Sharpening Our Discernment

It is essential to remember that fleshly thoughts come UP from our heart. Another’s fleshly behavior does not make us react in our flesh. All actions are first thoughts. If someone is blocking our goals, our reaction is first a thought that comes UP from our heart. Evil thoughts proceed from our heart which affect our behavior. Here is an example: someone is driving really slow and you are rushing to get to an appointment on time. What is your first thought? That thought proceeds a fleshly reaction, or a righteous response.


Can we discern between good and evil thoughts? Yes. The more we observe to do by applying God’s truths to our hearts, the more we will discern the difference when an evil thought comes to the surface. Hebrews 5:14 says, “But solid food…” Let’s stop there. What is solid food? It is doctrine that rules our thoughts and actions. It is foundational Scripture that brings correction and changes our thoughts, purpose, and actions. The verse continues, “…belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”


Good and evil are like water and oil. They don’t mix. You either have a good thought or an evil thought. You can’t have good and evil one at the same time. It is the same as to whether we follow our flesh or the Holy Spirit. One or the other. God is good, and there is no evil in Him. However, satan is evil, and there is no good in him. Right now, stop and think. God is Master over all, and satan is subject to Him. Who do you want to serve through your thoughts?


Romans 12:2 in the J. B. Phillips says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within…” There is a lot of world-flak right now in our country and worldwide. Romans 6:12 says, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.” What are you ‘letting’ in through your eyes and ears? Who are you associating with that influences you? Let us be those who overcome evil with good.


Proverbs 2:1-8 states that wisdom sharpens our discernment. I encourage you to reread them. When their truths are in place, verse 9 says, “Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path.” Understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and discretion preserve us in the time of temptation. It is God’s wisdom that comes from above. Here is wisdom derived from evil. James 3:14-15 says, “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.”


Lying, self-seeking, and bitter envy come from evil thoughts. They were planted through fiery darts which we received. They seeded deep to do their deceptive work. These three are just a sampling. Paul’s letters are full of truths that counteract each of these and far more. Ephesians 4:25 says to put away lying. Verse 26 says to not let the sun go down on your anger. Verse 29 says to not let any corrupt word come out of your mouth. Verse 31 says to put away fleshly things, or in other words to cast them away. Verse 32 says that we are to forgive as we have been forgiven.


Those verses are a template for righteousness. Righteousness is conforming our thoughts (by washing our hearts with God’s word) purposes (intentions), and actions (the fruit of our thoughts) to God’s will. Spiritual disciplines are essential. However they won’t bring inner change. We have to renew our mind through truth that will set us free and keep us free. That is what it means to overcome evil with good. Hidden lies deceive. Hidden truth pushes the lies to the surface. This is effective warfare. We discern the lie, confess it as sin, renounce it, and affirm the truth. Then we hide additional Scriptures in our heart that will be like sentinels to alert us to future oncoming fiery darts. 

Can You Fathom It?

I’ve continued to meditate on good and evil. It is hard for me to fathom what it was like for Adam and Eve. No sin. There was no conscious awareness of good and evil…until they sinned. In Genesis 3:5 the serpent set the bait. It says, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”


Adam and Eve were created beings. They had no past. They enjoyed a full and open relationship with the Lord. Why did they hide after they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? For the first time in their lives they knew the difference between right and wrong. They passed it onto their children.


Cain knew he had done wrong, and that is why he hid his sin. You and I are born with the knowledge of right and wrong. Romans 12:21 Amplified says, “Do not let yourself be overcome by evil, but overcome (master) evil with good.” What did God say to Cain? Genesis 4:7 says, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you shall rule over it.” The Amplified says, “…but you must master it.”

How do we master the temptation to sin that is crouching at our door, ready to spring out and capture us? The key is ‘do not let’ because it is up to us. No one can stop us except ourselves. Have you ever tried to convince someone not to sin? I have. I’ve plead to no avail. 1 Peter 2:1 says, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.” Where do these five things come from?


Matthew 15:19 says, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” For years I read this verse and let it roll off my me like water rolls off a ducks back. Why? I didn’t think that they applied to me. Yet, they perfectly define inner defilement.

Evil thoughts are anything that opposes God. Negative dialogue against yourself, others, or your circumstances fall into that category. Hidden sin taints our thoughts. Verse 20 says, “These are the things which defile a man…” Our heart is the seed bed. What we sow into our heart will be reaped through out thoughts which become actions.

What are good thoughts? Any thought that glorifies the Lord. They are thoughts that please Him. David wrote several Psalms that pertain to this truth. Psalm 19:14 is a good one to inculcate. It says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Our thoughts are totally open before the Lord. With that in mind, wouldn’t we want to please Him with our thoughts? Hidden sin is a total and absolute deception, we being the ones deceived.

God’s Purpose In Consequences

It is important to remember that when we are saved, our minds are not instantly transformed. We had thought patterns that were of the world. We may have consequences to our sins that still affect us. Since all things are worked by God for our good, what is His good in consequences? I want to give you an example from my own life.


February 1977 I received a phone call early in the morning. The contents of that conversation triggered angry thoughts that were buried from my past. I took off walking at 6:15 AM. I walked a long way. Knowing how I was back then, I was probably negatively dialoguing. The snow had been melting the day before and I was walking in mud. I got bogged down. When I came to the 6′ ravine I stopped and looked down, wondering how I was going to do it. That is all I remembered for 3 1/2 years. I suffered a severe brain injury that stopped me in my tracks.


Note: no one made me angry. That was my choice. I sinned against God and the one I was angry toward. Since nothing is in vain, the Lord used my consequences as a vehicle for His goodness to shine through. I could not work for 6 1/2 years. Most of that time I was bedridden. The Lord used that time to woo me. He brought me into an intimate communion with Him that has not been rivaled to this day. Our communion is my life-strength.


Though I accepted Jesus as my Savior in 1958, many heart-lies remained in place and hidden until 1993. When I learned that not all of my thoughts are of my own origin, that opened doors for tremendous inner healing. Our Heart Surgeon is always at work. I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the hidden lies. Then as each lie surfaced, I confessed it as sin, renounced it, and then affirmed His truth to replace it. You see, His purpose in our trials is to conform us to His image. Hidden sin keeps us from exemplifying Him.


Let me use Paul as an example. His was the most radical conversion I know. He wrote Romans 6:1-2 that says, “…Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!…” He also wrote Romans 7:20 to help his readers understand an important truth. It says, “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” The end of verse 25 says, “…So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” As long as we are in this body we will battle fleshly thoughts.


Paul wrote another key for us. Ephesians 4:23 says, “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Our minds are the battleground between our flesh and our spirit. If we believe one of satan’s lies, it will control our life and rule our thoughts. Truth from God’s word, is like flood waters that uproot massive trees. The truth exposes the long established root-lies by lifting them, roots and all, out of darkness into His light. We then can see them for what they are, confess them as sin, and gain victory!

Reverberations

Adam and Eve’s sin created reverberations that are still affecting everyone born. David succinctly spoke of it in Psalm 51:5. It says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” The seed of our conception was corrupted with sin. Mankind’s first sin was rooted in deception. Have you ever considered that your sins are rooted in deception? 


There were other reverberations. In Genesis 3:16 God told the woman, “…I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” In verse 17 He told Adam, “…Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” Verses 18-19 said that there would be thorns, thistles, and sweat.


Disobedience has consequences that reverberate. Here are questions I wrote in my journal: What has brought toil into my life? What thorns and thistles plague me? What thought patterns are sowing weed seeds? 


When we are tempted to sin, we have two choices. We can deceive ourselves and enter in, or we can turn away through truth. We know from Galatians 6:7 that we reap what we sow. There are two kinds of sowing. Verse 8 says, “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” Here are two facts: we reap more than we sow, and we do not reap in the same season that we sow in.


In Mark 4:13-20 Jesus explained the parable of the sower. Verse 14 says, “The sower sows the word.” We may have sown to our flesh, and are still reaping those consequences. Yet we serve a God of grace. He redeems all things. Nothing is in vain because He works everything in our lives for our good. When we implant Scripture into our hearts, we change the soil. It is much like tilling to remove rocks or clods that would keep the seed from sprouting. Verse 20 says of the seeds, “…the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit..” Are you allowing God’s word to enhance the soil of your heart?


God’s word is alive. The new seeds that we sow are fertile and ready to produce. When we plant His word into our hearts, it changes our whole life. When the Lord shows me a hidden sin that I am still reaping from, I confess it. Then I ask Him to sterilize the seeds that I sowed in my disobedience. I don’t want those weed-seeds to continue to propagate. Weed-seeds are rogue thoughts that oppose God’s word, His will, and His ways.

How Strong Are You?

Proverbs 24:10 says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Isaiah 26:8 says that the Lord gives strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate. The battle is in our thoughts. It is essential to remember that all temptations play on our thoughts. Let’s see how this works.


Sampson was extraordinarily physically strong. Yet, in the face of temptations, he was spiritually weak. The Philistines asked Delilah to find out where Sampson’s strength came from. Judges 16:5 says, “…Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies…” They believed that if they knew his source they could conquer him. Listen to the rest of the verse. “…and by what means we may bind him to afflict him…”


What did Sampson do? He was cocky. It seems that he was very sure of himself. However, he was blind before they put his eyes out. His sensitivity to the Holy Spirit was dulled because of his association with evil. Verse 20 says, “…I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free! But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.”


Let’s go to another scene. Adam was commanded to not eat of a certain tree in the garden. Genesis 2:17 says, “…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Scripture does not tell us, but I like to think that Adam warned Eve to not eat of the tree. Yet, when she was tempted by the serpent, note how the temptation played on her mind.


Genesis 3:6 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…”1 John 2:15-16 gives us companion verses. Verse 15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

Before salvation we loved the world’s words, ways, and activities. We were in the world and the world was in us. We operated from verse 16 which says, “For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world.”


Our true spiritual strength lies in our communion with the Lord. John 15:1-8 is about abiding in the Vine. In abiding, we are submitted to the One who carefully inspects under our leaves for eroding pests. He lovingly prunes fruitful branches so we can bear more fruit. Verse 5 says that without Him we can do nothing.


What temptations draw you away from your quiet time with the Lord? What plays on your mind? What are your distractions? The Holy Spirit showed me something this morning. When tempted, if we immediately renew our mind, we will escape the snare.

I usually use Scripture when I’m faced with adversity. It bubbles up because it is hidden in my heart. Yet, consider this. A temptation plays on our mind and draws us into a winding up type dialogue that increases the power of the temptation. Right then, we ‘renew’ our mind by rehearsing the opposite. It will make our mind reverse, unwind, and go the opposite direction of the temptation. Experiential truth keeps us free!

The Holy Spirit Hovers Part Two

John 14:21 says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Manifest in the Strong’s is defined as: to cause to shine, come to view, reveal, exhibit, make visible, present oneself to the sight of another, and be conspicuous.


Ephesians 3:10 says, “To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” God’s intent, through our quiet time with Him, is to reveal Himself through us to others.


We can be sure that satan knows this. His evil intent is to squelch it through appealing temptations. He knows that our strength lies in our vital union with the Lord. Sin blocks that fellowship. He has flesh-actors trained to incite our carnal nature. He sets up temptations that appeal to our flesh. We must remember that satan is a counterfeiter. He cannot speak the truth. Therefore any temptation is laced with lies to entice and trap us.


Let me lay out a few contrasts. God loves His word, but satan hates it. He draws us to Himself, but satan seeks to distract us from our quiet time. We are partakers of Jesus’ nature, but satan incites our flesh to taint our testimony. We dwell with Him in light, but satan lures us into the darkness to hide our sins.


Another role of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction when we stray. 1 John 2:26 says, “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” All temptations are built on deception. We are drawn in when we forget this dynamic. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Hebrews 3:13 says that our hearts become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Intimate communion with the Lord is designed to instruct our heart. Through our time with the Lord, He loves to reveal deep truths that will bring inner transformation. Psalm 25:14 Amplified says, “The secret (of the sweet, satisfying companionship) of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them (His covenant and reveal to them its (deep, inner) meaning.”


1 Corinthians 2:10 Amplified says, “Yet to us God has unveiled and revealed them by and through His Spirit, for the (Holy) Spirit searches diligently, exploring and examining everything, even sounding the profound and bottomless things of God (the divine counsels and things hidden and beyond man’s scrutiny).”


How strong are you spiritually? We will look into that tomorrow.

The Holy Spirit Hovers

I started reading the book of Genesis three days ago. I am still at verse 2. It has captured my heart. Picture this with me. Verse 1 says that God created the heaven and the earth. Verse 2 says “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Amplified says, “…moving (hovering, brooding)…”


There was total darkness, but when God said, ‘Let there be light’ there was light. The Holy Spirit hovered over the darkness, so that the light could be conceived at God’s word. He prepared it to change. We get a fuller picture by adding in Luke 1:35. The virgin was barren. Verse 35 says, “…The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you…”


Jump ahead to our salvation. 2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Through believing what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished, we enter into a personal relationship with a Living Savior. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us.


Now I would like you to picture this. As you read your Bible, the Holy Spirit is hovering over you. He highlights a word, or a phrase. He illumines the nuggets of truth He wants to expand on. He causes your heart’s thoughts to prepare for revelation. He conceives an insight in your heart that will enlighten your eyes, and give you understanding that will bring change.


It is in the context of intimate communion with the Lord that He gives revelation. He reveals Himself in a new way. Our relationship is present. It is a living expression of who He is in totality, yet as we gaze at Him, it is somewhat like a kaleidoscope. The slightest turning changes everything. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that as we gaze at Him we are transformed. We also get a picture of this through Revelation  4:8. The four living creatures are gazing at the Lord. They have eyes all around. It is like they get a fresh look at Him and say, “…Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Tomorrow we will deep dive.

Greed Feeds Self

Every temptation is designed to feed our self-gratification. Otherwise it would not be a temptation. I have never drank alcohol. If offered a drink, it would have no pull on me. However, if someone had been set free of drinking, it would pull them like a magnet. It depends on what we have been set free from. It also depends on what is hidden in our hearts. 


My grandfather was a fly fisherman. He crafted each of his lures. The enemy of our soul is searching for ways to reel us in. He ‘crafts’ lures that will get us to take his bait. His goal is to take us out of service to the Lord. He hates authentic followers of Christ because they represent the One he cannot control.


Yesterday I brought up bitterness. Bitterness starts as a seed that is dropped into the soil of our heart. When our heart is full of God’s word, the soil is rich in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:23-24 says, “…Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”


When the soil in our heart is barren (the way of the transgressor is hard), full of stones (offenses), and thorns (irritations, nettling thoughts), the fruit of the Spirit has nothing to grow in. I love the picture in Psalm 65. Verse 4 says, “Blessed is the man You choose, and cause to approach You, that he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, of Your holy temple.” 


Here is an illustration of a satisfied heart. Verses 9-11 say, “You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for so You have prepared it. You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth. You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance.” 


Anything we do in our own strength pleases our flesh. Romans 8:7-8 says, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Walking in the Spirit pleases the Lord. The fruit of the Spirit is evident in our lives when we are submitted to the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” 


Here is our mandate. Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Lust: greed, self-gratification, unholy desires, and unbridled passions. When we put off every temptation by putting on Christ, we will erase and wipe out any pre-plans to gratify our flesh. Abundant fruit glorifies the Lord.

Neutralize

Perhaps we should always consider every temptation to sin as an encounter that will lead to death. There are serpents whose venom kills instantly. The enemy of our soul was first portrayed as a serpent in the garden. I don’t do snakes. When the Holy Spirit gave me this analogy this morning it resonated clearly.


It brought me back to Paul and his encounter with a deadly snake. Acts 28:2 says that the natives of Malta built a fire for the shipwrecked victims. Verse 3 says, “But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.” Let us follow his example any time a temptation latches onto us. It says, “But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.”

Proverbs 7:6-27 is a lengthly description of a harlot’s craftiness. We saw it played out with Samson and Delilah. Verse 7 says, “And I saw among the simple, I perceived among the youths, a young man devoid of understanding.” Verse 21 says, “With her enticing speech she caused him to yield…” Verse 23 says, “…he did not know it would cost his life.” Verse 27 says, “Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chamber of death.”

These two illustrations make the power and consequences of a temptation very vivid. Let us picture these the next time we are tempted. The temptation is not sin. It is when we yield that the viper fastens onto our heart. James 1:15 says, “Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.”

A snake bite is very toxic. The only way to neutralize the toxicity is with an anti venom. How do we neutralize a temptation? We inject truth immediately! Experiential truth is truth that is inculcated into our heart. It is a way of life. I love Psalm 119 because it describes the power of God’s word through multiple ways. Verse 11 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” ALL sin is against God. 


Let me use bitterness as an example. Bitterness is a choice that has come from a ‘snake’ bite. Instead of shaking off the temptation to be offended, we allow the snake to remain and speak to us. We roll the whole scene around in our mind. We built a case against the one who hurt us.

Bitterness causes chemical changes. Each toxic thought drips onto neuro pathways in our brain and erodes them. When we don’t forgive in the moment, the seed germinates. It is that fast. Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God…”

The moment the temptation to sin comes we have God’s grace to resist. If we ignore His provision, the rest of the verse goes into effect. “…lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Our sin affects those around us. Sin blocks our fellowship with the Lord. It plunges us into darkness. Our light is covered. We no longer shine for Him.

John made it really clear in 1 John 1:5. It says, “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Let us rise up above every temptation by neutralizing it instantly. Let us say no! and use the temptation as a reminder that sin’s bite is deadly.

See+Covet+Take=Sin Part Two

Disciplined thought patterns follow truth. They are directional. Psalm 5:3 says, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” They are intentional. Hebrews 4:12 says that God’s word discerns our thoughts and intentions. When we hide His word in our heart it is there to direct our intentions. They are purposed. Daniel 1:8 says that Daniel purposed in his heart. Before he was ever tempted, his heart was set on God’s way.


Any rogue thought against you, others, or your circumstances are fiery darts. They are guided missiles to destroy. They are set to implode within once they are hidden. They slip in unnoticed because we did not discipline our thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says to bring every (rogue) thought captive. Rogue thoughts exalt themselves against the knowledge of God as declared in His word. 


We bring stress upon ourselves when we worry/trust, fear/hope, or have inner turmoil/peace at the same time. Our brain cannot handle it. It throws confusion into the mix. Our thoughts are divided. We hesitate. Doubt means that we are divided in our decision making, or we waver between right and wrong. When we are tempted, we know that we should not, but there is something inside that still longs for it. James 1:14 says, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” 


Judges 16:5 is a perfect example of enticement’s results. The Philistines said to Delilah, “…Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him…” Do you see the picture? When we fall for the temptation, we are entrapped and bound. The enemy uses the temptation to lure us so that he can afflict us.


2 Kings 17:41 says that they feared the Lord, but served their carved images. What? They were divided, and a house divided cannot stand. We need to be very aware of our duplicity. It stresses our brain, which then causes physical stress. It is a domino effect that leads to disease. Disciplined thought patterns, based on truth, will keep us steadfast and unmoved in the face of any temptation.