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Preparing for the Ministry
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Preparing for the Ministry
Robert G Morton

Section 1:

Preparation for greater responsibility

   God places an important responsibility on the leading members of His Church. If new people don't see us living God's way of life and benefiting from it, they won't buy it!

2 Corinthians 6:16, 18 "I will dwell in them and walk in them."
   What do they see and experience in us?
   Are they convinced that God's way is worthwhile by what they witness in our lives? We have something fantastic to give people by showing them how God would live if He were a human being. The future success of many members depends on how much God is able to serve them through us.
   Our ability to serve depends upon how much we are living God's way of life ourselves.
Luke 13:6-9 "He came and sought fruit thereon and found none"
   Some believe that for them it is impossible to change. A few at times have mentally resigned themselves to the Great Tribulation — or even to the Lake of Fire because they feel they can't change and overcome their problems.
   We are all subject to the law of inertia — resistance to change.
   There is a tried and tested way that works. It involves a number of practices that must be practiced and practiced and practiced again until they become habit.
   We cannot give this way of life to others until we've learned to live it ourselves.
John 15:1-2, 8 "He purges it that it may bring forth more fruit."
   We are here because we have brought forth some fruit and show some ability to lead people. Those who have fruit can bring forth more fruit. God wants us to excel. Are these people going to see something in our lives that will convince them that God's way of life pays dividends?
   What sort of quality does our way of life reflect?
Matthew 5:48 "Become ye perfect as your Father is perfect."
   Matthew five depicts God's perfect way of life. He doesn't want to produce masters of mediocrity. Nine carat gold may look good, but it's not gold — it's not even half gold. It doesn't fool the discerning eye and neither will we if we are not living God's way and letting Him live in us.
   On Mr HWA's first trip to Lebanon he was told:
   "Men like you prove God does exist."
   What does the Bible say a Christian life should be like?
John 10:10 "...that they may have life more abundantly."
   Most of us haven't really begun to live this way yet.
John 14:27 "My peace I give to you."
   Real peace of mind should come as we become more converted — as more of God shows through.
John 15:11 "...that your joy may be full."
   Have our lives really been full of joy? Has there been real peace of mind? For many members, the answer is "No!"
   Are these only pretty platitudes? Is this false advertising? Are we making excuses for why these promises aren't being fulfilled in our lives?
Ephesians 3:20 "...exceeding abundantly above all that we ask."
   Or, do we find God is actually doing a lot less than we ask?
Psalm 37:4-6 "He shall give you the desires of your heart."
   He means what He says — there is a cause for every effect though. There is a way of living that will cause these things — in spite of the trials and problems we may have to experience in this life.
Matthew 11:28-30 "...and I will give you rest."
   God offers a way of life that will bring us fulfillment and rest.
   "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."
   Does this depict our lives? Or, do we find it a grind? Do we secretly find ourselves wishing sometimes that God had called us during the Millennium or the Great White Throne Judgement?
   When we learn how to be a Christian, these promises will begin to come to pass in our lives.
   What is wrong then? Why aren't the majority of God's people experiencing these promises now a lot more than they have been experiencing them? Being a Christian was meant to be exciting and fulfilling.

Learn to put God first

   Why do some members become tired Christians? Why aren't they experiencing the abundant life, the peace of mind, the joy and fulfillment that Christ said would be the fruit of living God's way of life?
   There is a cause for every effect. What is the cause for the effect that many members experience?

Matthew 22:36-38 "...this is the first and great commandment."
   The most important part of God's way of life is to put God first. In most cases we unknowingly break this principle. It's easy to let God slip from the first place He had at baptism to second, third and even to tenth place in our lives. We may claim we are putting God first, but often we kid ourselves.
   Christ said this was the first and great commandment because on it hinges spiritual growth, abundant life and the ability to inspire and serve others.
Matthew 6:33 "Seek you FIRST the Kingdom of God."
   'Seek' is present continuous tense — we must seek to put God first as a continuous thing.
   God demands first place in our lives just as he demands the first tenth of our income. He commended Israel to offer up the first city (Jericho) as a burnt offering. He requires the first fruit of every tree and the first-born of every domestic animal. God demands priority and he demands that He come first — FOR OUR OWN GOOD!
   How can we be sure we are putting God first in our lives?
1 Corinthians 3:9-10, 13
   Our lives can be represented by a building. To make a perfect building we build it gradually — one brick at a time. We must lay each brick accurately or the finished building will not be perfect.
   How can we be sure that God will have first place in the building we are constructing when everything is finished? — by making sure that as each brick goes down, He has first place.
   Life is time and the building blocks of life consist of days. To build a perfect life we must build it one day at a time — carefully.
Matthew 6:11 "Give us this day our daily bread."
   To God, the basic unit of time is the day — there is no way that creation itself divides time into smaller units other than daylight and darkness which vary from season to season.
2 Corinthians 4:16 "...renewed day by day."
   The final quality of the building we are constructing in partnership with God depends on how each day is lived and 'cemented' in place. One of the most important parts of the day is the preparation for that day.
Genesis 1:5 "The evening and the morning were the first day."
   God begins His day the previous evening. Most of us begin ours in the morning and use the following night-time period to 'recover' from the toil of the day. God didn't say "the morning and the evening..."
   The night-time at the beginning of each day was intended as preparation time for the day that was to follow. The key to putting God first in our lives depends on how we use the beginning of the day. It depends on whether or not we get to bed on time!
   It has been scientifically proven that we need 71/2 - 8 hours sleep per night. This badly needed preparation gets us in gear for the daylight hours that follow. It's a vitally important part of seeking God first in our lives. Many members suffer spiritually because they lack sufficient sleep.
   Next comes the equally important spiritual preparation for the day. MEN OF GOD HAVE GOTTEN UP EARLY TO STUDY GOD'S WORD AND TO HAVE MEANINGFUL CONTACT WITH GOD THROUGH PRAYER.
Psalm 119:147 Moffat: "I am up before the dawn to pray."
   If God is not placed first day-by-day in our lives, He won't be first in the final outcome. God wants the first part of our day — not the leftovers, the crumbs, the wrung-out dregs of our time! It is difficult to study and pray really effectively in the evenings as a continuous way of life. As an exception under unusual circumstances, maybe — but not as our regular habit and practice.
Psalm 5:3 "In the morning will I direct my prayer to Thee."
   David was a man after God's own heart who was determined to put God first day by day. He realized God wants prime time for our own good! Many of us have been offering God the bleary-eyed evening hours when we get home from work drained of energy as the regular habit pattern of our lives.
Malachi 1:6-8 "Ye offer the blind, the lame and the sick."
   God doesn't want any old time or 'enough time'. He isn't interested in a routine prayer life that just 'puts in time' yet has little meaningful contact with Him either. He wants a meaningful prayer life and by example in His Word he shows that He wants prime time.
Leviticus 22:18-22 "Whatsoever has a blemish you shall not offer."
   God, for our own good, doesn't want a fatigued, tired, jaded mind that is merely going through a ceremony — a ritual of 'putting in time'. He wants the best — a mind that is alert, rested and prepared. Sleep is designed to smooth out the mind and get rid of the 'footprints in the sand'. Ideas implanted in the mind early in the morning will tend to last longer.
   David knew when prime time was and he used it to study God's Word and to pray.
   God intended the twilight hours, when mental activity is normally at its lowest ebb, for relaxation with one's family before retiring to get physical rest in preparation for the next day. Night-owls are generally the way they are as a result of broken laws or force of habit or both.
Mark 1:35
   Christ sought God first day by day. He wasn't going to relegate God to some other part of the day.
   Decide what time you need to get to work on the morning. Count back two hours — this is when you get up. Count back another 7-8 hours — this is when you need to go to bed. Don't let Satan and his world keep on forcing you into the nocturnal mould to prevent you giving God the first part of your day.
Psalm 119:18 "Open my eyes..."
   Ask God to give you an understanding mind before study. Some prefer to study before they pray — others the reverse.
Daniel 6:10
   Both David and Daniel prayed three times a day. Daniel risked his life to maintain a pattern of prayer. This was one of the habits and practices that enabled God to work through him and use him as an effective instrument to lead His people. The great men of God have always kept in meaningful contact with God by putting Him first in their lives and giving Him the first part of the day to work with their minds in study and prayer.

Getting into shape spiritually

   The work we are involved in is going to have a tremendous impact on the world — but we must get ourselves in shape first. We can help the church grow by growing ourselves. God will be reluctant to call new members if the foundation of each congregation is not strong.

Acts 20:28 "Take heed to yourselves."
   An admonition to leaders in the Church. We must make sure we're in spiritual shape to serve the flock God is calling. 'Minister' means 'servant' — we are called to serve the people God is calling.
1 Timothy 4:16 "Take heed to yourself."
   A minister's first responsibility is to take care of his relationship with God. He can't serve anybody unless God comes first!
   Be balanced about prayer and study — there may be circumstances when it would be better to pray and study at another time of the day — e.g. in the case of a woman whose husband is unconverted.
   Taking this first step and establishing this habit that has contributed toward the effectiveness of the leaders God has chosen in the past, is like turning up the flow of water at a tap. But some of us have holes in our bucket — or even no bottom in the bucket! Study and prayer are very important, but they are not enough. If we are compromising God's way of life then there are holes in our bucket. We need to find out where those holes are and fill them. We must now take a good look at our bucket.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 "We do not war after the flesh."
   We are fighting for the possession of our minds and lives. At one time Satan reigned supreme in our minds, until Christ established a beachhead and began to push inland. Finally Satan was thrown out and we were converted. But there is a resistance movement called 'human nature' still loyal to Satan — still there. Human nature resists change at all costs. It is the real enemy who has withdrawn into strongholds in our minds fighting the most difficult type of warfare — guerrilla warfare.
   The enemy is well dug in and difficult to see — almost impossible to identify. It doesn't fight according to the rules and it doesn't want to be exposed. It is determined to harass and undermine and destroy the occupying power — Christ in us.
   "Bringing into captivity every thought..."
   The great Napoleon once said: "You can't win a war on the defensive." Armies don't take many prisoners when they fight defensively. The best method of defense is attack — taking the battle to the enemy.
Romans 7:17-23
   Paul helped us understand human nature by personifying it as an enemy showing how it victimizes us. It uses terrorist tactics, staying out of sight, making maximum use of camouflage, trying to masquerade as a friend — striking when least expected at our weakest spot. We often fall for its deception and defend our human nature as a friend by justifying for its actions and covering up for it — not realizing it is our enemy. We must come to recognize the enemy or we'll never win.
Ephesians 4:22 "The old man...according to the deceitful lusts."
   The enemy is the 'old you' who is difficult to see and knows it can operate most successfully under cover. This enemy must be identified and the battle lines drawn if Christ in us is to succeed. The job of the ministry is to help us fight the enemy — like military advisors.
Jeremiah 17:9
   Human nature victimizes us and then deceives us into thinking that what it did was for our own good. We tend to deceive ourselves more than anyone. It's hard to believe how our own human nature is so desperately evil and loyal to its old master — Satan. Either we overcome the enemy or it will help destroy us!
Proverbs 16:2
   The human mind automatically refuses to face itself. Without God's help, people will generally commit suicide if they ever come to see human nature for what it really is. We must recognize human nature for the enemy it is and stop defending it when someone else offers us help to identify and fight it.
James 1:22-24
   Can we specifically name any problems we have conquered in the past year? Do we even know what our problems are? Can we specifically list them? What is it we are working on? Do we have a plan of attack?
   After putting God first in our lives, the second step is to conduct a search and destroy mission — to begin to locate and patch up the holes in our spiritual bucket.

Learn to examine yourselves

   Some members will come to the minister for an evaluation of how well they're doing or of what's wrong with them — "can you give me a few points I should be working on?" A minister cannot give an accurate evaluation unless he knows the individual very well. It's not the job of the ministry to evaluate and judge people. You must do that yourselves — it's your responsibility. The minister's job is to encourage, inspire, help, teach you how to do this yourself.

2 Corinthians 13:5 "Examine yourselves!"
   It's up to each of us to examine ourselves and find the holes in our own bucket — to identify the enemy and where he is working in our minds.
1 Corinthians 11:28, 31 "Let a man examine himself."
   This is something we normally do only once a year at Passover — and often very ineffectively at that! Just sitting in services with a good attitude and listening to sermons alone is not enough. Sermons are the softening operation — to soften up the enemy like offshore shelling or area bombing. But we can't win enemy territory that way even though they are essential. The only way to win enemy territory is to send in the infantry for hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.
   But, firstly we must identify where the enemy is dug in. God would rather have us do this ourselves than have to do it for us through some trial.
Proverbs 4:26-27 "Ponder the path of your feet."
   We need to keep a constant check on ourselves as another habit or practice which is a part of the way of life we live. God spells out in His Word how to do this — most of us haven't been doing this because we don't know how.
Psalm 119:59 "I thought on my ways."
   David did this as a regular practice. It was a habit in his life that helped him become an effective leader of God's people.
   How then do we begin to identify the enemy — the old man — the human nature that victimizes us, remains loyal to Satan and is determined to undermine the real us — Christ in us.
Proverbs 21:2
   Human nature is so sneaky and deceitful that it is impossible without God's help to spot it and bring it out into the open so we can get a good look at it.
Psalm 139:23-24
   A spiritual diagnosis is not something we can do ourselves. We must ask God for the desire to see the enemy and also for the help in actually seeing our human nature for what it really is. We can't fight the enemy successfully unless we can see him. We need to learn to come out of the defensive crouch most of us have been living in and take the battle to the enemy.

How to examine yourself

   The second step in spiritual growth is to analyze ourselves — to find out what's wrong with us. This is not the job of the ministry. They don't have spiritual X-ray vision. They are not there to spy on us. They are there to help us analyze ourselves and to fight the hidden enemy who will prevent us from ever being effective leaders in God's Church. The degree to which we see ourselves is the degree to which we can fight our problems. If we can bring our human nature into the open and get a good look at it, we can see the enemy we are out to destroy. Before God called us, our minds were occupied by an alien force — Satan. We were his unsuspecting victims until Jesus Christ invaded our minds, overthrew Satan and liberated us from his rule. But there is a resistance movement still loyal to its former master, very active and determined to destroy us. The real enemy is within our own borders, sapping our strength, determined to harass, undermine and overthrow the new power we have welcomed into our minds — Jesus Christ. We must realize that we are constantly at war! The real battle is within our minds. Human nature is an influence actively working for Satan — even when we are converted.

1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 11-12 "...written for our admonition."
   There is a direct parallel between Israel taking over the promised land and Christ in the mind of most Christians. They were fighting for the possession of a physical territory — we are fighting for the possession of ultimate stakes — life or death.
Deuteronomy 7:1-6 "Make no covenant with them"
   We can't afford to give the enemy sanctuary or any kind of assistance. Never come to terms with a spiritual problem. "...neither shall you make marriages with them." We can't afford to allow ourselves to live with the enemy or it will eventually destroy us. Human nature must be overcome and caged.
Deuteronomy 7:16-17, 21-23
   Most of us would like the enemy to retreat. We'd like God to take our problems away. But no character is built this way. Christ invariably uses the mess we've gotten our lives into prior to baptism to our ultimate advantage. He doesn't remove any problems at baptism. Instead, at baptism, a tremendous power comes into our minds to help us fight and overcome the enemy.
Joshua 23:1-5, 11-13
   Israel at this point was a type of the converted Christian — still an enemy within its borders that had to be overcome. But Israel didn't overcome!
Judges 1:19, 21, 27, 29, 31, 33-34
   Israel never overcame the enemy within its borders. The Canaanites always remained — always dragged them down, sapping their spiritual strength and ability to serve God.
Judges 2:1-3
   The big mistake they made was to allow themselves to coexist with the enemy. Soon they began to think they weren't so bad — made peace treaties with them. They began to look upon them as friends instead of enemies, eventually married them and lived with them.
   We must identify the enemy and isolate it so we can engage in hand-to-hand combat. But the enemy is subtle. Like any guerrilla movement, it puts out its propaganda:
   "Don't let the minister find out or you're in trouble!"
   "The purpose of the Visiting Program, is to get as much evidence against you as possible."
   "The reason we go for counsel us to find out how much the minister knows about us."
   "The less he knows about our problems the better!"

   The ministry is not there to get us into trouble — it's there to get us out of trouble. We're in trouble when we sin! We don't go to the minister to find out how much he's got on us, we go with the problems we've diagnosed to get advice on how to handle them. The purpose of the Visiting Program is to provide a workshop situation where we and the minister together get down to the task of engaging our human nature in hand-to-hand combat. He is the military advisor who can help us.
   Many members won't come with serious problems because human nature has put out the propaganda:
   "If I go to the minister, I'll be disfellowshipped!"

   No matter how bad the problem, we will never disfellowship anyone who comes to us for help. Coming to the minister shows the individual has the spiritual understanding to know they have a problem. It also shows that they have enough wisdom to know where to go for help and that they have the courage to ask for help.
   Propaganda says:
   "My chances for opportunities and responsibilities will go down if the minister finds out."

   An individual's stock goes up when they ask for help. It shows he's making progress because most members can't easily see their problems, don't know what to do about them if they do, and lack the courage to get help when they need it.

   How then, do we conduct a spiritual diagnosis? The only way to flush the enemy out into the open is to cut off his supply lines — to starve him out by fasting. Most of us don't want to fast and would never do so on our own initiative. Why do most members fast? Because they know they should. Fasting is one of the most important and least understood subjects in the Bible. It's an ordeal that most of us go through 'to get closer to God.' Human nature puts out a great deal of false propaganda about fasting.

Isaiah 58:3 "Wherefore have we fasted..."
   How many times have we fasted for the Work and nothing has happened? Or, as one man said: "All I ever get out of a fast is a bad attitude and a headache."
   Why is it we become irritable and argumentative during a fast? Some sin more in their relationship with other people during fasting than at any other time.
Why?
   "You find pleasure and exact all your labours."

   The big mistake we often make is in the way we fast — our normal routine minus food and drink. This is not the way to fast successfully. Mr Herbert W. Armstrong studied, meditated, prayed one hour each throughout the day.
Isaiah 58:4 "You fast for strife."
   Fasting the wrong way often brings a bad attitude and a headache — and no more!
   We need to prepare in advance physically and spiritually for a fast.
   "...not to make your voice to be heard on high"
   Mr Herbert W. Armstrong in his Autobiography says: "Never fast as a means of inducing God to answer!" (pp 371-372).
   Fasting is not a hunger strike — not a means of putting pressure on God to give us what we want.
   Why fast then? What is the purpose for fasting? Is it because God wants to see us miserable and to suffer in order to demonstrate how righteous we are?
Isaiah 58:5 "...to spread sackcloth and ashes under him."
   Most don't understand why God wants us to fast. He doesn't delight in human suffering — doesn't want to see how much we can take before He answers us. Some feel that the more they suffer through a fast the more likely God is going to answer their prayers.
   God says there are three problems with our fasting:
   1) We fast the wrong way;
   2) We fast for the wrong reason;
   3) We fast with a wrong concept of what God gets out of our fasting.
   Isaiah 58:5 "Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?"
   What, then, is the right purpose of fasting?
Isaiah 58:6 "Is not this the fast that I have chosen..."
   Now, He gives the correct purpose for fasting:
   "To loose the bands of wickedness..."
   Whose wickedness? What heavy burdens? Who is oppressing who?
Psalm 38:4, 18 "My iniquities...a heavy burden."
   Fasting is a time to turn the spotlight on self — to find out what's wrong with us. Most members pray about their shortcomings during their normal prayer live and about the work when they fast. Instead, it should be the other way around — most of our normal prayer life should concern the Work and its needs while we turn the spotlight on our own shortcomings when we fast.
Daniel 9:3-6
   Daniel discovered amazing things when he fasted and began to ask God why He wasn't answering their prayers. This was a time of self-examination.
Proverbs 28:16 "The prince that lacks understanding..."
   How do we handle those under our authority — our wife, our children? How well do we get along with other people — do we oppress them because we lack understanding of where we are breaking God's law?
Zechariah 7:9-10
   God says a critical attitude towards others is oppressing them.
Isaiah 1:16-17
   An unmerciful attitude towards other people is oppressing them.
Proverbs 14:31
   Do we accuse, gossip, become critical when someone makes a mistake? If so, we are a great oppressor. God says: "Let the oppressed go free!"
   The first purpose of fasting, then, is to find out the differences between God and us — to find out what's wrong with us and to become more like God.
   Human nature comes out into the open during a fast — this is a God-ordained method of examining self. Some problems we will never see in clear perspective any other way. We must do this if we are to grow spiritually. Self-examination is vital.
   But why fast and why grow spiritually? Is it to make us a better Christian? To help us get into the Kingdom? So our personal lives will be blessed?
Isaiah 58:7 "...to deal your bread to the hungry"
   Here, to show the second purpose of fasting, God takes the example of a family fasting in order to have more to give. We can't give this way of life unless we first live it. The second purpose of fasting is to have something to give, to become a more effective instrument in the hands of God in order to serve more effectively. Millions in this world are spiritually poor, naked and hungry. God will call them into our house (the Church) if we will change what's wrong with us, seek out the differences between God and us and become more like Him. Then he will use us to feed the hungry, to give to the poor, clothe the naked and bring them into His house and ours.
Isaiah 58:8-11 "Then shall you call and the Eternal shall answer."
   Find out through fasting why God isn't answering. Don't use fasting to beg God to give you what you want. Never fast to put pressure on God to answer some prayer of yours. Fast to turn the spotlight of God's Word on your life and you will begin to grow spiritually.
   "Your health shall spring forth speedily."
   Perhaps sickness precipitated a fast in your case. Don't fast in order to get God to heal you. Fast to find out what's wrong with you spiritually. Change what's wrong, repent of it and God will be a lot more willing to answer your prayers for healing.
   "Then shall your light rise in obscurity."
   God promises to increase our spiritual candle power and also that of the Church. Verses 1 and 2 are speaking of the Church and the great commission given to it. Isaiah 58 and its message should have more meaning in this era of the Church than any other era throughout history. It is more important now than ever before that we fast and examine ourselves in preparation for the future work we have to accomplish.
   Men that God has used as leaders in His Work regularly examined themselves by fasting.

How to begin overcoming

   We've discussed fasting and its purposes. Some try and still have difficulty seeing their human nature. It won't come all at once. We must persist and keep examining self until we do see, then seek counsel and help from the ministry. A good attitude is not good enough. God wants us to build character — spiritual stamina — and right habit patterns in our lives.
   Don't fall into the trap of the spiritual evolutionist: "Given enough time I will change and improve." People will change a little and superficially, but they won't really grow spiritually with this philosophy. Don't be ensnared by the concept: "human nature gradually loses its power after conversion until it eventually disappears" or, "we receive such power after baptism that our problems will dwindle to nothing."
   Baptism doesn't take away anything except the penalty of death for all our past mistakes. It doesn't remove human nature. It doesn't remove one problem. It adds God's Holy Spirit. Human nature is still there and it must be exposed, analyzed, overpowered and caged. The more we obey God's Law the more active human nature seems to become.

Romans 7:7-10 "Without the law sin was dead."
   Paul's human nature lay dormant like a sleeping giant. As Paul's mind became open to the spiritual intent of God's Law and His perfect way of life, human nature began to fight back.
   Fasting helps us to see our human nature more clearly — hunger brings the enemy out into the open so we can get a good look at him. But what should we look for while fasting — what should we study? Where do we start examining our human nature? The Bible gives us several spiritual checklists:
  1. The Ten Commandments
    Don't assume you are keeping all of these. Many don't keep the first one properly.
  2. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
    Have any of these rubbed off onto us? We are the products of the society described here.
  3. Mark 7:21-23
    Examine yourself in the light of these. Follow marginal references, concordance, Naves Topical Bible. Turn the spotlight of God's Word on yourself.
  4. Galations 5:19-24 — the works of the flesh.
    Also the positive aspect — the fruit of the Spirit. Do we have any of these? If not, why not?
  5. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
    Love is the basis of God's Law. Study this chapter in other translations and you will find plenty to begin working on.

   Study in conjunction with prayer and meditation when you fast. We must be willing to realize we are far worse than anyone ever said or thought we were. Make a list — be sure to write down what you discover about yourself because human nature has a built-in memory destruct system.
   Then decide which one is the biggest problem — enemy number one. Ask: "Is this a symptom, or is this the cause of the problems?" "Why is this a problem to me?" e.g. unfriendliness can result from an inferiority complex — get to the root cause. Keep asking "Why?" The more we understand the enemy, the better we will be equipped to fight it. Learn to do your homework and then go to the minister for help.
Philippians 2:12
   The minister can't piggyback us or he'll hurt us. He can help tremendously if we've done our groundwork first. We must learn to analyze ourselves in the light of God's Word and pinpoint our problems. When the minister comes around, we should get out our list and go over it with him. He'll be able to help us then in ways we never thought possible. Many people in God's Church have discovered there are longstanding problems in their lives that haven't begun to budge until they asked the minister for help.
   Some are afraid of going to the ministry for help. No matter how bad the problem is, we will never disfellowship anyone who asks for help, won't discuss it with our wives, nor even mention it to another minister where it's none of his business. We won't use it in a sermon as an example for all the Church to hear while you squirm in your seat. The ministry is there to be 'helpers of your joy' (1 Corinthians 1:24), not to condemn you for the mistakes you make.

How to prevent sin

   The siren-song of many protestant religions is the belief that there is nothing that you have to do, Christ has done it all for you.

Acts 3:19
   'Converted' means to turn about — to go the opposite way — to change. The only way to do this is to use God's Spirit. Very few know how to put the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. Human nature is a constant pull, like gravity. It takes effort to resist gravity. Even when we succeed in overcoming gravity it is still there — it is never removed. We must control it or it will control us. We must decide to resist or we'll go the way gravity pulls us.
   God allows us to decide to resist human nature if we want to.
Philippians 2:12-13 "For it is God who works in you..."
   We need to understand the partnership principle by which God works in us. When does God's Spirit begin to help? Is there anything we have to do first?
1 Corinthians 3:9 "Labourers together with God..."
   Both parties have their responsibilities. God won't do for us what we can do for ourselves. He won't do what we can't do until we're doing all we can do.
2 Peter 1:10 "Give diligence to make your calling and election sure."
   We have a part of our own to do. We have to work in conjunction with God. Repentance alone is not enough — a repentant but unconverted mind will lose out constantly against the pulls of human nature. Like a blindfolded man trying to hit a target with bow and arrows — occasionally he'll be on target, but mostly he'll miss. A repentant but unconverted mind doesn't have the power to obey the spirit of God's Law. God's Spirit helps us make the right choice, but it doesn't remove free moral agency.
   The first function of God's Spirit in our lives is a teaching function.
John 14:26 "It will teach you..."
   It doesn't prod us or kick us with a number nine boot.
John 16:13 "It will guide you into all truth"
   The Holy Spirit never takes over the mind to remove the powers of choice and decision.
1 Corinthians 2:10 "...revealed by His Spirit."
   It reveals, it doesn't compel us to do anything against our will.
Philippians 2:5 "Let (allow) this mind to be in you..."
   The power of choice is always ours to reject or accept what God is trying to teach us through His Spirit.
Romans 6:13 "Yield yourselves to God."
   Christ is not a slave driver — the choice is up to us.
Romans 8:14 "As many as are led by the Spirit of God."
   It doesn't lead us along by a ring in the nose. The Holy Spirit isn't a wheelbarrow into which God dumps us at baptism so he can wheel us wherever He wants us to go. It leads by revealing the way to go.
   The decision to obey is always ours!
   Many people don't see clearly what God is revealing, or don't make the decision to obey soon enough. Therefore they sin. Sin is a spiritual accident and accidents are the result of ignorance, carelessness and weakness. Grace is a type of insurance policy to 'cover' accidents. It we keep having automobile accidents the company will withdraw its policy. Grace — unmerited pardon — forgiveness — is not an end in itself. It is merely the means to an end — the building of holy, righteous character. We must learn to prevent spiritual accidents. We need to begin each day determined not to compromise with sin.
Romans 8:3 "...condemned sin in the flesh."
   Christ showed it is possible to live without sin — with God's help. What if our salvation depended upon our living just one day perfectly without sin? Would we live that day any differently than we normally do? Would we study and pray more diligently in the morning? Would we guard our minds from temptation? Christ had to live that way every day of his life — diligently watching for every circumstance that would ensnare him.
Hebrews 5:7 "...He was heard in that he feared."
   He knew how easy it was to sin. Remember, there was no plan of redemption for Christ — one sin and He was finished forever! How did He do it?
Psalm 16:8 "I set the Lord always before me."
   He didn't just try to obey God as most of us try. He set His mind to do what God would have done in His place.
Psalm 17:3 "I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress."
   Don't let human nature propagandize you into believing you can never be perfect. We'll never hit the target if we're not aiming for it. Christ knew his weaknesses and set His mind every single minute against giving in to sin.
Psalm 39:1 "I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not..."
   Learn to recognize the circumstances in which you sin and set out not to sin.
1 John 2:1 "...that you sin not."
   It's better not to sin than to sin and be forgiven. Forgiveness never puts Humpty Dumpty together again exactly as he was before. Forgiveness doesn't bring back the character that has been destroyed. Character is like a huge building — it is built slowly one brick at a time. But it can be destroyed quickly with a crane swinging a ball on the end of a chain!
   Don't let human nature kid you — sinning does make a difference! Forgiveness doesn't make us as good as we were before we sinned — it removes the death penalty, it doesn't replace lost character that has been smashed or eroded away.
   Make no concessions — set the mind against sin. We should know what our sins are and be determined not to allow them any ground to maneuver on. We must learn to analyze the circumstances in which we have spiritual accidents and set our minds to avoid them before the next accident.
   Don't let human nature con you onto thinking: "O well, it's only a physical thing anyway."
Romans 1:19-20
   The physical things God does reveal His attitude towards his Law. His whole creation is a law-abiding creation. So the physical things we do reveal our spiritual attitudes and attributes. Tithing, unclean meats, stealing, adultery, getting drunk are all physical, but they also reveal what's spiritually wrong with us.
   Another type of propaganda put out by our human nature is: "But it's just a little thing." Good things start out small and grow big — so do evil habits.
Colossians 3:23 "Whatsoever you do..."
   Live your life as God would have you live it — as He would live it if He were a human being.
Colossians 3:17 "Do all in the name of the Lord."
   Don't allow yourself to compromise on small things — they are as important as the big things.
2 Chronicles 11:16 "...set their hearts to seek the Lord."
   Learn to set your mind in the morning against sin and towards God's way. Be determined to go against sin. Live one day at a time. Guard against circumstances in which sin occurs most and be aware as those circumstances begin to shape up around and ahead of you each day and avoid them — flee fornication, idolatry, etc.
Psalm 105:4
   The first step in preventing sin is to orient our minds toward God and against sin as a daily habit. We must be determined not to let sin reign in our mind.
   This is another daily habit that Christ, David and others practiced as a part of the way of life they were living. If we are going to become successful as leaders in God's Work, we need to have the same approach toward sin and practice the same habits they did.

How God's Spirit works in us

   How is God's Spirit supposed to work in our lives? We have seen so far how the Holy Spirit has a leading, guiding, educating function. Christ in our minds is like a spiritual advisor who helps us grasp understanding of the Bible and God's way of life. But how else does that Spirit work?
   What is it supposed to do? Is it possible to detect the Holy Spirit acting in our minds?
   Not only does the Holy Spirit have a teaching function, it also acts like an earlywarning system, warning us against sin.

John 16:8 "It will reprove the world of sin."
   It has a convicting function as well as a teaching function. But how does it do this? What mechanism of the mind does it use? Is it something we can control?
   God's spirit convicts through the most delicate instrument in the entire universe — the human conscience.
John 8:9 "...convicted by their own conscience..." His Spirit triggers thoughts that act upon the conscience. The conscience can be used as a guide only so long as right knowledge has been directed into it.
Hebrews 9:14 "...purge your conscience from dead works."
   Repentance and conversion begins a process of re-educating our conscience.
Hebrews 10:22 "Having our minds sprinkled from an evil conscience."
   Our conscience needs to be cleaned up — re-educated. The conscience is a very delicate mechanism that needs to be kept sensitive or we'll find ourselves in trouble. The conscience is like a seismograph — a delicate instrument designed to detect earth tremors. If it is not cared for, or if we misuse or drop it, it won't be balanced enough or sensitive enough to detect the smallest tremor.
   Some have wrecked their consciences before conversion and have serious problems after baptism as a result. A person who always compromised standards will have difficulty detecting God's Spirit working in his mind for a long time after baptism.
   We must learn to heed God's Spirit triggering thoughts in our minds. Be sensitive to your conscience — don't expect a bullhorn in your ear when the Holy Spirit is working with you.
Ephesians 4:20 "Grieve not the Spirit."
   We quench or stifle the Holy Spirit when we don't heed. We must be responsive and ready to act.
Revelation 3:20 "Behold I am standing at the door and am knocking" (Greek).
   Christ doesn't break down the door of our minds — He knocks politely. This is being said to a group of people who will have compromised standards of prayer and study to become so lukewarm towards God's way that they won't have many standards any more.
Luke 12:35-36 "...may open to Him immediately."
   We must learn to have an immediate response. Don't put things off when God's Spirit prompts you or you'll forget. Instant responsiveness needs to become a habit pattern in our lives. Be mentally prepared to move.
   Our conscience is like a compass. If it has been neglected and become filled with salt spray and oil a sailor can't follow or rely on it any more — but if it is delicately balanced and sensitive to the earth's magnetic field, then he had better follow it and respond to it or he'll sail off course.
   Condition your mind so that it is afraid not to respond to thoughts triggered by the Holy Spirit. Character is built in little ways, so learn to respond to the most delicate promptings. If we follow through, we'll find the signal gets stronger as time goes on.
James 4:8 "Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you."
   We have a responsibility to do something to draw near to God. He makes the first big move by opening our minds, but then it is up to us — prayer, study and meditation — to begin to reciprocate.
   Like a radio station, the closer we are to the transmitter, the stronger the signal. This same principle works in reverse too — the closer we are to Satan, the stronger his signal comes through.
   What about the quality of the receiver? Our conscience is like the crystal in a crystal set that receives the signal and the coil — like our minds — transforms the signal into action. The more delicately balanced the crystal and the fewer impurities in it, the more effectively it receives the signal. A delicately balanced conscience, receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, will learn to recognize temptation before it is too late.
1 Corinthians 6:18 "Flee fornication!"
   This applies to any situation where we may be tempted. The Holy Spirit working through our conscience helps us to recognize situations that are wrong and in which we have succumbed to sin in the past.
Genesis 39:12 "...and fled and got him out."
   Joseph was able to take preventative action in time because he was tuned in to the promptings of God's Spirit.
Romans 14:22-23 "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
   If we do something we think might be wrong, then it is sin — not necessarily technically — but it damages the most delicate mechanism in our mind — the conscience.
Revelation 22:17 "The Spirit and the bride say come."
   God invites us. We have to put forward the effort to follow.
Acts 7:51 "You do always resist the Holy Spirit!"
   They made it impossible for God's Spirit to get through. Sometimes we may not have the will to follow God's Spirit by responding to its promptings. If so, we'd better pray for the desire to do what the Spirit is showing us and not resist or our minds may be damaged.
1 Timothy 4:2 "...having their conscience seared with a hot iron."
   A person who sins and knows better is searing his conscience. Other translations say: 'cauterized'; 'hardened'; 'dead — as seared flesh'. When we cauterize something, we destroy it.
John 9:41 "...therefore your sin remains."
   He said this because of the terrible damage they had done to their consciences and minds by forcing themselves to go against what they knew to be right. Christ said of these Pharisees that they had come dangerously close to committing the unpardonable sin.
   Repeated compromise with the conscience deadens it and will eventually kill it.
1 Samuel 13:12 "I forced myself therefore."
   He knew better. We cannot compromise with our conscience and get away with it. If we keep ignoring God trying to work in our minds, the signals will get weaker and weaker until they finally don't come any more. The more we respond in a right way, the stronger those signals will become and the more of Christ will show through as he lives His life in us.
   The more of Christ there is in each of us, the more we are going to be examples to the flock of God and leaders among his people. The more effective we are, the more effective His Body is going to be in getting this message out and the better light we will be to this sin-sick and dying world.

The importance of study and correct meditation

   God's Spirit works like the rest of His creation — according to basic laws. There is a cause for every effect and there is a cause for the effect of God's Spirit working in our lives.

John 14:16
   Greek for 'Comforter' is 'parakletos' which literally means 'called to one's side'. The Holy Spirit is an advisor, a guide, an aide and counselor. It does not, by itself, put new knowledge into our minds — it acts upon knowledge that is already there. We must put the knowledge there in the first place for God's Spirit to act upon it. The human mind has an amazing recall system — mostly used to only one tenth of its capacity. We must study God's Word then His Spirit gives us understanding and triggers thoughts from the knowledge that has been absorbed.
John 14:26 "...and bring all things to your remembrance."
   Studying God's Word is like putting money into a bank account — it gains interest as the Holy Spirit acts upon it. A person who seldom studies is spiritually bankrupt. When he needs to draw on that reserve, he won't have anything.
Psalm 119:105
   The more we study, the more understanding God's Spirit can give us. Lack of Bible Study limits the ability of God to work with us through His Spirit.
Psalm 119:10-11 "Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin."
   We need to understand how the human mind works. David realized his first reactions were carnal, selfish and resentful of authority. The mind has wellworn grooves or cart tracks worn there over a lifetime as a result of our human nature taking us down that route again and again. When we are stimulated in a certain way, our mind analyses the situation and flops into a familiar groove and we do down the chute again. This is called a 'conditional response.'
   Studying God's law and meditating on its application to our lives, helps to recondition our responses and begin right habit patterns. Our minds must wear new grooves that take us in the right direction. Instead of our reactions being carnal and selfish based on greed, lust and vanity, they must become spiritual. We must learn to react and live as God would if He were a human being.
   God's Spirit will help, but it can do so only if we provide it with the ingredients it needs — a repentant mind that has had right knowledge put into it and that has the desire and will to do what is right.
Philippians 2:13 For it is God which works in you both to will..."
   The Holy Spirit will strengthen our will, but only once we've made the decision to go God's way in that particular circumstance. If we don't have the will, we'd better ask God for it. But God's Spirit must have knowledge to work with first.
Psalm 119:59
   David analyzed the occasions and circumstances in which he sinned. He noted the conditions that acted upon his weaknesses and which led to the conditioned responses in his mind that were carnal and sinful. He realized his past experiences had built wrong habit patterns that became problems after conversion.
   He armed his mind my meditating on the right response ahead of time. This is the first vital step in developing right responses guided by God's Spirit.
   Meditation is vital because the mind's recall system does not readily distinguish between real and synthetic or vicarious experiences.
   Letting the mind wander in a daydream world is very harmful. Allowing the mind to exercise itself in a sinful practice is the same as sinning. Christ said, "Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in his mind!" Also, "He who hates his brother is a murderer" — even though no action follows. This is because the brain accepts those thoughts and registers them in the same category as it does the real experience. Each time we allow the mind to exercise itself in a wrong practice or in wrong thought patterns, the rut becomes a little deeper and harder to jump out of. Meditating on our problems in a wrong way ingrains them deeper into the mind.
   Christ knew that what we let into our minds is going to affect us in ways we never realize. Psychologists have also discovered this same fact. Dallin H. Oaks, President of Brigham Young University, talking to students about pornography and its effects upon the mind, said:
   "For your own good, avoid it. Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food.
   "...The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick, but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call the brain.
   "The brain won't vomit back filth. Once recorded it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life." (L.A. Times, Aug. 8, 1974)
In order to enable us to build right habit patterns and holy, righteous character, God built the human mind with the proclivity to develop conditioned responses as a result of both real and synthetic experiences. We must learn to use this valuable facility in the way God intended.
Psalm 119:148
   David didn't just read the Bible. He studied it and thought deeply about what his reactions were and what they should be. He mentally rehearsed right reactions, which his brain recorded for future use.
   He increased his chances of reacting the right way by meditating on the correct responses to circumstances that normally led him into sin.
Psalm 119:165 "Nothing shall cause them to stumble" (mgn)
   We break wrong habit patterns by consciously forcing ourselves to think through and to do things the right way. Study makes it possible for God's Spirit to work with our minds. Knowledge obtained by study of God's Word is the vital ingredient that the Holy Spirit acts upon.
2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to show yourself approved."
   We must put God's Word into our minds and meditate deeply upon it if we are ever to become like him.
Colossians 3:16 "Let the Word of God dwell in you richly."
   God's Spirit doesn't force us to study — this is our responsibility. God always follows the partnership principle in developing character. He takes the first step in calling us. After that, it's up to us to do our part before we can expect Him to give us the power to overcome.
   Study the life of Christ, Epistles of Paul, Proverbs — these will reveal how to react in a right way. We all need to think deeply about their application to our sins, weaknesses and life. We should rehearse the right response in our minds ahead of time. Pray for the guidance of God's Holy Spirit. This way we will be conditioning our mind to react in the opposite direction to that in which human nature automatically takes us.
Hebrews 5:12-14 "...those who by reason of use have their senses exercised..."
   Make full use of your time. Meditation is the time we spend exercising the mind — doing our roadwork — in preparation for the battles ahead. We must study regularly and we must meditate deeply upon God's word if we are going to grow spiritually to the point where we can help those now coming into God's Church in greater numbers.
   Regular study and meditation on God's Word is a practice followed by the men who have become effective leaders of God's people down through history.

How to pray effectively

   What is effective prayer and meaningful contact with God? Is fervent prayer effective prayer? Is thankfulness the key to effective prayer? How about the length of a prayer?
   People pray fervently during an earthquake and still perish! The Pharisee who said, "I thank Thee, O God..." was grateful but God didn't hear his prayer. Christ condemned the Pharisees' long prayers while they broke the Laws of God. These things alone don't make prayer effective. There are laws which govern the functioning of God's Spirit. There are also laws of effective prayer which an individual must follow if he is to grow spiritually.
   Many of God's people have weak and insipid prayer lives and a lot of their prayers can go unanswered. Why? What is the chief cause of unanswered prayer? There are obvious conditions we must fulfill if God is going to answer our prayers.

Luke 18:13
   We must have a repentant attitude if God is going to hear us.
1 John 3:22
   Another prerequisite to answered prayer — but this doesn't directly affect praying itself. Is there something in how we pray or what we pray about that will prevent our prayers being effective?
Matthew 26:38-39 "Not as I will, but as You will."
   We must be seeking God's will in our prayers and not trying to get our own way all the time. This also will prevent God from answering our prayers.
   But, even if a person is trying to do all of these, there is something else that will stop prayers being effective — even if they are fervent, even if they're full of gratitude, even if the individual prays for a long period on his or her knees. What is it? Where is the area where most of us go astray when we pray and end up with ineffective prayers?
James 4:1-4 "...because you ask amiss."
   The chief cause of unanswered prayer is selfishness! Human being are naturally dedicated to serving self. We have to learn not to be self-centered in our prayers.
Job 42:7-10 "...when he prayed for his friends."
   God had already accepted Job's repentance, obedience and his seeking God's will in his life. But He didn't heal him until he had prayed for his three friends.
   There is a law of intercessory prayer — Job was totally self-righteous and selfcentered. His problems and sickness turned his mind in on himself even more — until God personally intervened and showed Job how insignificant he really was. Even then, God didn't answer his prayers for healing until he got his mind off himself and onto the needs of his three friends.
Genesis 20:6-7, 17-18 "...he shall pray for you."
   Abimelech was a God-fearing man. Why couldn't he pray for himself? Once again, Abraham's fears had been self-centered, afraid for his own life. He even lied to protect himself. God had to teach him that he will answer the prayers of one whose concern is for others — whose prayer-life is not centered around self.
1 Samuel 12:23
   Samuel was a priest. He had responsibility to pray and intercede for others. The sin of selfishness separates us from God so he cannot answer our prayers. Some people's prayer-lives are so self-centered that God won't answer their prayers for their own good!
Exodus 32:11-14
   There is no mention of the people's righteousness here. Moses prayed and interceded for unconverted people while they were still sinning and God heard him.
Numbers 14:17-20
   This wasn't a self-centered prayer; it was God-centered. Moses was interceding for the people and showing God that here was a wonderful opportunity for Him to show how powerful, great, longsuffering, merciful and forgiving he was. This was an effective prayer because it got answers! Fervency came as a result of what he was praying about and how much it meant to him personally. A totally selfish person cannot be very fervent about things that require an outgoing concern for others.
Psalm 83:13-18 "...that they may seek your name."
   David's prayers were God-centered and reflected a concern for the ultimate good of others. Most of our hymns are the prayers of David — some people don't like them when they first come to services. This is because they are so different from what they have been used to. Typical 'Christian' hymns are popular because they are centered on self. The most popular protestant hymn is 'In the Garden' — "I come to the garden alone (just me and Jesus)...and He comes to me and He walks with me and He talks with me..." It depicts a God who we have dedicated to our services in a selfish, selfcentered religion.
James 5:15-16 "Pray for one another."
   The prayer of faith is the minister's prayer. There is a flow of intercessory prayer. When we stop being so totally concerned about ourselves and center our prayer-life around others, we can then begin to understand the concern God has for each one of us.
   The 'Lord's' prayer starts off: "Our Father, ...Hallowed be your name...give us our daily bread, forgive us, ...deliver us..."
   But there is something even more important yet if God is going to regularly answer our prayers and if we are going to establish meaningful contact with Him.
Matthew 19:16
   He desperately wanted to be in God's Kingdom. Christ had to show him that his number-one problem was selfishness that was preventing him from keeping even the first of the Ten Commandments he claimed to be keeping.
Matthew 19:27 "What shall we have therefore?"
   The disciples thought they were really sacrificing for the Kingdom. Christ gave them a parable to show them what their motives were and what their motives would have to become if they were going to be of any use to God as leaders of His people.
Matthew 20:1-14 "You have made them equal to us..."
   The purpose of the husbandman (Christ) was to get the Work done before the end of the day. Their purpose was to get the reward at the end of the day. Had their purpose been the same as that of the husbandman, they would have rejoiced when he brought labourers in at the eleventh hour — "At last we have enough help to finish the Work before darkness falls!" Instead, their selfishness caused them to get upset.
   The reason we are in the Church is to get the Work done. God has ordained that we in this age obtain salvation through doing the work — it is a gift, but He won't give the gift to anyone who is in the Church for selfish reasons.
   God knows more about an individual's motives through his prayer-life than in any other way. He puts us in His Church to support and pray for the Work. Does our prayer-life reflect a deep understanding of the reason we are here? If not, God won't be ready to answer our prayers. We do need to pray for ourselves, our needs and problems, but our prayer-life must become Workcentered if it is going to be effective.
2 Corinthians 1:11 (RSV) "You also must help us by prayer!"
Colossians 4:2-3, 12
   If the people of God stopped praying for the Work then the Work would grind to a halt. An individual is converted and will grow spiritually to the degree his prayers and actions are behind the Work Christ is doing through His Church. Our prayers are effective to the degree they are centered away from self and toward the needs of this Work and the needs of others.

We have been called to serve

   Why should we concern ourselves with growing spiritually? Is it to increase our chances of getting into the Kingdom of God? Is it to ensure we have added blessings in this lifetime? What is the reason for all this effort — self-analysis, pinpointing our weaknesses, setting our mind and resources to overcoming them, fasting, studying, meditating, seeking God's help in overcoming sin — what is it all for?
   One of Christ's first actions in His Kingdom will be to demonstrate what an office in His Kingdom is all about.

Luke 12:37
   Christ will set the example of what we will have to do. When we are resurrected, there won't be any cities to rule over. There'll just be smoking rubble with a few sick, dejected, discouraged human beings sitting around wanting to die. Our job will be to serve them, clean their sores, bandage their wounds, find shelter, food and water, persuade them that life really is worth living after all and begin to build our cities with our hands from the rubble of a collapsed civilization.
Isaiah 61:4
   We won't even have huge crowds to deal with — maybe only a dozen or so to start of with. We are going to have to serve them. Many will be mentally sick and perhaps incapable of helping themselves. We'll have to scrabble around in the rubble and do it for them for a while.
Luke 22:24-27
   The world's concept of greatness centers around how much we are served. The 'great' one is the one sitting down surrounded by servants. Christ brought a totally new concept to greatness — we are great in God's eyes according to the amount we serve others. Anyone can be great regardless of what position he or she holds.
   We sometimes look upon service as the way to become great — become a deacon, a minister, etc. — but Christ revealed that God measures greatness by the amount we serve others.
Philippians 2:5-7
   True service 'empties self'. It never exalts self or seeks to establish a reputation for self. It involves self-sacrifice — we have to be willing to give up something. Service involves a battle of self-interest against the interest and needs of others.
John 13:1-5
   Christ had every reason to think of self that night with what He knew was about to take place. Someone had dropped the ball and forgotten to arrange for the foot washing. He saw a need and fulfilled it. There was no Old Testament prophecy he was trying to fulfill. True service has its mind on the needs of others and not on itself. The reason for growing and overcoming human nature is so we can serve others more effectively.
Philippians 2:19-20 "For all seek their own..."
   Human beings naturally serve self. Adam and Eve reached out to take for themselves what they wanted. They called their first son 'Cain' which means 'get'. All mankind has served itself ever since. God even uses the term: 'serve themselves of them' when one groups of human beings exploits another. We have reared a whole generation of young people called the 'now generation'. "I want it now! And if I can't have it now, I'm going to tear apart your railway carriage, your home, your society!"
   Selfishness is the greatest barrier to service.
   Some will serve in order to get for self — satisfaction, recognition, as an exercise in self-righteousness.
2 Corinthians 9:1-2 "As touching the ministering to the saints..."
   In spite of its problems, the congregation at Corinth had a reputation for service.
2 Corinthians 9:6-7
   We often use these verses in the context of giving offerings to do the Work of the Church — that of preaching the gospel. Paul uses them here in the context of serving other members of the Church. "Not grudgingly" — not because we have to; "Not of necessity" — not because it is expected of us; "Not of covetousness" — not because we hope to gain something from it. Real service empties self and wants and expects nothing in return. The attitude behind what we do is what is vital.
2 Corinthians 9:8, 10 "God is able to make all grace abound."
   If we serve others out of the desire to help them, God will be more willing to overlook our mistakes and give us the extra help we need to overcome our problems.
   There is a cause for every effect. If we serve others in self-sacrifice, emptying self, expecting and wanting nothing in return — the effect will be extra help from God so we'll be able to serve to an even greater degree in the future.
   Selfishness is the greatest barrier to spiritual growth because selfishness is the greatest barrier to service. God promises to 'increase the fruit of our righteousness' if we learn to serve others.
   Many are embarrassed to serve the elderly, the sick and those in need. Embarrassment is an inward-looking and selfish thing. Elderly and sick people need company. They need someone to help look after their yard. Be hospitable and learn to share your lives and homes with others. Invite others into your life with you.
   We must overcome the desire to serve self and acquire the desire to serve others if we are ever to fulfill the whole purpose for living — to share what we have with as many others as possible. This is God's motive for doing everything He does. Ask Him to help you make it yours as well.

   What are the habits that the great leaders of God's people have practiced? Basically there are seven:


  1.    They have learned to put God first in their lives and in their daily schedule by getting up early to study and pray and meditate upon God's Word and its application to their lives.

  2.    They have recognized their greatest responsibility was to take heed to themselves and their own spiritual condition and to keep in shape spiritually by examining themselves and finding out what was wrong with them personally through fasting so they could become more effective instruments in God's hands.

  3.    They determined not to compromise with sin and set their minds to obey God in every circumstance.

  4.    They carefully guarded their minds and protected the most delicate mechanism in that mind — the conscience — by learning to quickly respond to God's Holy Spirit as He used it to work with them.

  5.    They practiced regular study and meditation to condition their minds to respond in a right way to circumstances to live as God would live if He were a human being.

  6.    They learned to pray effectively and establish meaningful contact with God through regular and effective prayer.

  7.    They understood that the office of authority in God's government is the office of a servant and that they were called to get a job done and not just to receive personal salvation. They allowed this understanding to become the motivating force for everything they did.

   These are the practices we much practice and practice until they become habit if we are to become effective leaders in the Work and Church of God.

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Publication Date: 1975
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Sabbath Services

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