A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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REAL JESUS, REAL YOU

One of the few things we know for sure about Jesus is that he never sinned during his time on Earth. He came into the world sinless and he left it sinless. Had he not be entirely sinless, he wouldn’t have been able to pay the sin debt owed by Adam. But the debt’s been paid; the kingdom’s come; and Jesus is at the right hand of God, where he belongs.

But Jesus being sinless doesn’t mean that Jesus always wanted to do what God wanted him to do. What most Christians don’t consider (and they should consider it, they really, really should) is that while Jesus was always obedient to God, he didn’t always want to be. Sometimes he dragged his heels, sometimes he jumped the gun, and sometimes he tried to negotiate his way around it.

This is important, that we acknowledge that Jesus didn’t always want to do what God was asking him to do but that he did it anyway. Because if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we don’t always want to do what God is asking us to do. All of us occasionally try to find a way around God’s will or a justification for not doing it. All of us do this, and if you say you don’t, you’re lying to yourself.

We’re constantly being tested to see whether we want what God is offering or what the world is offering. But God is not going to permit us to be tempted when we’re all fired up after a revival meeting; no, he’s going to test us after we’ve been fasting for 40 days and nights in the wilderness. He wants to see the real us, not the one we claim to be with our Christian friends. He wants to see how we respond not when we’re at the top of our game, but when we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel; when we’re tired and cranky; when we’ve spent the past 3 weeks sleeping on the airport floor: when we’re hungry and thirsty and exhausted and lost and people are being downright nasty to us. That’s when we’ll be tested. That’s when we’ll be pressed to do God’s will against every nerve and bone in our body.

This is where many people fall. They fail the test and then decide not to get back up again. But if we understand that Jesus himself didn’t always want to do what God tasked him to do (that is, that he didn’t always want to choose to forgive, that he didn’t always want to turn the other cheek, that he didn’t always want to love his enemies, etc.), it makes it easier for us to be obedient through gritted teeth. Because you wanna bet that Jesus was gritting his teeth on many an occasion when he chose to do God’s will. He wasn’t always doing it with a smile on his face. No-one on Earth always does God’s will with a smile on their face. It’s not possible to do that.

But it is possible to be obedient to God while gritting your teeth or grumbling under your breath. God’s not asking you to give up who you are or to stop being authentically you; he’s just inviting you to choose his way rather than the world’s way. That’s what it means to be obedient to God, to do God’s will, and it can be done through gritted teeth and while grumbling.

Or you can choose not to do God’s will, and fail the test. When that happens, you need to acknowledge your failure and move on. Don’t grovel in your failure; learn from it. And you’d might as well learn from it, because you’re going to be tested again on that exact same point. You don’t get out of something by failing it, not in God’s economy: You get a re-do when you least expect it.

Case in point: Several weeks ago, I had a run-in with a woman at a bus shelter in Halifax. She was smoking, pointedly ignoring all the “NO SMOKING” signs painted around the shelter’s interior. I politely asked her to stop smoking, but she ignored me. I asked her again, she still ignored me, and that’s when things took a turn for the worse. It’s also when I should have backed off and let God deal with her, but I wasn’t in the mood to do that on that particular day. So I locked horns with the woman.

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say it got nasty. Real nasty. It almost came to physical blows, but God sent us off in different directions before that could happen.

A few weeks later, the night before I left Halifax, I was on a bus, and who should get on but the woman I’d locked horns with. She sat down next to me, but she didn’t recognize me at first. She’d had a problem finding her monthly bus pass when she was boarding the bus, so I asked her if she wanted mine, as I was leaving town the next day and wouldn’t need it anymore. She thanked me and said no, she had a pass already, she just needed to find it at the bottom of her purse. She dug through her bag for a minute and triumphantly flashed her pass at me and the bus driver. Then she thanked me again for my offer and complimented me on my coat.

It was at that point that I noticed a glimmer of recognition in her eyes, but not clear recognition. I could tell that she was trying to place me from somewhere, but she wasn’t sure where. So we chatted for a few minutes about the weather turning cold and about my upcoming trip, and then she gathered her things together to get off the bus. That, I think, is when the penny dropped for her and she remembered where she knew me from. But instead of lighting into me (which she could easily have done), she instead stared me straight in the face and wished me a good night and safe travels. I returned her well wishes, and we nodded and smiled good-bye to each other as if we were old friends.

I think I can say with confidence that I passed the re-do test, as did she. God’s timing is perfect. The funny thing is, during our brief bus trip together, the woman reminded me so much of me. We had similar mannerisms and ways of expressing ourselves, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she were a Christian, though not necessarily a born-again one. I have a feeling I’ll see her again someday, and we’ll have a good laugh over our bus shelter battle. God’s sense of humor, like his timing, is always perfect.

But WE are not perfect, and neither was Jesus during his time on Earth. That means we sometimes have to do God’s will through gritted teeth and while grumbling under our breath. That means we sometimes get mad at God. He’s our Dad, after all. (Surely you’ve been angry with your earthly father!) God would rather that you be real with him than fake it, and anger is a reasonable response to being asked to do something you don’t want to do.

Choosing God’s way was something Jesus always did, though not always with a smile on his face. God doesn’t expect us to do what even Jesus couldn’t do. What he does expect us to do is to grumble and to fail on occasion; and when we do fail, to get back on the horse ASAP. Obedience to God doesn’t require a smiling face, just a grudging “yes” when we’d sometimes rather say “no”.

A simple “yes” will do it.

God will do all the rest.

GETTING THE MIRACLE YOU NEED

So many people praying for a miracle, praying for healing, praying for the cancer to go away or at least to go into remission. Praying for relationships to be healed. Praying for enough money to pay the bills or maybe a lottery win.

Praying for a miracle.

And then, when the requested miracle doesn’t come, so many people crying to God: “Why are you doing this to me? What have I done to deserve this?” and cursing him, or worse, swearing he doesn’t exist.

But God answers all prayers, including those made in the agony of the soul. You might not get the exact miracle you requested, but you will get a miracle. God will intervene, if you ask him to. Through divine intervention, he’ll give you the strength to endure whatever it is you’re going through, whatever it is you’ve brought on yourself, whatever it is you have to suffer. There’s your miracle. The miracle is in the power of your strength to endure, which you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t prayed to God for help. Your strength to endure is God working through you. There’s your miracle.

People ask me if God works miracles in my life, and I say yes, every minute of every day. Every minute of every day God works through me. Every day I witness his intervention, because I constantly ask for it and thank God for it. Every day I see his miracles.

I may not get precisely what I ask for, but I do get what God knows I need to stay on the path Home. And sometimes he’ll throw in a little something extra, something he knows I’ll know could only have come from him, just to make me laugh. God loves it when he can make us laugh.

The night before Jesus was crucified, he prayed to God that there would be some other way for him to complete his mission without his having to be crucified. He didn’t want to be crucified. He didn’t want the agony and very public humiliation of that kind of death. But note that he qualified his prayer with “not what I want, but you want”, and he prayed the same prayer three times in succession, showing us that we need to be persistent in prayer, so that God knows we mean what we say and that it’s not just a passing fancy.

Jesus didn’t get specifically what he asked for; he was crucified. But immediately after Jesus prayed, God sent an angel to strengthen him. There was the miracle he needed – not the miracle he wanted, but the miracle he needed to get through what he had to get through in order to get Home.

Our strength to endure whatever we have to endure is not our strength; it doesn’t come from us, no matter how strong we think we are. That strength to endure comes from God. That is divine intervention. That is a miracle.

So whatever you pray for, pray like Jesus – qualify your prayers by telling God not to give you what you want, but what he wants. God loves you even more than you love yourself, so if you give God leave to give you what he wants rather than what you want, you’ll always come out ahead. Yes, Jesus had to deal with being crucified, but he was crucified while also strengthened by God to endure it. Imagine how much worse it would have been for Jesus without God’s help.

I know how bad things can get when you don’t pray for God’s help, because I lived the first 36 years of my life on Earth without praying to God, and I stumbled from one disaster to the next. I was constantly an emotional basket case, constantly flailing in pain, and constantly casting blame like an AK-47 spraying bullets.

But on that day when I finally called out for help, not even knowing who I was calling to, God heard, and he answered immediately. He offered me the option of choosing to forgive or choosing not to forgive, showing me the outcome of each choice and shining a bright light on the choice to forgive as the right one and the one that would stop all my pain. Thank God I cried out for help that day. Thank God God heard me, and thank God he answered.

God always hears our prayers and always answers them. Always. There is never a time when he doesn’t. When you give God leave to intervene, he might not do exactly what you want him to do, but he will do what’s best for you. That’s his job description as your Heavenly Father.

So pray to God like Jesus prayed – not demanding, not expecting, not threatening or negotiating, but humbly giving into God’s will for you, whatever that may be.

That’s how you pray, and that’s how you get the miracle you need.

THE CHURCH THAT JESUS BUILT

What does Jesus think of Christianity?

I asked him, and this is what he told me.

He hates what’s it’s become, the same way he hated what Judaism had become.

He’s also not surprised what Christianity has turned into. He warned us 2000 years ago already that it would morph into something unrecognizable from what he’d established.

Is a church still Christian if Jesus has left the building?

What remains is a mish-mash of soulless rituals adapted from dead belief systems, songs of praise that sound like funeral dirges, and a worldly ideological free-for-all that would make even the ancient Sodomites blush. Yes, Jesus was notorious for eating and drinking with tax collectors and prostitutes, but he didn’t invite them into the temple to drink. He made it very clear that the temple was set aside as a house of prayer.

In a house of prayer, you come before God to talk to him and hear from him. When you come before God, you don’t come loud and proud, demanding that God accept your sin as righteousness. If you’re born-again, you come before God as his child, respectful and loving. If you’re not born-again, you come before God penitent and humbled. There is no room for pride in God’s house of prayer.

There is no room for Pride in God’s house of prayer.

Those who feel compelled to express their pride can do it elsewhere; the places designated as God’s houses are places of prayer for all people, not places for acting out.

The penitent sinful are welcome in God’s house, but sin isn’t. Pride isn’t.

*****

But of course, I’m dreaming here to think that the mainstream worldly churches have the remotest grasp of these concepts now, and that even if they did, they would care to apply them. Jesus hates the current manifestation of Christianity not because of the people in it, but because of the sin in it. The one true Church that Jesus established by very definition has no sin it; sin cannot enter into God’s Kingdom: It’s a spiritual impossibility for sin to enter in. Which means the churches masquerading as his are not his.

Christian churches are not Christian.

The Church that Jesus established is the Kingdom of God on Earth. This is the one true Church and the one that born-again believers automatically become members of at their rebirth. There is no need for born-again believers to join a worldly denominational church. If you’re genuinely born again and you want to know what your Church looks like in the spiritual realm, you can see a vision of it in Revelation 7. All those white-robed people of different nations and languages standing before God’s throne day and night and waving palm fronds to witness their allegiance to Jesus as Messiah – there’s your Church. You’re among those white-robed people, if you’re genuinely born-again.

In John, Jesus prayed that his followers would be one with God as he was one with God. Jesus always got what he prayed for (as he always waited for God to direct his prayers), so we know that we, as his born-again followers, do have the same relationship with God as Jesus did during his time on Earth. God is our Father.

And having the same relationship that Jesus had with God, we are one family of believers and we all believe the same thing. There is nothing to dispute. There are no disagreements. There is no need for denominations or creeds or statements of belief. We believe what Jesus believed, not because we’re mindless zombies who parrot whatever is told us, but because Jesus believed Truth, and so do we.

We believe the Gospel. We believe God’s Word. Any deviation from that we do not believe and in fact any deviation cannot enter into God’s Church. Only Truth lives in God’s Church, and only genuine born-again believers can enter in there.

Lies, deceit, Pride, and all forms of sin cannot enter. It’s a spiritual impossibility for unrepentant sin to enter into God’s Church.

That’s how we know that the sin-laden mainstream denominational churches are not God’s Church. They are places designated for people to come before God, if they want to, they are a house of prayer for all people, but they are not God’s Church.

The Kingdom and the Kingdom only is God’s Church – the one foretold in scripture, and the one that Jesus built.

THE NUMBERS GAME

Abraham made a deal with God that if there were 10 righteous souls in Sodom, God would not destroy it.

As it were, God did destroy Sodom, so clearly there weren’t even 10 righteous souls there.

However, I’m wondering if someone had done a show-of-hands survey just prior to the destruction to see how many people in Sodom self-identified as righteous, I’m guessing a lot more than 10 people would have raised their hands.

By the same token, of the million or so souls who were of age (20 years and up) when they left Egypt in the exodus, only 2 (Caleb and Joshua) were considered by God to be sufficiently righteous to enter the Promised Land.

And of all those alive during the days of Noah, only Noah was considered sufficiently righteous to be spared the flood.

So let’s take a look at this – so far, the actual named righteous out of millions if not billions of souls who lived during those eras are 4 in total: Lot, Caleb, Joshua and Noah. (Their families were spared as chattel.)

We could also add Abraham, of course, but that only makes 5.

What about the 2 billion Christians today? How many of them do you think would raise their hands and self-identify as righteous? There were many children of Israel during the days of Jesus’ ministry who would have self-identified as righteous, too, and some of those Jesus told to their face they didn’t have a hope in Hades of getting to Heaven, not in the spiritual state they were in.

These low numbers should be very sobering to us.

Do you consider yourself to be as righteous as Lot? How about as righteous as Noah? Or maybe as righteous as Stephen, the first martyr of the church, who prayed for and forgave those who were stoning him to death while they were stoning him to death? We know that Moses made it to Heaven, too, and Elijah, because they came to visit Jesus during the so-called transfiguration on the mount. So now, along with the other named 5 souls, we’ve got a few more, but not many.

This speaks to me of how difficult it is to make it all the way Home. At the same time, it also speaks to me of how full of crap the mainstream Christian church must be to assure their adherents that Jesus did all the heavy lifting, so all they have to do is show up every Sunday and/or give money to the church, and off to Heaven they go. Or something like that.

I frankly do not consider myself righteous. I have a long way to go before I would make such a claim, if ever. And I think the point here is precisely that: We cannot judge our own righteousness or the righteousness of others. We cannot know definitively whether we’re righteous before God. Abraham thought it was a sure thing to negotiate God down to just 10 righteous souls in Sodom, thinking there must be at least 10, but he was wrong. There was only 1.

And then there was none.

*****

We read of visions of mass destruction throughout the book of Revelation and in Ezekiel 9. Mass destruction was also recorded as historical fact in the book of Jeremiah and in Genesis and elsewhere. In the visions and actual scenes of destruction, very few are spared. Jeremiah relays how mothers cooked and ate their own children during the famine when Jerusalem was under siege by the Babylonians, in fulfillment of Moses’ prophecies in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

It’s a nasty world out there, filled with nasty people doing nasty things. God knows that. None of what anyone does is a surprise to him. But don’t you be nasty. Don’t you eat your own children, no matter how hungry you get. Don’t you congregate around the door of your neighbour, demanding he bring out his guests so you can rape them. Don’t you strip yourself naked and dance drunk around a golden calf made from the very gold God gave you for his temple ornaments. Don’t you sell everything you have and give only half to the poor, hiding away the other half for a rainy day.

In other words, don’t be unrighteous. Be like the people of Nineveh, who repented when they were told they needed to repent. That’s how you overcome any unrighteousness you may not even know is in you.

Jesus’ message at the start of his ministry was to repent and believe the Gospel. That message doesn’t change at any point during the rest of our time on Earth. We are all in constant need of repentance and all in constant need of the Gospel, just as we’re all in constant need of being reminded how precious and elusive the reward of Heaven actually is.

It’s a numbers game. Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen; Jesus also said that the Way Home is narrow and few find it.

We need to take these words to heart and hope that in mentioning the few, Jesus was talking about us.

HAPPY ENDINGS

Most people, including born-again believers, want stories to have happy endings. They want those who deserve punishment to be punished and those who were unjustly accused to be vindicated. If there’s a romance involved, they want the lovers to marry and live happily ever after. They want the plot tied up with a bow and the loose ends pulled into festive curls. They want a happy ending almost like it’s hardwired in them to want a happy ending.

Outside of stories, real life doesn’t always end happily, if you consider death as the ending. Most people die in pain, whether from disease or violence. Some take their own life and die groggily by overdose. Very few “die peacefully in their sleep”, and of those few who do, we have to wonder how peaceful their passing actually was.

Even believers aren’t exempt from experiencing a painful death, as we see in scripture. Jesus died in excruciating agony, as did many of his disciples and followers, as did many of the prophets before them. If Jesus couldn’t arrange for a happy ending to his earthly life, what chance do we have?

The short answer is “next to none”. We have next to no chance of having a happy earthly ending. Even as we live with the joy of God’s Spirit 24/7 as born-again Spirit-filled believers, even as God provides for our needs and wipes away all our tears, we can still anticipate having a painful death someday. That’s why Jesus said that those who endure to the end will be saved. He emphasized the end, because the end, when we’ll be racked by pain, is where it will be most tempting for us to give up and betray God.

*****

The best stories build slowly and steadily to a crisis, which then quickly resolves in a happy ending that we didn’t see coming. The contrast between the crisis moment and the subsequent unforeseen and satisfying resolution is what gives the story its emotional punch. It’s the retelling, over and over again, of being stuck between a rock and a hard place (like between the advancing Egyptian army and the Red sea) and then being sprung in a way we hadn’t anticipated that makes sense to us. We not only demand our happy endings, we demand them to happen in such a way that we’re happily surprised and satisfied.

God is only too happy to deliver on our expectations. Granted, those of us who do endure to the end will have to wait a bit for our happy ending, but it will come. Our earthly exit might not be so happy, but we know that our earthly exit is not our ending. It’s the end of our time here on Earth, yes, but it’s not our ending. Our happy ending comes after the Judgement.

Jesus’ death on the cross looked like an agonizing and humiliating defeat. Don’t expect your death to look any better. And yet we know that Jesus was only paying the price that had to be paid in the way it needed to be paid according to scripture and God’s guidance, and that once the debt was paid, the happy ending would begin. And so it did for Jesus, with his resurrection into his new body and his ascension to sit at the right hand of God and be Lord of creation for ever and ever. If ever there was a happy ending, that is it.

Our ending will be just as happy for us, if we endure to the end of our time here. Jesus said we should expect persecutions while on Earth, we should expect to be outcasts, we should expect to be alienated from those we love (but who don’t love God), and we should expect to live in poverty, though not in want. We will never live in want as long as we stay true to God.

The Good Lord always provides.

*****

I anticipate my own happy ending as if the anticipation were hard-wired into me, because it is hardwired into me. God made us to want a happy ending. Our need for a happy ending is as much a part of who we are as our need for food and water and air. We know better than to look to the world for satisfaction, and we will never find our happy ending there, any more than Jesus did.

Our happy ending will only come if and when we make it Home.

WORKING FOR GOD

Work, to Jesus, was not something you did 9 to 5. It was also not something you did full-time, part-time, seasonally, in shifts, or three weeks on, one week off. It was not contractual, in the sense that you had to agree to do and say certain things “on the job” that you may or may not do or say in your “off” hours.

It was not something you did for money.

Work, to Jesus, was not like that.

To Jesus, work was who he was. He was his work. He made no distinction between the work he did for God and who he was as a person.

We who live in the Kingdom and follow Jesus should also strive to be our work, as Jesus was his.

*****

Today is my Sabbath. I’ve written before about how much I love the Sabbath. The Sabbath, of course, is our God-sanctioned day off from work. We need it and use it to rest from our labours. Keeping the Sabbath is also a Commandment. That means, not keeping the Sabbath is not an option. In keeping the Sabbath, we’re also to keep it holy, which means we’re not to devote our Sabbath day to profane (worldly) pursuits, including doing work for mammon.

I don’t always keep my Sabbath on the same day that most people keep theirs. Sometimes, I’m led by God to keep it on a different day, but the content of my Sabbath – regardless of the day I keep it – is still the same. Jesus says that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath, and I take him at his word. I keep the Sabbath when God guides me to keep it, and I keep it holy, as he instructed in his Commandment.

Jesus, however, was infamous for breaking the Sabbath, or so his detractors accused. Because he made no distinction between the work he did and who he was, Jesus worked on the Sabbath without breaking the Sabbath. Like priests, Jesus was actually obligated and expected to work on the Sabbath, as he frequently pointed out to his detractors.

We again see Jesus’ take on work reflected in the famous interchange between him and Martha, when Martha asks Jesus to get Mary to help her with her chores. In asking Jesus to intervene, Martha likely assumed this tactic would shame Mary into helping her. So imagine her shock when Jesus instead sides with Mary and reminds Martha that, in sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning about the Kingdom, Mary has chosen the better job.

*****

During the time they were with Jesus on Earth, the disciples did the same mundane daily chores that the rest of us generally do, such as shopping, food prep, and so on. However, shortly after they’d received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they allocated the mundane daily chores to others and spent all their time doing the work of the Kingdom. Like Jesus, they had finally become their work.

It took Paul some time to get there. Even while he was traveling and preaching and writing his letters, he still made tents for his daily bread. He also encouraged others to earn their way through the world rather than to rely on hand-outs. The six-day designated work-week was important to Paul, as it should be to us. Working six days a week is part of the same Commandment as keeping the Sabbath holy.

*****

So where does all this information leave us? If you’re like me, you’re both working in the Kingdom and working in the world, as Paul was for most of his ministry. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the point where I’m working only in the Kingdom, like Jesus, but I hope so. I’m on God’s time, not mine.

In the meantime, I’ve been blessed to have work that I can do anywhere in the world and where I’m my own boss. The work I do for the world (freelance writing and editing) also feeds the work I do for the Kingdom, which is a profound blessing. Even better, God is my agent. And being perfect at everything he does, God is a perfect agent, which means he only gets me work that suits me, that I have time for, and that satisfies my needs. I am never without.

How much longer I’ll be doing my worldly work is up to God: again, I’m on his time, not mine. When I do my God-sanctioned and God-given worldly work, I keep in mind that I’m always to do it (as scripture tells us) as if unto God, as if I were doing it for God: as if God were my client. So even in doing worldly work, I’m still doing Kingdom work if I do it unto God, which means if I do it to the best of my ability.

In doing both worldly work and Kingdom work, I see myself along with others doing the same. We’re in a vision given to John, which he recorded in the book of Revelation:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.

For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Revelation 7:9-17

There we are, having come through our own personal Tribulation and washed our robes in the sanctifying blood of Jesus, making them white. That is spiritual rebirth. Protected, guided, provided for, and comforted, we spend the rest of our time on Earth in what Paul called a “cloud” of witnesses – spiritually before the throne of God, rejoicing in God, and serving God only. If you’re genuinely born-again, you’re in John’s vision. Your work and everything you do is now a testimony to Jesus. Stick your face close enough to the words of that passage, and you’ll see yourself waving at you. I’m waving at you, too. Go ahead and wave back. 

*****

For Jesus, working and doing God’s will were one and the same, and he did them night and day. For us born-again believers who are doing both worldly work and Kingdom work, we’re not that far off from how Jesus worked if we do everything we do as if unto God.

Even so, if God guides us to do it, we shouldn’t be ashamed to make tents. It’s always better to work than to beg; God never wants his children to beg. If we show the willingness to do whatever’s asked of us, God will bring us the resources we need in the world to continue our work in the Kingdom. That’s a guarantee.

Scripture tells us so.

THE GREATEST TEMPTATIONS

As we born-again believers make our way – God’s Way – along the strait and narrow of this life, we need to keep in mind that our greatest temptations probably won’t look like temptations; they’ll look like everyday concerns or ways of the world. They might even look like shortcuts that promise to get us to Heaven faster and with less effort.

Satan, for all his brilliance, still relies on the same old tricks that he used with Eve all those years ago: He finds our weaknesses and exploits them. He relabels forbidden fruit as “New!” and “Improved!”, burying the truth of the matter deep in the endless fine print that no-one bothers to read.

One of the worst things about temptations (if avoiding them is your goal) is that God supernaturally hides from you that they are temptations. You go into a temptation spiritually blind. God does that on purpose so that we’ll react organically to the scenario, not in a pre-processed way. I have been tempted on numerous occasions since I was reborn, and I’m sorry to report that I fell for many of them. The only positive thing I can take from my spiritual failures is that I learned from them by suffering the consequences of my bad choices, and the failures humbled me.

As we get closer and closer to our time to go Home (or in the other direction), we can be sure that our temptations won’t be the over-the-top type that Jesus was subjected to in the wilderness just before the start of his ministry. No, they’ll be much more subtle, which makes them that much more dangerous to us. For example, we might be tempted to break one or more of the Commandments, but it won’t appear as if we’re breaking them, either because “everyone is doing it” or the law of the land permits it. This is why we need to very clearly distinguish between God’s Law and worldly laws, between what is right in God’s eyes and what is right in the eyes of the world. Taking up arms with the intent to kill is a major temptation that born-again followers of Jesus hopefully never fall for, regardless of whether it has the blessing of the state.

Another temptation that comes to us disguised as something good is earning money. How much money do we need? Based on Jesus’ example, I’d say we need as much as it takes to put a roof over our head, food in our mouth, and clothes on our back, with a few extra pennies to pay for incidentals. Anything we earn beyond that is a temptation from the devil. God told me once that it’s useful to think of money as cancer cells, in which case we wouldn’t want to have any money at all, or at least no more than what we need to keep our immune system primed and pumped and humming along.

For many people, earning more money than you need is a lifelong temptation, though I’ve yet to hear of a deathbed confession that mentions any regret over not earning more. It’s like impending death completely cuts through the delusion that money has any real value beyond a roof, food, and clothing. If you take money concerns out of your life and let God dictate the amount you need, you free up a good portion of your day and your mind. For born-again believers, money should only be a tool; it should never be an end in itself beyond the bare minimum requirements.

Probably one of the biggest temptations in most people’s lives these days is complaining, especially publicly and before giving the offending person a chance to correct the wrong. Social media is usually the vehicle of choice for the complaining. Scripture tells us that if someone does something wrong, we need to go to that person and talk to him or her PRIVATELY. We’re not to make a show of it by standing up in public and thundering “J’ACCUSE!” That’s Satan’s job, to accuse. Our job is to take someone aside and quietly suggest that a change of behavior might be in order. If that doesn’t work, we’re to take a few more people to that person and quietly suggest the same. If even that fails, we need to pray for that person, but keep our distance. You don’t complain about them, not publicly and not privately. You pray for them.

Keep this in mind the next time you feel the urge to leave a bad review on social media. It’s a temptation. Best not to leave any review and let God deal with your grievance in his time and his way.

This category of temptations is called provocations, because they’re intended to provoke you into acting badly.

For the past month, I’ve been traveling for the first time in nearly two years, and I can tell you that the attitude of the people working in the hospitality industry in particular has changed drastically. I’ve suffered rudeness and arrogance that I’ve never experienced in all of my previous travels combined. Each time someone snaps at me or studiously ignores me, I have to bite my lip not to say anything that I’ll regret, just as I have to physically restrain my fingers not to type anything on a review that I’ll feel bad about later. So I instead step back and look at the goodness and kindness of the situation, if there is any (and there is always something), and I choose to overlook what wasn’t so good and kind. I choose to be grateful for small mercies rather than to be resentful. Note that I say “I choose” to do these things. Sometimes I have to make the choice with my nails digging into the palms of my hands. I have to learn (and relearn [and re-relearn]) to do this, because my default tends to be to get provoked, at which point my back goes up, my mouth opens, and out pours the invective. Mind you, what comes out isn’t necessarily inaccurate; it’s just not the best way to handle the situation.  

These are temptations in the form of provocations, and they are everywhere these days. We need to be on our guard, even knowing that God will prevent us from seeing these temptations as provocations, watching to see how we respond. I think that when we get to the point where our default is to have compassion for the offender rather than condemnation, we’ve passed that particular test, overcome that particular temptation.

And then on we move to the next one.

GOD’S HOLY SPRING

Spring is a curious thing: out of the seemingly dead ground, green shoots emerge; out of the seemingly dead branches, buds burst through. Birds build nests and fill them with their eggs. The combination of longer warmer days and the angle of the sun triggers this activity.

Or so the story goes.

God has hardwired into his earthly creation new growth out of old. Renewal is part of the life cycle. We can expect it and celebrate it and thank God for it: as long as there is life in a living thing, there will be cyclical renewal, whether based on the sun’s position or not.

We humans are no different. We are hardwired for physical renewal on a regular basis. Some Christians talk about renewing their faith, and I believe that the desire and ability for faith renewal is also hardwired into us – the desire to want a refreshing, a plumping and smoothing of our belief pillows.

But what isn’t hardwired into us is spiritual rebirth. Rebirth is a process that comes from without – from God. We can’t direct it; we can’t demand it; and we can’t plan it to happen: it is 100% organized and enabled by God as an “add-on” feature to the human experience.

Spiritual rebirth isn’t the same as spring: some people compare rebirth to the renewal of spring, but that’s not an accurate comparison. Spring is hardwired into God’s creation; spiritual rebirth is not. Jesus says the Spirit goes where it wills, not where we will it to go. Paul says we become a new creature at rebirth, so that we are no longer Greek or Roman, or Black or White, or male or female: We are no longer quite human. That part of us that was hardwired to want to reproduce is overwritten. That part of us that was hardwired to want to protect our own (through violence, if necessary) is overwritten. That part of us that was hardwired to want to accumulate the world’s resources into personal wealth is overwritten. We become, as Jesus says, eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, enemy-lovers for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, and poor for the Kingdom of Heaven’s sake, and we do it all as if it’s our default, because it becomes our default when we’re reborn.

We are all born of the same Spirit at rebirth – God’s Holy Spirit – so born-again believers are all the same spiritual family and an entirely new spiritual creation. This family forms and inhabits God’s Kingdom on Earth. We humans have been hardwired in such a way that rebirth can be added to us, but our factory settings don’t include rebirth. That’s why most people never experience it.

We didn’t always have rebirth as an add-on option. It was launched with Jesus 2000 years ago. John the Baptist, according to Jesus, was the greatest of all people who were born of a woman, but even the least of those in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John the Baptist. That’s because God’s Spirit inhabits born-again believers, whereas those who aren’t born-again can, at most, have only temporary visits from the Spirit. Not being born-again (Jesus’ sacrifice not yet having been made to enable it), John had only temporary visits from the Spirit; we born-agains have God’s Spirit with us full-time.

It’s God’s Spirit within born-again souls that makes those souls great, not anything they do or are on their own.

Born-again believers should embrace and welcome the cyclical renewal of the earth as well as of their own mind and body. But refreshing ourselves in God’s Spirit is something that should be done every day (or even several times a day, as required), not once a year. Every day we should be renewing our faith and re-examining our conscience. Every day we should be consciously in God’s Spirit, open to advice and encouragement and reprimand. What did I do wrong yesterday? How can I make up for it? How can I avoid doing that wrong thing today? What did I do right yesterday? How can I make sure I keep on doing it?

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, as Jesus tells us. We take our lives day by day, and learn and apply our lessons day by day. In the same way, we should examine our conscience and spend time with God and Jesus through God’s Spirit day by day. For born-again believers, our spring renewal comes every day through the spring of the Holy Spirit that is constantly welling up inside of us, as Jesus promised us it would. Even in the dead of our own personal winter, the Holy Spring is there within us, ever ready to wash away what doesn’t belong and to renew our faith and promises and set us firmly back on the road Home. This spiritual healing and rejuvenation we have access to every day, all day. It is a very great gift of God to his children, given to us at rebirth.

We must never forget that we have this gift of perpetual renewal and cleansing, and we must never let it go to waste.

FOUNDATIONAL TUTORIAL ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS – LESSON THREE: THOU SHALT NOT STEAL

“Thou shalt not steal.”

(Exodus 20:15)

Welcome to the Foundational Tutorial lessons on the Ten Commandments! These lessons are intended for you to learn what you need to learn; they are not meant as a condemnation or judgement. As born-again followers of Jesus, we’re all still here on Earth because we’re all still learning about the Kingdom and how to live in it. As much as he was the Messiah, Jesus was also a teacher during his time here. His followers are likewise expected to teach others, after they themselves have learned what they need to learn, and practiced it.

We aren’t expected to be perfect (even Jesus wasn’t perfect), but we are expected to strive for perfection (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect”) and to constantly work at improving ourselves.

The foundation of Jesus’ teachings was the Ten Commandments and everything that stemmed from the Commandments, so we clearly need to focus on them. They are the lifeline for staying on God’s Way, particularly in times of trouble and temptation. You’ll note that there are no asterisks (*) on any of the Commandments. That means there are no exceptions to these ten rules. You break them, you pay the price.

For an overview of the blessings that come from keeping the Commandments and the curses that come from not keeping them, see Deuteronomy 28.

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LESSON THREE CONTENTS

  1. STEALING: A DEFINITION
  2. WHY DO PEOPLE STEAL?
  3. WHY DO PEOPLE NOT STEAL?
  4. STEALING AS A CULTURAL NORM
  5. THEFT AS A SPIRITUAL FELONY
  6. WHO REALLY BENEFITS WHEN WE STEAL?
  7. tl;dr: SUMMARY

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1. STEALING: A DEFINITION

Satan is constantly presenting us with temptations. It’s up to us, as born-again believers, to see them as such in order to avoid falling for them. We need to pray for help with that, like Jesus did.

Stealing is a major and omnipresent temptation. It comes in many different forms, but the most common is theft of money and material goods. Theft of time, reputation, opportunity, and health are also examples of stealing, as is withholding something that is owed. Anything of value can potentially be stolen.

As with the other Commandments, there are numerous examples of theft in scripture. Stealing is in fact one of the three main tasks that Jesus tells us Satan has come to accomplish – to kill, steal, and destroy. But Satan doesn’t actually do the stealing (or killing or destroying); he gets us to do it, by tempting us. Judas stole from what was essentially the disciples’ joint bank account (the bag that he was entrusted to keep), and the Old Testament teaches us that withholding what is owed to God in the form of tithes, offerings and thanksgiving is also considered theft.

Of all the Ten Commandments, the one not to steal seems to be the most straight-forward. It’s also usually the one we learn first as children. Most of us, from a very young age, have been taught what stealing means (taking what doesn’t belong to you), and most of us have also had ingrained in us from a very young age that we shouldn’t do it. But even the simplicity of the Commandment doesn’t stop a lot of people from breaking it.

Why is that?

2. WHY DO PEOPLE STEAL?

There are as many reasons why people steal as there are people who do it. Even so, probably the main reason is that they want something they don’t or can’t have. Maybe they can’t afford it or maybe they’ve been told they can’t have it, but stealing presents itself as a way to get what they want. Some people also steal just for the thrill of it or to show themselves or others that they can get away with it. Or some people steal because they’ve been ordered or feel pressured to steal.

Another reason why people steal is that theft is quite easy to do. It doesn’t require a lot of planning or forethought and can be done within a few seconds of conceiving the deed (that is, within a few seconds of being tempted). And while the official consequences of theft can be quite deadly, depending on the legal system under which it’s done, most of the consequences are indirect and come via God’s justice. Unfortunately, people who don’t believe in God or don’t understand how God operates in the world won’t make the connection between their stealing escapades and their lousy life. They’ll believe they’ve gotten away with the theft and that their subsequent lousy life is completely unconnected from it.

There are also people who steal believing what they’ve stolen is owed to them. In these cases, either they believe that they’ve been deprived of what they need, or they’re simply balancing the scales by taking what they deem to be rightfully theirs.

Some people even steal because, according to them, they can’t help it. Kleptomania is allegedly an illness that manifests as a compulsion to steal. People diagnosed with this condition claim that it overcomes them seemingly out of the blue and they can’t stop themselves from stealing. The devil operates under a lot of different names these days.

3. WHY DO PEOPLE NOT STEAL?

On the other hand, there are those who have a heightened awareness of the wrongness of theft, and I hope I’m including us born-again believers in that category. However, you don’t have to be a Christian to know that stealing is wrong. Scripture tells us that God has written his Commandments on everyone’s hearts, so even if no-one teaches us not to steal (and even if the laws of the land permit us to steal), we can still know that stealing is wrong and choose not to do it.

When I was too young to remember, I once walked out of a grocery store carrying a bag of bread that I hadn’t paid for. My mother had given me the bread to hold while we were in the store, but she forgot about it when we were at the cash register. Only when we were walking home did she realize that I had “stolen” the bread. Again, I was too young to remember (not quite 3 at the time), but she marched me back into the store, mortified, and profusely apologized for her part in the theft. For my mother’s generation, being thought a thief was unthinkable.

Years later, when my parents were visiting me in Toronto, we ended up with someone else’s paid-for whole roasted chicken among our groceries, which we didn’t realize until we got back to my place. When we found the “hot” chicken among all the bags, my parents immediately wanted to return it to the grocery store, which was a half-hour’s drive away. It took a lot of fast-talking on my part to keep them from hopping into their rental car and making the return trip to the store. They are of an upbringing and a generation that still finds theft or the appearance of it abhorrent.

Western culture, though no longer Christian, is based on Christian precepts. These precepts form the basis of Western laws and norms that still, for the most part, dictate Western modes of behavior, but this is rapidly changing.

4. STEALING AS A CULTURAL NORM

Not all cultures and generations are as squeamish about theft as those of my parents. Stealing is relatively easily accomplished and, unlike my 2-year-old self, most people who steal do it on purpose.

Shoplifting is another term for stealing in a retail environment. Unfortunately, shoplifting has become so rampant over the past few generations that businesses now cost it into the price of their merchandise, knowing that deterrents such as security tags and surveillance cameras will only stop a small percentage of the theft. “Shrinkage” is the official term allotted to profit that disappears from the balance sheet through shoplifting. Due to shrinkage, we pay more for merchandise, because the business assumes that some of it will be stolen and they need to cover their losses.

Mass shoplifting events or “looting”, where a gang of shoplifters converges on a business, overwhelming the staff and security personnel, are becoming more and more frequent. The frequency of these events is making them more and more expected and, sadly, more and more accepted as an emerging norm. Looting is particularly prevalent (and expected/accepted) during natural disasters and protests.

Theft, however, should never be expected or accepted as a norm, no matter how widespread it is or how “justified” someone tries to make it. Like every other Commandment that decrees not to do something, the Commandment against stealing has fallen out of fashion in the hearts and minds of some cultures and sub-cultures, including in former Christian nations. So, for instance, social justice in many Western countries now conceives of theft as permissible for some people of a certain race or socioeconomic status, leaving us with new laws like theft under $1000 no longer being a felony. The response to these new laws has in some cases been a serious run on stores in places where the laws have taken effect. People are showing up with empty garbage bags and cleaning out whole aisles before casually walking out, dragging their overflowing loot bag behind them. The staff, during these attacks, no longer even bothers to call police, as the police in most cases won’t show up.

Some non-Western cultures consider successful stealing a sign of high intelligence, and some parents even teach their children to steal (pick-pocketing, bike theft, etc.) as a means of earning a living. Considering that God has written his Commandments on everyone’s hearts – without exception – the lessons in theft these children learn from their parents may be be winked at by God while the children are still young. When they reach the age and maturity level where they’re able to know right from wrong, however, God will hold them accountable for their thefts from that point onward, regardless of what they were taught by their parents or culture. Having been taught to steal by your parents or being encouraged by your culture to steal doesn’t exonerate you from unrepentant sin (in this case, theft) on Judgement Day.

5. THEFT AS A SPIRITUAL FELONY

Regardless, and no matter how it’s dressed up to appear to be “nothing” or a sign of intelligence or a career choice, theft is a spiritual felony that has spiritual if not legal consequences. Broken Commandments always require some form of payment in hardship and pain, and the payment is always extracted one way or another. And unless we have a deal with the devil to defer that payment until after death, we’ll feel the pain already in this life.

As God told me at the moment of my rebirth: “The pain you feel is the pain you’ve earned.”

Repayment of theft through suffering is guaranteed, regardless of whether you’ve been taught that stealing is right or wrong or somehow justified. As mentioned above, God has written his Commandments on everyone’s hearts, so if you break a Commandment – regardless of your background – you will suffer for it. Satan knows this, and in his position as ruler of the world, he works overtime to downplay and rebrand theft, in much the same way as he downplays and rebrands every other spiritual felony so that we’ll suffer for it. His aim is to get us to sin in the same way as he got Eve to sin – by overriding our first instinct not to do something we know is wrong. If he can get us past our initial squeamishness and implant in us some kind of justification for the sin, he knows he’s got us.

Ultimately, whether or not someone steals when given the opportunity is an excellent basis for measuring that person’s character and trustworthiness, given how easy it is to steal and how many opportunities present themselves on a daily basis.

6. WHO REALLY BENEFITS WHEN WE STEAL?

I was on a forum recently where some participants were bragging about how self-check-outs and “bring your own bag” policies have made shoplifting that much easier for them. Reading their accounts of how much they claim to have stolen, I couldn’t help but wonder whether making it easier to steal isn’t one of the underlying motives for doing away with cashiers and store-provided bags. These policies are being uniformly applied around the world all at the same time and seem to fly in the face of common business sense: any savings brought by replacing human cashiers with machines or by not having to provide bags to customers would certainly be offset by the surge in shoplifting. The only one who truly benefits from our being more and more tempted and falling for the temptations is Satan, and Satan, as Jesus reminds us, is in charge of this world and its policies.

7. tl;dr: SUMMARY

  • From a young age, most of us learn that stealing is bad, but many of us still end up doing it.
  • The reasons why people steal are as many as there are people who steal, but the main reason is that people want what they can’t otherwise have.
  • Theft is mostly vilified in Western culture due to deep-rooted Christian norms, but these norms are changing to view some theft as justified or acceptable up to a certain amount.
  • Some non-Western cultures view stealing as a sign of high intelligence and encourage it.
  • Regardless of whether or not stealing is considered good or bad within a culture, God has written his Commandments on everyone’s hearts, so stealing is a spiritual felony and will result in some degree of suffering by the thief.
  • Satan works overtime to arrange opportunities for theft to present itself and also tempts people into trying to justify stealing.

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“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.

The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.”

Psalm 119:71-72

FOUNDATIONAL TUTORIAL ON THE TEN COMMANDMENTS – LESSON ONE: THOU SHALT NOT COVET

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet they neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”

(Exodus 20:17)

Welcome to the Foundational Tutorial lessons on the Ten Commandments! These lessons are intended for you to learn what you need to learn; they are not meant as a condemnation or judgement. As born-again followers of Jesus, we’re all still here on Earth because we’re all still learning about the Kingdom and how to live in it. As much as he was the Messiah, Jesus was also a teacher during his time here. His followers are likewise expected to teach others, after they themselves have learned what they need to learn, and practiced it.

We aren’t expected to be perfect (even Jesus wasn’t perfect), but we are expected to strive for perfection (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect”) and to constantly work at improving ourselves.

The foundation of Jesus’ teachings was the Ten Commandments and everything that stemmed from the Commandments, so we clearly need to focus on them. They are the lifeline for staying on God’s Way, particularly in times of trouble and temptation. You’ll note that there are no asterisks (*) on any of the Commandments. That means there are no exceptions to these ten rules. You break them, you pay the price.

For an overview of the blessings that come from keeping the Commandments and the curses that come from not keeping them, see Deuteronomy 28.

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LESSON ONE CONTENTS

  1. COVETING: A DEFINITION
  2. A WANT OR A NEED?
  3. SERIAL COVETING: Collecting, investing, prepping
  4. JOHN THE BAPTIST’S QUICK GUIDE ON HOW NOT TO COVET
  5. CREDIT CARDS, MORTGAGES, AND OTHER LENDING TEMPTATIONS
  6. THE EVIL ROOT OF COVETING
  7. tl;dr: SUMMARY

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1. COVETING: A DEFINITION

Coveting is no different than any of the other Commandments that we’re not supposed to break. It’s not optional not to covet: It’s a Commandment not to covet.

But what exactly is coveting?

The world “covet” is rarely used these days, and I would argue that the word’s fall out of fashion is by design – of the devil. If you don’t know you’re doing something wrong, you’ll likely keep doing it. That’s a form of temptation. But not knowing you’re breaking a Commandment doesn’t make you entirely guilt-free, because God’s Commandments are written on your heart, just as they’re written on mine and on the heart of every person on Earth, including unbelievers. We may not call what we do “coveting”, but we do have the sense that it’s somehow wrong and is prompted by a spirit other than God’s. As born-again believers, it’s our job to know a temptation when we see one, and it’s definitely our job to know and keep the Commandments, even the ones that seem to belong to another age.

The Commandment not to covet specifically frames coveting in relation to your neighbour. However, we know from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan that your neighbour can be anyone and everyone, not just your actual next-door neighbour. Your neighbour can even be a bank, a business, or even your enemy. So coveting has quite a broad reach.

But again, what is coveting? Simply put, to covet is to have an inordinate (unnaturally strong) desire to acquire something that you don’t actually need. It’s a want rather than a need – something or someone you desire without God’s prompting or blessing. It may also be something (or someone) that someone else has and that you want to take possession of. In this way, coveting includes aspects of greed and jealousy mixed in with desire and pride. Coveting is progressively obsessive and can lead to breaking nearly all the other Commandments in one fell swoop (think of David’s coveting of Bathsheba, and the fall-out from that).

In short, if you want what someone else has but you don’t need, you’re coveting.

The opposite of coveting is contentment with what you have, and cheerful and generous charity.

2. A WANT OR A NEED?

How can you make a distinction between things that you want and things that you need? When you covet (that is, desire something that you want rather than need), it’s almost like a game that you can’t stop playing. You strategize the acquisition; you plan the acquisition; you obsess over the acquisition. You must have the acquisition, and at any price. Maybe you saw what you want in an advertisement, or maybe you saw something that someone else has and that you decided you also must have. This is the classic “keeping up with the Joneses” that was the foundation for much of the now defunct American Dream.

Mass consumerism is based on coveting. It’s the devil’s temptation, mainly through ads, to get you to want what you don’t need, and to prompt you to act on your wants with lures and pressure tactics such as “no money down”, “zero interest payments”, and “Today Only!”. If you want to know what your neighbour has coveted in the past, go to a garage sale. Wants that weren’t actual needs are on full display, ranging from barely used gym equipment to “As Seen On TV!” kitchen gadgets with their box seals still unbroken. None of these things, obviously, were needed or they would have been used and would still be used.

Jesus says that God knows what we need even before we tell him. God knows what we need, and he’s ready and eager to provide it for us. All we have to do is say the word that we need this or that, and if God deems that it is a need, he will provide it. If you’re genuinely born-again, you’ll have extensives experience with this.

3. SERIAL COVETING: Collecting, investing, and prepping

People who engage in collecting, investing and prepping are actually breaking the Commandment not to covet, as collecting, investing and prepping are a form of serial coveting.

  • COLLECTING:

You can argue that a child needs a doll, but there is no arguing that an adult needs 100 dolls, or 100 collector plates, or 100 pieces of art. Collecting is a form of coveting. It is always prompted by desire or obsession to have something, rather than the need to have something. It may, on the surface, seem relatively harmless, but it is still a form of coveting and shouldn’t be done.

  • INVESTING:

There is also no arguing that an adult needs 100 homes (or even more than one). Real estate investment is a major temptation in coveting, and we’re seeing the impact of this particular form of coveting today. The more people pour into the real estate investment market, the higher the demand for real estate, and so the higher the real estate valuations. The result is skyrocketing real estate prices that are not only preventing much of the world’s population from purchasing a home, but also causing rental prices to soar. The cost of basic shelter now takes up most of renters’ earnings. The coveting of real estate by investors is the reason for this. If you currently hold a mortgage, you’re part of the problem. You’re also guilty of coveting.

Investing in the stock market is another glaring form of coveting. The whole idea behind it is to get more money than you need by investing more money than you need. If ever there was a realm of mammon, this is it. Stock market investing also includes elements of obsession, greed, addiction, recklessness, and fear-driven decision-making. Steer clear of the stock market or any form of investment.

Besides, investing is a form of money-lending. Jesus says we’re to lend, expecting nothing in return, and that’s not much of an investment strategy. You’re better off taking any “extra” money you might have laying around and giving it (not lending it, giving it, no strings attached) to someone you know personally who’s working hard but struggling financially. That is far better stewardship of God’s blessings to you, and you will be bountifully blessed in return.

  • PREPPING:

As much as many of you won’t want to hear this, prepping is a form of coveting. When you buy or plan to buy more food and supplies than you need at any given time, you’re coveting food and supplies. We live in New Testament times, not Old Testament times. We’re not like Joseph in Egypt, who stashed away enough food for seven years to survive a famine; we’re like Jesus, who had just enough food for his needs at any given time.

Now, your needs at any given time are linked to your access to food and supplies. If you only go shopping once a month, you should get a month’s worth of food and supplies; if you go shopping once every six months, you get six months’ worth of food and supplies. God gave us a brain and expects us to use it. It would be illogical and foolish to get one day’s worth of food and supplies if we’re not able to shop again for nearly a month. We should get what we need, not what we want or what others tell us we should want.

And there’s the crux of prepping: Prepping is an industry that is at heart a cult. As an industry, it’s built on pressure sales tactics, and as a cult, it’s driven by fear. According to preppers, you can never have enough food or supplies stashed away, so you’re always accumulating more and more, well beyond your needs. This is all done in preparation for a fabled time (SHTF) that has yet to come.

You should also keep in mind that when you buy more food and supplies than you need at any given time, the demand for the food and supplies goes up, which means the price goes up. So prepping is not only contributing to shortages in food and supplies for other people, but is also contributing to increases in the cost of food and supplies. If you’re a prepper, you’re guilty of causing hardship to others through shortages and rising costs.

If you’re still hanging onto Joseph as an example of your alleged need to prep, remember that Joseph was a prophet. Through an ability and blessing given to him by God, Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream about the coming famine. Joseph didn’t advise Pharaoh to accumulate 7 years’ worth of food and supplies because he was pressured into doing so by sales tactics and fear; he acted based on a dream interpretation given to him directly from God.

Finally, does your desire to prep come directly from God or from the prepping cult? In one of his parables, Jesus talks about a prepper-type character who had enough food and supplies to last him for a lifetime. He had so much, he had to tear down his storage barns and build bigger ones to hold everything. But did Jesus admire him for him that? No, he called him a fool. Within 24 hours of the guy thinking he could take it easy for the rest of his days, he died. All his prepping was in vain. He had put his faith in his own preps instead of putting it in God to provide for him. As a born-again believer, you don’t want to be that guy.

4. JOHN THE BAPTIST’S QUICK GUIDE ON HOW NOT TO COVET

John was Jesus’ cousin and was older than Jesus by a few months only. Even so, he’d started his ministry work well before Jesus did, and had gathered quite a loyal following by the time Jesus arrived on the scene. As a prophet, John well knew his role as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord, and to make his paths straight”. He baptised people in the River Jordan as a sign of their repentance. He even baptised Jesus.

During one of his baptising sessions, John was asked by various people how they should live their lives as newly baptised penitents. This is what he advised:

“He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise…. Exact no more than that which is appointed you…. And be content with your wages” (Luke 3: 11-14).

This is a good summation of how to live a life free of coveting, to show gratitude to God for his blessings, and to cheerfully and willingly help others in need. Being born-again doesn’t make you exempt from any of these things; in fact, being born-again makes you even more beholden to live a life that’s free of coveting.

5. CREDIT CARDS, MORTGAGES, AND OTHER LENDING TEMPTATIONS

The Old Testament tells us that “neither a borrower nor a lender be”, and Jesus tells us that we should “lend without expecting anything in return.” Both of these directives fly in the face of borrowing or lending money through common mechanisms like credit cards, mortgages, or other loans.

It’s quite possible to live without a credit card. I do. I have a “smart card” that acts like a VISA card, but is loaded with my money. If you’re a born-again believer, there’s no reason to have a “dumb card” (that is, a traditional credit card) if the smart card option is available. Non-smart credit cards act as a form of loan, which means they are a form of coveting that enables you to buy more than you need. You don’t need to use them.

It’s also quite possible to live without a mortgage or any other form of loan. I do. I rent and I make do with the money that I earn or is given to me. It’s always enough. It’s extraordinary how God provides exactly the amount I need at any given time, almost to the penny.

As my grandmother used to say: “The Good Lord provides”, and indeed he does. As long as we keep our end of the deal, God will keep his. The only time I ever went short as a born-again believer was many years ago, when I broke a Commandment and didn’t heed God’s advice to do something. I learned my lesson from these mistakes and have never done them again.

We can’t expect to live as we choose, breaking the Commandments at will, and then expect God to keep blessing us. Born-again believers are especially held to task in this regard: We’re like the family’s eldest children who have to set a good example for the younger ones. That’s also Jesus’ role for us.

There’s no need either to lend or to borrow, not for any reason. If we keep up our end of the deal, the Good Lord provides us with more than enough. If you can’t afford to buy a house, rent one. There is no excuse or justification for a born-again believer to be in debt to anyone for any reason. Jesus never was, and we’re to follow the example set by Jesus, not by the world.

6. THE EVIL ROOT OF COVETING

The root of coveting – the reason that it’s wrong – is this: When you covet, you’re saying that God is either unable or unwilling to provide for your needs. You’re saying that you know better than God, and that what God is providing for you is insufficient. Coveting is a sign of ingratitude for God’s blessings. It’s a sign of weak faith or even no faith. Instead of saying “I rely on God”, you’re saying “I rely on me”. It’s a shifting from worship of God and his abilities to a worship of you and your abilities. It’s cutting God out of the life equation.

Are you guilty of coveting?

This is the question you need to ask yourself.

Don’t tell me the answer; I don’t want to know. It’s none of my business. You’re the only one who needs to know whether or not you’re guilty of coveting, and if you are, you’re the one who needs to make the decision to stop doing it. That’s the right thing to do. God is patient, but at some point, time is up, so don’t wait too long do to the right thing when you know it is the right thing to do.

Remember that, when they got the call, Jesus’ disciples and followers walked away from everything – homes, spouses, children, jobs – everything. God then provided for their every need as it arose. The spirit of coveting drives us to acquire things that we want rather than need and to be discontented with the blessings that God has already given us. As such, coveting involves major aspects of “the grass is greener on the other side”, but we know from personal experience that it is never greener; it only appears to be greener when viewed from a distance.

If you are guilty of coveting through any of the various ways and means that the devil uses to tempt us, you need to stop doing it. That’s the bottom line. How and when you stop is up to you, but the sooner, the better. You have no idea how much more time you have on Earth, and you don’t want to be standing before God on Judgement Day, knowing you should have stopped doing something but choosing to keep doing it. That is not how you want to be standing before God when you’re time comes.

Again, when they got the call, the disciples left everything. They just got up and left. Jesus did, too, prior to starting his ministry work, and Paul followed suit after he’d converted. These are all excellent examples of lives lived without coveting. These examples are meant to be followed.

7. tl;dr: SUMMARY

  • If you have more than you need or want more than you need, you’re coveting and need to stop doing it.
  • Coveting comes wrapped up as all kinds of temptations, from collecting to investing to prepping, and even to borrowing money to buy a house or car. If you have to borrow money to buy something, you don’t need it. If you continue to want what you can’t afford and can only get through borrowing, you’re coveting.
  • If you keep God’s Commandments and follow Jesus’ example in everything you do, God will provide for your every need. Jesus told us that God knows our needs even before we know them ourselves, and just as he provides for all his creatures on Earth, he gladly provides for us.
  • If you’re grateful for and content with what you have, you will avoid coveting. Be grateful and content. Keep God’s Commandment.

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“Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in my affliction.”

(Psalm 119: 92)