The Character of the Christian Heart

(Mark 9:33-41) 33 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35 And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” 38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

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The above passage of scripture reveals two-thirds of what makes up the foundational character of a Christian’s heart (or if you prefer the Christian’s mind or mode of thinking). The other third of this character is found in Matthew 18-1-3, where Jesus declares, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles Himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven”. 

In reading both passages, you will find them complimentary; a comprehensive instruction of Jesus’ revelation on how to keep brotherly love, in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. You will also discover how to repair these elements when they have been offended (email me for a pdf file pertaining to this topic at mje4jesus @gmail.com).

In examining Matthew 18:1-3, in relation to the character of the Christian heart, we find humility the doorway to understanding the first characteristic. Why humility? Because there is a fundamental difference between children and those who grow up. That difference is that children know they are dependent, and those growing up are fighting for independence. The reason is that independence comes with a greater degree of personal sovereignty, in our thinking. Children, may behave at times like mini-adults, but truth told, when in need, they are very honest about their inability to obtain it.

When a child knows he is in need and cannot get what it is he desires, the child will ask, whine, cry, or pitch a fit, should he feel it will aid his cry . Whether he believes he deserves what he desires or not, he knows he can’t get it without his parent.  In contrast, as a child approaches their teen years we understand her desire for independence and her need for it. She has obtained a driver’s license, works hard to earn money and to a certain degree has more freedom to make her own decisions. At times she has soared discovering her natural gifts developing and at times she has crashed, as she has found personal freedom can give us the illusion of sovereignty.

What do I mean? When we begin to feel the freedom of independence, it is not long before we will have to deal with the eternal truth that everybody has to serve someone. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus reveals that we either serve the one true God or the god of this age. Humanity often believes they have gained independence from parents, oppressive governments, bad bosses, or adverse circumstances, only to find they have become dependent to something or someone else. Christians are called not to emancipation for personal freedom or independence, but to become like little children, who are dependent, knowing they need Abba every hour. This takes HUGE God inspired humility. Jesus Himself is our example.

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Our Savior lived in complete dependence on His Father; Jesus never spoke unless instructed to by the Holy Spirit on behalf of the Father (John 12:49)–Jesus never did anything unless He was commanded to by the Father (John 5:19). Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, displayed His dependence, when in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked the Father if there was another way, crying out “Abba Father”, and submitting to His will. This is the first characteristic of the Christian heart, and moment by moment knowledge of our total dependence on Him, that we seek to walk in.

(Romans 8:14-15) 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

As we look into Mark 9:33-36 we encounter a foolish conversation among the disciples that reveals the second characteristic of the Christian heart. Jesus was aware of the conversation, but waited till they were in private to handle the ego-driven argument between His closest friends. In response to their shamed based silence, per His inquiry into what they were discussing, Jesus declares “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). The revelation in Jesus words is two-fold [1] You are all basically self-willed and selfish [2] If you are going to be great in the kingdom, you have to be like ME.

Truly, this verse reveals the only person among them, at that time, that had the character of a Christian heart, was the KING Himself. This of course was to change, as this was the reason for His admonition. Scripture also calls us to the same.

(Romans 15:1-3)1 We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. 3 For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”

(Philippians 2:3-4) 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Since I have written extensively concerning this principle , it will be sufficient to declare the second characteristic of the Christian heart is to be growing in selflessness , like King Jesus.

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In order to understand the third characteristic of the Christian heart we need to look a little deeper into verses 37-40 where we read ““Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” 38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side”. 

In this portion we see Jesus speaking about receiving “little ones” in His name. Most commentators will agree that although Jesus was using a child to draw the disciples attention, the child was an object lesson, concerning how the disciples were receiving people, who were doing Jesus things, yet not among their group. We know this because after Jesus gave them His take, John reveals how they rebuked a follower, who was doing God’s word of casting out demons using Jesus name, yet not walking in the midst of them. When adding to this fact, Jesus directly begins to teach being careful of not offending these “little ones” (Mark 9:42-48), we can begin to see the characteristic number three, which is recognizing and rejoicing in the work of God.

It is this last character trait of  a Christian heart that is most seen, especially when it is lacking. Consider that Jesus prayed in the garden before His death “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they may also be one in Us, that the world may believe you sent Me”. (John 17:21). When this is lacking, the world considers the church of Jesus as a joke and we fall into irrelevance, because in offending the unity of the Spirit and bond of peace, the Presence of God withdraws in offense (Ephesians 4:1-3; 30-32).

In looking at our account from Mark chapter nine, let us understand, the rebuked person was doing God’s work in Jesus name successfully. The disciple literally stopped Him from bringing freedom to people in Jesus’ name, because the man did not consider the disciples great. I do not believe this is reading too much into the passage, considering the teaching of Jesus directly before this account. Here is the point: we so often disparage, rebuke, mock or dismiss the word of Jesus Christ in other’s because they do not line up with all our distinctive doctrines. This is shameful.

In the first place, we must find unity in the Person of Christ: His being fully God from eternity, His virgin birth, His sinless life and miracles, His substitutionary atonement in His death on the cross, His resurrection, His ascension, and His bodily return to this earth. These are the essentials of Christ. We also need to have unity on men being saved by grace through faith. We must seek unity on our being holy vessels of God, set apart for His will alone. Yet there are a few other things that rise to the level of separating from the brethren of other denominational stripes, unless they are in some clear scriptural violation.

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Let us give liberty when discussing our view of God’s sovereignty (Calvinism/Arminianism), views on eternal security, preferred Bible versions, views of the end times, or the scores of other things we can divide over. The point being, if you have a Christian heart, you can recognize the work of God in others who love Jesus, even if you don’t agree on all things in between the essentials.

In closing consider this story. A few years ago, I met a man of God in the town I was ministering in. We met around a sister in Christ, who went through a divorce while in our congregation. After her awhile it was difficult for her to stay with us, because of memories of her husband. As much as we loved and cared for her, we desired her growth in the kingdom and blessed a change of fellowship. When I finally met her pastor, we had tons in common in how we ministered to the flock and the lost, and were having wonderful conversation, until our major difference surfaced. This difference had nothing to do with being saved by grace through faith, or the deity of Jesus Christ, but led to this brother declaring “Well Mike, we are theological cousins”.

I did not find that very comforting and I told him in reply “Matt, if we are not brothers in Christ, we have nothing to talk about”. He agreed. A few weeks later, we took a trip to the local university to do some on-campus evangelism. We both delighted in the work of God being done in a Christian, who is different, but the same. That day the character of the Christian heart, won out in both of us. Will it in you?

Posted in brotherly love, Christian Character, Mark 9:33-50, The heart of Christ, the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sanctification… Simply Put… Set Apart

(1 Thessalonians 4:1-4) ​ Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor

(1 Thessalonians 5:23) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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SANCTIFICATION. This word which means to be sanctified, is often times misunderstood,  misused or under-defined. Simply put, the word in any of its forms (sanctify, sanctified, or sanctification), means to be set apart. This being set apart is a direct reference to the O.T. holy vessels from the Jewish Temple. What were these holy vessels? These were the golden cups, pitchers, snuffers, bowls, sacrificial utensils and a host of other things. The point being that they were to be used in service to the LORD only, for no other thing. They were set apart, as holy unto the Lord. Interestingly, one of the times they were misused, unto great detriment to the user was in the Book of Daniel chapter 5.

The chapter describes an event put on by Belshazzar, a descendant of the great king Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar decided he wanted to drink out of something special and decided it would be a good idea to use these gold and silver vessels in his store house, from some captive people and their by-gone God. Most likely this was a shot at Daniel himself, who had great influence and was most likely more respected than this foolish king. His little idea to use vessels set apart by god and for god’s purpose only ended in overnight disaster, as the king was slain and his kingdom conquered by the Medes and their king Darius. The point is sanctified vessels are set apart for God and his purposes alone.

For all who are redeemed by the precious and powerful blood of Jesus, sanctification mean’s the same. It means we are holy in His sight the moment we are justified by  faith, yet that is not the end. In fact there is the added aspect of our being holy as God is holy (I Peter 1:13-16). So how does our being set apart look in our context?

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Consider the gun a police officer carries with him at all times. For most police officers, carrying their in service weapon, is required even when off duty. In light of this fact, it must be stated that the vast majority of all police officers do not draw their weapons in the line of duty in the entirety of there careers. Despite this fact, the weapon still needs to be “set apart” on their person, at all times. Even though most will never fire their weapon in the line of duty, they need to practice using it, clean it regularly and keep it loaded.

In similar fashion, we are set apart by God, for His purposes only and all the time. This means our life, our time, our resources, our bodies, our gifts and our energy is for God alone. This extends to the whole of life, whether at work, in the car, at school, or in our off hours. We are to be waiting to be used in His service, cleaned and loaded with power by the Holy Spirit; through our submission to the word of God and His in time leading.

From the passages above we find that sanctification is first God’s work alone, although we do have a part in it.

(I Thessalonians 5:23a) “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely” 

God sets us apart in spirit, soul and body. This means our unseen spiritual life, our soul life (our mind, intellect, will and emotions), and our physical bodies. Our soul is sanctified, or “set apart to God”, in the new birth. From this new creation beginning, God then, from inside out, brings holiness and cleansing to our soul, and body, as we seek Him, obey His word, and submit to the leading of His Holy Spirit.

In all ways God’s work in sanctification is a miracle of our partaking in His nature and that relationship altering us in time and for eternity. Despite this promise we must understand that practical sanctification will not happen without our participation. this is why I Thessalonians 4:3-4 instructs us to know how to possess ourselves as sanctified vessels. To use our police officer analogy, we are to learn how to always be on call for God, learn from the word of God and the Holy Spirit how to be clean vessels, and stay loaded for service by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Please prayerfully consider what being set apart for God at all times looks like for you. As we already know, living for Jesus has a high cost. When seeking to be set apart for God alone, the cost increases exponentially. This is why many would rather under define the word. Consider the extended quote from Oswald Chambers, in reference to the passages highlighted at the top of this post.

“When we pray to be sanctified are we prepared to face the standard of these verses?”

“Are we prepared for what sanctification will cost? It will cost us the intense narrowing of all our interests on earth, and an immense broadening of all our interests in God. Sanctification means intense concentration on God’s point of view. It means every power of body, soul and spirit chained and kept only for God’s purpose. Are we prepared for God to do in us all that He separated us for? And then after the work is done in us, are we prepared to separate ourselves for God even as Jesus did?

Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the disposition that ruled Him rules us. Are we prepared for what that will cost? It will cost us everything that is not of God in us.”

                                                                      (My Utmost for His Highest, Feb. 8)

Though Chamber’s words may seem a bit extreme, and they are extreme, they are absolutely God’s idea of our being “set apart”. Jesus declared He set Himself apart that we would be set apart as well (John 17:19). Jesus’ sanctification was extreme, as He was totally at the Father’s beck and call. Do you want to be totally at Abbas beck and call for Jesus sake?

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Posted in I Thessalonians 4:3-4, I Thessalonians 5:23, Oswald Chambers, sanctification, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Refuse to be a Slave to the Grind

If a person is truly in Christ, they have an automatic “new creation” desire to please Their Lord and Savior, by living His commands. This arises from the Holy Spirit residing with those who are born again. Having our sin account cleaned and our sin nature or “old man” crucified (Romans 6:6), we feel free to pursue the commands of God. This is  done not for the sake of salvation, which is settled by faith unto repentance, but in order to draw nearer to the God we love and want to glorify. Essentially our new birth gives us the inward passion to love God with all our being, and the spiritual framework and provision to do just that.

In lieu of this biblical state of being, why does it seem that almost as soon as we commit or re-commit to living abandoned to Christ, we find consistent failure rather than success? Perhaps more than any other question this has taxed my emotions and intellect. The reason, I believe, is that I believe so strongly in what the word of God declares Jesus accomplished in His cross and resurrection: that we are literally “new creations”, His own special people partaking in His divine nature, those in whose heart’s the Spirit of Christ is to sit enthroned.

Knowing this only amplified our angst, as we understand that God is faithful to do all of that which He said, for His word is His bond. Therefore we must look straight in the mirror in the failures which stifle our desires. It is in these times of angst, we either make or break our practice of faith, to be as God intended in Christ, or a cut below what His cross and resurrection guaranteed.

In understanding this issue let us acknowledge there is a difference between a follower of Christ with the Holy Spirit as resident in them, and a follower of Christ who has been filled and is being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). If this were not the case, then Jesus would never had commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (baptized in the Holy Spirit or the first filling), after they received the Holy Spirit, by Jesus breathing on them upon His first appearance to them, after His resurrection (John 20:19-23; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8; 2:1-4).

When a person has yet to be filled with the Holy Spirit, although saved by grace through faith, they can do nothing other than attempt to walk with Christ in their own strength. This is a reason for much failure. Yet it is also a reason for failure in those who have been filled with the Holy Spirit.

Consider Peter being rebuked by Paul in Galatians 2:11-13. How did such a powerful “Spirit-filled” leader sin so egregiously? Because the fullness of the Holy Spirit is not a past-tense act only (Spirit-filled is past tense), but a needed continuous present tense action, that we are to submit to daily, if not moment by moment. Therefore all the redeemed, those who still need to be filled for the first time, and those who have been filled, will encounter the same frustration; should their hearts desire be to walk with Jesus closely. Ah, but there is hope, my dear friends.

REFUSING TO BE A SLAVE TO THE GRIND

(Galatians 5:16-18) 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh”

To “walk in the Spirit” truly is the desire we spoke about at the top of this article, because this is the way to please our Savior, bring glory to His name, and draw nearer to His magnificent presence.  Not only is this our desire, but it is guaranteed to bring victory over the carnal habits of our crucified “old man”, for should we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. In this promise of God we understand that walking in the Spirit will not be easy for the Spirit and our flesh lusting (being at war) against one another. This seems to be easy to understand, but is where we begin to encounter trouble, not knowing the depth of the promise or the agitated and whiny nature of our perishing flesh.

In the first place we must understand that the guarantee of not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, does not mean we will no longer sin at all. This ought to be easily understood, but we have a tremendously difficult time with this area.

Some will say, “Well Duh, I sin all the time”, but if they truly are sinning all the time, how are they even in Christ? Romans 6:11-14 declares we are not to yield to sin, but righteousness, and that sin will have no dominion over us. On the other hand, those who know followers can walk in righteousness will begin to feel condemnation should they be falling consistently to a lust of the flesh. They will do this even though they know “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”.

In either case we can become a slave to the grind of law based Christianity. The former example will settle for the deceptive limit “I am just a sinner saved by grace”, when the very nature of the comment denies what Christ finished work promises. in this their law is pretty easily hit, so long as they have said “The sinners prayer”. On the other hand, the latter falls into a frustrating practice of always seeking to ” get right with God”. Both positions have relative peace at times, but over all leaves them lacking.

Secondly we must understand that to “walk in the Spirit” does not mean we will not be tempted or have less powerful types or seasons of temptation. Concerning this let us consider that temptation is not sin, it is temptation. Jesus was tempted in every way we are, yet without falling into sin. In this, let us understand that walking in the Spirit will enable us to overcome temptation and not commit consistent sin. This we will find is how our Savior stayed perfectly pure, yet let us consider when His first temptation occurred.

Matthew and Luke’s Gospels clearly show us what preceded Jesus’ wilderness temptations: His being baptized in the Spirit of God (Matthew 3:21-22; Luke 3:21-22). Subsequently in both accounts Jesus is then led by the Spirit into the wilderness for the purpose of being tempted. In fact Luke’s account is more specific.

(Luke 4:1-2) 1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 being tempted for forty days by the devil.

From the above passage of scripture we can see the whole of the promises of “walk in the Spirit” in Jesus being filled with the Holy Spirit. In walking in the Spirit He did not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, yet Satan still came hard against Jesus, tempting Him to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. He overcame, we can as well, but if we don’t learn a few valuable lessons, we can become a slave to the grind of a law based Christianity that places us in a danger zone. In being a slave to the grind of legalism, it seems as if we will never be able please God and therefore feel as though we are trapped as slaves to failure.

LESSON #1 (Walking in the Spirit intensifies our battle against the flesh)

As we see with Jesus’ encounter above, being filled with the Spirit of God and subsequently walking in the Spirit, means trials and temptations are coming. Why is this the case? In the first place the fullness of the Holy Spirit makes a person instantly recognizable to the kingdom of darkness. Note that Jesus was anonymous to the world, except His mother, until His Baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is true of us as well.

The enemy’s kingdom has no reason to take notice of a Christian until that Christian is diminishing the darkness by the power of the Holy Spirit. When a person begins to walk in the Spirit, it means they are endeavoring to be led by the Spirit. It is at that time we find the Holy Spirit leads us into dark areas to shine Christ’s light. Therefore, walking in the Spirit almost always leads to intensified temptation and trial, as the flesh (by itself and amplified by enemy temptation) wars hard against the Spirit of God. Understanding this enables us to resound better to the battle against our flesh.

Secondly we understand that unlike Jesus, we have a history of fleshly patterns, which God desires to separate us from. Therefore as we walk in the Spirit, The Lord uses the battle against the flesh, attacks and temptations of the enemy, to reveal these patterns. This is where we often begin to struggle, because we think (wrongly) that Spirit-filled people ought not fall repeatedly to temptation, yet the walk in the Spirit almost guarantees this, at least for a while.

LESSON #2 (Losing a battle does not mean defeat)

“16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

Where it says “so that you do not do the things you wish” we must understand that it is in the context of a drawn out battle, where it appears no side seems to be winning. On one hand, it seems that the Spirit of God gains the upper hand only to lose it. On the other hand it seems the flesh is diminishing in influence, only to be frustrated with its apparent resurgence. For at times it appears that we have a spiritually split personality, like Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It seems as though we are in a tug of war, that has only the gaining and loosing of ground in endless struggle. In spite of what the world, your flesh and the devil want us to believe, losing a battle (even more than a few times) does not mean defeat, if we get up in faith and continue walking in the Spirit.

In the first place we understand that trials, whether difficult circumstances or temptations designed by Satan to cause us to fall, are used by God to make us more like Jesus.

(1 Peter 1:6-7) 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

Therefore, we chose faith knowing that should we never, never , never give up trusting God’s promises in Christ, we will overcome and before long see the Spirit ruling instead of falling to the flesh. Sadly, many in unbelief, after many hopes dashed and failures, give up on believing they can do anything other than fall to sin. They then live in condemnation and guilt, thinking something is wrong with their faith.

May it never be so for us. Let us remember that our falls aren’t to be indictments against our being children of God, in fact they ought to be reminders of His grace and forgiveness. This is not to say we ought to fall into sin (God Forbid), but to remind ourselves that the battle against the flesh informs us we warring in the Spirit, against the flesh. Therefore as we fail and the flesh prevails, we get back up in faith and follow God’s prescription.

Remind Yourself of who you are and Who keeps you who you are

(1 John 1:77 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

Apply the Prescription

(1 John 1:9-10) 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Herein we see the power of having a deep knowledge of God’s grace through the on-going nature of forgiveness. So long as we are in Christ, walking in the light and in fellowship with others who are walking in the light, we believe the blood not only has cleaned the account, but will also cleanse the fleshly pattern in us, by the Holy Spirit. It is truly in the struggle, where our faith in His guarantee of new life and grace when we fail, is the pathway to freedom and holiness.

So walk in the Spirit! Recognize the fight the flesh is going to give the Holy Spirit within you! Expect the fight to grow hotter the closer you get to Jesus! Should the battle drag on, don’t lose hope for victory! Refuse to be a slave to the grind of legalism! When a fall comes refuse to give into condemnation, but believe the word of God and follow its prescription! Never give up! And finally believe you’re a child of God with all the power and provision Jesus was given! Walk in the Spirit and you will, eventually overcome!

Posted in fullness of the Spirit, Galatians 5:16-17, Holy Spirit, Slave to the Grind, Uncategorized, walk in the Spirit | 2 Comments

What Is Truth?

(John 18:37-38) Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.

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Pilate’s question did not come from a man who was confused about truth; at least the truth of Jesus’ legal case. The gospels record that Pilate knew the Jews had trumped up and fabricated charges against Jesus for their own malicious purposes. So why did he question Jesus concerning truth, when Jesus declared truth was the reason He came into the world?

My personal opinion is that Pilate’s view of truth was merely rational and materialistic. Being a Roman did not mean he actually worshiped Caesar or the multitudes of false gods in the Roman pantheon. In fact his life and struggles in war and politics would teach him that those who could force their own will through force or manipulation, would usually get their way. His truth,: might (whether physical/material or intellectual) and the one who uses it best, makes his own right.

This view point made religion, whether Jewish or Roman, perfunctory at best or merely another tool to force the will of his government. His viewpoint of truth hindered him from seeing Jesus the Messiah, as who He truly was and is. By contrast, the centurion at the cross, who was under Pilate’s authority (indirectly), confessed upon Jesus’ death “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). Not unlike many soldiers among the ranks of the United States Armed forces, this centurion saw the truth clearly.

A solider’s truth is defined by those who are given them orders of those in authority over them. They practice that truth by obeying those orders without question or discussion.  How did this aid the centurion in recognizing the truth concerning Jesus? Because in Christ’s selfless death, where He prayed for His enemies, took care to assign provision for His mother, and forgave and received a former mocking thief (among other things), the centurion saw the highest power, that of God’s love.  Jesus’ total selflessness was supernatural to the soldier, something he had never encountered. This Jesus, “the Son of God” was the Highest authority he had ever seen, love not overcome by hate, pain or shame. Truth was crucified before him.

So let us ask the question “What is truth to us?” or more specifically “How is it that we received and handle truth”?

Recently I have been reading “The Greatest Life of All: JESUS” by Charles Swindoll. In Chapter 14, entitled “The Last Trials and torture of Jesus”, Swindoll outlines 4 persons perspectives on truth. I found these very insightful and a bit troubling, concerning how clearly the church in America fits into them, in some form. In these four perspectives, you may find a diagnosis for how you handle the truth when in a situation that presses your flesh. He uses Pilate, Herod, Pilate’s wife, and the religious leaders, to illustrate his positions. Below is an extended quote from Swindoll’s book,  “The Greatest Life of All: JESUS” pages 212-213.

These people were not very different from you and me. And I find four different perspectives in the case of The State v. Jesus of Nazareth, each represented by a primary figure in the historical accounts.

Pilate. He was completely convinced by the truth, yet terrified to admit it or act upon it for fear of losing favor with certain people.

Herod. He was so distracted by superficial pursuits that the truth had long ago become irrelevant to him.

Pilate’s wife. She was so easily persuaded and carelessly undiscerning that truth and fiction commingled with ease.

The religious leaders. The were willfully unconcerned with truth because it frustrated their personal agendas.

Swindoll goes on to explain…

Some people are like Pontius Pilate. They recognize the truth about Jesus Christ and even acknowledge it, but they refuse to yield themselves to that truth because it threatens to disrupt the plans they have for their own lives. They fear the rejection of people. The perhaps have a greater desire for power or money or comfort or a relationship or… the list is endless.

Some people are like Herod. they distract themselves from the most important issues of life with projects or parties or thrill seeking. Belief in Jesus Christ is for fanatics and other people who take themselves too seriously. It’s all a big joke. The truth about Jesus Christ is lost in the pursuit of the next good time.

Then people like Pilate’s wife accept that Jesus claims are authentic… along with every other passing philosophy or religious (or Christian wind of doctrine or practice; my comment) belief. They make the bible, the cross, the church, even His name into treasured tokens of a sentimental faith or lucky charms to ward off guilt and other negative experiences. Theirs is a superficial , sentimental belief, that fails to change them or transform their character.

Worst of all (like the religious leaders; my comment), many people reject Jesus Christ because He is not the Messiah they have prescribed for themselves. They have a clear picture of the god they would like to worship–and even presume to worship–but have no desire for the God who actually exists and has revealed Himself.

Jesus said, “I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice” (John 18:37). Pilate devalued the truth about the Son of God. Herod was to shallow and vain to see the truth. Pilate’s wife accepted everything as truth and, therefore, failed to recognize it. And the angry mob ignored the truth as inconvenient.

May I suggest you take some time to prayerfully consider, which of the above four perspectives on how we receive the truth fits your flesh best. Understanding this natural disposition will assist us in overcoming it, by walking in the Spirit, when trouble or God’s call presses us to deny our flesh. may God bless you as you consider this truth.

 

Posted in "What is truth?", Charles Swindoll, John 18:37-37, The Greatest Life: JESUS, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

God-Sent Spiritual Anorexia?

Psalm 106:10-15 10 He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy11 The waters covered their enemies; There was not one of them left. 12 Then they believed His wordsThey sang His praise13 They soon forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, 14 but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. 15 And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.

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While reading this Psalm, I was struck how quickly good times get bad. In verses 10-12 we see God’s miraculous deliverance of the Hebrews nation at the Red Sea, over the Egyptian enemy. In response to this fantastic rescue we read “Then they believed His words; They sang His praise”. Despite their passionate praise of YHWH for His power, mercy and love, only three verses later we read “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul”. If you think like me, it sounds like God sending “leanness into their soul” would be a bad thing for the Israelite’s because it is.

The word for “leanness” in the Hebrew language means “scantness, a disease of wasting away into sickly leanness”. On first glance the word seems to describe what we would call anorexia, which would be an apt description, from a spiritual sense.

In the first place we must understand that Israel’s condition arose from their lack of contentment with God’s provision. Despite seeing miracles which would cause most of us to pass out, they grumble against God for water, and for food more than the manna given miraculously by God.

This grumbling was for meat, which God gave them so much of ( in the form of quail), that it layered the ground of the camp up to three feet high (Numbers 11:31-32). Yet even this was not enough for when God gave them what they wanted, they wanted more which would lead to leanness in their soul.

Why is this the cases? Because filling our flesh does not lead to contentment, but a greater desire to feed our flesh (Galatians 6:7-8). Therefore the meat they received caused their soul to waste away into spiritual anorexia; God sent the meat which sent the leanness into their soul.

In this condition, the more they filled their lusts, the less they trusted God. The less they trusted God, the less the wanted to “live by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God”. The less they desired God’s word directing them, the more they wasted away in their relationship to God and His presence. The more their relationship to God deteriorated, the closer to physical and spiritual death they were. So why would God do such a thing to those He so recently delivered? Simply put, they were a rebellious people.

Commenting on the disposition of the generation of Israel and those subsequently, Stephen, the first Christian martyr said this before another group of rebellious Israelite’s…

(Acts 7:51) 51You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.

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We find from Numbers 26:65 that only Joshua and Caleb and their families, entered into the promised land of those who were born in Egypt. This was because although they said they believed God, they refused to obey Him or be thankful very long. For this reason God sent “leanness into their soul”, like a spiritual anorexia, where they refused to live by every word preceding forth from the mouth of God. Interestingly, we ought to take notice of this passage, as a warning for us.

In the New Testament we find passages which illustrate God’s way of operation has not changed, when it comes to those who are thankful and disobedient, even from the beginning. In Romans 1:18-31 we read of the fall of man away from God, until they are turned over to a “reprobate mind”. This state of mind means God stops attempting to speak to them and call them out of their darkness. Why would God ever release a person into such a state? Let the word of God declares it to us.

(Romans 1:21-22) 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,

What follows, over the next five verses, is a list of abominable behaviors, while God is still reaching out to them, until He has had enough and gives them what they want…

(Romans 1:28) 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

This passage is not isolated in dealing with God taking action that leads to people moving further away from Him. In II Thessalonians 2 we read of those whom God’s sends a “strong delusion” to, that they would fall for the Antichrist’s lies. I admit this sounds shocking, yet the word of God is clear this happens when the human heart rejects God and His truth, not because of a lack of mercy on His part.

 (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12) 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

I understand, depending on ones preference concerning “eternal security”, someone could say that what is being described above can’t happen to true believers. I do understand that sentiment, but let us consider two passages written to those who were in the body of Christ. I Corinthians 10:1-13 describes much of the same ground as what Psalm 106 covers but for a very specific purpose…

(1 Corinthians 10:5-7) 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them.

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The verse following 5-7 produces a list of poor behavior tracking right along with Psalm 106:10-15, after which we read this often overlooked warning from I Corinthians 10:12 : “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall”. It seems pretty plain that the Holy Spirit is warning Christian’s to be at the very least, sober, as to what awaits if we fall into a pattern, that leads us to saying yes to God’s word while ignoring His commands. If you recall, this is what Israel was ultimately guilty of, which led to death of an entire generation in the wilderness. In fact, the Book of Hebrews, which was written to Christians (albeit immature Christians) warned them definitively.

(Hebrews 3:12-14) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end

Throughout Hebrews 3 and 4 the inspired writer directly refers to the lost Israelite generation, in whom God “sent leanness into their soul”. What can we learn about their slide into leanness of soul, that will help us to avoid the potential of a similar problem?

LIP SERVICE LEADS TO “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY?”

“Then they believed His words; they sang His praise. They soon forgot His works”

When considering the praise of Israel after the Red Sea deliverance, we can see it as lip service instead of love for God, for even up to the waters being separated, the majority of Israel either wanted to stone Moses or beg Egypt not to kill them or both. In light of that we can affirm the Hebrews were glad to be on the other side, and in the heat of the ordeal, they understood it was by God’s hand. Therefore, they praised Him and believed His word of about three days.

Yet when trouble appeared on the horizon, the lack of faith of the rank and file, was displayed in the spewing of bitter accusations against God’s servant. In essence they were saying “Hey God, what have you done for me lately? It’s been so long since you have done something, I can’t even remember what You last did”. It seems to me that Christians in America are prone to the same fall and can be a very forgetful and ungrateful lot.

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Have you ever had a season, or even a consistent disposition where you asked “Why are you doing this to me?” or “When does this end?” Have you ever questioned whether God loves you, because the pain and discomfort of your circumstances is more than you signed up to carry? Let us be careful to be continually thankful to God. He could have given us what we deserve in the way of eternal condemnation for our sins. Aren’t you glad we have been given salvation by grace through faith?

BEING WISE IN OUR OWN EYES

“they did not wait for His counsel”

As previously noted, the Israelite’s forgetfulness led to complaining which only grew louder, as they had to wait on the LORD. In the midst of this discontent, they became impatient and sought solutions outside of God’s leading. In essence they “became wise in their own eyes”. Is this why the inspired writer of Proverb 3:5-7 admonished “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge the Him, and He will direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil”?

It may be that not waiting on Him is the chief reason for much of our lack of thankfulness toward God, as it seems we run ahead of Him or want Him to bless what we have concocted. In both cases, the consequences which arise, are normally not what God intended, yet we then expect Him to fix the resulting problems. This second position on the slide toward leanness of soul, is the individual believer’s most necessary practical need for discipline.

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For the church as a whole, in the United States, this second position on the slide is the main reason for our lack of the manifest presence of God. In our efforts to fill our buildings, we will get behind almost any method that will meet the felt needs of the lost, or show them how much we care. We pow wow, conference about and discuss at length the strategies we need to win our cities, while usually harboring a hidden desire to grow the gathering in our facilities. All the while the lost sit in darkness and we have little Holy Spirit power to pierce the satanic veil around their lives.

Until we stop being wise in our own eyes, and wait on the LORD to direct and bless, we will continually train ourselves to rely on ourSELF, rather than God’s power for issues and problems only He can resolve. When this is done it leads to our ministering according to our ideas, preferences and desires and this leads to the next point of decent on a slide toward leanness in our soul.

ADDICTED TO SELF

“but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness”

No matter what we may come up with in our counsel, if it is not of the Lord it has arisen from SELF. Our solutions may appear to be godly, even led of the Spirit, but if they are not, they are machinated from SELF. Even when our direction gained is among spiritually inclined Christians and seems to be very common sensical (from a spiritual point of view), if not directly from God it arises from SELF.

Any time we are led by self, or feed the self life, we reap more desire for the SELF life (Galatians 6:7-8). We already know the SELF and Spirit of God war against each other (Galatians 5:16-17), yet in Israel we see which one gained the upper hand: SELF. This is not because the Holy Spirit failed, but that they (we) let SELF win. Have you ever known a time where you consistently gave into self, and became aware your desire for God’s word was faltering or your sensitivity to the Holy Spirit was waning?  It is for this reason, we are warned from the entirety of the scriptures to deny SELF. Is it possible the slide into leanness of soul is not a real and potential issue for all in the American Church?

THE TROUBLE WITH TEMPTING GOD

“and tested God in the desert”

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I realize the word in our passage says “tested” but in the Hebrew it means tempted, in the context of Psalm 106. When looking at I Corinthians 10:9, the word used in reference to Psalm 106, is the word “tempted”. What does it mean to tempt God? It means to taunt Him into proving Himself. Remember Satan attempted to tempt Jesus to do this by having Him jump off the temple, in order to prove He was God’s Son; being that the scriptures report the Father would dispatch angels to catch Him. Why was this wrong? Because Christ had to live in faith concerning who He was, according to the scriptures and leading of the Holy Spirit. There were times where the Father audibly affirmed the Messiah, but those were special occasions.

Our trouble is like Israel, in difficult times, we begin to complain “Why did you bring me here if I am your servant?”, or “If I am your child, You need to change my surroundings or circumstances.”, or “I’ll serve you if you simply do this for me as a sign”. I think it is apparent that tempting God, as a Christian is very do-able, if we are not careful (read I Corinthians 10:9).

As we have seen, we have potential to fall into leanness of soul or “spiritual anorexia”, if we are unaware of the power of the flesh, even though it be crucified. Therefore let us renew our focus on Christ alone, for in Him all praise, direction, provision and identity are found. Let us refocus our efforts on loving Him with our entire being.

Posted in christian living, I Corinthians 10:1-11, Psalm 106:10-15, spiritual anorexia, spiritual leanness, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Being Called by God

Related imageYesterday while reading the classic devotional “My Utmost For His Highest” by Oswald Chambers, I was greatly encouraged by his teaching on being called by God. The devotional used God’s call of Isaiah the prophet, in the book bearing the prophet’s name, as his passage of emphasis. Below is a portion of that passage and his explanation of the call of God.

(Isaiah 6:1-8)1 … saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I sendand who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Below is Chambers description of being called by God, please read it prayerfully.

“The call of God is not the echo of my nature; my desires and personal temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I shall never hear the call of God. But when God brings me into the right relationship with Himself, I am in the same condition Isaiah was in. Isaiah’s soul was so attuned to God, because of the tremendous crisis he had just endured (seeing the Lord in all His holy splendor), that he recorded the call of God to his amazed soul. The majority of us have no ear for anything but ourselves, we cannot hear a thing God says. But to be brought to the zone of the call of God is to be profoundly altered.”

Posted in Isaiah 6:1-8, My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers, the call of God, the voice of God, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The More Things Change…

Just today, one of the godly woman in our fellowship was going through some old files, and ran across a few very meaningful  and spiritually deep historical pieces. One of these artifacts was a church bulletin from the spring of 1949, when A.W. Tozer spoke to our congregation over the course of many meetings during that week (for a missions convention). Another piece of history was an article printed in the Rochester local news paper, entitled “Spiritual Dilemma”, written by the pastor of our fellowship at that time.

The pastor’s name was Rev. William Allen. Pastor Allen was a powerful man of God, whom later moved onto Medina Ohio, where God worked through him to open the door for revival in the not only Medina, but Regina Saskatchewan Canada.

Below I have posted Rev. Allen’s original published article. What the article reveals is that the more things change, from the writers 1940’s and 1950’s culture to our own, the more they stay the same. The church has generally been asleep in the light of Christ, from then till now.

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(Ephesians 5:14-21)  14 Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Walk in Wisdom 15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

Posted in Leonard Ravenhill, revival, Revive me, Uncategorized | Leave a comment