The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Monday, February 25, 2013

“It is the Lord!”- Part 2

“Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” – John 21:7a

When we cast our nets or act on impulse and/or in our own strength, we’ll come up empty. We will never be as full as we could be if we cast without Jesus. We need to learn “It is the Lord!” who makes all the difference in every facet of life.

John is inspired to note there were exactly 153 fish caught that day (John 21:11). Why 153? There’s a lot of speculation involving mathematical machinations as well as allegorical explanations. Perhaps the Lord simply wants us to know that those caught in our nets at His instruction are valuable and worth counting and caring for individually. That is what He modeled for us when He sat down with Peter and had the following conversation.

“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15a). Jonah was a prophet who ran from the call of God. Did Jesus refer to Peter as “Simon, son of Jonah,” to allude to Peter’s backsliding to fish for fish instead of fishing for men? Possibly; Peter may have felt himself unworthy to fish for men given his thrice denial of Jesus. Maybe he was so discouraged he was on the verge of turning from Jesus to live for “these,” fish, friends or something else. Certainly we can be discouraged and downcast because of fleshly failures. Peter definitely had issues. But what we need to grasp hold of here is that Jesus was willing to work with Peter. Jesus wasn’t finished with Peter even if he was, “Simon, son of Jonah.” He’s not finished with us either.

What was the primary issue Peter was struggling with? What is the primary issue we struggle with? Love; we struggle with the kind of love we have for the Lord. Love is the main issue in our walk with the Lord. The Bible says whatever we do without love is worthless (cf. 1 Corinthians 13). Jesus said His disciples would be known and recognized by their love (John 13:35). Love is Jesus commandment (John 13:34; 1 John 2:8; 2 John 5). Love is the greatest! (1 Corinthians 13:13). Therefore Jesus got right down to business addressing Peter’s love.

The word “love” used by Jesus is important to note. In verses 15 and 16 when Jesus asks Peter about his love for Him the Greek term from which “love” is translated is agape. Agape is the supreme brand of love. Agape is selfless, sacrificial, servant hearted love. Agape is the kind of love God has for us. “For God so loved [agape] the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Agape love gives even if it is not reciprocated. This type of love is essential for relating to God as well as being used by Him in ministry. Those who represent Him need to represent Him in His kind of love. That’s why Paul was inspired to write, “For the love [agape] of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One did for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. . . . Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 20-21). “God is love” (1 John 4:8). If we want to know God and serve Him, we need to know His love.

How do we demonstrate or manifest such love? Jesus told Peter to, “Feed My lambs” (John 21:15c). Feed the children of God the word of God. Jesus loves the little children. Children’s ministry is of utmost importance to Him. And children have a way of being brutally honest with us older folk so that if we aren’t sincere, real, true, or effective, children will let us know about it.

Jesus said, “Tend My sheep” (John 21:16b). The word “tend,” means to care for, shepherd, pastor. It doesn’t mean we all have to go into full time ministry and become pastors. It does mean that whatever station Jesus has us serving Him in that we care for those He sends our way. Like a shepherd we guide, lead to good pasture in His word, protect, correct and care for His sheep.

Lastly Jesus said to Peter, “Feed My sheep” (John 21:17b). Feed the followers of God the word of God. Don’t make the peripheral the central. Don’t settle for commentaries, human tradition, and worldly philosophy at the expense of God’s word. Bring God’s sheep to graze in His word. That’s where His fullness is found. That’s where people eat and grow.

But Peter had a problem with his love. Each time he responded to Jesus inquiry about love by saying, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You” (John 21:15b, 16b, 17b). The only problem with his response is the word he used. The word “love” used by Peter in his responses was a translation of the Greek word phileo. Phileo is a brotherly affection. It was as though Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him and Peter responded, “You know that I like You.” Peter had an affection for Jesus, but not the love Jesus was asking of him.

I don’t think Peter responded this way because he didn’t want to agape love Jesus. I think it was that Peter realized the love that he did have was not enough. The love he had was able to assert his loyalty for Jesus, even unto death. But it wasn’t powerful enough to follow through to death; physical or death to the flesh. And therefore Peter cowered before Jesus acknowledging to His Savior, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” (John 21:17b). It was as though Peter was saying, “Lord, You know what kind of love I have for You. You looked right at me when I denied You” (cf. Luke 22:61-62). That look and Peter’s failure was indelibly marked in his heart and soul. Peter didn’t feel capable of presuming an agape love toward the Lord even if that was what Jesus was asking for.

In Jesus’ third and final question to Peter He said, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” but this time Jesus used the word phileo for Peter’s love. Jesus knew full well and acknowledged to Peter that, “Yes, you like Me.” Peter’s love was lacking. Jesus spoke the truth in love. And this even grieved Peter (John 21:17b). The way of Jesus is to speak the truth in love, even if it brings grief (cf. Ephesians 4:15). Healing and construction in the life of Peter could not take place without coming to terms with the truth about his love. But there was hope.

Even though Peter could only muster a phileo affectionate love for Jesus, Jesus told him, “Feed My sheep.” Jesus was willing to take Peter and work with him right where he was in his love. Jesus goes on to say to Peter, “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” John inserts a clarifying explanation here stating, “This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God.” (John 21:19a). In other ways Jesus told Peter. “Peter, before you boasted of dying for Me. But you didn’t have what it took to do so. In the future I guarantee you will find the power to do for me and fulfill all My plans for you to glorify God.”

Then Jesus ended this part of the conversation with the words “Follow Me.” That must have been music to Peter’s ears. But don’t miss the point. Jesus said, “Follow Me.” Where was Jesus going to lead Peter? First, to Himself. He was going to teach Peter the significance of his previous heaven sent declaration, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:18). Secondly, Jesus was going to lead Peter to a place where he would see “It is the Lord!” Where was this place? Jerusalem; the Upper Room. “Wait for the Promise of the Father” that will give you the power you need. “You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. . . . But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:4-5, 8).

It was at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 in the Upper Room that Peter rose up in the power of the Spirit to preach Christ and see 3,000 souls saved. “It is the Lord!” What was the nature of this compelling power of the Lord? It was and is the power of agape love. “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). It is the Lord! “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). It is the Lord! Are you tired of casting all night only to find an empty net? Jesus says, “Follow Me.” He knows where the fish are biting. He knows how to fill your net. It is the Lord! Follow Him. Trust Him. Wait for Him. Run to Him. Whatever your state of emptiness, jump in and swim to the Jesus. In every station of life the bottom line is, “It is the Lord!”

This teaching can also be read on Pastor Claude’s blog site at


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

“It is the Lord!”- Part 1

“Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” – John 21:7a

Ever feel discouraged, forgotten by the Lord? Ever get fed up with waiting for His plan to develop or pan out and just want to chuck it? Ever feel like putting a sign on the door that says, “Gone fishing”? Those are all feelings we at one point or another have been tempted by. The apostle Peter and the disciples experienced those same types of feelings.

In the beginning of the gospels Jesus called the disciples to follow Him and He would make them fishers of men (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). Jesus had fulfilled His redemptive mission of dying on the cross for the sins of the world (John 19). His redemptive work was accepted by God and its efficacy evidenced by the resurrection (John 20). In John 21 we have the third post-resurrection appearance of Jesus with His disciples (John 21:14).

But there was a lull in the contact between Jesus and the disciples. In John 21 we find Peter and six other disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius (John 21:1-2). The Sea of Tiberias is another name for the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1). There is a third name for this body of water. The locals call it  Lake Gennesaret (Luke 5:1) which is derived from the harp shape of this body of water (“Gennesaret” means a harp). It’s interesting that John was moved by the Spirit to use “Sea of Tiberias” as the designation for the Sea of Galilee here. This name is a very secular worldly name. It contains the name of one of the Caesars. “Tiberias” means literally from the Tiber and refers to a river god. Sea of Tiberias fits well with what might have been going through Peter’s and the disciples’ mind.

Peter, James and John were fishermen by trade. The passage allows us to picture them on the shores of Tiberias waiting on the Lord. I can see Peter sitting on the shore, pondering his recent past, wondering about the future. He had boasted loyalty to death toward Jesus (John 13:36-38). But he ended up sleeping when he should have been supporting Jesus in prayer (Matthew 26:36-46). Peter denied Jesus not once, but three times (John 18:15-27). Peter had utterly failed the Lord; his Lord! He had “wept bitterly” over that (Matthew 26:75). No doubt this was embedded in his mind and heart like a tragic nightmare. How would the Lord respond to him in light of his failure? Would He respond to him? Was this silence an indication Peter would be put on the shelf by Jesus? Would Jesus still love him? Would he, could he still have a part in serving his Lord? These thoughts were all racing through his mind like a cat chasing its tail. Like a harbinger of doom there was a gloom over him. Perhaps Satan was sifting him like wheat (Luke 22:31). Finally, when he could stand it no more, he said, “I’m going fishing” (John 21:3a).

There’s no exclamation point on the end of the words, “I’m going fishing.” Peter simply said it, got up, and went to work. Peter was a man of action. We see that in the gospels. He was the one who had taken a sword and cut off the ear of Malchus when Jesus was taken into custody in Gethsemane (John 18:10). Peter was a man of impulse. Now he just had to do something. He reverted to what he knew best, fishing. And the others followed Peter (John 21:3b).

It’s never a good thing to impatiently act on impulse. If waiting is required by the Lord it is for good reason. Perhaps He’s putting things in place to carry out His plan. Perhaps He is waiting to teach us something about ourselves as well as the way He works. It states, “That night they caught nothing” (John 21:3c). When you act impatiently, impulsively, in frustration, in your own strength, just to do something, anything, your net will be empty. And going back to old ways even if they are the ways you feel the most familiar with, is not the answer when it comes to the Lord. This was an indispensable lesson Jesus wanted His disciples to learn. Waiting on the Lord was something they would have to do regularly as they fulfilled His call on their life. They had to learn to trust Him; even if it meant waiting in silence. We need to learn this lesson too.

It says, “But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus” (John 21:4). Jesus was there all the time. He always is. He waited and watched patiently as these disciples learned the futility and frustration of acting in their own strength. In their own strength all they got was emptiness. Now Jesus would show them a better way; the best way. Jesus is always watching. He knows what we’re going through. He knows how hard it is to wait on Him. But He also knows how important it is that we do wait on Him, trust Him, follow Him, and not lunge ahead of Him.  

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’” (John 21:5). Jesus knew they had no food. He wanted to emphasize that reality to them. Maybe they were aggravated by the inquiry. That they had no food to eat was clear to anyone with eyes. He who has eyes let him see. More importantly, no food meant they had no instrument to facilitate fellowship. He addressed them as “children,” because they were acting like spiritually immature children. He wanted them to grow up, be spiritual men, spiritual giants in His Kingdom living in His fullness. 

What’s the alternative to all of this? “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some” (John 21:6). Years before these same fishermen had again, “toiled all night and caught nothing.” (Doesn’t say too much about their ability to fish does it?) A “Master” told them to, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter thought the Master’s request useless and said as much. But to be polite he complied with the request and to their surprise hauled in a catch that nearly broke their nets! This was Peter’s and the other’s introduction to their Master Jesus (Luke 5:1-11). Three years of ministry training taught Peter and the others to be open to suggestions about where to cast their nets. You never know, the One telling you to cast might be Jesus. Just like before, when they cast their net at Jesus’ instruction they hauled in a net stretching catch.

Then cerebral John, “that disciple whom Jesus loved,” said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7a). John put the pieces together of what was happening. Any huge catch like that, “It is the Lord!” Any fruitfulness, any full net in our life, “It is the Lord!” Remember that. That’s true in our relationships. We can try all night with all kinds of self-reliant ingenious ways of trying to change our spouse to our liking but without the Lord, it will be empty efforts. That’s true in parenting, family, our jobs, careers, education, ministry, and everything. “It,” must be, “the Lord!” to succeed. If the Lord is not in it, empty. If the Lord is in it, full.

It was Peter who instantly, “put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea” and made a bee-line to Jesus (John 21:7b). I hope we are just as quick to run to Jesus when we realize our catch is from the Lord. Fullness comes from Him. It took the six other disciples to drag the full net toward the shore (John 21:8). But when Jesus invited them to bring some of the fish for a fellowship meal it was big burly Peter who had the adrenaline rush to singlehandedly drag the large fish on shore (John 21:9-11). Peter couldn’t wait to be with Jesus. Are you like that? Or do you let your depression or distractions of life keep you casting an empty net?

“Come and eat breakfast” Jesus invited (John 21:12-13). The disciples were a bit hesitant, but they couldn’t turn down such an invitation; especially Peter. It wasn’t until after Peter had himself been fed that Jesus entered into a conversation about him feeding others. That’s important. We need to feed on God’s word first, before we are able to feed others. We need to practice the priority and discipline of feeding ourselves spiritually on God’s word. Man doesn’t live on physical bread alone but on every word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3). We need the solid food meat and potatoes of God’s word. Not the cotton candy junk food of worldly philosophy and human tradition. Not even commentaries or good Christian books can substitute for God’s word. We need the undiluted balanced spiritual body fuel of God’s word (e.g. Colossians 2:8-10). We need to grow up from spiritual children’s formula feeding to the solid food of an adult diet of God’s word (Hebrew 5:12-14).

“Jesus then came and took the bread and give it to them, and likewise the fish” (John 21:13). Jesus wants to spend time with us. He wants us to spend time with Him. He wants us to realize “It is the Lord!” It’s all about Him and our relationship with Him. To the latter day lukewarm church of Laodicea Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). That’s an invitation to the church! for me and for you. “It is the Lord!” But there’s a problem. We don’t always realize “It is the Lord!” Why? What was Peter’s issue, the problem, that Jesus was calling him to sit down and discuss? What did Peter and the others have to learn before their nets could be filled? That is what we will see in part two of It is the Lord!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Watch Israel!

“’You are My witnesses,’ says the LORD” – Isaiah 43:10
The Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ primary teaching on the End Times, focuses primarily on Israel (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21). In the Discourse Jesus mentions the Abomination of Desolation, fleeing on the Sabbath, and the budding of the fig tree all of which find there prophetic meaning in relation to Israel. Israel is an integral part of God’s prophetic plan.  This is true for a number of reasons. 
First, Israel is God’s tool to make Himself known to the world. In the book of Isaiah it states, “"You are My witnesses,” says the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen,” (Isaiah 43:10a; See also Isaiah 43:12; 44:8). God has chosen to use the nation of Israel to prove His existence and reveal Himself to the world. One way He has done this is through the preservation of Israel and especially the reestablishment of Israel as a nation in 1948.
Second, Israel is God’s tool to glorify Himself to the world. God refers to Israel as, “Israel My glory” (Isaiah 46:13). He says of Israel, “. . . ‘You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified’” (Isaiah 49:3). In describing the events of the great End Times battle of Ezekiel 38-39 God states, “Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.” ’ (Ezekiel 38:23).
Third, Israel is God’s tool to reveal Himself via prophecy. One of the proofs of God’s existence is prophecy. In Isaiah it states, “ Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’” (Isaiah 46:9-10). God proves He is real and true by speaking prophetically through prophets. God has used the nation of Israel in particular to reveal Himself prophetically. 
God promised a Land to Israel through their patriarch Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:15; 15:7; 26:3-5; 28:13; Leviticus 25:46; Joshua 14:9). God brought Israel as a “chosen people” into this Promised Land (Exodus 6:7-8; Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2). He warned Israel if they practiced idolatry and immorality He would evict them from the Land (Deuteronomy 9:4; 28:63; 1 Kings 9:7; 2 Chronicles 7:19-20). They persisted in sinning against God so He did indeed allow them to be taken captive from the Land. God declared Israel would be scattered throughout the earth and they were as a result of their sinfulness (Deuteronomy 28:64; 1 Kings 9:7; Nehemiah 1:8; Jeremiah 9:13-16; 44:2-17; Amos 9:9; Zechariah 7:14). God warned that when Israel was scattered they would be a curse and byword (Deuteronomy 28:37; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Jeremiah 29:18; 44:8). This has come to pass as Jews have been persistently persecuted throughout history. 
Despite their being targeted by merciless persecution, God promised that His chosen people would not be utterly destroyed and would continue as an identifiable ethnic and national group (Jeremiah 30:11; 31:35-37). History has also proven this to be true.
God promised to bring Israel back to the Promised Land in the Last Days and He did this on May 14th, 1948 when Israel was reestablished as a nation  (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 30:10; 31:8-12; Ezekiel 36:8-10, 22, 24, 33-38). He promised that in the Last Days, Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel, would become a “cup of trembling” (KJV) and a burden to the people’s of the world (Zechariah 12:2-3, 6-8). Jerusalem and Israel, a nation the size of Rhode Island are the center of the International controversy and tension proving God’s word of prophecy to be true.
There is presently a revival of those who theologically and prophetically try to cast Israel aside and replace her with “the Church” (e.g. Preterists; Replacement Theology). But God’s inspired words clearly state, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! . . .” (Romans 11:1a). In the Bible God refers to Himself as the “God of Israel” over two hundred times and the “Holy One of Israel” thirty times. God associates Himself with Israel throughout the Bible. An entire book is devoted to God as Israel’s Husband (i.e. Hosea). God says He blesses and curses in relation to how people treat the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 12:3). Those are sobering words to those who oppose Israel.
In Romans 11 God reveals His plan for Israel. This plan includes, “that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25b). The word, “until” points to a future purpose of God for Israel. God isn’t finished with Israel. But some persist and protest, “Israel rejects Jesus as Messiah! How can she still be included in God’s plans?” The answer is found in the inspired prophecy of Ezekiel. He spoke of a day when Israel would be reborn as a nation. The vision God gave him was one of a gradual coming together of dead bones (Ezekiel 37:3-6). First the sinews, flesh and skin of the nation, then the breath of life! The nation comes together physically first, then spiritually later. Eternal life is coming to Israel!
When Jesus returns at His Second Coming He will touch down in the City of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:4-5). The Second Coming of Jesus will occur at the culmination of the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:13-16; 19:11-21). This is when He delivers Israel from a siege of overwhelming enemies. And it is at this point that Israel will receive Jesus as her Messiah (Zechariah 12:4-10).
Before this time of Tribulation that climaxes in the Second Coming, Jesus will return in the clouds  and rapture all true believers to be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We are saved from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). The events happening to Israel indicate we are in the End Times. The rapture could take place at any time. It’s time to get right with God! (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:10, 13; 12:1-2). Only God knows when the final parts of His prophetic plan will be put in motion. A lot of God’s unfolding plan centers on Israel. God has His eye on Israel (Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 2:8). We should too. Watch Israel and give your heart to the Lord!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Is it of God?

“If there arises among you a prophet . . . .”

How do we determine if something is of God or not? This is an important question because we are in a spiritual war in which our adversary the devil is a master liar, deceiver and destroyer. The Last Days will be characterized by “deceiving spirits,” “doctrines of demons,” and lies spoken by psychopathic hypocrites (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Satan’s aim is to murder you spiritually and physically (John 8:44). His main tactic is appearing as something good and luring people into evil. Therefore, if we ignore or take this question lightly we risk being victimized by the enemy or worse, being manipulated into a position where we give the enemies of the Lord reason to blaspheme God (2 Samuel 12:14). Because of this God has given us clear precautions in His word to help us discern what is of Him and what is not of Him.

There are many scriptures in the Bible which help us discern whether or not something is of the Lord. Below we list these scriptures with questions we ought to be asking when we are seeking to discern whether or not something is of the Lord.

Is it scriptural? Just because someone uses scriptures does not mean they are of the Lord? Satan used scriptures (out of context) against Jesus in the wilderness temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). Cults use scriptures, as do false teachers. How can we know if scripture is being used in the right way?

We need to see if the interpretation is correct based on the context, or the way it was used in the letter or book in which it is found. Usually you can determine this by reading before and after the scripture to see the proper interpretation of the verses. You may have to read the entire letter or book in which the verses are found. You should also ask whether or not the interpretation in question contradicts other parts of the Bible. God’s word does not contradict itself. We need to determine God’s truth based on the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

Does it bring me closer to God? You should ask if this use of scripture or thing in question is drawing you closer to or pushing you further away from God. The Bible tells us to draw near to God and move away from the devil (James 4:7-8). This is a question that can be tricky because our hearts are deceitful and we can’t know them on our own (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We need to ask God to search our hearts and see the truth in us (Psalm 139:23-24). And the way we do this is to bring our hearts and thoughts prayerfully to the altar of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12).

There is an interesting scripture in this regard and it states the following:

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 -  “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.

Notice it is not the sign or wonder or impressiveness of something that determines whether or not it is of God. It is whether or not something draws us closer to God and moves us to love Him more and more that determines whether or not something is of God. Jesus said eternal life is to know the One true God and Him (John 17:3). That in a nutshell is the prime reason Jesus came to be with us (John 17:4). We should be asking, “Is what I’m doing bringing me closer to the Lord? Is it making me more spiritually sensitive to His voice? Is it helping me to know Him better? Can I see Jesus involved with what I’m doing?”

Is it causing me to worship the Lord? God is looking for true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth. Those who are trying to determine if the music they listen to is of God should be asking themselves, “Is this causing me to love God more? Is it causing me to worship the Lord in spirit and truth?”(John 4:23-24). Does the music put me in awe of the Lord and cause me to fall at His feet in worship?

Does it bring pleasure to God? Contrary to the popular philosophy of the day, we do not exist for our own pleasure. Humanity was created for the Lord and His pleasure! (Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11 KJV). Christians have been purchased by God and redeemed from their sin by the precious blood of Jesus on the cross (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Christians should especially be asking questions like, “Is what I’m doing pleasing to God? Is it selfish? Does it risk displeasing God in some way?”

Is it really worth it? Is what I’m doing really worth the time? If I’m being tempted to do something that is questionable, is it worth risking my walk with the Lord in any way? Nothing is worth risking a single drop of closeness to the Lord.  Greg Laurie once shared some questions we could ask to help us make good sound spiritual decisions. When you come to something that is questionable or really in any situation you should ask yourself five evaluative questions: 1. Will it build me up spiritually? (1 Corinthians 10:23; Hebrews 12:1-2). 2. Will it bring me under its power? (1 Corinthians 6:12;  Romans 6:14). 3. Do I have an uneasy feeling about it? (Romans 14:23). 4. Will it cause someone else to stumble? (Romans 14:15). 5. Will it bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians 10:31;  Colossians 3:17, 23).

Satan is a brilliant enemy who is the master of deception. He disguises himself as something good when he is really the worst of the worst. Those he uses practice the same deception (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan does not usually try to sidetrack or victimize people with what is blatantly bad. No. His tactic is to rob people of God’s best by tempting them with what is second best. Unfortunately too many Christians have passed up God’s best because they were impatient and settled for something good, but not God’s best. The choice is not necessarily between good and bad as much as it is between God’s best and an alternative.  That tactic is as old as the Garden of Eden, but it is no less effective today (Genesis 3).  So beware, pray to the Lord and ask Him for help to discern. Go to God’s word and let His peace be your guide (Colossians 3:15-16). But above all, care whether or not something is or is not of God.