle has a direct effect on the way a person responds to the decisions of life. The people of Israel were camped in the plains of Moab east of the Jordan River. Moses had died and Joshua had been commissioned as the nation’s new commander-in-chief; but before he assumed leadership God wanted to ensure Joshua’s success. So He said to him, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8, NIV). The key to a successful life is consistently meditating on Scripture.
II. Definition of Success
Success is not determined by what we are, but rather by what we are compared to what we could be. It is not measured by what we have done, but rather by what we have done compared to what we could have done. The question that must be asked in order to determine the level of success that we are achieving from God’s perspective is, “To what degree are we accomplishing the things that we were designed to accomplish?” The principle of success is directly related to the principle of design.
Jesus told a story that wonderfully illustrates this principle. Describing God’s Kingdom, He said, “It will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master's money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (Matthew 25:14-29, NIV). This story clearly reveals that success is not measured by how much you accomplish. It is measured by how much you accomplish compared to how much you could have accomplished with what you were given.
III. The Key to Success
The key to success in God’s Kingdom is meditation on Scripture. Whenever Scripture speaks of success, it is always related to the spiritual discipline of meditation. That’s why God said to Joshua, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8, NIV).
The Hebrew word translated “meditate” is “haga” and is an agricultural term that refers to the process of rumination in the digestion system of sheep. It involves repeatedly chewing, swallowing, and regurgitating food in order to get more and more nourishment from it. As we meditate on Scripture, we ponder it, receive it into our hearts, and at just the right moment the Holy Spirit brings it to mind again so that we get more and more spiritual nourishment from it. That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said, “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26, NIV).
IV. The Benefits of Meditation
Success is the result of meditation because of the many benefits that come to the life of a believer when he meditates on God’s Word. Let’s consider a few of these benefits:
Prosperity. Scripture promises that those who meditate on God’s word will prosper in whatever they do. King David wrote, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3, NIV).
Wisdom. King David declared that meditating on God’s commandments is the source of wisdom. He wrote, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me” (Psalm 119:97-98, NIV).
Understanding. King David also explained that meditating on God’s testimonies gave him understanding. He wrote, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:99, NKJV).
Satisfaction. King David indicated that his soul was satisfied when he meditated on the Lord. He wrote, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches” (Psalm 63:5-6, NKJV).
Progress. Paul explained to Timothy that meditating on Scripture would result in obvious spiritual progress in his life. He wrote, “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (I Timothy4:15, NKJV).
Considering all these marvelous benefits of meditating on God’s Word, every believer should commit himself to regularly engaging in this spiritual discipline. King David described his personal commitment to the spiritual discipline of meditating on Scripture when he wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways” (Psalm 119:15, NKJV). The fact that meditating on God’s precepts will enable us to contemplate His ways should motivate us to a deeper commitment to this valuable spiritual discipline.
#3 - The Principle of Authority
(Romans 13:1, NIV)
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
The principle of authority says that God gives protection, wisdom, and great faith to those who submit to the authorities He has placed over them in four specific areas of life. Paul encouraged believers to voluntarily submit to God-ordained authorities when he wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 12:1, NIV).
Paul also explained that those who refuse to remain under God-ordained authority will experience God’s judgment. He wrote, “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 12:2, NIV). The Greek word translated “judgment” is “krima” and actually refers to “the penalty for a crime.” So God considers it a crime for His people to refuse to remain under the authorities He has placed over them, and He has established penalties for such rebelliousness!
II. Four Basic Structures of Authority
Scripture reveals four basic structures of authority that have been established by God. They form the basis of how God’s people are to relate to family, government, church, and business. Let’s briefly examine each one:
Family. The structure of authority that God has established within the family is: God, Christ, man, woman, and then children. Paul clearly explained this order of authority when he wrote, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Corinthians 11:3, NIV). He also wrote, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1, NIV).
Government. The structure of authority that God has established for civil government consists of national leaders, local leaders, and then citizens. Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (I Peter 2:13-14, NIV).
Church. The authority structure that God has established for His church consists of Christ, elders, and members. Referring to Jesus, Paul wrote, “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Ephesians 1:22, NIV). Peter wrote, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder…Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:1a…2-3, NIV). Of course, “God’s flock” is a reference to the members of His church, so the levels of authority in the church are Christ, the elders, and the members.
Employment. To gain insight into God’s authority structure for employment, we must examine what He says about “slaves” in the New Testament. Employees in our culture are very similar to the “slaves” in first-century Israel. In this area of life God’s authority structure consists of employers and employees. Peter wrote, “You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters with all respect. Do what they tell you—not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are cruel” (I Peter 2:18, NLT). Paul wrote, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord” (Colossians3:22, NIV).
III. Three Primary Benefits of Remaining Under Authority
Scripture reveals three primary benefits of remaining under God-ordained authority. We are commanded to identify and remember the benefits He has made available to us. King David wrote, “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2, NIV). So let’s examine three benefits God offers to those who remain under authority.
Increased Protection. The Biblical concept of submission to God-ordained authority emphasizes the divine protection of those who submit to it. The Bible refers to the refusal to submit to proper authority as “rebellion.” And when we rebel against the authorities God has placed over us, we forfeit His protection and expose ourselves to Satan’s power. Samuel wrote, “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (I Samuel 15:23a, NKJV). Both “rebellion” and “witchcraft” expose those who participate in them to the power of Satan, who consistently uses his power to “steal, kill, and destroy.” Describing Satan’s agenda, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John10:10, NIV). Therefore, in order to avoid needless exposure to the power of Satan and to experience divine protection, we must remain under God-ordained authority.
Increased Wisdom. The only recorded incident in the life of our Lord between the ages of two and thirty was a discussion with His parents which involved the principle of authority. Luke recorded the scene when he wrote, “His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.’ And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:41-52, NKJV). One of the benefits Jesus experienced because He remained under the authority of His parents was that He “increased in wisdom.”
Increased Faith. Scripture records an incident during which Jesus referred to a man as having “great faith.” Jesus said this because the man demonstrated that he understood and applied the principle of authority to his life. Matthew described the scene when he wrote, “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I will go and heal him.’ The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, Go, and he goes; and that one, Come, and he comes. I say to my servant, Do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith’” (Matthew 8:5-10, NIV). The key to achieving “great faith” is to learn to live under God-ordained authority.
Often we focus on the conduct and character of those God has placed in authority over us rather than on our responsibility to remain under authority. Yet Scripture reminds us that God can use even the shortcoming of our authorities to benefit us, and He can change their hearts when He pleases. King Solomon wrote, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1, NKJV). Remember, God has a purpose for choosing the specific authorities He has placed over you, and they are there for your good! Paul wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV).
#4 - The Principle of a Clear Conscience
(Acts 24:16, NIV)
“I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.”
A clear conscience is the spiritual freedom to respond appropriately toward God and others that results from knowing that God’s holiness is not offended by my thoughts, words, actions, or attitudes, and that no one can point their finger at me and honestly say, “You offended me and you never tried to make it right.” Paul emphasized the importance of maintaining a clear conscience before both God and men, when he said, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16, NIV).
One of the greatest dangers of forfeiting a clear conscience is the potential damage it does to one’s faith. That’s why Paul issued this sober warning to Timothy, “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith” (I Timothy 1:18-19, NIV). Failing to maintain a clear conscience has the potential of shipwrecking one’s faith.
Clearing your conscience is simple, yet very difficult for most of us. One of the most effective ways to clear your conscience is to simply and sincerely say to someone you have offended, “I was WRONG when I ____________. Will you forgive me?” The thing that is so difficult is saying, “I was WRONG.” It’s difficult because of our pride. James explained, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6b, NKJV). It is impossible to clear your conscience without the character quality of humility.
II. Two Aspects of a Clear Conscience
Paul indicated that there are two very distinct aspects to maintaining a clear conscience. One deals with offenses toward God and the other deals with offenses toward men. He wrote, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16, NIV).
A Clear Conscience Toward God. The key to maintaining a clear conscience toward God is confession. John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9, NIV). Paul experienced boldness when testifying before unbelievers because he maintained a clear conscience toward God. Luke wrote, “Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, ‘My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day’” (Acts 23:1, NIV).
A Clear Conscience Toward Men. The key to maintaining a clear conscience toward men is forgiveness. Matthew recorded a conversation between Peter and Jesus that illustrates the importance of maintaining a clear conscience through forgiveness. He wrote, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22, NKJV).
When our conscience is defiled because we have not either sought or offered forgiveness when an offense has occurred, our ability to worship is diminished. Jesus said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew5:23-24, NIV).
III. The Benefits of a Clear Conscience
God’s people always experience benefits when they identify and apply to their lives the principles of His Word, and King David indicated that it is good to identify and remember those benefits. He wrote, “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2, NIV). So let’s examine a few benefits of gaining and maintaining a clear conscience.
Boldness to Witness. Peter emphasized the importance of maintaining a clear conscience if God’s people are to be bold witnesses when he wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (I Peter3:15-16, NIV).
Freedom to be Forgiven. One of the greatest motivations for God’s people to forgive others, which enables us to maintain a clear conscience, is that unless we forgive those who offend us, God will not forgive us when we offend Him. At the conclusion of “The Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus said, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew6:14-15, NIV).
This is significant, because God deals with sin in the lives of believers in two ways. He either forgives them or He chastens [disciplines] us for them. If we refuse to forgive others, God won’t forgive us. Then, if we are to remain righteous, He has no alternative but to discipline us for every sin we commit. The author of the Book of Hebrews wrote, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives…Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:5b-6…11, NKJV).
If God doesn’t forgive us of sin, then He disciplines us for our sin to keep those sins from condemning us. Paul wrote, “When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined [chastened] so that we will not be condemned with the world” (I Corinthians11:32, NIV).
God loves His children far too much to allow their sin to condemn them. That’s why the author of the Book of Hebrews wrote, “Whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6, NKJV).
Ability to Rejoice. A clear conscience is the result of forgiveness, and forgiveness protects us from bitterness…which kills joy! A harvest of bitterness is reaped in every unforgiving heart. The author of the Book of Hebrews warned that bitter people are troubled people, when he wrote, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men…See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Hebrews 12:14a…15, NIV).
In order for God’s people to live joyful and fruitful lives, we must learn the art of forgiveness, because forgiveness is essential to gaining and maintaining a clear conscience. Paul wrote, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV). May we learn the art of forgiveness from The Master Teacher, who when He was being crucified for a crime His accusers knew He didn’t commit, prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV).
#5 - The Principle of Personal Rights
(I Corinthians 6:20, NKJV)
“You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s”
In order to understand what the Bible teaches about the personal rights of a Christian, we must first understand one of the important aspects of every believer’s relationship to our Lord. It was described by Paul when he wrote, “You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:20, NKJV). The Greek phrase, “You were bought at a price,” was taken directly from the Roman culture of the first century. It was used to describe the transaction that took place when a wealthy Roman citizen went to the slave market to purchase a slave. When the price had been agreed upon and the transaction had been closed, the wealthy Roman would announce to his new slave, “You were bought at a price.” So you see, an important aspect of the Christian’s relationship to the Lord Jesus is that it is a Master/slave relationship!
The fact that Jesus is our Master is repeatedly made clear in Scripture. In the midst of a life-threatening storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples woke Jesus and said, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:30, KJV). On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here” (Mark 9:5, KJV).
The fact that believers are to view themselves as slaves of our Lord is made very clear in Scripture. The Greek word translated “servant” in the New Testament is “dulous” and literally refers to a “slave.” Paul, James, Peter, and Jude all used this word to describe their relationship with the Lord Jesus. Paul wrote, “Paul, a servant [slave] of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1a, NIV). James wrote, “James, a servant [slave] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1a, NIV). Peter wrote, “Simon Peter, a servant [slave] and apostle of Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:1a, NIV). Jude wrote, “Jude, a servant [slave] of Jesus Christ” (Jude 1a, NIV). All these great men of God viewed themselves as slaves of our Lord.
II. Slaves & Rights
The simple fact is that slaves have no rights…only responsibilities! After telling a story that illustrated the responsibilities of slaves, Jesus said to His disciples, “You also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants [slaves]; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10, NIV). The Greek word translated “duty” simply means “responsibility.” Rather than demanding our “rights” as slaves of the Lord Jesus, we should simply fulfill our “responsibilities.” When Jesus bought us out of the slave market of sin and we became His slaves, He also bought our “rights.” Therefore, we have no “rights.” We have only the responsibility to obey our Master. That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said, “When you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants [slaves]; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10, NIV). Slaves simply obey. They don’t argue with their Master about their “rights.” Paul wrote to Titus, “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them [argue with them]” (Titus 2:9, NIV).
III. Rights & Anger
Personal rights that have not been yielded to God are a major source of anger in the lives of God’s people. Most of the anger that we experience can be traced back to the violation of some “right” we have not yielded to God and are still claiming. God wants us to eliminate anger from our lives. Paul wrote, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31, NIV). Everything in this list is—in one way or another—an expression of anger, and he said we should “get rid of” them.
Paul also wrote to the Colossians, “You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Colossians 3:8, NIV). Everything in this list is—in one way or another—an expression of anger, and he said you should “rid yourselves of” them.
Not only are unyielded personal rights a source of anger, but they also make it very difficult for God’s people to resolve anger. As long as you continue to claim a right, the anger that was caused when that “right” was violated will linger in your heart. Allowing anger to linger in the heart is very unwise. In fact, King Solomon labeled those who do so as “fools.” He wrote, “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9, NKJV). An angry man is a foolish man!
In order to avoid being a “fool” from God’s perspective, we must resolve anger immediately. Paul wrote, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26, NIV). That means that God does not want us to let anger linger in our hearts more than 24 hours! He wants us to resolve our anger in the same day it occurs, but unyielded personal rights often cause us to remain angry much longer. In fact, unyeilded rights have the potential to cause us to become angry and remain angry indefinitely!
IV. A Biblical Example of Yielding Rights
One of the best examples of yielding personal rights recorded in Scripture is found in the story of Abraham’s willingness to offer his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering to God. Moses recorded the story when he wrote, “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.’ Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance…When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied. ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son’” (Genesis 22:1-4…9-12, NIV).
In order for Abraham to yield Isaac to God, he first had to yield all of his personal rights regarding Isaac to God. I can picture in my mind Abraham kneeling at the altar he had just built and placing all of his personal rights to Isaac on it, before standing, arranging the wood, binding his son, and reaching for the knife.
Abraham could have argued with God, “You gave me this son…and I have the right to keep him, and love him, and watch him grow up.” He could have protested, “You promised that through this son you would make my descendants as numerous as the sand along the sea shore… and I have the right to see that promise fulfilled.” He could have insisted, “He’s my son…and I have the right to spare his life.” But because he had yielded to God all of his personal rights regarding Isaac…because he had laid each one on the altar…he was able to offer Isaac to God as well…without a trace of anger! As a result, the angel of the Lord could say to him, “You have not withheld from me your son, your only son” (Genesis22:12, NIV).
A wonderful way to yield your personal rights to God and begin to view yourself as His slave with no rights…only responsibilities…is to ask God to show you the personal rights you have not yet yielded to Him. Then picture yourself kneeling before an altar, placing those rights…one at a time…on that altar, giving them to God. This spiritual exercise can be a creative method of following the instruction given by Paul when he wrote, “Give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life” (Romans 6:13, NLT). In order to “give yourselves completely to God,” you must give Him all of your rights!
#6 - The Principle of Freedom
(John 8:31-32, NIV)
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”
In the text we just read, Jesus was speaking to a number of people who had just become believers. John wrote, “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him” (John 8:30, NIV). So, the words Jesus said next were addressed to believers who—even though they were saved—were not yet free.
The issue that makes this text so vitally important is that it reveals that just because you become a believer does not automatically mean that you are instantaneously free from the slavery of your past! That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said to those Jewish believers, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32, NIV). Let me say it like this: Faith does not bring freedom. Faith brings eternal life. Truth brings freedom!
II. The Definition of Freedom
Many people misunderstand the Biblical definition of freedom. Freedom is not the right to do what you want to do. Freedom is the power to do what you ought to do. This is the kind of freedom that Paul prayed for the Colossians to experience. He wrote, “We pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way” (Colossians 1:10, NIV). Our Lord described this kind of freedom when He said, “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him” (John 8:29, NIV). Freedom is the power to do what pleases God…regardless of the circumstances!
The best example of someone living a life of freedom is our Lord, who demonstrated that He had the power to do the right thing…even in the face of immense temptation. Matthew recorded an incredible scene when he wrote, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him” (Matthew 4:1-11, NIV).
Jesus had the power to overcome temptation and do the right thing, because He knew the truth! At the point of each temptation, He quoted Scripture from the Old Testament and introduced each quotation with the phrase, “It is written.” He quoted the Word of God because He knew that it was truth. On one occasion, He said to His Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17b, NIV). Jesus was speaking from experience when He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John8:32, NIV).
III. Surrendered Ground
Paul warned believers about the danger of being enslaved by sin when he wrote, “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6, NIV).
When we yield to the temptation to commit a particular sin, we begin the process of becoming enslaved to that sin. That sin becomes our master…and begins to control our lives. Paul wrote, “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God” (Romans 6:12-13a, NIV).
When we yield to the temptation to commit a particular sin, we surrender a small piece of “ground” in our souls to Satan. He then uses that “ground” as a base of operation from which to wage war against our souls to enslave us to that particular sin. Peter referred to this war that breaks out in our souls when we commit sin. He wrote, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (I Peter2:11, NIV).
Paul referred to the concept of giving the Devil “ground” in our souls when he warned, “Do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27, NIV). The Greek word translated “foothold” is “topos” and literally means “ground.” Paul issued this warning because he knew that when we surrender “ground” in our souls to Satan, he immediately moves in and begins the construction of a “strong hold.” The Greek word translated “stronghold” in the New Testament is “ochuroma” and literally means “a castle or fortress.” Paul explained to the believers at Corinth “divine power to demolish strongholds.” He wrote, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:4, NIV).
After you have used God’s spiritual weapons to demolish the strongholds in your soul, you can effectively “resist” Satan. James wrote, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b, NIV). But if you don’t demolish the strongholds before you try to “resist” the Devil, he will simply run into one of his “strongholds” and hide there. Then as soon as he sees the opportunity, he will sneak out of the “stronghold” and start the war in your soul all over again—luring you back into your habitual sins.
It is extremely difficult for many believers to conquer the habitual sins in their lives. They can’t gain freedom from enslavement to particular sins, because they don’t know the truth about Satanic “strongholds” in their souls. But there is hope for freedom, because Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John8:32, NIV).
In order to successfully demolish Satan’s strongholds in our souls, we must use the weapons God has given us. John identified our two most powerful weapons when he wrote, “The accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony’” (Revelation 12:10b-11a, NIV). Two essential spiritual weapons are: 1) “the blood of the Lamb,” and 2) “the word of their testimony.” Let’s briefly examine each one.
“The blood of the Lamb.” When “ground” in the soul of a believer has been surrendered to Satan and he has built a strong hold on it, in order to demolish the strong hold and reclaim the “ground” for the Lord, it must be “purified” [cleansed] and “sanctified” [set apart for sacred use]. In the Old Testament, God introduced the principle that the blood of an innocent sacrifice must be applied to any person or object that is to be “purified” and “sanctified.” Scripture says, “Moses took the blood, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about with his finger, and purified the altar, and poured the blood at the bottom of the altar, and sanctified it” (Leviticus 8:15, KJV). In order to reclaim surrendered “ground” and demolish strong holds in our souls, we must apply “the blood of the Lamb” to them, asking God to cleanse the “ground” and reclaim it for His sacred use.
“The word of their testimony.” When John wrote that the saints overcame Satan by “the word of their testimony,” he was saying that they had demolished Satan’s strong holds in their souls by memorizing verses of Scripture specifically related to the habitual sins to which they were enslaved. When Satan tempted them to sin, they simply quoted God’s Word to him. That is what King David did when he was tempted to sin. He wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11, NIV). That’s what Jesus did when Satan tempted Him to sin. He said, “It is written” (Matthew 4:4, 6, 10, NIV), and then He quoted Scripture to Satan.
God’s desire for His people is that they gain freedom and that they remain free. Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, NIV). Genuine freedom is both gained and maintained by learning and applying truth to our lives. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, NIV). True freedom is not the right to do what you want to do, but the power to do what you ought to do!
#7 - The Principle of Purpose
(Ephesians 3:10-11, NIV)
“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
An accurate understanding of “The Principle of Purpose” provides the answer to the question, “Why am I here?” There is only one Biblical way to discover God’s purpose for our lives—“by faith.” Discovering and living out your life purpose pleases God, and the author of the Book of Hebrews wrote, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6a, NIV).
Every great man or woman of God who accomplished great things for the Kingdom of God was a man or woman of faith. That is the recurring theme of the Bible and is summarized in the 11th chapter of the Book of Hebrews. The author wrote, “By faith Noah…built an ark to save his family” (Hebrews 11:7, NIV). He wrote, “By faith Abraham…offered Isaac as a sacrifice” (Hebrews 11:17, NIV). He also wrote, “By faith Moses… chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:24a…25b, NIV). Simply stated: A man without faith is a man without purpose!
III. Definition of Life Purpose
God’s purpose in the life of every believer is unique. Life purpose is that specialized function in the Body of Christ for which I have been created, gifted, and equipped by God to advance His Kingdom by either, evangelizing unbelievers, discipling believers, or motivating believers to worship the Father. Paul described it like this, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:4-5, NIV). The members do not all function in the same way, but they should all function to contribute to the health and vitality of the Body of Christ.
The life purpose of a believer can only be fulfilled within the context of a local church. That’s why Paul wrote, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV). Discovering and living out your life purpose gives God “glory” and that is to be accomplished “in the church.”
Describing God’s purpose, Paul wrote, “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11, NIV). Living out our life purposes means that we are functioning as members of a local church to make known the wisdom of God—either by evangelism, discipleship, or worship…or some combination of the three!
IV. Understanding Life Purpose from God’s Perspective
In order to accurately determine God’s purpose for our lives, we must first be able to see life from His perspective. Scripture uses the word “wisdom” to describe the ability to see life from God’s perspective. According to James, the best way to get “wisdom” is to simply “ask God” for it. He wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5, NIV). Discovering our purpose in life is achieved by understanding how God sees life!
God’s people experience maximum fulfillment and maximum productivity when they are actively engaged in the purpose for which they were created, gifted, and equipped. So it is vitally important that we identify and God’s purpose for our lives. He calls every believer to achieve His purpose in life. That’s what Paul indicated when he wrote, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV). So the answer to the old question, “Why am I here?” is “You are here to achieve God’s purpose for your life!”
Sunday Service Times
Morning Worship: 10:00 a.m.
M*PACT Kidz: 10:00 a.m.
Helping Hands: 6:00 p.m.
ONE WAY Youth: 6:00 p.m.