VIDEO Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians: Girolamo Savonarola

Dec 29, 2015

BEDTIME FAITH STORIES are an inspiring supplement to the 90 day John 7:17 Challenge at John717.com. The John 7:17 Challenge Book is a 90 day journey through the teachings of Christ to experience God and find life to the full.

These true stories will help many Christians to see what they are missing in their spiritual life. They will astonish you, educate you, challenge you, and encourage you in your own difficult climb up the mountain to find Life to the Full in Christ.

These stories are from the Book, “Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians” by James Gilchrist. Published in 1911, this public domain book showcases the faith journeys of some of the most famous Christians that have ever lived. It provides a crystal clear picture of what it really looks like to be filled with the Spirit of Christ and to move from lukewarm, powerless Christianity, to a deeply satisfying, victorious and abundant Christian life, the life that is rightfully ours in Christ.

Sign up and take the John 7:17 Challenge for free at John717.com

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Overflowing Fruit

I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. John 15:16

During the spring and summer, I admire the fruit growing in our neighbor’s yard. Their cultivated vines climb a shared fence to produce large bunches of grapes. Branches dotted with purple plums and plump oranges dangle just within our reach.

Although we don’t till the soil, plant the seeds, or water and weed the garden, the couple next door shares their bounty with us. They take responsibility for nurturing their crops and allow us to delight in a portion of their harvest.

The fruit of the Spirit changes us so we can impact the lives of those around us.

The produce from the trees and vines on the other side of our fence reminds me of another harvest that benefits me and the people God places in my life. That harvest is the fruit of the Spirit.

Christ-followers are commissioned to claim the benefits of living by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16–21). As God’s seeds of truth flourish in our hearts, the Spirit produces an increase in our ability to express “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (vv. 22–23).

Once we surrender our lives to Jesus, we no longer have to be controlled by our self-centered inclinations (v. 24). Over time, the Holy Spirit can change our thinking, our attitudes, and our actions. As we grow and mature in Christ, we can have the added joy of loving our neighbors by sharing the benefits of His generous harvest.

Lord, please cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts and minds so our neighbors can enjoy Your sweet fragrance in and through our lives.

The fruit of the Spirit changes us so we can impact the lives of those around us.

By Xochitl Dixon 

INSIGHT:As followers of Christ it’s easy to project an image to those around us that we don’t struggle with sin. But God knows better. The war between good and evil that began eons ago continues today within the believer’s heart. Even though we are redeemed and will one day reign with Christ, we experience the daily struggle between obedience and disobedience. In today’s reading, Paul lists the kinds of attitudes and behaviors that characterize our fallen nature. But he also lists those godly qualities that reflect Christ’s own character and are pleasing to God. The challenge of the Christian life is to yield our hearts to the control and direction of the Holy Spirit so we will bear fruit that is honoring to God and benefits those around us.

Can you think of a time when your choice to yield to the Spirit ministered to others? Dennis Fisher

 

Evidence of a Growing Believer

James 4:8

I have a friend who was, at one point, a self-confessed shopping addict. Recently, his family realized that this activity had stopped, though he hadn’t intentionally curtailed it. Why did his longing to acquire more goods dissolve?

The reason was that my friend had become more satisfied with the Lord. He no longer needed fulfillment from what the world had to offer. What a terrific illustration of growth in Christ.

In addition to finding fulfillment in God, there are many other growth indicators that are noticeable to the believer. For instance, offering forgiveness becomes easier over time. Consider our Savior, who asked God to forgive even those who crucified Him on the cross (Luke 23:34).

Also, as we mature, our faith will increase. God loves us, and He gracefully and gently builds our confidence in Him. Then, as our trust grows, we realize how faithful He truly is—which makes our assurance even greater.

Finally, as our relationship with the Lord deepens, we will increasingly desire to obey Him. We will be able to confidently proclaim, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). The desire is born not out of fear but out of love for our heavenly Father. Similarly, when we do sin, our heart will become saddened and repentant.

Are you satisfied spiritually? Or do you have a growing, insatiable hunger for more of Jesus? Friend, if you think that you’ve come far enough in your journey with Christ, you have made a terrible mistake. You are missing great fulfillment and excitement that come from getting close to Him.

The Fourfold Witness to Christ

“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)

In the Mosaic law, at least two reliable witnesses were required to convict a man of a crime. Jesus Christ was charged with blasphemy, claiming to be the unique Son of God. Not only was there the required double witness, but actually a fourfold witness to the “crime.” The witnesses not only agreed that the claim was made but also that the claim was true!

The first was John the Baptist, who said, “I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). To so testify was John’s very reason for being, for he “was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light” (John 1:8-9).

There was also a second, more potent witness. “I have greater witness than that of John,” Jesus said, “for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (John 5:36). The great teacher Nicodemus had to acknowledge, “No man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2).

Furthermore, there was the direct testimony of God from heaven. “The Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me” (John 5:37). “There came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17).

Most importantly, there is the testimony of the Bible. “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).

We no longer have such direct testimony, but we will always have the Holy Scriptures, eternally proclaiming the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. HMM

“This man receives sinners.”

1 Samuel 22:1, 2

Finding himself in great danger among the Philistines, David returned to his own land, which he ought never to have left.

1 Samuel 22:1

where he found huge caverns capable of affording shelter and concealment for large numbers of persons. There David was in his right position, and might look for prosperity. He was in the place of separation, where believers should be found:

1 Samuel 22:2

In this he became a type of our Lord Jesus, of whom it was said, “This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.” David’s followers had been rendered desperate by the oppressions of Saul, but though they were bold and warlike men, they do not appear to have been evil in character; rather from their sympathy with David, and their general conduct, we may believe them to have been the best men in the kingdom, who, from that very cause, had been impoverished by Saul’s spiteful treatment. Those who side with Jesus must expect to be treated as he was, and if this drives us into closer fellowship with our despised and rejected Lord, so much the belter.

It was at this time that some of his boldest followers joined him.

1 Chronicles 11:15-19

1 Chronicles 11:15-19

This brave act showed the enthusiastic devotion of David’s warriors. They were willing to gratify his smallest wish at the risk of their lives. In such a spirit ought the Lord Jesus to be served by us. David’s refusal to drink shewed his tenderness for human life, and revealed one of the sources of his influence over his men. Our great Captain is yet more considerate and compassionate. O to love him more!

1 Chronicles 11:10-14

There came to David during the days of his wanderings several other brave men, some of whose exploits are recorded.

1 Chronicles 11:10-14

The honours of Christ’s kingdom are for those who can fight and suffer, not for idle professors and pretenders. The wonders wrought by these men were due to divine power, and that same might is ready to aid us in all holy conflicts and labours. At the last it will be thought the highest of all honours to have been associated with the Lord Jesus in his humiliations and reproaches. Who among us will take part with Christ in this evil generation, and go without the camp to him, bearing his reproach? Whose name shall the recording angel place upon the roll this day? Will not this house yield a man for Jesus?

 

You Are the Bishop Of Your Own Heart!

Hebrews 12:15

One of the most powerful verses in the New Testament is Hebrews 12:15. It says, “Looking diligently, lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” I want you to especially notice the words “looking diligently” in this verse. This phrase comes from the Greek word episkopos, taken from the two words epi and skopos. The word epi means over, and the word skopos means to look. When these two words are compounded into one word as in Hebrews 12:15, the word means to look over or to take supervisory oversight.

The word episkopos is the same Greek word translated “bishop” in First Timothy 3:1. As you know, a bishop has oversight or responsibility for a group of churches. As the chief overseer for those churches, it is the bishop’s responsibility to watch, direct, guide, correct, and give oversight to the churches under his care. As long as he serves as bishop, he will be held responsible for the good and the bad that occurs under his ministry.

Hebrews 12:15 uses the word episkopos to alert you and me to the fact that we are the bishops of our own hearts. The use of this word in this verse means it is our responsibility to watch, direct, guide, correct, and give oversight to what goes on inside us.

As the bishop of your own heart, it is your responsibility to guide, direct, and give oversight to what goes on inside your emotions and thinking. You alone are responsible for what you allow to develop inside your head and heart. Like a bishop, you are personally responsible for both the good and the bad that occurs within your thought life.

Why do I make this point? Because we are often tempted to blame our bad attitudes, bitterness, resentments, or feelings of unforgiveness on other people. But the truth is, we are responsible for our own emotions and reactions! If a person does something that has the potential to offend us, God holds us responsible for whether or not that offense takes root in our minds. We can choose to let it sink into our souls and take root, or we can opt to let it bypass us. We are not able to control what others do or say to us, but we are able to control what goes on inside of us.

It is that “inside” part—the part you control—that God will hold you responsible for. Why? Because you are charged with a personal responsibility to oversee what goes on inside your soul. That means you have the last word. You are the one who decides whether or not that wrong settles down into your soul and starts to take root in your emotions.

Anger is an emotion that comes and goes. You choose whether or not irritation turns into anger, anger into wrath, wrath into bitterness, bitterness into resentment, and resentment into unforgiveness. You choose whether these foul attitudes and emotions take up residency in your heart or are booted out the door!

When the devil comes to tempt you with an annoying, hounding thought about the person who offended you, at that moment you have a choice whether or not to let it sink in. You are the only one who can give permission for these attitudes to make their habitation in your mind and emotions. If you’re filled with bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness, you permitted the devil to sow that destructive seed in your heart and then you permitted it to grow. Remember, you’re the bishop of your own heart!

There is only one reason weeds grow out of control in a garden—because no one took the proper time and care to uproot and remove them. When the garden is choked by weeds, the gardener can’t complain, “I just don’t know how this happened! How did this occur right under my nose?” It occurred because he was being irresponsible with his garden. If he’d been exercising the proper amount of diligence, he would have known that weeds were about to get the best of him. His lack of diligence is the reason his garden got into this mess!

Hebrews 12:15 says, “Looking diligently….” It takes diligence to keep your heart in good shape. The only way you can stay free of the weeds the devil wants to sow in your “garden” is to be attentive, careful, thorough, and meticulous about the condition of your own heart. Don’t expect others to take care of your heart for you either. It’s your heart!

Also, don’t make excuses for the rotten attitudes that fill your thoughts about people who supposedly did you wrong. Even if they really did commit a wrong against you, was it necessary or beneficial to permit the devil to fill you with putrid feelings of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness? Get over it! What good does it do to let the offense fester inside you until you are inwardly eaten up by its bad memory?

As long as you blame everyone else for the bitterness that rages inside, you’ll never walk free. The only way you can get over the offense and walk free of your emotional prison is by accepting responsibility for your own heart.

If someone deliberately sows bad seeds in our “garden” in an effort to hurt or destroy us, God will deal with them. But if we know bad seed has been sown in our hearts and we just ignore it, allowing it to take root and grow unchecked, God will deal with us.

  • God will hold others responsible for what they do to us.
  • God will hold US responsible for what we allow to go on inside our minds and hearts.
  • We cannot answer for the actions of other people.
  • We will answer for our inward responses to what others have done to us.

Since the phrase “looking diligently” is from the Greek word episkopos, implying that you are the bishop of your own heart, what are you going to do about the negative and wrong attitudes that are trying to take root in your soul right now? Are you going to let them fester, take root, and begin to produce bad fruit in your life? Or are you going to take the initiative to rip out those attitudes by the roots so your heart can stay free?

Never forget that you are the bishop of your heart. It is your heart, and you are the only one with the authority to decide what does and doesn’t go on inside of you. In light of this truth, what are you going to do about the situation you are facing right now? Forgive and let it go, or hang on to that grievance and let it grow? The choice is yours!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, help me keep my heart free of offense! You have given me authority over my own will, mind, and emotions, so I know I have the authority to tell offense that it has no right to dwell inside me. I refuse to blame everyone else for the mess I’ve allowed to grow inside my heart—and today I am asking You to help me, Holy Spirit, to quit making excuses for the wrong attitudes I’ve permitted to grow in my life. With Your supernatural help, I am making the choice to repent, to turn from these destructive thoughts, and to replace them with thoughts and words of kindness for those who have caused me hurt or grief in the past.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that I deal diligently with my heart to keep it in good shape. I don’t make excuses for rotten attitudes that try to fill my thoughts about people who have wronged me. Even if they really did commit a wrong, I refuse to let the devil use it to eat me up and ruin me. I am the bishop of my own heart, so I refuse to let wrong attitudes fester, take root, and begin to produce bad fruit in me!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Is there any feeling of bitterness, resentment, or unforgiveness that you have held on to and allowed to grow in the soil of your heart? Has the Holy Spirit been trying to convince you to forgive and to let it go?
  2. If the Holy Spirit is dealing with you about forgiving someone, what are you going to do about it? Will you resist the Spirit’s dealings and develop a hard heart, or are you willing to forget it and go on with your life?
  3. When you hear that a person who hurt or wronged you is being blessed in his job or in some other way, can you rejoice with that person—or do you find yourself inwardly seething that he isn’t being punished because of what he did to you? If you can’t rejoice with him, it’s probably a good indicator that you have some unresolved issues festering on the inside that you need to take to the Lord!

 

Often, It’s What Is Not Said That Is Cause For Concern

We cruised along in a top-of-the line chauffeur-driven limousine. Soft music permeated the air.

 

Dwight, I am going public with the Company. The move should increase our Corporations net 25%.” As he continued, I could not help noticing how artfully his words were chosen. I was also struck by his exquisitely tailored suit. And the watch. A Rolex, of course.

 

Were putting together a coalition of companies that could corner the market,” he continued.

 

Im delighted at the successes you are enjoying,” I replied. And so the conversation went. But somehow inside, I felt hollow. Like there was something missing in our exchange. Later, upon reflection, it occurred to me that my unease was based not on what was said, but on what was not said. Such as:

  • Dwight, there is this fellow on the Board whom I believe is close to coming to Christ!
  • My wife and I are seeing the couples in our home Bible study growing spiritually!
  • Dwight, this morning in my time with God, I was impressed from the Scriptures… “

I doubt that there is any blatant sin in his life. No womanizing. No underhanded manipulation of funds. During our conversation, he was simply expressing what was on his heart.

 

After all, “out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45b)

 

Jesus, in calling Peter and Andrew said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) Fishing for people is the natural outgrowth of following Christ. The fishermen I know are obsessively passionate about catching fish! But when their passion wanes, the topic of fishing fades from their conversation.

 

In our previous talks, I heard nothing from his lips about fishing for people. So I find myself with an unsettled feeling that in his rocketing success, he has been surreptitiously ensnared by “the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things[thus choking] the word, [and] making [him] unfruitful?” (Mark 4:19b)

 

Obedient followers of Christ fish for people! It’s a passion and a priority! They talk about it!

 

The question you and I may want to ask of ourselves is, “Judging from our conversation, where does our passion and primary focus lie? In catching men? Or in expanding our portfolios, and in increasing our net worth?

 

 

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