The Touch That Transforms

Seven times in the book of Matthew, Jesus encountered people with sickness or infirmities and healed them with a touch. Although He had the power to simply speak a word or command illness to leave, He often chose a more hands-on approach. In the case of the leper in today’s passage, Jesus’ personal touch must have been something the man rarely experienced, since he was considered untouchable. In fact, that may be why Jesus chose this avenue of healing.

The need for a touch from a fellow human being has not disappeared in the 2,000 years since Jesus walked the earth. Yet in a world dominated by social media and technology, we are now more isolated than ever before. Physical contact is being replaced with “likes” on Facebook. And when we do think of touch, it’s often associated with scandal, impropriety, or immorality. How did this wonderful word become so maligned?

As Christians, we have the opportunity to “touch” people in a variety of ways, including by our words—for example, the proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ can transform a person’s life and eternal destiny. However, ministry is also accomplished with our hands through service, compassion, and the encouragement of a hug or loving pat on the shoulder.

Our heart, mouth, and hands must be cooperating in order to fully minister in Jesus’ name. And whether alone or gathered with others, we have the privilege of touching lives through prayer. Jesus touched people both physically and spiritually, and as His followers, we must do likewise. Look for opportunities in which God might use you for His glory. 

The Foundation of Faith

At salvation, everything we’ve built our life upon comes crashing down and is removed like rubble from a vacant lot. Then a new foundation is laid in Christ, and we begin building upon it day by day with our deeds and motives. As with any building project, we have a choice about which materials to use. They may all look good on the surface, but the real test of their quality will be revealed when we stand before Christ to be “recompensed for [our] deeds in the body, according to what [we have] done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Therefore, we should carefully consider what we are using as building materials. The world offers us many philosophies from which to choose. We are told that we can mix a little worldly wisdom with a bit of Scripture and create a suitable Christian life. But Paul warns that if anyone thinks he is wise in this age, he is a fool. God will destroy everything we use that is derived from the world rather than from the truth of His Word. 

Building a solid house of faith on the foundation of Christ is a lifelong process. Through prayer and meditation on Scripture, we learn to know and love our heavenly Father and understand what pleases Him. As He transforms our life through His Spirit, our actions and attitudes become increasingly obedient and godly. 

With so much at stake, our goal should be to establish our life on the foundation of Christ, with righteous actions and attitudes empowered by the Holy Spirit. Such a faith house will stand firm in this life and be worthy of reward in the next. 

God’s Unfailing Love

Do you feel loved by God?  Let me ask the question a different way: Did you know that as a believer, it’s possible to mentally understand God loves you without actually sensing it? In fact, the reverse can be true as well—we may say we love God, all the while knowing that our feelings of affection for Him are limited.

There are a variety of reasons that a Christian might not sense love from God or affection for Him, some of which stem from childhood experiences. Perhaps love was absent in the home, or maybe it just wasn’t expressed verbally or demonstrated in practical ways. An individual’s personality could also be part of the equation—some people are naturally expressive while others are more reserved in their emotions.

Although this discrepancy between knowledge and experience can be distressing, there is hope. Meditating on all the ways God has demonstrated His love for you—and asking Him to help you perceive it—can begin to move that truth from your head to your heart. Remember that love is God’s very nature (1 John 4:8), not something conditioned on your performance. And if you’ve been adopted into His family through faith in His Son, God has chosen to lavish kindness on you in Christ. 

Believing and accepting that you are loved by the Father will in turn affect your feelings for Him. Commit to knowing Him more intimately and accurately through His Word, and your affection for Him will begin to grow. As you spend time with Him in Scripture and prayer, you’ll discover that the saying “to know him is to love him” is certainly true of God. 

How can you know God?

It all starts with accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ provides a relationship with the Father and eternal life through His death on the cross and resurrection, see Romans. 5:10.

Romans. 10:9 promises, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." If you have not yet begun your personal relationship with God, understand that the One who created you loves you no matter who you are or what you’ve done. He wants you to experience the profound depth of His care.

Therefore, tell God that you are willing to trust Him for salvation. You can tell Him in your own words or use this simple prayer:

Lord Jesus, I ask You to forgive my sins and save me from eternal separation from God. By faith, I accept Your work and death on the cross as sufficient payment for my sins. Thank You for providing the way for me to know You and to have a relationship with my heavenly Father. Through faith in You, I have eternal life. Thank You also for hearing my prayers and loving me unconditionally. Please give me the strength, wisdom, and determination to walk in the center of Your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.

If you have just prayed this prayer, congratulations!

You have received Christ as your Savior and have made the best decision you will ever make—one that will change your life forever!

An Example of God’s Love

Our society is confused about the meaning of love. Much of what is portrayed in movies and television could more accurately be described as lust or infatuation. It’s often based on self-satisfaction rather than the principles of God’s Word. This is in direct contrast to the way the Lord calls us to live—by allowing the Holy Spirit rather than our natural inclinations to control us.

The apostle Paul wrote a wonderful description of love in 1 Corinthians 13, and in today’s passage, we see that these concepts were not mere words to him. Paul actually demonstrated this kind of love by the way he interacted with the believers in Thessalonica. His love was given …

Freely (1 Thess. 2:5). Paul offered the Thessalonians what they needed most—the gospel, which could save their souls. Furthermore, he didn’t preach for profit or try to manipulate the people with flattery.

Humbly (1 Thess. 2:6). His goal was their salvation and God’s glory, not personal gain.

Unselfishly (1 Thess. 2:7). Paul’s service to these believers was as selfless as a nursing mother’s tender care for her baby.

Affectionately (1 Thess. 2:8). His love was also very personal and warm. He didn’t just give them the gospel; he gave them himself.

Sacrificially (1 Thess. 2:9). Paul willingly suffered hardship and worked long hours so he wouldn’t be a financial burden to them.

We are to show love to others in a way that stands in stark contrast to the type of love promoted by our culture. It is to be offered willingly, without thought of convenience, cost, or what might be gained.

Not of This World

“What is going on in the world?”  You’ve probably heard people say this. And as Christians, we sometimes wonder how we are to live in a culture that seems to be on a downhill trajectory ethically. Since Jesus said of His disciples, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16), we can certainly conclude that our lives should look different from unbelievers’ lives.

The darker things become, the more pronounced should be the contrast between our way of life and the world’s. And one of the most obvious differences should be in the area of love. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, Paul warned that in the last days (a period just before Jesus’ return) mankind would be lovers of self, money, and pleasure rather than of God and others. Such misplaced affection results in arrogance, ungratefulness, unholiness, and all the other tragic descriptions found in this passage. When love becomes distorted, these vices inevitably follow. And today we see the evidence of this all around us, don’t we?

Even the technology that makes life easier is drawing us apart. Face-to-face conversations and phone calls are increasingly being replaced with emails and texts. Everywhere we turn, eyes are looking down at phones rather than seeing the people right in front of them.

The good news is that we can make a difference by intentionally living and loving differently from the world around us. As the Lord told us in Matthew 22:37-40, the way to fight the lovelessness all around us is by loving God and our neighbors.

The Person of the Holy Spirit

If asked who the Holy Spirit is, would you say He is a ghost, a power, or a person? The Bible provides many details about Him that point to His personhood, yet many of us do not think of the Spirit as someone we can know. Perhaps we have received incomplete teaching about Him or have misunderstood translations that call Him the Holy Ghost. Maybe when we read about His power, we assumed He was merely a force. It could even be that we have focused on the Father or Son to the exclusion of the Spirit. But the personhood of God’s Spirit is clearly revealed by the Bible’s descriptions of Him:

He acts as a person—living, teaching, testifying, convicting, guiding, and speaking.

He has a personality, as shown by His will, thoughts, and knowledge.

He is called by many names, including Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, and Spirit of Holiness—all of which represent His divine nature.

He can be treated like a person: He can be lied to, resisted, obeyed, and called on.

Believing anything less than what Scripture teaches about the Holy Spirit robs Him of His glory and diminishes our understanding of the Trinity. Furthermore, a faulty perception of the Spirit hampers our Christian life because we won’t recognize the magnitude of His transforming power, which allows us to triumph over sin and obey God.

But there is a solution. Ask the Spirit to illuminate the Scriptures so you can know Him in all His fullness. He is the one who helps you find in Christ a life that is joyful, peace-filled, wise, discerning, and submissive.

Live According to the Spirit

Do you ever find yourself thinking other Christians have learned a secret that you don’t know about living the Christian life? Perhaps it seems as if they’ve solved the mystery of rejoicing in suffering, forgiving the unforgivable, conquering sin, or showing love in ways you haven’t yet discovered.

What you are seeing in these believers is not a secret reserved only for those who have gained a certain level of enlightenment, but a life lived according to the Spirit. He’s the one who is producing this amazing fruit in those who are being led by Him rather than by their own fleshly desires and efforts.

Spirit-filled living is not reserved for a select few Christians. On the contrary, it’s available to every believer who yields his or her life to the leadership of God’s Spirit. As a member of the Trinity, He has all the power, wisdom, and love of almighty God. We can rely on Him to teach us truth (John 16:13), help us in our weakness (Rom. 8:26), intercede for us according to God’s will (Rom. 8:27), and give us victory over sin (Gal. 5:16).

The Holy Spirit is a person whom we can know intimately and who continually works to transform us into Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18). Like God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, the Spirit of God loves, comforts, guides, and protects us. He is a friend like no other and will reveal Himself to us through the Scriptures.

Considering all this, we should gladly acknowledge our obligation to live according to the Spirit and delight in submitting to His leadership. 

The Struggle With Envy

Jealousy is a treacherous emotion. It’s poison to the believer because it opens the heart to a host of other sinful emotions and attitudes. Consequently, envy must be dealt with quickly—before it has the opportunity to take root.

 King Saul’s jealousy so warped his thinking that he eventually became an embittered fool and destroyed his relationship with David. The problem began when the people praised David more highly than the king, saying, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). The king became suspicious and began watching for signs that David might be trying to undermine his royal position. Though Saul never found any actual evidence, his clouded thinking mistook any success in the young soldier’s life as reason for resentment.

Bitterness and fear festered until he was willing to take David’s life just to put his mind at ease. We could never go as far as Saul did, right? Don’t be so sure. Jealousy is a powerful emotion, and one cannot say what he or she might do if given free rein. That’s why it’s important to deal with jealousy as soon as we’re aware of it. First, we each need to examine our heart and determine if there’s anyone who elicits feelings of suspicion, bitterness, hostility, or resentment. Then, we must prayerfully submit those feelings to the heavenly Father.

Jealousy and resentment are poisonous emotions that simply do not fit who we are as children of God. Even a little venom can be dangerous, and harboring such attitudes for any period of time is too long.

Conquering Jealousy

Envy can damage the life of a Christian. A feeling of displeasure about someone else’s good fortune can also harm a believer’s witness, since it often causes people to act out of hostility and bitterness. And the jealous person suffers far more than his or her target.

Before we can rid ourselves of envious feelings, we must be willing to confess we have them in our heart. Like greed, jealousy is an emotion we don’t like to admit we feel, but the Lord already knows. We also must realize that harboring envy is the same as objecting to God’s blessing upon someone else’s life. Regardless of how we try to rationalize such feelings, we are in conflict with the Lord—a person cannot be simultaneously jealous and right with Him.

The surest way to strip away resentment is through prayer. After we’ve confessed to the Lord that we have jealous feelings, we must begin to pray for the other person. Our petition should contain two elements: first, an offering of thanksgiving for the blessings in his or her life, and second, a request that God will place love for the individual in our heart. Initially, praying in this way will no doubt be difficult, but as love grows—and it will—you’ll find the words come more easily and joyfully.

Envy is inappropriate for followers of Christ since it distracts us from the Lord. We have the promise that if we delight in our heavenly Father, He will give us the desires of our heart. So we need to refocus our attention upon Him and what He is doing in our own life.

Satisfaction for the Thirsty Soul

Think about a time you experienced unbearable thirst. You probably would have traded anything for a drink. When you finally got your wish, there was nothing that could have tasted better than that cold, refreshing glass of water.

Compare this physical need to spiritual thirst. The Lord knows our deep need for fulfillment, and only He can truly satisfy.

Isn’t it interesting, then, that we live in a society where most people feel dissatisfied? In Christ, we have everything necessary to be complete, content, and fulfilled. Yet our world deceptively tells us to seek after wealth, glory, and other empty dreams. These seem to work only for a short time, if at all. Yet we often do not recognize our actual needs. The enemy continues to deceive by telling us that his poor substitutes will satisfy the craving inside us.

Our triune God, on the other hand, is all we need. Let’s take a look at several passages from Scripture. Jesus called Himself “the bread of life” and “living water”—the sustenance our souls require to survive and thrive (John 6:34-35; John 7:37-38). God’s Word is alive, able to teach, convict, and redirect us toward a godly path (Heb. 4:12). Biblical truth, which is compared to milk, provides the nourishment our souls need (1 Peter 2:2).

All of us have an emptiness within—a longing for something more. What are you attempting to use to satisfy it? Our hearts are like a jigsaw puzzle. No matter how hard you try to force a wrong piece, it will never fit correctly. Turn to Jesus, and trust that He knows how to fulfill you. 

When We Cry Out to God

When you face a crisis, what is your first line of defense? The natural response is to attempt to fix the problem on your own. God, however, gives us a different way to handle difficulty.

David was no stranger to pressure or sudden appearances of evil. When he wrote Psalm 57, he was facing many hardships—including pursuit by King Saul, who wanted to kill him (1 Samuel 24:1-22). The shepherd’s response was to cry out to God and take refuge in Him until the calamity had passed.

Let’s learn from David’s example by exploring his words. Today’s passage has much to teach about the One to whom he cries.

First, David refers to God as El Elyon, or the Most High God. With all power and wisdom, He is the only one who can help us in our need.

Second, God is said to be our refuge. If He is a place of shelter for our soul, then we need not fear. He hovers over us and protects us when crises arise and leave us feeling helpless.

Third, the psalm expresses complete confidence that the Almighty can and will accomplish anything it takes for His purpose to be fulfilled. He’ll do whatever is necessary to intervene on our behalf, to hold accountable those who oppose us, and to surround us with His love and truth.

During His time on earth, Jesus brought great passion to His life and ministry . Therefore, we can approach Him when emotions run high. If your heart is troubled, cry out to the Lord. Know that you come before the throne of Him who is a powerful protector, capable and willing to do all you need.

The Value of Our Conscience

The conscience is God’s early warning system for alerting us to potential danger. It monitors our emotions, thoughts, and conduct.

Think of the conscience as a radar system that notifies us of possible trouble, usually without specifically identifying the problem. The principles and standards that we hold determine the sensitivity of our conscience. For example, if we believe lying is wrong, an alarm will sound when we start to shade the truth. But if we think lies are justifiable, it will be silent.

When programmed with the truth of God’s Word, the conscience has great value for a Christian. It detects deviations from the Lord’s standards and sends out a warning. The Holy Spirit uses that signal to get our attention. Then He will reveal what the problem is, give us understanding about it, and show us the right choices to make. He may guide us to friends, relevant Scripture verses, or other resources that can shed light on our situation and point out the implications of a wrong choice.

Failure to heed our inner alarm can bring serious consequences. Adam and Eve knew what God expected (Gen. 2:15-17). When tempted, however, they ignored their conscience and sinned against Him.

When your conscience sounds the alarm, do you stop and take notice or continue on the same course? Repeatedly ignoring your internal warning system can decrease its effectiveness at keeping you out of trouble. Ask God to help you program your inner alarm with His truth and sharpen your ability to hear it.

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