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"Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psa 51:12 Sometimes we get confused. We take our eyes off of God, or we realize that we have been half-hearted for a long time, and that the world looks more attractive than the lukewarm, ineffectual, and hypocritical Christianity that we have been living. I know a friend in this condition right now, and it is in preparation for talking with him this evening that I do this study. This study is devoted to reviving such people and putting them on the path to a vibrant, refreshing, active faith. As always, when I write something for others, I write it also for myself. The Tombstone Test: When God set out to rebuild a relationship with me, he did it to fulfill my greatest, deepest, highest yearnings and aspirations. Man is more than the animals who merely follow their instincts, urges, and appetites. I was created in the image of God (Gen 1:27, Gen 9:6) and God has set eternity in my heart. Eccl 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Sin is illogical. Isaiah says with regard to the idolater, the man who would put something earthly in a more exalted position than God, that he has not stopped to think. Isa 44:19 No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, "Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?"

Therefore, whenever I struggle spiritually, it is good for me to stop and think, and to ask myself... What do I want written on my tombstone? In ten years, what would I like to say when I look back on my life? What are the three character traits that I personally hold most dear? What motivates me the most? Since I am created in the image of God, and since God has put eternity in my heart, surely some of these things are certifiable spiritual virtues. Typically, most of them will be. If they are not, and if this does not awaken me to my absolute need to persevere and overcome my spiritual weaknesses, I am truly very hardened in my heart (Heb 3:12-13) and darkened in my understanding (Eph 4:18-19, Ro 1:21). Do I really want feel like the following verse? Prov 5:11-14 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. {12} You will say, "How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! {13} I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. {14} I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly." If I have any spiritual sense left in me, I will be convinced of my absolute need to persevere and to overcome my spiritual weaknesses. God is the only way to achieve my highest, deepest, and greatest goals. So I remind myself of the following facts. Life Without God is Empty: Eccl 1:2-3 "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." {3} What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Eccl 1:8-9 All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. {9} What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Mark 8:35-36 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. {36} What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

Psa 73:1-26 A psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. {2} But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. {3} For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. {4} They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. {5} They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. {6} Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. {7} From their callous hearts comes iniquity ; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. {8} They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. {9} Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. {10} Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. {11} They say, "How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?" {12} This is what the wicked are like-- always carefree, they increase in wealth. {13} Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. {14} All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. {15} If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed your children. {16} When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me {17} till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. {18} Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. {19} How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! {20} As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. {21} When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, {22} I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. {23} Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. {24} You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. {25} Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. {26} My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Every Sin I Commit Inevitably Hurts Me: Gal 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. {8} The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Rom 6:21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! Prov 5:20-23 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife? {21} For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. {22} The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. {23} He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. John 8:34-36 Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. {35} Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. {36} So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Understanding How I Got Here: The Christian life is not an academic pursuit, but a spiritual battle (Eph 6). My heart is the battleground. The following negative influences corrupt and harden my heart, causing my faith to decrease. Sin (often assisted by a lack of daily fellowship) - Heb 3:12-13 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. {13} But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Ingratitude - Rom 1:21-23 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. {22} Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools {23} and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Hardness (caused by sin) - Eph 4:18-19 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. {19} Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. Corrupting Relationships and Influences - 1 Cor 15:33 Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." Distractions - Mark 4:18-19 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; {19} but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Understanding How I Get Back On Track: Daily Encouragment - Heb 3:12-13 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. {13} But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Openness - James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Openness - Prov 28:13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Radical Surgery on Negative Influences - Mat 18:8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. Have question, you may call: 08033399821 or write: [email protected] Stay blessed.

Written By Dr. Lewis Akpogena

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