Bill Elliff

Guarding the Well

Spiritual dehydration can happen quickly. Without constantly partaking of Christ, our lives will shrivel and die. Guard your heart so that no affection leads you away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Water is the source of life. We can go 40 days without food but only three days without water. When your body (which is about 60% water) is dehydrated, your vital organs begin to shut down … quickly.
Knowing this, most great cities of the world were settled along rivers, for everything depends upon water. Where there is no river, wells must be dug if possible.
Your Spiritual Well
The spiritual life has but one true source: Christ Himself. Christ often reminded us of this truth.
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)
Guarding the Well
The wise Proverbs writer gives us a powerful reminder of how carefully we must guard the entrance to that Well.
 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Our heart is the seat of our affections. What we love and value. Everything in one’s life is determined by their heart’s affections. Whatever you think is valuable is what you will pursue, whether right or wrong, good for you or detrimental.
The Proverbs writer is not admonishing us to guard Christ, but to guard that in us which determines whether or not we will value Christ.
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Paul’s Prayer … and Ours

A great prayer to memorize and pray for your family, friends, church, and everyone you know.… that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)

Paul did everything by prayer. Not some things or most things. The secret of his power and usefulness was that he was a man of such clear understanding and humility who knew he must pray without ceasing—prayer with no intermission.
He knew the battle was not against flesh and blood but that it was raging on all sides with every kind of demonic power, powers that can only be overcome by a man clothed in God’s armor and strength and praying at all times in the spirit (Ephesians 6:10-20). It was (and is) a battle for the souls of men and women, boys and girls, to take their every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
And so, listen to his prayer this morning. A great prayer to memorize and pray for your family, friends, church, and everyone you know.
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A Proper View of Myself

The Lord honors those who see themselves rightly. He promises to bless a man who lives in wise dependency before Him. As he looks to the Lord, God provides him with all he needs, and the world sees what a man with a correct opinion of himself is like.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones. (Prov. 3:7-8)
It’s so easy. In fact, it’s our most natural posture. If we are not careful, we begin to think we know better than anyone. We vainly believe that no one has a better understanding than us.
We have forgotten our place.
All of this fades like the morning fog when we remember God. We see ourselves as small in light of His bigness and unwise in light of His perfect wisdom.
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The Forgotten Word of the Gospel

God is always looking for His prodigals. He is waiting for them to come to their senses. With no thought of further punishment (their sin has punished them ruthlessly), He stands with open arms to receive and restore the truly repentant. The riches of the Father await the repentant. He is waiting for them to enjoy all that He had prepared beforehand. 

No man will ever have a relationship with God without repentance. It was the first word of Jesus’ first teaching.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17)
Peter’s sermon at the beginning of the first church proclaimed repentance.
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
It was the theme of Paul’s life and ministry.
I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable … solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20-21)
A genuine follower of Christ enters a relationship with Christ through repentance and continues repenting in various ways for the rest of their life. To be a true Christian is to be a lifelong repenter.
So what is repentance, and why is it so essential? The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 illustrates repentance beautifully.
 Repentance is a Change of Mind
“He came to his senses.” (Vs. 17)
The prodigal son was a proud, rebellious young man. He saw little need for his father and thought he could handle life alone.
Taking his share of the family inheritance prematurely, he squandered it all in “loose living.” At the end of his rope, he finds himself desperate, alone, and empty. And then, the Bible records five words that describe the nature of true repentance.
All of us are full of ourselves. We are self-absorbed and proud. Our greatest need is for the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and bring us to the end of ourselves. To awaken us to the foolishness of our independence.
Have you come to the end of yourself? Or do you still think you can handle life by yourself?
Repentant People See God Differently
“But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! (Vs. 17)
The prodigal had seen his father as nothing more than a momentarily essential provider. He wanted to run away from home as soon as he could. We do the same. In our pride, we ignore God’s role and vainly pull away. When the prodigal came to repentance, his first thought was of his father. From that point on, he thought differently about his dad.
Do you understand your Father is the only One who has what you so desperately need? Do you see who He is now and the foolishness of running from Him?
Repentant People See Themselves Differently
“I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight.’” (Vs. 18)
A proud man constantly blames others for his problems and failures. He never admits his sin and acknowledges his need. But when he comes to the end of himself, he realizes he is the culprit. His arrogance has taken him to the pit.
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The One Who Wants to Come to Your House

You might be surprised how many people you’ll encounter today who want something more. Realizing that their life is empty, they long for what they do not know. Their behavior may be offensive to you—even abhorrent—but they were made in God’s image, and the loss of their destiny has made them unfulfilled and desperate. Don’t see them as an object, but look beyond their exterior and see them as Jesus does.

So (Zaccheus) ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:4-5)
What is your opinion of Christ? Do you see him as an important historical figure? The Son of God? The Savior of the world? The King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
All of these are true, but there is so much more. He is the One seeking you—the One wanting to stay at your house. It’s personal.
An Unlikely Host
Zaccheus was an unloved man. Any self-respecting Jew would never bow to work for those who were enslaving Israel. Zaccheus was seen as a traitor to his people and a sub-human to the Romans he served. And there was more that made Zaccheus unwanted and unloved. He was the “chief tax collector and he was rich.”
But there was something that no one knew about him … he longed for more. We can’t know his whole motivation, but when Jesus came to his town of Jericho, Zaccheus laid his self-esteem aside and climbed a tree to see the Messiah.
You might be surprised how many people you’ll encounter today who want something more. Realizing that their life is empty, they long for what they do not know.
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Creating Environments Where God is Pleased to Dwell

Do you long to be aware of His presence? To enjoy more consistent intimacy with God in your life, your home, your church? There are very deliberate things you can do to create an environment where God is pleased to dwell. Think of preparing your home for a visit from your most beloved and honored guest. Now, prepare the home of your life for the King. Paying attention to our environments will illustrate what we really want.

If an honored guest was coming to your home, would you clean the house? Would you desire for them to be comfortable and blessed by the condition of your home? Would they have to clear a way through the trash to even find a place to sit? Would you turn off the television or be constantly looking over their shoulder to watch your favorite show, giving your guest no attention? Would you turn down blaring music to be able to speak and hear? Would they feel at home in the environment you had prepared or ill at ease?
There is a difference between God’s omnipresence (the fact that He is everywhere all the time) and His manifest presence (the visible, conscious, clearly experienced presence of God). Although God is present everywhere (“Where can I go from Your Spirit?”) we can be completely unaware of His presence.
There is a vital part we play in all of this. In obedience to the Lord, we can create environments where God is pleased to dwell. King David knew this. Study his life. He was in a relentless pursuit of God’s presence. “In Your presence is fullness of joy,” he proclaimed (Psalm 16:11). Listen to Psalm 101 and the expression of what he was doing to invite God’s presence to dwell with him. Only God can cleanse us, but we must cooperate with Him.
I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, To You, O Lord, I will sing praises. I will give heed to the blameless way. When will You come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. (Psalm 101:1-3)
Although, as a believer, Christ comes to live in us and will “never leave us nor forsake us,” we all know that there are greater and lesser times of intimacy. Seasons when we sense the nearness of God in extraordinary ways and others where it seems God is distant.
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All My Heart, All the Time

The Psalmist asked for a united, singular affection to follow God. The heart is the seat of our affections. It’s the emotional source from which everything springs. He asked God to bring each part of his affections together so that he would be laser-focused on the one true God. 

When Jesus was asked which was the most important commandment, He replied with no hesitation: “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). This first and greatest commandment was given to remind us that what we love we worship. What we love, we serve. And it is fascinating to notice the “all” of this command. There is no room for divided affections.
The Psalmist knew this and prayed for a united heart.
Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name. I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.Psalm 86:11-12
He asked the Lord to teach him His ways. He wanted to understand the path that the Lord had for him but also the ways of God, i.e., how God operates. Such knowledge would help him love and follow the Lord fully.
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