Category Archives: Obedience

Life and Death

“The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 HCSB)

There are those who read this verse and immediately think that God is cruel, and without love, or compassion for people as He claims to have.  Most people who believe this way do not understand God because they have very little, or no knowledge of God.  What’s most troubling is that there are many who call themselves Christians who have this same mindset and have no idea of the danger they are in.  So, let’s break down and understand this verse.

  1.  “The one who believes in the Son…” – the word “believe”, here, means much more than a simple intellectual conviction that Jesus exists, and that He died on a cross, and rose from the dead.  God, in James 2:19, tells us that even the demons believe in Jesus, and even shudder in fear of Him.  This does not mean that demons are going to heaven.  The belief that this verse speaks of is a complete, unconditional surrender of our lives to the lordship of Christ in such a way that we strive to live in immediate, radical, costly obedience to His commands; not out of obligation, or as a “stay out of hell card”, but because we understand what He has done for us.
  2. “has eternal life,” – eternal life in heaven with Him is our reward for surrendering our lives to Jesus, and submitting ourselves to His Lordship, in such a way that we strive to live in immediate, radical, costly obedience to His commands.
  3. “but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life;” – the person who outright refuses to surrender his/her life to the lordship of Christ, and refuses to live in immediate, radical, costly obedience to His commands. this person will not see eternal life in heaven with Jesus.
  4. “instead, the wrath of God remains on him.” – God’s wrath remains on us because we choose to live our lives in rebellion against Him, which is what’s in our nature to do.  We don’t want to surrender our lives to anyone, or anything, unless it satisfies our lusts, and desires for the things of this world – “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17).”

Here is what we need to understand about God, folks.  God does not hate anyone.  On the contrary.  God loves us all enough to give us the choice to surrender to Him and live according to His will and purpose, or to live according to our will and desires.  But, He also loves us enough to warn us of the consequences of not living according to His will and purpose.

God sends no-one to hell.  We send ourselves to hell by the choice we make.  With every choice we make, we also choose the consequences we will suffer.

In Christ’s love,

Phil

Love One Another

“Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11-12 HCSB)

Church, how else is the world going to know Jesus if the world doesn’t see and hear Jesus in us?  Are we ashamed to speak and act like Jesus?  Then why aren’t we doing it?  I know what some of us are saying, right now, “Of course I’m not ashamed of Jesus, how dare you question my love for Him!”  And some of us are even adding an excuse to it, saying, “I just don’t want to offend anyone!”  We seem to have forgotten that Jesus, our Lord and King, has given us a command:

 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35 HCSB).”

How can we, the church, love others outside the church, when we can’t even love one another, in the church?  How can we even call ourselves Christians when we are indifferent to the suffering of our Christians brothers and sisters?  One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen is a church budget.  We spend thousands of dollars caring for buildings and programs, and just a few dollars, in comparison, for the overall care of our own brothers and sisters in need.  Where we, the church, spend the most money is where our hearts are.

I would rather be hated by the world for my love for God and others, than be loved by the world for my indifference.  Jesus loved me and gave Himself for me and others, so I will love Him and give myself for Him and others in return.  I will love Him, and others, even if it costs me my life, because I would rather be loved by God and hated by the world, than to be loved by the world and hated by God.

So, church, how can we love one another as the Lord has commanded us to do?  It’s simple, just find someone in your congregation that is need of love and care, and love and care for them.  Supply their needs without expecting anything in return.

Church, if there is no benevolence fund for your congregation in your budget, isn’t it time to change that?  Isn’t it time to be an example to the world of what it looks like to love one another?  If we want our world to change, change has to begin with us.

But First…God owes us nothin

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:33)

We all want God to supply our every need, especially when it comes to our basic, everyday necessities.  I mean, we all know that God is love, right?  He is also our “Good, Good Father” who wants to take good care of us.  So, why shouldn’t we ask and He give us what we need and want?

Well, the answer is in today’s verse.  Did you see the answer?  Let’s look and see what it tells us.

1.  “But seek first…” – this implies that there is a condition to God’s blessings.  We need to be seeking to do something for Him, first.

2.  “the kingdom of God…” – we are to be seeking to grow God’s kingdom.  What this means is that God wants our first priority to be growing His kingdom by sharing the Gospel of Christ wherever we are and make disciples of those who put their faith and trust in Him (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8).

2.  “and His righteousness,” – our other priority is to strive each day to live according to the moral standard He has set for us to live by.  God is not going to reward us with everything we need when we are not doing what He has commanded us to do, first.

3.  “and all these things will be provided for you.” – as long as we are working to grow His kingdom and striving to live according to the moral standard He has set for us, then God will supply our every need.  This requires the full measure of our faith in the fact that God is faithful, and that He never lies.

God is not our personal “Genie in a Bottle” that is bound to giving us everything we need and/or want.  He will not let us take advantage of Him.  Remember this, God owes us nothing; we owe Him everything.  Just do what He says, then watch what He does.

In Christ’s love,

Phil

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The Mark of a Christian

“For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14 HCSB)

In today’s verse, the Apostle Paul is reminding the Christians in Corinth that just because they had been liberated from and sin and the yoke of the Jewish law, did not mean they could go back to living in sin again.  He tells them that the only way to fulfill all of God’s law is to love their neighbors as they would their own selves.  Here’s what he says:

 For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself (Galatians 5:13-14).”

It has become more and more evident that today’s church has the same problem as the church at Corinth had.  We Christians, the church, have gone back to our selfish, self-centered, self-absorbed ways and forgotten the second greatest and most important of God’s commands.  Jesus reminds us of what should be most important in every Christian’s life:

“He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).”

Two very important things to take away from this passage of scripture:

  1. We are commanded to love God above all other relationships in our lives (Luke 14:25-27).
  2. We are commanded to love our neighbor as we do our own selves.  So, if we love ourselves enough to make sure we don’t go to hell, we must love our neighbors enough not to let them go to hell, either.  If we love ourselves enough to provide everything we need for ourselves, we must also make sure that our neighbors are provided for, as well.

Seriously, church, how are we really doing at this?  How well are you loving your neighbors? How well are we loving our neighbors around the world?

The Apostle Paul explains it another way in Romans 13:8-10:

“Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and whatever other commandment—all are summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10 HCSB).”

If we are Christians, Jesus teaches us to be the example of His love to all people. He says: 

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).”

If someone were to ask our neighbors about us, what would they say about us?  Would they know that we are Christians by our love for them and others?  We have been called to be the example of God’s love to the entire world, beginning with our own neighbors next door, and then to the entire world.

So, then,

  • how are we going to obey today’s lesson? (make a plan, now)
  • With whom are we going to share today’s lesson? (pray and let the Lord show you with whom He wants you to share today’s lesson)
  • With whom are we going to share the story of our salvation, and the story of what Jesus has done for us?  (pray and let the Lord show you with whom He wants you to share your story, and His story, then go, do it)

 

In Christ’s love,

Phil Covone

 

Faith and Obedience

“Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.”” (Malachi 3:10)

This is one of the most misunderstood and misused verses in the Bible.  Contrary to popular belief, this was, and still is, a test of our faith in God, and our obedience to God.  God was testing the Israelites, and He is testing us today.  Many of us focus our attention on God’s promise of an immeasurable blessing, instead of the condition by which we will receive the blessing.  Let’s look closer.

  1. “Bring the full tenth…” – this is the condition.  God commands us to bring the full tenth, not a partial part of the tenth, or tithe.  If we were to be honest, most of us would have to admit that we hardly ever give the actual tenth of our first fruits,  before taxes.  God does not accept partial service, or partial worship.
  2. “into the storehouse so that there will be food in My house.” – so that those who serve God in His temple, may live. We must provide for those who serve God, and us.  This is a command, not a suggestion.  In the Book of Haggai, chapter two, verse eight, God reminds us that all the gold and silver belongs to Him: “The silver and gold is mine” – this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.” If we believe that this is true, and it is, what right do we have to withhold any portion of the tithe from Him?   How dare we!
  3. “Test Me in this way,” says the Lord of Hosts.”” – God issues us a challenge.  He wants to demonstrate to us that He will keep His promise.  He challenges us to put all our faith and trust in Him to do what he says He will do.
  4. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.” – God was promising rain for their faith and obedience, and with the rain, abundance of crops that would over-abundantly provide for their families.

If by faith we obey God and give Him the FULL 10% of our gross earnings, as He commands us to do, He will supply us, over-abundantly, with what we need to take care of ourselves and our families.  DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND! GOD DOES NOT, NOR DOES HE EVER, PROMISE TO MAKE US RICH!  He promises to give us what we need, and we are to be satisfied with what He gives us.  If we expect more than what God provides, it’s greed, and greed is a sin.

“But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)

So then,

  • how will we obey today’s lesson?
  • With whom will we share today’s lesson?
  • With whom will we share the story of our salvation and the story of what Jesus has done for us?

 

In Christ’s love,

Phil Covone

Love

“If I speak human or angelic languages but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”  (1 Corinthians 13:1 HCSB)

There are too many denominations that have missed the point of today’s verse.  Instead of focusing on the important lesson God is trying to teach us, they focus on what’s least important to God.  This happens way more often than it should.  We seem to have forgotten how dangerous it is to refocus God’s Word from what is important to God, to what’s most important to us. After all, this is God’s Word, not ours to do with as we wish.

In essence, what God, through the Apostle Paul, is teaching us is that no matter how intelligent, or spiritual we think we are, if we don’t love others, it all means nothing.  As Christians, there should never be anything more important to us, than that which is most important to God, NOTHING!  In fact, we are to be imitators of God, not the world.  Look at what God says;

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children.  And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).”

We know that the essence of God is Love.  At the core of His Being is Love.  His Character, and everything He does is driven by the Essence of who He is, Love.  Therefore, if God lives in us, and we’ve crucified all our passions and desires, all there is left in us is God, and all of who He is, Love.  God, through the Apostle John, says this:

“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7-8).”

There is a great difference between knowing about God, and knowing God, personally.  Those who do not have a personal relationship with God, cannot love the way God loves. Only those who do have a personal relationship with God can love as God loves because God resides in them.

So how important is it love to God?  Jesus answered that when a Pharisee asked Him which of all the laws was the most important.  This was Jesus’ response:

“He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands (Matthew 22:37-40).”

What Jesus means is that if we love God above all other relationships we have here on earth, and we love others (Christians and non-Christians alike) as we love our own selves, we are obeying and fulfilling all of God’s law.  Love is the most important of all of God’s law.  Jesus also gave us this command:

 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13;34-35).”

So, my question is, what defines you as a Christian?  If love is the mark of a true Christian, doesn’t it stand to reason that love is what defines who we are personally, and as Jesus’ church?

In Christ’s love,

Phil Covone

 

Crucified

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)

It is an awesome day when a person decides to put all their faith in Christ and surrender their lives to Christ as their Lord and Savior (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10).  There’s a sense of true peace to know that we have passed from eternal death, to eternal life.  Jesus said: 

“I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).”

What this means is that, when we surrender our lives to Christ, we begin a new life in Him.  We die to our old way of living and begin a new way of life as God, through the Apostle Paul, tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5;17).”

Now, in today’s verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul teaches us how this new life begins.  But to fully understand it in the context it was written, we need to look at the preceding verses.  Here are verses 19, through 23:

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:19-23).”

Here, God, through the Apostle Paul, explains the difference between a non-Christian, and a true Christian. The evidence of a person in whom Christ does not lives is: “sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar”.  By contrast, the evidence of a person in whom Christ does live, is: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.”  

So, in today’s verse, God, through the Apostle Paul, teaches us the process by which we go from living for self, to living for Christ.  Let’s take a closer look.

  1. “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus…” – These are the people who have,
    –  believed and accepted the fact that they are sinners in need of a Savior.
    –  believed and accepted the fact that Jesus was sent by God die on a cross for the forgiveness fo their sins
    –  believe and accept the fact that Jesus was buried and rose again from the dead to give them eternal life
    –  believe and accept the fact that this is a free gift from God, something that cannot be earned, no bought
    –  made a commitment, with Christ, to seek Him every day, follow Him no matter where He leads them, and strive to live in immediate, radical, costly obedience to His commands
  2. “have crucified…” – the cross is a symbol of death.  Therefore, we have chosen to crucify, or kill, our old self to begin a new life in Christ.
  3. “the flesh…” – this refers to the sinful nature into which we were born.  We are, by nature, sinful.
  4. “with it’s passions…” – a heart for what is wrong (sin) in God’s eyes.
  5. “and desires.” – a deep desire to satisfy our carnal desires.

If this is what it means to be a Christian, we need to self-examine our lives to see if we are living according to God’s standards, and not what we think, or have been erroneously taught by others.

Now, then,

  • how are we going to obey what we’ve learned in today’s lesson?
  • With whom are we going to share today’s lesson?
  • With Whom are we going to share the story of our salvation, and that Jesus did for us?

In Christ’s love,

Phil Covone