Introduction Conquering the Enemies Within

Introduction to Conquering The Enemies Within

Conquering The Enemies Within

By

Ronald Christian

A Topical Devotional Study On The Abundant Christian Life

To

Gerald Lee Christian

My biological brother 
who, for many years, has been 
an example of a gentle and 
godly man, and one who has 
personally helped me to 
'conquer my enemies within'.

Introduction

'Conquering the Enemies Within' – this title describes both the reality of man's enemies and the possibility of man conquering those enemies. Jesus came in order that man might have life and might have it more abundantly. He came to earth, not to subtract but to add, not to destroy but to save, not to condemn but to forgive! The last word of Christianity is not denunciation but affirmation, not sacrifice but salvation, not sorrow over sins but joy over redemption. It was not the purpose of Christ to come to earth to save mankind in part but to save mankind to the 'uttermost'. Where sin abounds, grace super abounds! The saving power of Christ applies not only to the forgiveness of outward and obvious sins, but it equally applies to the deliverance from inner perverted attitudes and from hurtful emotions.

But, alas, how many professing Christians live truly abundant lives? Even though many rightfully claim assurance of sins forgiven, many of these same persons struggle with unresolved guilts, terrifying fears, nagging inferiority complexes, debilitating jealousies, hurtful negativism and criticisms, consuming greed, destructive doubts, devastating anger, resentments and bitterness, and un-Christlike self- centeredness, as well as several other 'enemies' of the soul'.

Is there any solution to these problems, any power that can be appropriated to conquer these enemies within? Thanks be unto God, there is! 'Christ is the answer' – this is not only an overworked phrase, but it expresses a workable reality! But, while it cannot be denied that Christ is the answer to man's problems, it should not be supposed that the above-mentioned 'enemies' are always easily or quickly conquered! Learning to conquer powerful spiritual enemies involves a process in which one's mind must be open to God-given understanding, one's heart must be open to new truth, one's spirit must be receptive to God-wrought change.

The power of God to conquer man's enemies is limitless, but that divine power becomes effective in the struggling person's life only to the extent that there is an obedient response to revealed truth!

It is the purpose of this short devotional book to impart understanding to the mind, to offer encouragement to the heart, and to give guidance to the soul – all for the ultimate purpose of helping sincere people to 'conquer the enemies within'.

A few comments regarding the content and format of this short book are in order. There are thirteen short chapters, with each chapter discussing one of the several 'enemies' with which most believers struggle, at one time or another, in their lives. After discussing the nature of the 'enemy', practical steps to overcome the particular 'enemy' are offered. This book is designed to be used as a daily devotional guidebook, with attention given to one chapter each week for thirteen weeks. There are about five to ten 'devotionals' provided for each of the thirteen 'enemies', one at a time for each of the thirteen weeks. Each page includes, along with the practically- oriented devotional reading, an appropriate Scriptural reference to read, a written Prayer for the Day, and a written Affirmation for the Day. The individual chapters contain enough content, and yet are short enough in length, that they could well serve as material for small study groups within a local church. Sunday School classes or

'Christian Growth Groups' which choose to use this material as the basis for dialogue, will find a set of thought-provoking questions at the end of each of the thirteen chapters. These questions will help a group to understand and to apply the concepts which are related within each of the chapters.

As author of this book, I have sought to share those truths that have helped me (and that are continuing to help me) to overcome my personal 'enemies within'. As a 'fellow struggler' on the spiritual pilgrimage of life, I feel compelled to share those insights which I am learning to apply in my personal spiritual battle against the 'enemies within'. It is my prayer that many people may profit from the application of these life-transforming Biblical principles. May you, the reader, experience the sweet joy of conquering your enemies – the 'enemies within'!

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Ronald G. Christian

Fort Collins, Colorado

March 1985

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Freedom From Negativism

Freedom From Negativism

Chapter Seven

Freedom From Negativism
Developing a Positive Attitude 54 Christianity – Life-Affirming Or Life-Denying? 58
The Christian Answer To Suffering 55 Practicing The Principles Of Positive Affirmation 59
Transforming 'Inkblots' 56 Discussion Questions 60
Positive Possibilities In People 57    

2 Corinthians 1:15-22; Philippians 4:8-9

Developing a Positive Attitude

There are many people who are seeing all of life through dark lens! Everything in life is colored by their dark evaluations. And yet, many of these same negative people would like to be positive, radiant, optimistic people. It is true that some people enjoy their negativism. They enjoy being different, obstinate, disagreeable, and troublesome. They live by negative reaction, and their perversion is further seen by their enjoyment of negativism. Life's most positive experiences they interpret negatively. But most people would like to be more positive, even though they would admit that many times they are basically negative.

The causes of negativism are multiple. A person's contrary attitude may be caused by fear, or by jealousy, or by inferiority, or by wounded pride. Who is able to discern the thoughts, intents, and motives of a man's heart? Only the Great Discerner – the Holy Spirit!

There is a radical cure for negativism. That cure is partly found in the initial work of the Holy Spirit, through His cleansing and empowering Presence. When the Holy Spirit sheds abroad God's love in our hearts by faith, we find life automatically becoming more positive in outlook.

However, while the initial work of the Holy Spirit may immediately cleanse the heart, it usually takes time, practice, and discipline to change the mind from a negative to a positive slant.

There are many believers whose hearts have been cleansed instantaneously but whose minds are still in need of further transformation. A sincere heart and a negative mind may co-exist within the same person! Why? Because the negative mind of the sincere person has confronted difficult problems which have cast a negative shadow upon his entire outlook on life.

We must spend several days looking at some of the problems which have caused some sincere believers to become negative and joyless in their response to life in general.' The inadequate concepts which many people entertain have cut short their joy and peace and positive faith. If we can give anyone a more adequate view of life and of life's problems, with the result of imparting a new joy and confidence to life, then the effort will be very worthwhile.

After confronting some of the problem areas of life which cause some to react so negatively, we must offer some positive alternatives which can expand the mind's understanding and which can fill the heart with new joy and hope and faith.

"Father, you have cleansed my heart from the sin of deliberate disobedience; now cleanse my mind from the subtle presence of negative thoughts. Fix my mind upon what is true and good and right. Help me to face all of life with a positive 'Yes', not with a negative 'No'. In Jesus' positive power. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will be a voice for positive action, not an echo of negative reaction!

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2 Corinthians 12:1-10

The Christian Answer To Suffering

Human suffering will either make or break a human being. The sun can either melt water or harden clay. Suffering can make the heart tender or tough, drive a person to God or drive a person from God.

Human suffering, either personally experienced or personally observed, can cause one to react negatively to all of life.

With every type of suffering there is an accompanying peril. The sufferings of infirmities (2 Corinthians 12) can cause one to be plunged into despair. The suffering of chastisement (Hebrews 12:5-9) can cause one to harden his heart against God. The suffering of persecution (2 Corinthians 11) can cause one to develop hatred for his enemy. The suffering of temptation can result in one falling into sin The suffering from life's losses can cause one to become bitter towards God and towards people.

Yes, suffering has destroyed many persons. It has caused some to grow hard, or bitter, or cynical, or negative in their viewpoint of life. "A great actor was dying and said, 'Let down the curtain, the farce is over. There is no reality in life: it is a farce.'" (The Divine Yes: pg. 15: E. Stanley Jones)

Said one negative and despairing person about life: Life is "a bridge of groans across a stream of tears." (P.J. Bailey) "Vachel Lindsay, a late American Poet who snuffed out his own life with a bullet through his brain, said, "Life is a loom, weaving illusion."

If Christianity cannot deal with the problem of human suffering, then Christianity has no basis for offering hope amidst despair, joy amidst sorrow, peace amidst conflict. What is the Christian answer to suffering – the answer that negates negativism and transplants joy and hope and peace in its place? What was Jesus' attitude toward suffering? "He accepted the fact of human suffering. He neither explains it nor explains it away. If he had attempted to explain it, his message would have been merely another philosophy, for a philosophy has to have an explanation for everything. His was a gospel – Good News – even 'in spite of'. A philosophy explains, but it does not change. The Gospel may not explain, but it does utterly change. Jesus transforms suffering by using it. The victim may become victor… A Christian expects to take things as they come, good, bad, or indifferent, and use them for a witness to Jesus. That puts a positive Yes upon every No that comes to a Christian. Everything furthers those who follow Christ. Just as an airplane goes up against resistance, against the wind, so the Christian rises on the wings of resistance." (Ibid: pg. 100,101)

"Father, just as Jesus took the worst that could have happened to him – a death on a Roman Cross – and turned it into the greatest symbol of victory – through the Resurrection – so help me to turn my little daily crosses into symbols of victory. Make me creative in the transforming of my failures into successes, my hurts into healings, my disadvantages into opportunities, Through Jesus' conquering name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God will teach me to turn my stumbling blocks into stepping stones!

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Philippians 1:12-26

Transforming 'Inkblots'

A short article written by Don Demaray appeared in the 'Light and Life' magazine, dated June 19, 1979, which most beautifully illustrates the principle of transforming the bad into the good.

"The story has about it classic dimensions. And it is true. John Ruskin, nineteenth-century writer and artist, emerges as the hero.

"A lady friend showed him the once priceless treasure in her possession, a handkerchief now ruined by an inkblot. 'Beyond repair', she moaned.

"'Let me have that handkerchief,' he demanded.

"'No problem. But why do you want a worthless piece of cloth?'

"'Never mind; just let me take it.'

"Days passed. John Ruskin returned the handkerchief. Using the blot as his center, the artist had drawn a pattern as beautiful as the finest piece of Belgian lace. With the imprint of the famous painter and art critic now upon it, the handkerchief took on many times its former worth.

"For all the world, it appeared that Joni Erickson's life suffered a blot beyond repair. But look! Books (yesterday at the Christian bookstore I saw her latest on the religious bestseller list) – yes, books, and also a movie of her life, an interview on the 'Today Show' and the loveliest sketches you ever saw done with pen in mouth. The Master Craftsman has literally used the inkblot (in her case a paralyzing swimming accident) am woven around it the most intricate and breathtaking of designs.

"The secret? Letting the Artist have the handkerchief.

"The unspeakably divine message of the gospel of redemption is just this: whatever happens to the Christian is meant as a stepping-stone to something better."

Problems and suffering can cultivate Christlike character in a person. Problems and suffering successfully met are a powerful witness to unbelievers. Suffering can cause one to fix his focus and attention on heavenly glories instead of on earthly concerns. One sees reality oftentimes more clearly through a tear drop! The trivial things of time and space grow strangely dim in the light of eternal values, made more real through suffering. Problems cause one to depend more heavily upon God's power and resources. When one is on his back, it is much easier to look up! Man's weaknesses provide opportunity for God's power and glory to be manifested. God glories in using weak men to do mighty things for Him. Many times those who are most effective in ministry are those who minister in an area in which they have personally suffered most.

"Father, help me to see the hidden blessings in my sufferings. I see that it is a Christlike work to sooth and to sympathize, but how can I myself sympathize if I have never really suffered? Help me to minister out of the wounds of my life. Use my sufferings to develop in me a tender heart, more responsive to God's love and to human needs."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God can turn everyone of my problems into projects of Divine Grace, and God's projects are always successful!

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Luke 7:36-50

Positive Possibilities In People

When one contemplates the changeableness and corruption of human nature, it is easy to become cynical and negative. When foes distress and friends betray, is it any wonder that some grow sour and defensive? The negative person has little or no confidence in himself and thus has little or no belief in the moral worth and dignity of others.

Many people become negative because they are perfectionists. What is a perfectionist? A perfectionist is one who expects the impossible from himself, and thus, the impossible from others. "The 'perfectionists' are always tense and anxious about their own imperfections and the imperfections of others… They cannot get along with themselves or with others. They are demanding the impossible and getting the possible – with disappointment!" (A Song of Ascents; Jones; pg. 39)

Some are negative because they don't see the possibilities of divine grace in changing human nature from selfishness to selflessness, from sinfulness to saintliness.

The man who gazes on Christ and Christ's transforming power, will be delivered from negativism to positivism. Catching the spirit and hope of Christ towards sinful mankind, will transform our negative attitudes toward people. Christ can make the bad man good, and the negative man positive. "Someone asked a Negro minister, pastor of a growing and dynamic church, how he accomplished it. He replied: 'I hold a crown a few inches above my people's heads and watch them grow into it.'" (Ibid; pg. 39)

"He (Jesus) was patient with and hopeful for the weak and the faltering and the sinful. And yet he did not compromise with and accommodate himself to their imperfections and sins… His love produces love, his faith produces faith, his hope produces hope." (Ibid; pg. 39)

"The mood of the present day is cynicism. Many people are soured on life. They are cynical and negative. This age has three sneers for everything and three cheers for nothing. It has a code of 'I don't believe in this'; 'I don't believe in that'; 'I don't believe in the other'. They are trying to live by a NO. And it is turning out badly and sadly, for you can't live by a NO. You have to live by a YES.

"Bertrand Russell said that life is a bottle of very nasty wine that leaves a bad taste in your mouth… Sartre, the French existentialist, said, 'Hell is other people.'" (The Divine Yes; Jones; pg. 14,15) Man, without contact with the Hopeful God, falls into despair, cynicism, and negativism.

"Father, deliver me from all cynical devaluations of man, due to my inadequate views of human nature. Help me to realize that you have power to transform the ugly into the beautiful, the selfish into the selfless, the sinful into the serving, the perverted into the pure. In Jesus' name."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Man is not only a creature with potential for unlimited evil, but he is a creature whose greatness is found in his unique creation and in his potential for limitless redemption!

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1 John 5:3-5; John 10:10

Christianity – Life-Affirming Or Life-Denying?

There are far too many believers who are negative and joyless, thinking that negativism is a sign of spirituality. The Bible commands Christians to be sober, so some Christians interpret this to mean joyless, serious-minded, and even miserable!

"Jesus is the YES – The divine YES. A great many people today would like to choose Christianity, but they think it is a NO to living. 'You cannot do this.' 'You cannot do that.' 'You cannot do this.' 'You cannot do the other,' – if you are a Christian. This is in fact a denial of the will to live. It is the will to surrender and die." (The Divine Yes; pg. 13)

How ironical that Christianity, which is to be the most positive and affirmative way to live, has been used as a defense for negativism and legalism!

The mind of Christ is gloriously positive! His teaching is life- affirming, not life-denying. Jesus never taught self-denial as an end within itself, but only as a means to the end of self-realization. The last word of Jesus is not losing, but finding. Christianity is not rigid discipline but glorious freedom of which discipline is the handmaiden.

Those who see Christianity as a list of demands will be driven to negative despair, but those who see Christianity as a reservoir of limitless resources will be leaping with positive joy! Holiness is health and wholeness and ultimately happiness, not a series of negative prohibitions, as some have taught! The impure disease of self-centeredness must be destroyed in order that the wholeness and health of Christ-centered living may be actualized!

Christianity teaches that love transcends law, that delight replaces drudgery, that the liberty of the Spirit replaces the bondage of the flesh!

Jesus came that man may have life and have it more abundantly! Nothing forbidding or forlorn about Jesus! Jesus said, "I am not come to destroy, but to save men!" Any destroying that Jesus does is for the purpose of saving. He destroys sin in order to impart salvation! The yoke that Jesus places on the neck fits, and therefore it is pleasant and productive. His yoke is easy and His burden is light! His work is our happiness! Pain, endured for Jesus becomes our pleasure! His laws are not burdensome or grievous. We delight to do his will, for His way is the way we were meant to live! Therefore His commands of love turn out to be the same as the demands of our human nature. There is a glorious compatibility between man's needs and God's resources!

"Father, you only subtract sin from my life in order that you may multiply joy in my life! I delight to surrender to you, for through surrender I find freedom – freedom from the bondage of self-centeredness! Bowing low at your feet, I can stand tall before everything else. Thank you for enabling me to say 'Yes' to life. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I have a right to run out and embrace life and enjoy it fully, for it is my Father's good pleasure to give me the Kingdom!

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Psalms 1:1-6

Practicing The Principles Of Positive Affirmation

Those nonbelievers who have grown sour on life and have spelled life with a capital 'NO' are to be pitied, but more to be pitied yet are those sincere souls who have made sorrow a virtue and sadness and somberness a way of life – in the name of Christianity!

Perhaps nothing has hurt the cause of Christianity more than a joyless and colorless professing Christian who communicates more sadness than gladness. "Is there anything that would more, and better, publicize the faith than life lived with joy and assurance – the happy abandonment of those who live to better all things but who know… that if the worse comes to the worst they need not fear those who kill the body and afterwards have 00 more that they can do?" (Daily Readings; Sangster; pg. 202)

"Among the many misunderstandings which have affected the common mind of man concerning the religion of Jesus Christ, none is more perplexing or more false than the widespread idea that to receive it is to be made miserable… The fact that there is a cross at the heart of the Christian faith, and that following Christ involves some rigorous self-denials, does. not alter – and cannot alter – this central truth; the fruit of the Spirit is joy." (Ibid; pg. 144)

Paul wrote, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" What a positive affirmation! What a positive way to live!

The emphasis is on Christ! Christ in you is the hope of glory! Christ in you is the source of unearthly wisdom and strength! Christ in you is the fountain of overflowing joy! Christ in you is the constant cleanser of negativism and pessimism! The mind of Christ is always gloriously positive. Christ in you is the basis of your positive faith and positive attitudes!

Practice the presence of God in your life! Practice the principles of positive affirmation! Say 'Yes' to life's 'No's'! Bless and do not curse life and relationships! Don't dwell on negative conditions and don't absorb the negative spirit of reactionary and critical people. Dwell on the positive. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things." (Philippians 4:8 NIV) Dwell in the congregation of the positive and the praising! Praise God for all things, and praise God in spite of some things! In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you, in Christ Jesus.

"Father, help me to be positive, not negative, to show approval and not disapproval, to give acceptance and not rejection, to be appreciative and not critical, to be edifying and not derogatory, to be constructive and not destructive, to show affection and not hostility, to be delightful and not unpleasant. In Jesus' positive and affirming name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Evil companions corrupt good manners, and negative thinkers destroy positive motivation. I will be positive and keep company with positive persons!

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Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Negativism'

  1. Name same of the basic causes of negativism.

  2. What effect does the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion and cleansing have upon the person who is greatly influenced by negative attitudes?

  3. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "While the initial work of the Holy Spirit may immediately cleanse the heart, it usually takes time, practice, and discipline to change the mind from a negative to a positive slant."

  4. Name five different types of suffering and the peril associated with each one of these types of suffering.

  5. What is the Christian answer to suffering – the answer that negates negativism and transplants joy and hope and peace in its place?

  6. Which of the three following reactions to suffering is the Christian reaction or response (and tell why): Explain Suffering, Explain Away Suffering, Use Suffering.

  7. List several of the potential benefits that can be derived from suffering.

  8. In what ways can contemplation on the changeableness and corruption of human nature foster a negative attitude toward life?

  9. Why do some people who are perfectionists tend to be negative?

  10. How can catching the spirit and hope of Christ towards sinful mankind help transform one's negative attitudes?

  11. Why do some people (believers) strangely think that being negative and reactionary is a sign of spirituality?

  12. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christianity is not rigid discipline, but glorious freedom of which discipline is the handmaiden. The last word of Jesus is rot losing, but finding."

  13. Is Christianity basically a list of demands or a reservoir of limitless resources? What Scriptural basis can you give for your answer?

  14. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christianity teaches that love transcends law, that delight replaces drudgery, that the liberty of the Spirit replaces the bondage of the flesh."

  15. What are some Biblical principles of positive affirmation that you have practiced, principles that have helped you to ward off the harmful effects of negative thinking?

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Overcome Circumstantial Temptations

Overcome 'Circumstantial' Temptations

Chapter Two

Overcome 'Circumstantial' Temptations
Conquering The 'Giant' Of Jealousy! 26 Conquering The 'Giant' Of Negativism! 34
Conquering The 'Giant' Of Judgmentalism! 28 Is Faith 'Idealism' Or 'Realism'? 36
Conquering The 'Giant' Of Envy! 30 Discussion Questions 38
Are You 'Exclusive' Or 'Inclusive' In Your Love Of Others? 32    

Matthew 20:20-28

Conquering The 'Giant' Of Jealousy!

Let that 'mind' be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. The battle against jealousy is won in the mind Step by step, let us note how this deliverance is accomplished. First, see the possibility of deliverance through Christ alone who never envied another.

Second, honestly face your personal need for deliverance. It is humiliating to admit you have this problem, but the Great Physician can only heal you if you confess it.

Third, re-channel your tendency towards comparison with others. God accepts you just as you are and, therefore, you don't need to build up your ego by comparing yourself with others in a less favorable condition than you (which leads to ugly pride), and you don't need to plunge yourself into despair or into jealousy by comparing yourself with others who appear to be in a much more favorable condition than you. The quest in our society for power, popularity, dominance, and leadership breeds envy, strife, and jealousy. Compare yourself only with yourself, that you might continue to grow.

Fourth, rejoice in the God-ordained place which Christ has for you personally. God has a place for all in His great family. There is no need for any member to compare itself with any other member of the Body of Christ (Church), for each member has a different function and each member is needed for the healthy functioning of the entire Body. A great antidote against envy and jealousy is learning to enjoy others and learning to enjoy giving preference and honor to others. The only competition, worthy of the name of Christ, is the competition of love – seeking to outdo one another in ads of compassion and love! This attitude makes for a harmonious Church!

Fifth, realize that Christ can take away the desire for the approval and praise of the 'Crowd' – the source of much envy and jealousy. and that Christ can replace this desire with the sole desire for the praise and approval of God. The one-talented servant of God, who is inwardly confident that he is sincerely seeking to 'please the Master', may feel the 'smile of God's approval' on his life. If his Savior approves of him and 'praises' him, why should he need the applause of mere men?

Sixth, play down your own successes. Emphasize long-time brotherhood. Don't magnify new differences in status or attainments or successes. Never deliberately provoke envy in another, either through overt remarks of conceit or through actions of pride. "Let your love be perfectly sincere… allowing one another to enjoy preference of honor." (Romans 12:9, Berkeley) Says Proverbs 27:2, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips." Focus on others, not on yourself!

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"Father, help me to die, both to the praise and to the blame of men, and study only to show myself approved by You. Make me 'jealous' only for your 'smile of approval.'"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will rejoice in the God-ordained place which God has given to me and not envy God's place for someone else!

– Ron Christian –

NOTES:

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1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 7:1

Conquering The 'Giant' Of Judgmentalism!

One 'trap' (sin) that believers must always guard against is the 'trap' of judgmentalism. It is far too easy for Christians, who are 'very different' from each other, to succumb to the temptation to judge each other. The Christian with an impulsive temperament may be misunderstood (and judged) by the Christian whose temperament is passive. The cheerful temperament may have 'problems' with the artistic temperament which is given more often to moodiness. The activistic temperament may have 'problems' with the meditative temperament. The extrovertive temperament may grow impatient with the introvertive temperament. When different temperaments conflict and patience grows thin, there is need for the 'grace' of tolerance and understanding, and for the 'oil' of forgiveness. Try to overlook the 'personality flaws' in others, and focus instead on their strengths and virtues. Be patient with others, slow to judge, quick to forgive!

William Barclay suggests three reasons why no one is capable of judging another: (1) We never know the whole facts or the whole person. We cannot understand his circumstances or temptations. (2) It is almost impossible for any man to be strictly impartial in his judgement. (3) No man is good enough to judge another man. Our own faults and our own inability to resolve them automatically disqualify us as fair critics.

Notes John Church, "This leads me to call your attention to the fact that in the Book of Leviticus, the 13th and 14th chapters, the truth is brought out in a very striking way, that sometimes there was brought to the High Priest a person who had an eruption which looked very much as if the person was a leper. However, the High Priest was not hasty in his judgment on that person, for it was a serious thing to pronounce him a leper. If there was any doubt at all in the mind of the Priest, he always gave the person involved the benefit of the doubt. He had him shut up for seven days and then he looked again. If he was still not sure, he withheld judgment and had the person shut up for seven more days. In some cases this was repeated until a period of twenty one days passed before he would pass final judgment on a person. I have often read this passage and thought of what a wonderful thing it would be if all Christian people would manifest the same patience in judging their fellow men about their sins and faults. Just suppose that we would be willing to wait twenty one days before we finally passed judgment upon the conduct of our brother. What a different world this would be! The trouble with us is that we condemn and pass judgment before all the evidence is in, and many people are condemned before they have a hearing. Too bad that this is true, for many lives have been hurt and reputations have been ruined by such hasty judgment. Let us be patient and wait until all the evidence is in; it may not be as bad as we think," (Earthen Vessels; pg. 16,17)

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"Father, forgive me for my critical, judgmental attitude towards my fellow Christians. Help me to be slow to speak and quick to listen, slow to judge and quick to forgive."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus said 'Judge Not' and He also said 'Ye shall know them by their fruit.' Fruit-testing (1 John 4:1-3)? Yes! Critical Judging (Matthew 7:1)? No!

– Ron Christian –

NOTES:

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Matthew 6:19-21

Conquering The 'Giant' Of Envy!

Have you ever felt like you took two steps forward and three steps backward, that the harder you tried to live a godly life the more adversities and reverses you seemed to experience? Have you ever felt a spirit of envy and covetousness come over you when you observed the wicked in their prosperity in contrast to your hardships and obstacles and financial troubles? Have you ever wondered why God allows the wicked man to enjoy pleasures and power and position and prestige, while God, at the same time, allows the righteous man to suffer hardships of all kinds – financial losses, physical infirmities, heart-breaking sorrows, spiritual depressions? Have you ever thought that health and wealth automatically belonged to you by virtue of your spiritual sonship in God's family, and that, when you weren't enjoying prosperity, God must be failing to keep His promises? Have you ever been tempted to demand an explanation of why some who are not as righteous as you are, seem to get ahead in life? If you believe that material prosperity is a sure sign of God's blessings, then you will be very confused, maybe even bitter, if you observe the wicked prospering while you are not prospering! Envy is the result of one person (in this case, a believer) making an unfavorable comparison with another(in this case, with a prosperous wicked man). If we are honest, most of us would have to admit that the seeming "prosperity" of our unsaved friends, in contrast to our seeming "failure", causes envious feelings to rise to the surface of our hearts.

What is the answer to your evil coveting? He who falls in love with God soon falls out of love with the things of this-world! It is learning to covet what God covets, to treasure what God treasures, to delight in what God delights in. Setting your affections on God and on heavenly things, is exchanging the world for heaven, is exchanging the temporary for the permanent, is making the Living God the object of your coveting rather than making your false and manmade gods the object of your coveting. Treasuring God and desiring the smile of God's approval, and coveting a God-like character – these new affections replace the old affections. It is the object of your coveting that determines whether your coveting is right or wrong. Jesus did not forbid you to lay up treasures, but He did define the kind of treasures you are to lay up and He did pinpoint. the place where those treasures are to be deposited. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21) Loving God and His eternal Kingdom is one of the best antidotes for evil coveting! He who is preoccupied with trying to please and obey God, is not preoccupied with trying to outdo his fellow men. The one who follows God need not envy the worldling whose desires are inflamed by what the world has to offer-houses and lands, power and pleasures, fortune and fame.

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"Jesus, You are the "Water of life" and the "Bread of life" – the satisfaction of my greatest 'hungers' and my insatiable 'thirst'! In Thee, all my needs are fully supplied!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus never promised His-followers material wealth or worldly power, but He did promise "abundant life" here and "eternal life" hereafter!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Are You 'Exclusive' Or 'Inclusive' In Your Love Of Others?

One of the temptations which believers often face is the temptation to be 'exclusive' in their attitudes and actions towards other persons (persons who are 'professing Christians') who greatly differ in their religious beliefs and practices from themselves. Followers of Jesus Christ must never forget that love (given to humble believers as a gift by the Holy Spirit, Romans 5:5) not only covers a multitude of sins (James 5:20 and I Peter 4:8), but that love also seeks to include in one's circle of fellowship the greatest number of believers that one can possibly include. Love is 'inclusive', not 'exclusive'! There are certain negative words which accurately describe what love is NOT. Love is not narrow, sectarian, judgmental, rigid, critical, proud. Rather, love is broad, open- minded, charitable in judgment-making, accepting, positive, humble, teachable, flexible, and tolerant. Notes the great Christian theologian and philosopher, Francis A. Schaeffer, "One must realize that there is a great difference between believing in absolutes and having an absolutist mentality about everything." (The Church At The End of the 20th Century; pg. 151)

In his excellent book 'Love Covers', Paul Billheimer notes, "The only power that will bring unity in the Body of Christ is the power of agape love. Adequate love for Jesus enables one to accept and love those whom He accepts and loves, regardless of their opinions in non-essentials. We shall never be united by conceptual truth, church polity, liturgy, or any canon or confession of faith – only by agape love. With a sufficient flow of love in the Body, all divisive factors will shrink and diminish in significance. No breach in the Body of Christ is caused primarily by superior knowledge, differing convictions, or divergent views of truth; but by one thing and only one – lack of agape love. Therefore, the only remedy will be found in growth in love, that is, authentic love for God. God knows that finite minds will never reach absolutely inerrant conclusions. He knows that many controversies will never be settled this side of heaven. If infallibility in doctrine or conceptual truth in nonessentials is all important in God's sight, why did He leave room for doubts and differences of opinion? May it not be that He permits uncertainty in nonessentials to give opportunity for practice and growth in love? Which is more important, to be right in opinion and wrong in spirit or to be wrong in opinion and right in spirit? What happens when one is wrong in spirit? Is not the Holy Spirit within him consciously grieved and does He not witness to offense by an inward sense of disapproval? God may, and does, bless those with opposite views on nonessentials. God may and does bless those with contradictory views but He never blesses lovelessness." ('Love Covers' by Paul Billheimer; portions, pgs. 106,107,112)

"Loving Heavenly Father, I confess that I too often have sinned by excluding your children from my personal fellowship, simply because they think and act and react and worship differently than I do. Please forgive me for my sectarianism, and now open my

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heart to embrace all true believers in my affections. In Jesus' charitable name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: All who have bowed their knees and who have declared with- their lips that' Jesus Is Lord' are my brothers and 'sisters in God's big Family!

– Ron Christian –

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There is a 'gold mine' of creative genius hidden in every person; I determine to help others discover their God-given treasures!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Samuel 17:8-11, 1 Samuel 17:32-51

Conquering The 'Giant' Of Negativism!

In your 'battle' against the 'giant' of negativism remember that, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you serve the most positive person who ever lived! Jesus is the 'Divine Yes' to all of life, for He puts a positive Yes upon every No that comes to a Christian! When a believer experiences unexplainable tragedy or when he observes life's many inequities, injustices, and mysteries, he is tempted to become cynical, bitter, pessimistic, and negative. When you are severely tempted to become an 'agnostic', you must express your faith in God! That is to say, in spite of your confused mind and your 'bleeding' heart (because of life's losses and disappointments), you must reaffirm that God knows what is best (Be is all-wise), God wants to give what is the best (He is all-loving), God can do what is best (He is all-powerful)! Even though you can't understand with your mind, you can accept (trust) with your heart! In all of life's experiences you can learn to give thanks, for nothing can happen to the true believer but what God allows, and God will not allow His children to shed any 'needless tears'. To help you avoid falling into the 'trap' of 'negativism', you must often quote Romans 8:28 – "And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans."

As in the case of young David who courageously confronted the evil giant (Goliath) – as recorded in today's Scripture Reading – you must not dwell on the 'discouraging' conditions which surround you, and you must not absorb the negative spirit of reactionary and critical people! What is one of the greatest 'secrets' to overcoming the 'giant' of negativism? David didn't lose heart and succumb to the temptation to be negative and pessimistic because he had his eyes on God, not on Goliath. David did not make youthful boasts based on his own supposed strength. David made confident claims based on his personal faith in Almighty God! David remained 'positive' and did not become paralyzed with fear because he knew God, and in knowing of God's power, the power of Goliath looked like nothing to David! The 'secret' to facing threatening situations (the 'giants') is to know God, to have so much confidence in God's strength and might that the might of Duman problems looks small in comparison!

Your faith in God (during life's crisis) can be contagious. David's close contact with God was David's basis for encouraging others not to lose heart, as they faced the 'death threats' of Goliath. If you choose 'optimistic faith' instead of 'pessimistic doubt', you will be amazed at the number of 'timorous believers' whom you will excite and awaken in their exercise of faith in the Almighty God! Like David, when you live close to God, you are in a position to be a great encourager to others (especially to those 'weak believers' who are wavering in their faith – who look at the 'dark side' of life).

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"Father, hold me 'steady' during life's losses and griefs, when I find it too easy to think and speak and act negatively. Use me to help 'rally' others to exercise positive faith!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because God is on the 'throne' of the universe, I believe there is 'sunshine' behind every 'cloud', purpose in every mystery, 'grace' for every tragedy!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Samuel 17:8-11, 1 Samuel 17:32-51

Is Faith 'Idealism' Or 'Realism'?

When the adults (including King Saul) confronted the mighty giant (Goliath), they believed that their reaction of 'fear' was a reaction of 'realism'. These negative-thinking and negative-speaking adults (Israelite soldiers) ridiculed young David for his optimistic talk, in defiance of Goliath. The faith-filled and positive-minded David asked: "Who is this heathen Philistine, anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26 b, Living Bible) David, who was accused of ' youthful idealism', was the only one present who was truly 'realistic'. David alone 'focused' on the God of Israel, whose power was far greater than the boasted strength of Goliath who served the false gods of the Philistines. When a believer (like David) trusts alone in the God of the universe, that believer is the person who has truly 'connected' with reality! In this classic story of David and Goliath, adult pessimism (in the name of 'realism') confronted youthful idealism (in the name of 'faith') and David's victory over Goliath proved to everyone that day that 'faith in God' (not 'pessimistic fear') was what constituted 'realism'!

So-called 'youthful idealism' (as seen in the courage and faith of David) is too often criticized by 'sophisticated' adults. When Eliab, David's oldest brother, heard David speaking with the Israelite soldiers, Eliab burned with anger at David and he asked: "Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle." Eliab and the other brothers were negative, faithless, critical, pessimistic – and all in the name of 'realism'! What a 'perversion of reality'! David alone was the 'realist', for David focused his sole attention on Almighty God! King Saul too was negative and faithless: "You, David, are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him, you are only a boy, and Goliath has been a fighting man from his youth. " Saul pointed out David's limitations. David was small and Goliath was big! David was inexperienced, and Goliath was an experienced warrior!

There are adults today who try to discourage a child's or a youth's exercise of faith and optimism. There are those who attempt to bring death to youthful aspirations and dreams and hopes. What kind of 'word' do you give to young persons – a 'discouraging word' or an 'encouraging word'? Do you help inspire the visions and dreams of young people, or do you, in the name of 'realism', throw 'cold water' on their zeal and enthusiasm? Parents (and other adults) who destroy the faith, idealism, and spiritual visions of their children, cause their children to lose hope and to despair and to become (like the adults) pessimistic and negative! What tragedy and what a sin! Woe to such an adult (see Matthew 18:6)!

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"Father, I want to be a person of positive faith, encouraging young people to 'focus' on their potential, not on their limitations; to 'reach for the stars', not 'wallow' in the mud."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: There are no 'impossible' situations in life, only people who have grown faithless when confronting the challenges of life!

– Ron Christian –

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Discussion Questions

  1. Tell to what extent you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "God accepts you just as you are and, therefore, you don't need to- build up your ego by comparing yourself with others in a less favorable condition than you (which leads to ugly pride), and you don't need to plunge yourself into despair or jealousy by comparing yourself with others who appear to be in a much more favorable condition than you."

  2. What steps have you personally taken to curb your tendency (temptation) towards selfish (hurtful) competition with others?

  3. Have you learned to rejoice in the God-ordained place which God has uniquely given to you and not to envy God's place for someone else? (Note John 21:15-23)

  4. Why do you think there's such a strong tendency (temptation) for Christians to judge (i.e., to criticize) their fellow Christians (or other persons, in general)? What is the difference between properly evaluating (testing) the life and character of other persons, and improperly judging (criticizing) other persons? (Note Matthew 7:15-20; 1 John 4:1-3; Matthew 7:1-5)

  5. Give several reasons why you (as a believer) are incapable of 'judging' another person.

  6. Have you ever felt a 'spirit of envy and covetousness' come over you, when you observed the wicked in their prosperity in contrast to your hardships and obstacles and financial troubles? If so, what is the 'answer' (solution) to your wrongful coveting? (Note Psalm 73)

  7. From your own personal experiences and from your .observation of other godly persons, tell if you believe the following statement reflects 'reality': "He who is preoccupied with trying to please and obey God, is not preoccupied with trying to outdo his fellow men."

  8. Why is it "so dangerous" for Christians to teach that financial prosperity and physical health are "evidences" ("signs") of God's special favor on a person's life? Tell to what degree you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "Jesus never promised His followers material wealth or worldly power, but He did promise 'abundant life' here and 'eternal life' hereafter!"

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  9. What should your attitude be towards fellow Christians whose theological beliefs and personal 'convictions' and Biblical interpretations and material lifestyle and worship style are very different than your own? (Note 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Romans 14:1; Romans 15:7)

  10. Which is more important, to be right in opinion and wrong in spirit, or to be wrong in opinion and right in spirit? Tell if you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God may and does bless those with contradictory views but He never blesses lovelessness."

  11. How does belief in God's sovereignty help you to cope with life's inequities and mysteries and injustices? (Note Romans 8:28) Tell to what extent you agree or disagree with the following statement: "In spite of your confused mind and your 'bleeding' heart (because of life's losses and disappointments), you must reaffirm that God knows what is best (He is all-wise), God wants to give what is best (Be is all-loving), God can do what is best (He is all-powerful)!"

  12. What is one of the greatest 'secrets' to overcoming the 'giant' of negativism?

  13. From the example of David's defiance against the pagan giant (Goliath), what affect will your "positive attitudes of faith" have upon other persons surrounding you? (Note 1 Samuel 17:8-11, 1 Samuel 17:32-51)

  14. Is faith in God 'idealism' or 'realism'? Why? Why can it be said that the Christian, whose sole focus is on God, is the genuine 'realist'?

  15. Do you help inspire the visions and dreams of young people, or do you, in the name of 'realism', throw 'cold water' on their zeal and enthusiasm?

  16. Are you a 'possibility thinker' or do you tend negatively to focus on the problems in people and in situations? What steps have you taken to rid yourself of your tendencies (temptations) towards negative (pessimistic and faithless) thinking?

  17. Do you, like the apostle Paul, tend to see the possibilities and potential in other people (in even 'down-and-out' people), or do you tend to disqualify and disinherit and discriminate against people? (Note Philemon 1:1-25) In your 'general outlook' on life, do you tend to see 'problems' or 'possibilities' in people and in life's situations? Generally-speaking are you a 'positive-minded' or a 'negative-minded' person? From a Biblical and practical perspective, why is it so vitally important for you to be a 'positive-minded' person? What are some of the specific benefits which you and others receive as a result of your positive thoughts and positive actions?

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  18. Do you see a 'bundle of possibilities' in every child you meet, or do you see most children as an 'immature annoyance'? Do you believe that encouragement will do far more for people than rebuke will do? Why or why not?

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