Service: Interrupted… by Devilish Design

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Service InterruptedFor some time now, we have been engaged in a workout program designed to help us become stronger and more effective followers of Jesus Christ.  Through this four-level series of increasingly difficult exercises, we are being challenged to grow in our knowledge and understanding of…

Salvation;
Sanctification;
Service; and,
Spiritual Warfare.

 Such knowledge is vital to our spiritual growth, for it is…

  • Through the study of Salvation and Sanctification that we learn who God wants us to be; and,
  • Through the study of Service and Spiritual Warfare that we learn what God wants us to do. 
Meaning of Life

These Exercises in God’s Word Will Help Us Answer Life’s Most Important Questions

As for who God wants us to be, to put it simply, He wants us to be born again so that we can be adopted into His Family, as children who can then be transformed spiritually into the image and likeness of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

And, as for what He wants us to do, His will is for us to continue the good works which were begun by Christ, while bearing the image of God and the knowledge of His glory to the ends of the earth.

This mission is to be accomplished as His Family, also known as the Church…

  • Functions as a unified Body in the world, bringing the good news of Salvation to those who have yet to hear it;
  • Relates as a Family to its members, ministering to them and their needs in love; and,
  • Serves as a spiritual Army, advancing the Kingdom of God; crushing His enemies as they go and reclaiming their lost territory through the power of the Spirit.

Of course, the rule and reign of God over the earth is the last thing that God’s enemy, Satan (aka Lucifer and the devil), wants to see take place.  In Isaiah 14:12-14, we learn something of his alternative agenda…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn (Lucifer)…you said in your heart,

‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the most high’…

…an agenda in which he proposes to take the place of the Almighty, ruling over the earth and its inhabitants, so that he can receive the worship that rightfully belongs to God.  An audacious undertaking, to be sure, and one calling for no less than a devilishly-inspired plan for the subversion and supplanting of the will and work of God in the world.

Since God’s will is for men and women everywhere to be adopted as His children, it only makes sense that the first part of Satan’s plan would involve doing everything in his power to prevent this from taking place.  And, since God’s work for them—should they, despite Satan’s best efforts, succeed in becoming His children—is to carry out the work of His Kingdom while reflecting the image of God to the world around them, then the second part of Satan’s plan must surely involve the disruption of their service and the distortion of their godly images by any means possible.

Preventing Adoption

For some insight into Satan’s cunning strategy for the thwarting of God’s Program of Adoption, we need look no further than Genesis 3, where it is laid out clearly for us in the story of Adam and Eve’s temptation.  Although this is the first time this scheme was employed, because it was such a resounding success, it is the one that Satan continues to use in his efforts to keep men and women from coming to God.  Here, then, is the pattern it follows…

  1. First, Satan (in the form of the serpent here) subtly casts doubt on the Word of God:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

  1. This reveals or exposes a human ignorance and subsequent misuse of the Word of God:

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

  1. Next, Satan completely contradicts God’s Word and replaces it with a Lie:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

  1. After which, he causes them to question God’s goodness and motives, intimating that God is withholding something good from them:

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

  1. He follows this up first with an appeal to their physical desires, then to their reason and their emotions, and ultimately to their prideful desire for independence and self-sufficiency:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

With the completion of this action—that is, with the elevation and execution of human self-will over the expressed and divine will of God—the once-intimate relationship and previously blissful fellowship between God and mankind is destroyed;

  1. …leaving the man and the woman trying in vain to cover up their sin through their own inadequate resources:

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths…

  1. …and, resulting in their flight from the presence of God:

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Here, by playing upon man’s ignorance of God’s true character and intentions, Satan is able to cast God in the role of villain; one whose chief aim is to rob humans of the joys and pleasures that life offers.  And, through his successful appeal to the fleshly desires of his human victims, he insures that their wills, which originally were intended to be used for the implementation of God’s purposes on the earth, will forever be dedicated to satisfying the lustful demands of their bodies and souls.

At this point, if Satan had his way, this would be the end of the story; for in this one brief but momentous encounter, he has achieved his goal of separating the man and the woman from God, and of making them (and all their future descendants) slaves not only to sin and death but also to him.

Fortunately, though, for both them and us, the story doesn’t end here; for in His grace and mercy…

the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you? …’

…inviting him and the woman to come back to Him, where they could receive forgiveness and His provisional covering for their sins…

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them…

…a provision made possible through the substitutionary death of an innocent animal.

Today, this provision is still available to sinners—or, those who are presently alienated from God because of their willful or ignorant disobedience—as a result of the substitutionary death of God’s Son, the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  For…

It is clear that, though Satan may have triumphed over the first Adam and thereby become the god and prince of this world, he himself was perfectly and finally triumphed over and judged by the last Adam on the cross. [1]

And, for all those who hear and respond to God’s call, it is this triumph and judgment which assures them of a gracious and loving reception, as well as a swift and sure adoption into the Family of God.

Support Adoption

Supporting Adoption Will Defeat Satan’s Efforts to Keep People from Jesus

Disruption of Service

Without a doubt, it would be a wonderful thing if, following his unsuccessful attempts at preventing their adoptions into the family of God, Satan would cease his harassment of God’s children.   Unfortunately, this just isn’t going to happen because…

The master passion of Satan leads him not only to strive for the success of his own projects, but also to wage an unceasing warfare against Jehovah.  These two lines of activity are inseparable, for he cannot establish and develop his own kingdom, and at the same time permit his subjects to be translated out of his kingdom into another, especially when they remain in the midst as a living power and testimony against him.  Nor can he reasonably allow for the accomplishment of any of the projects of God, for it is predicted that at the completion of these his own doom will be at hand.[2]

And, it is for this reason that…

…he makes unceasing effort to mar the life and service of believers…

…because of the fact that unto the child of God is committed the great ministry of reconciliation; that by his testimony both in life and word, and by his prayers, the facts of redemption may be given to the world.  If Satan can cripple the believer’s service he accomplishes much in resisting the present purpose of God.[3]

Therefore, when he sees that he is unable to prevent a believer’s adoption and, because once it has been done, it cannot be undone, Satan’s commences with his next plan of attack, which is to try to render as ineffective the life and service of the new believer, through the marring of his “testimony both in life and word, and…his prayers.”   Toward this end, and making use of every devious ploy in his arsenal, he redirects his energies toward keeping the believer…

Faithless;
Fussing and Fighting; and,
Fatigued and Fed up.

Bible Blindness

For Satan, Our Ignorance of the Bible is His Bliss

 No Faith = NO Service

Because Satan knows that…

…without faith it is impossible to please him [God] (Hebrews 11:60);

…according to your faith it [will] be done to you (Matthew 9:29);

…if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20);

…whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23);

…the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up (James 5:15);

…this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4)…

…and, that by faith, the people of God throughout the ages have…

…conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight (Hebrews 11: 33-34)…

…his aim is to do whatever is required to keep the child of God from increasing his faith.  Even though the child may have had sufficient faith to be saved, this enemy of his soul is determined that it not grow beyond that.  This being the case, how then should Satan go about achieving this end?

Well, the simplest and most effective way is to keep this new believer out of God’s Word.   Because he knows that…

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of God (Romans 10:17);

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:6); and,

…the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrew 4:12)…

…Satan wants to ensure that the Bible is the last thing that the new child of God becomes familiar with.

However, keeping the believer’s faith in its embryonic state isn’t the only thing that Satan hopes to gain in all this; he looks forward to enjoying a number of other benefits as a result of maintaining the new Christian’s ignorance of God’s Word.  For instance, he knows that he can keep the believer unaware of God’s true nature, of God’s plans and purposes for humanity and the earth, and of the thing that he is most loath to be reminded of—which is, his own eventual defeat and doom.  Satan can also see that his victim remains in the dark about the spiritual resources already provided for him by God; resources such as the instructing and comforting ministry of the Holy Spirit, the power available to him through prayer, the spiritual giftings he received the moment he was reborn into the family of God, and the spiritual weapons at his disposal—weapons which will help insure his victory over Satan and his success as an overcomer in Christ.

This information is so critical to the success of the believer’s life that, in its absence, the child of God will fail to fulfill the very purpose for which he was saved.  Instead of living a life of dedicated service as a functioning part of the Body of Christ, as a loving member of the Family of God, and as a valiant warrior in the Army of God, he will succumb to the enemy’s lie that being a Christian is all about his participation in the forms and rituals observed by his local congregation, and about his achievement and maintenance of an outward form of morality and respectability, rather than an inward pursuit of holiness.  In short, he will learn to content himself with being religious instead of becoming righteous—something that God never wants to see happen to one of his children.

Satan's Tool Box

Satan’s Tool Box

Fussing and Fighting = NO Service

Unity, on the other hand, is something that God wants all of His children to experience; for, as we are told by the Psalmist…

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity (Psalm 133: 1).

In fact, the unity of God’s people is so important to the fulfillment of God’s purposes that it was one of the last things weighing on Christ’s mind before His death on the cross.  Just hours before his Crucifixion, and surrounded by His disciples in the Upper Room, He offered up this prayer to His Father…

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17: 20-23).

Let’s reflect on the significance of what is being said here:  Jesus is stating, in no uncertain terms, that the oneness of believers is intended to be…

  • a revelation to the world of the Godhead itself—which, while plural in person, with each member maintaining His unique identity, remains singular and totally committed to its purpose; and,
  • a confirmation to the world that Jesus’ mission was not only ordained by God, but that it was also a demonstration of His love for them.

Wow, just think about this—what the world knows of God, and its capacity to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, are dependent upon one thing—and that is the unity of God’s Family here on earth!

With so much riding on it, then, it is no wonder that Satan has made the creation of disunity among believers one of his chief objectives.  He knows from his first-hand experience at the Tower of Babel just how much can be accomplished when people come together and are united in a single purpose.  For, as the Lord said at that time, when passing judgment on the people’s efforts…

Behold, they are one people, and they all have one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible to them (Genesis 10:6).

Unfortunately for the church, when it comes to causing division among the ranks of believers, Satan doesn’t have to work very hard; in fact, from the moment our first parents chose self over God, his objective in this area has been very easy to achieve.  All he has to do to stir the pot among God’s children is…

  • Compare one person’s lot in life to another, and he can stir up envy;
  • See that a less qualified person is promoted over a more qualified one, and he can stir up resentment;
  • Have one person show a little too much interest in another person’s spouse, and he can stir up jealousy;
  • Encourage someone to say some unkind things about another, and he can stir up anger;
  • Have someone take advantage of another repeatedly, and he can stir up bitterness; or,
  • Allow someone to be caught in a lie, and he can stir up distrust.

With a few of these well-placed injuries to people’s feelings and pride, it will not be long before there is so much rancor and division among God’s people that agreement on anything becomes impossible; making null and void this promise made by Jesus in Matthew 18:19…

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven…

…and bringing the service of the church to a screeching halt.

Wearing Down Believers

Satan Wants Us Fatigued, Frustrated, and Fed Up

Fatigued and Fed Up = NO Service

Having had so much success with these tactics, Satan has learned that if he can keep church members going through the motions of their faith, and if he can continue to harass them through the creation of dissension among their ranks, it also won’t be long before they become so worn out by it all that they give up any ideas they may have had about serving God and advancing His Kingdom.  Of course, this is exactly what Satan hopes to see take place in every believer’s life.  Since he can’t “unsave” them, then his next best option is to wear them down to the point where they, having lost all joy in their service to God, decide to abandon the fellowship of other believers and retreat to the sanctity of their own homes, where they vow to “worship” God on their own.

This, of course, will surely prove to be a defeat for them but a victory for Satan; for, even though God can be worshiped anywhere, from what we have learned during our previous exercises on the subject, God’s service is designed to be carried out within the community of believers known as the Church.  This is because…

  • There is no body which can function with only one part;
  • There is no one to love or be loved by in a family of one; and,
  • There is no army of one that will ever win a war, no matter how valiantly it fights.

And, it is for this reason that God not only encourages and but also expects His children to…

…not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9);

…lay aside every weight of sin which clings so closely, and…run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12: 1-3); and,

…hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 11: 23-25).

Body of Christ

We Each Need to Find Our Place in the Body and Stay There

 

 

Selah reminds us that whatever the enemy throws at us, “We Press On”…

 

 

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Satan: His Motive and Methods (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964), 23.

[2] Chafer, Satan, 68.

[3] Chafer, Satan, 70-72.

Service: The Church as the Family of God

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Family

In our last exercise, Service: The Church as the Body of Christ, we were introduced to the concept that the Church, like the human body, is composed of three parts serving on three different levels, with each part being delegated a specific role to fulfill in its service for Christ.  As…

  • The corporate Body of Christ, the Church is to reach outward into the world; bringing the good news of Salvation to the lost in order to bring them into the Family of God;
  • The corporate Soul of Christ, the Church is to reach inward to the members of the Family of God; loving and encouraging them while helping them grow toward spiritual maturity; and,
  • The corporate Spirit of Christ, the Church is to reach upward into the unseen spiritual world; waging war against the powers of darkness who are doing everything in their power to promote the worship of their leader, Satan, and to keep the will and kingdom of God from being established on the earth.

Since we covered the basics of the Church as the Body of Christ last time, and since we will wait until we get to the next level of exercises on Spiritual Warfare to tackle the role of the Church as God’s Spiritual Army, this exercise will be given over to a discussion of the role of the Church as the Family of God.  In order get it going, the first thing we need to do is establish just what a Family is, and how it is supposed to function.

God's Family Plan
What is Family? 

It used to be that if asked to define the term Family, most people would respond in the same way—that a Family, the most basic of all societal groups, is made up of a Father, Mother, and their children; with such extended members as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins sometimes added into the mix.  But, in today’s culture, with its escalating divorce rate and proliferation of lifestyle choices, the term has too often come to mean whatever an individual wants it to mean, or whatever his or her circumstances dictate.  So today, in addition to what is known as the Nuclear Family just described, some of the other definitions in use are…

  • Single-Parent Families…where a parent lives with dependent children, alone or in a larger household, without a spouse or partner;
  • Blended Families…consisting of members from two (or more) previous families;
  • Co-custody Families…where divorced parents share legal responsibility for their children; children who either live alternatively with both parents or permanently with one while having regular visitation with the other;
  • Cross-Generational Families…where grandparents or aunts, uncles, etc, either raise the children or play major roles in their lives;
  • Adoptive Families…where one or more of the children has been adopted;
  • Foster Families…where one or more of the children is being cared for legally but temporarily by a family that is not their own;
  • Bi-racial or multi-racial Families…where the parents come from different racial groups;
  • Gay or Lesbian Families… where one or both of the parents’ is gay or lesbian;
  • Immigrant Families… where the parents have immigrated to another country as adults; and,
  • Migrant Families… who move regularly from place to place looking for employment.[1]

To be sure, many of these are deviations from the ideal established by God at the time of Man’s Creation, documented for us in Genesis 1:27-28 in the following way…

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

This standard was later confirmed by Jesus when, as the Pharisees questioned Him as to the legitimacy of divorce, Jesus replied…

…from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:6-9).

Established by God and confirmed by Jesus, the divine standard, then, calls for 1 Male + 1 Female + their Children to equal a Family.  However, with the introduction of sin into the world following Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, deviations from this ordained norm not only became a possibility but also a reality.  As we now know, had there been no sin, there would never have been any abuse, neglect, adultery, divorce, or death to make the aforementioned deviations possible—and, the Family would have functioned and flourished in the way that God had intended it to do.

Family
How is the Family Supposed to Function?

When considering how God intended for the Family to operate, it is imperative that we keep the following things in mind…

  • Being created in the image of God means that God intended for Men to be reflections in the flesh of His Masculine Principles, while Women were to be the reflections of His Feminine Principles;
  • Additionally, it was God’s intention that Men and Women come together in sexual union so that they could reproduce the life He had so graciously shared with them—something they would not be able to do on their own; and,
  • As the masculine and feminine representations of God in the flesh, God meant for Men and Women to model before their children and the world the unity and selfless love shared by the members of Godhead themselves; becoming, in effect, living illustrations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for everyone to see.

As long as the members of any given family are living in right relationship with God and in obedience to His will, not only they but everyone around them will be able to witness God being lived out in the flesh—with…

  • The Man/Husband in the Family demonstrating the love, leadership, strength, guidance, provision, and protection of God the Father;
  • The Woman/Wife in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, wisdom, nurture, gentleness, grace, empathy, and sensitivity of God the Holy Spirit [2]; and,
  • The Children in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, and obedience of God the Son.

However, God’s imaging purposes for these families were not to be limited to their being illustrations of the divine community known as the Trinity; it was also His intention for them to serve as earthly illustrations of the nature and workings of the much larger heavenly family known as the Church.

Family


The Human Family as a Pattern for the Church
 

The fact that the earthly family was meant to be a living illustration of God’s heavenly family will become clearer to us once we have compared each according to their…

  • Origins or creations;
  • Missions or mandates; and,
  • Means or methods of carrying out their missions.
Families of God

A Comparison of Families

From this illustration, we see that when God created the First Adam (1 Cor. 15: 22, 45) and his bride, He did so in such a way that it would serve as a prophetic picture of the Second Adam and His Bride, the Church.  For Adam, referred to in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Luke 3:38 as “the son (with a small “s”) of God,” was meant to foreshadow the eternal Son (with a capital “S”) of God, Jesus Christ, in that…

  • He was without sin (at the time of his creation);
  • He was lord over God’s creation; and,
  • He was without his companion and helper.

Therefore, God set about providing him with a helper through a unique creation:  first putting Adam into a deep sleep, God then opened his side and removing a rib or bone from it, He fashioned from it a female counterpart specially designed for Adam.  This process, on a prophetic level, was to be a picture of what God was going to do through the Second Adam when, as Jesus was dying on the Cross, He fashioned His Bride, the Church, around the “bone” taken from the wounded side of Christ—that “bone” being the Disciples.

As for their Mission and Means for accomplishing them, they are virtually the same; for, both types of families were created for one purpose:  to reproduce the life of God, both the physical and the spiritual, as a means of bringing the will and purpose, and the glory of God to the ends of the earth.  Given the significance of this Mission to time and eternity, it should come as no surprise that the number one priority of God’s enemies would be the corruption and destruction of the Family, both the earthly and the heavenly ones—which is something we will learn more about in our next exercise.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Bill Gaither reminds us what it means to be part of “The Family of God”…

 

[1] Edwards, Julie Olsen. “The Many Kinds of Family Structures in Our Communities.” Based on the author’s work with Louise Derman-Sparks in Anti-bias Education for Children and Ourselves NAEYC 2009.

[2] This is not to say that men cannot be nurturing or that women cannot be leaders or providers, etc.  These statements are merely meant to be generalizations of Godly ideals.

Service:  The Church as the Body of Christ

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Exercising through Service

Getting Stronger and Reaching the World

In our previous exercise, we began a new level of workout routines dealing with Service; and, during the course of that introductory routine, we learned how, through our service for Christ, the good works which He began are still being done in the world today.  Then, as we searched for a definition of the word, especially as it relates to us as believers, we discovered some of the Terms of Service which must be adhered to, if any enduring work for Christ is to be accomplished.  These are…

  • Service must begin at the altar of worship, where we surrender our wills to God’s will;
  • Service must be motivated by our love for Christ;
  • Service must proceed from clean hands and pure hearts; and,
  • Service, like that which Jesus performed—and, other than our post-salvation, personal MDLA, or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—must be done in cooperation with other members of the Corporate Body of Christ, or the entity better known as The Church.
We Are the Church Together

Not a Building but a Body of Believers

Too often, when we hear the word Church, the image that comes to mind is of a building.  However, the real Church of Jesus Christ is not and was never intended to be an architectural structure or an organized institution, into which the Children of God could retreat in search of protection or insulation from the world.

Rather, it was designed by God to be the collective and universal spiritual manifestation of Christ on the earth; one in which Christ is no longer limited to serving through just one physical body, living in one time and in one place.  Instead, with His Presence and Power multiplied many times over in the lives of Believers scattered across the globe, the works that He once did during His Incarnation are now being replicated worldwide by the members of His spiritual body, the Church.

In order to grasp this concept a little better, we must realize that, even though God loves each one of us individually, Christ died for each one of us individually, and we are each saved individually, at the moment we receive our Salvation, the Holy Spirit is busily and quite imperceptibly baptizing us into the Collective Spiritual Body of Christ; positioning us within that Body wherever He deems best, and assigning specific roles or functions to us that we are to carry out within the Body

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.   For the body does not consist of one member but of many…as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose ( 1 Cor. 12: 12-14, 18).

Before getting into what those roles may be, though, we first need to learn how God intended for the Body of Christ to operate.

In one of our earlier exercises, Sanctification: Regeneration Perfected, we learned that when God created Man, He fashioned him with an individual or Personal Body, Soul, and Spirit, so that…

  • Through his Body, he could relate to and function in the physical world;
  • Through his Soul, he could relate to others on both emotional and intellectual levels; and,
  • Through his Spirit, he could relate to God and learn how he could use his will to bring God’s will to pass on the earth.

In much the same way, God’s design for the Body of Christ called for it to have a Corporate Body, Soul, and Spirit,  so that…

  • Through its Body, the Church could relate to and carry on the work of Christ in the world outside of the Church;
  • Through its Soul, the Church could relate as a Family to those within the Church, ministering to them and their needs in love; and,
  • Through its Spirit, the Church could serve heaven as an Army of Spiritual Warriors; one united in its mission to overthrow the Enemy of God, take the territory previously held by him, and bring the Kingdom and the Will of God to rule on the earth in his place.

In short, God’s intention for the Church of Jesus Christ is for it to…

  • Function externally in the world as a unified Body, under the direction of its Head, Jesus Christ;
  • Relate internally to its members as a Family, under the loving guidance of God the Father; and
  • Serve eternally by advancing the Kingdom of God through Spiritual Warfare, under the command of its General, the Holy Spirit.
In the World

…Being in the world but not of it


The Church as a Body
 

Since God’s purpose in creating mankind was to obtain a spiritual family of holy sons and daughters; and, since He was not willing…

…that any should perish but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…

…God purposed that His Church, in its function as a unified Body, would reach out to those in the world who had not yet to come to repentance—that is, those who have yet to be adopted as His children.  In fact, forty days after His resurrection, as He was preparing to go back to His Father in heaven, Christ charged His disciples—those who would soon become the Church—with this very task in the Great Commission…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matt. 28:19-20).

As for how Jesus intended the soon-to-be Body of Christ to fulfill this charge, it was to be accomplished by its members…

  • As they lived before the world according to the kingdom principles He had taught them in the Sermon on the Mount; and,
  • Through acts of service empowered by the giftings of the Holy Spirit, which would soon be bestowed upon them.
The Sermon on the Mount

Jesus Teaching the Principles of Kingdom Living in the Sermon on the Mount


The Body and Kingdom Living
 

After choosing His disciples, one of the first things Jesus did was to gather them together and give them an introductory lesson in Kingdom Living.  This lesson, called the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew 5-7), must have been tremendously unsettling for them because in it, Jesus was establishing as their new standard for living, a set of principles which completely contradicted everything they had been taught was true.  That’s because, in the culture of that day—much like in our present day—they had grown up believing that being healthy, wealthy, religious, and without any apparent problems were all indicators that one had been blessed by God.  But here, in what has come to be known as The Beatitudes, Jesus was declaring that for the Children of God, the very opposite of this was true; that the ones who would be blessed by God are…

the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account (Matt. 5:3-11).

And, it would be these seemingly weak, insignificant, and oftentimes marginalized members of society, as they learned to live out the Kingdom Principles Jesus highlighted in His Sermon—principles such as…

  • Kingdom Living requires more of us than surface level righteousness; it requires true righteousness which begins in our hearts and then proceeds outward;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we love our enemies, blessing instead of cursing them;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we treat others the way we would want them to treat us;
  • Kingdom Living requires that we replace outward demonstrations of piety, designed to impress others, with giving, praying, and fasting done in secret; and,
  • Kingdom Living requires that we cease judging others and that we forgive them instead, just as God has forgiven us…

…who would become the salt of the earth and the light of God in a darkened world, and so spiritually emboldened that they would later be spoken of by the Thessalonians in Acts 17:6 in this way…

These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also.


The Body and Spiritual Gifts
 

Surely, living according to God’s Kingdom Principles—that is, living lives radically different from the cultural norm—would prove to be a great way for believers to pique the interest and attract the attention of those living outside of the Body of Christ; however, just getting their attention would not be sufficient to get them saved, and moved from the outside to the inside of the Body of Believers.  To make a transfer like that happen, from the world’s kingdom to the Kingdom of God, the involvement of the Holy Spirit would be required; which is why, just before His ascension Jesus ordered His disciples

…not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’

[For] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and [after that] you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

It would take the power of the Holy Spirit, working through individual believers, to produce Acts of Service like the ones Jesus performed, and in the way that God had ordained–which was, with the members of Christ’s Body working together, using the Spiritual Gifts assigned to them at the time of their Salvation.

 

Spiritual Gift

The Holy Spirit Gives Gifts to All


Spiritual Gifts,
unlike the natural talents we are born with or the skills which we develop on our own throughout life, are the special spiritual abilities or enablements given to believers for the purpose of growing and building up of the Church, the Body of Christ.  The Apostle Paul explains them far better  than I could, here in these passages from three of his letters… 

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed…there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (1 Cor.12: 1, 4-6).

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills (1 Cor. 12:7-11). 

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness (Romans 12:4-8). 

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Although we will go into more detail about these Gifts of the Spirit in a future exercise, to summarize what we have learned so far about Service and the Church, we now know that…

  • as the members of Christ’s Body model the character and behavior of Christ before the world—the character developed in them as the Fruit of the Spirit, and the behavior epitomized in the Kingdom Living Principles taught in the Sermon on the Mount; and…
  • as, the members of Christ’s Body reach out to the world through their Acts of Service—service which has been initiated, coordinated, and empowered by the Holy Spirit

…the world will be reached with the Gospel, the family and kingdom of God will be expanded, and the function of the Church as the Corporate Body of Christ will have been realized.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
Unspoken reminds us that if we are to do the works of Christ, we will need the Holy Spirit to “Start a Fire” in our souls…

 

 

Original image of the Sermon on the Mount courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Service: Continuing the Work of Christ in the World

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Service Please

All of God’s Children are Called to Serve

Now that we’re about halfway through our Workout Program, let’s pause briefly to review the progress we have made thus far.  We started out this regimen with four exercises in Salvationexercises through which we learned that…

  • Salvation is obtained through the one-time spiritual event known as the New Birth; an act taking us from sin-enslaved and hell-bound sinners to forgiven and heaven-bound sons and daughters of God;
  • While everyone has been Predestined, or pre-designed, by God to become one of His children, only those who elect to receive His offer of Salvation will do so; and,
  • Once that decision is made and our spiritual adoption is finalized, our Salvation is forever settled and rests Eternally Secure in the hands of our Heavenly Father.

Building upon this foundation during our next five exercises, we were introduced to Sanctification, the lifelong process of spiritual transformation which begins the moment we are reborn—and, the focus of which is the Holy Spirit’s Restoration of our Souls through Prayer, Bible Study, and Worship.  For, it is…

Through Prayer that He brings our hearts into alignment with the heart of God;
Through Bible Study that He brings our minds into alignment with the mind of Christ; and,
Through Worship that He brings our wills into alignment with the will of God.

Once these changes start revolutionizing the way we feel, think, and act, it isn’t long before our perceptions of the world around us also begin to change.  No longer approaching it from the self-centered, grab-all-that-you-can-get perspective of our pre-salvation days, we start looking at it from God’s viewpoint—that is, with a heart of compassion for those still lost in sin, and with a new desire to do something about it.  Such changes in our character and outlook as these should come as no surprise, though, because they are a reflection of the attitude and characteristics of Christ which must be developed in us, if we are to carry out His work in the world.

The Works of Jesus

…and greater works than these we will do

The Works of Jesus

When we consider the nature and the number of things that Jesus accomplished during His earthly ministry, the prospect of us continuing His work seems a rather far-fetched, if not impossible, task to undertake. After all, during His brief ministry here, He…

Revealed God to the people, and taught them what the Kingdom of Heaven was like;
Healed the sick—restoring sight to the blind, mobility to the lame, hearing and speech to the deaf and dumb;
Raised the dead, cast out demons, fed the hungry, and shared the water of life with those who thirsted for it;
Took the religious leaders to task while putting the political leaders in their places; and, then…
As if it were a small thing, walked on water and subdued the storm… 

…making His the most difficult act of all times to follow.  And yet, in the Upper Room, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples…

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the work that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12)…

But, are we really to do greater works than Jesus did—and if we are, how is that possible?  We fully expect Him to be capable of doing works of this magnitude because He is, after all, the Son of God; and, because…

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power [so that] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him (Acts 10:38).

However, for us to be able to do even greater things than He—that’s a completely different story, isn’t it?

It would be if we were attempting to do these works in our unsaved and unsanctified conditions.  What we need to keep in mind, though, is that while Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God, when we came to Him for Salvation, we became the Adopted Sons and Daughters of God—as well as the legal heirs to and partakers of all the riches and power belonging to Christ.  And, it is for this reason that Jesus could and would make the following promises to us…

…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17); and,

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

If we doubted the possibility of our being able to carry out the work of Jesus before, we should be encouraged by these promises of Jesus; for, in them, we are assured that He will provide everything we need to fulfill the purpose for which we were created; a purpose which is described by the Apostle Paul in this way…

…we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

As for understanding what He may have meant by “doing greater works,” we must to remember that during His life on earth, and in spite of His being God, Jesus willingly chose to confine Himself to one body, living in one time and one place.  As a result, His ministry of good works was confined to a limited number of people, living in one geographic area, during one brief period in human history.  This all changed, however, following His resurrection and with the coming of the promised Holy Spirit.

After that, as His newly-anointed disciples shared the Gospel with others and they, in turn, came to faith in Christ, the same resurrection life and power that the disciples had received was also manifested in these newborn Christians.  Then, as more and more people became believers, and as these believers scattered throughout the then-known world, demonstrating the character and commitment of Christ as they went, the quantity and scope of Jesus’ works increased to a degree previously thought impossible—and resulted in an explosion of faith and service that continues to this very day.

Terms of Service

Service for Christ must be done in His Will and Way

What It Means to Serve

When thinking about service and what it means, it’s likely that a number of different images come to mind.  For instance, we might think of service as serving in the military, or as police officers and firefighters; possibly serving patrons their dinners in restaurants; or, maybe even serving the ball in a game of tennis.  But, for those of us who are Christ followers, what does it mean for us to serve? 

In pursuit of an answer to this question, I looked to my handy-dandy Webster’s pocket dictionary—where, among the many definitions for the word, I found four that are highly relevant to this discussion.  And, in adapting them to the exercise at hand, I discovered that they provide us with a systematic, progressive definition of Serving, which for the believer, means…

  1. Rendering obedience and worship to God;
  2. Complying with the commands or demands of Christ;
  3. Being of use to the Master; and,
  4. Providing services that benefit or help others.
     
  1. Rendering Obedience and Worship to God

In one of our previous exercises, Sanctification: Restoring the Will through Worship, we learned that real worship is what takes place when we lay aside our will and wants, and choose to do God’s will instead.  This is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane as He surrendered His will to that of His Father; modeling for us a type of surrender later described in Romans 12:1…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship…

..and, a surrender that each of us will be called upon to make as a routine part of our service.  Every day, we will find that, as we are faced with the choice of doing things God’s way or our way, we will repeatedly have to make a conscious decision to climb back on the altar of sacrifice and submit our wills to His in a demonstration of our obedience and worship to God.  If we don’t, no real work for Christ will take place; for, it is at the altar of worship that all service in His name originates.

  1. Complying with the commands of Christ

In the same way that Jesus set the example for worship through the submission of His will to God’s, He demonstrated His love for the Father through His whole-hearted compliance with His Father’s commands–as He stated here in John 14:31…

…I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Because He did this first, His expectation is for us to follow His lead and do the same thing, so that the world will see how much we love Him and He loves us…

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:12-14).

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

From this, we learn that love must be the motivation for any service done in Jesus’ name; something which the Apostle Paul elaborates on in 1 Corinthians 13…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.   If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The often overlooked aspect of this is that, along with our compliance to His commandment, comes the promise of Jesus that…

…whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him…[and] Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us (1 John 3:22, 24)…

…a promise which makes even the most impossible task or service do-able.

  1. Being of Use to the Master

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2 Tim. 2:20-21

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is instructing his spiritual son, Timothy, on how to be a good servant through a comparison of God’s servants to household vessels.  Just as a homeowner makes distinctions between the vessels in his possession, such as using only the cleanest ones to eat off of, God will only use those servants who have cleansed themselves of sin through confession and repentance.  Or, as Paul goes on to tell Timothy in verse 22…

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart….

…with the lesson here being, service done in the name of the Lord Jesus must always proceed from a pure heart and clean hands.

Clean Hands and Pure Heart

Service for Christ Must Come from Clean Hands and Pure Hearts

  1. Providing Services that Benefit or Help Others 

With our wills surrendered to God at the altar of worship, with the love of Christ as our motivation, and with clean hands and pure hearts to keep us useful to God, we are ready to move on to the fourth aspect of service—which is, the provision of services that will benefit others.  This raises the question, though, about the kinds of service we should be providing. After all, there are so many needs in the world that are going unmet, how are we to know which ones are the most deserving of our attention?

Surely, as a result of our Salvation and of the Spirit’s work of Sanctification taking place in our souls, we are already engaged in good works that are in keeping with our new lives in Christ—works such as the ones cataloged in Ephesians 4:25 ff…

Having put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor;

Be angry and sin not; do not let the sun go down on your anger;

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone who is in need;

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear;

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice; and,

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you…

…works which could be considered as the MDLA—or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—required of each and every believer.  Moving beyond these, though—that is, moving on to doing the greater works than those previously attributed to Jesus—will call for more than just our minimum daily lifestyle adjustments; they will demand the wisdom, direction, and anointing of the Holy Spirit, working through the cooperative gifts and prayers of all believers.  In other words, providing Service for Jesus will require the active participation of the Church—something which we will discuss at length in our next exercise.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Sidewalk Prophets remind us that through our service, we show the love of the Lord to the world and bring glory to our King…

 


Images used in the Works of Jesus montage courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Sanctification: Restoring the Soul through Worship

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A Sanctified Soul

Sanctification Restores the Soul of Man

So far, through our exercises in Sanctification, we have learned that part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to restore our emotions through Prayer and our minds through the study and application of the Word of God; a ministry which brings our hearts into alignment with that of the Father, and transforms our minds into ones more like Christ’s.  However, this part of the sanctification process only takes care of two of the components of our souls—leaving the third one, our all-important and powerful wills, for the Spirit to deal with.  And deal with them, He must; because unlike our emotions, which are simply expressions of how we feel, and our minds, which merely reveal what we think, our wills through their actions express what we want and who we really are.

Also, through these workout sessions, we have learned that it is God’s will for us is to be saved from our sins and be adopted into His family; as sons and daughters who have not only been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but as ones who have also been conformed or remolded into His image.  This means that we are not only to become like Jesus in His character, but we are also to share in His mission and ministry here on the earth—which, as He stated in John 4:34, 5:30, and 6:38, was to do the will of His Father

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work;
I can do nothing on my own…because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me; and,
I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Your AssignmentSince doing the will of the Father was at the heart of Jesus’ mission, and since becoming like Him is the goal of our Sanctification, it stands to reason that doing the will of the Father must become the mission in our lives, as well.  This, however, is something that is a lot easier said than done!

That’s because, before coming to Christ, our wills and the actions they precipitated were dominated by our flesh—which is to say, by how we felt and by what we thought.  If our bodies hungered for or lusted after something—regardless  of whether it was appropriate or beneficial; or, if our minds harbored certain thoughts about anyone or anything—regardless of whether they were true or not—our wills would initiate actions geared toward satisfying those feelings and vindicating those thoughts.  In short, before our Salvation, with no access to or Godly input from our dormant spirits, our wills were like puppets whose strings were being pulled by our baser human instincts; instincts concerned with the pleasing and preservation of our unregenerate and ego-dominated selves.  But, all this began to change the moment we said yes to Jesus and were Born Again.
 

Salvation and the Will of Man

The goal of and long term impact of Salvation on our wills has been well described by Watchman Nee in his book The Spiritual Man, where he remarks…

What is salvation?  It is none other than God saving man out of himself into Himself.  Salvation has two facets:  a cutting off and a uniting with.  What is cut off is self; the uniting is with God.

What is self? …were we to say self is self-will we would not be too far from the mark… [because] man’s essence is in his volition…

Salvation, then, is to deliver man from his created, natural, animal, fleshly, and self-emanating will…

The gospel is to facilitate the union of our will with God.  Anything short of this is failure of the mission.  God aims his arrow of salvation not so much at our emotion or our mind, but at our will, for once the latter is saved, the rest are included.

[For] …God intends to destroy the life of the soul but not its function, so upon being joined with the Lord in life, He launches forth to renew our soul with its various parts in order that our soul may be one with our new life and consequently one with His will.[1]

In the face of such a challenging, time-consuming, and (on our parts) painful prospect as the transformation of our self-absorbed wills into ones totally given over to the pursuit of God’s will, we might find ourselves wondering if it wouldn’t have been better for us, instead of being endowed with the capacity to choose, to have been pre-programmed for obedience by God.  Surely, this would have been much easier on everyone involved; and yet, if God hadn’t designed us in this way, we wouldn’t have been created in His image and would therefore not be eligible to be adopted as His children.  For us to be like God, then, we would have to be free to choose to act in ways that He would; ways such as…

  • Choosing to do what’s right, rather than what’s expedient;
  • Choosing to do what’s in the best interests of others, even at the expense of our own interests;
  • Choosing to speak nothing but the truth, even if we are the only ones doing it; and,
  • Choosing to believe God and take Him at His Word, even though we can see no evidence of His existence; and even when our thoughts and feelings do not concur.

The failure to make this last choice—which is really the first one we each need to make—is what caused our first parents, and eventually us, to be at odds with the will of God in the first place.  For, as Genesis 3:6 relates it, in spite of the fact that Adam and Eve had been told not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

…when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Sadly, when Adam and Eve were given an opportunity to prove that they would carry out the will of God, they failed the first test of “Sonship,” which was obedience to their Father.  Rather than complying with His will, they allowed their own to succumb to the desires of their flesh, and to be seduced by the promises of self-achieved divinity being offered to them by Satan, the one whose will has always been in direct opposition to God’s.

On this, Watchman Nee comments again…

We may say that there are two massive contradictory wills throughout the universe.  On one side stands the holy and perfect will of God; on the other is arrayed the defiled, defiling, and opposing will of Satan.  In between subsists the sovereign, independent, free will of man.[2]

The War of the Wills

When overwhelmed by the countless mundane issues in life, it is very easy for us to lose sight of the fact that the driving force behind everything that takes place in our lives is this unseen, on-going conflict of wills between the one Righteous Ruler of the Universe and the evil imposter who is seeking to overthrow Him.  The evil imposter is none other than the powerful fallen angel, Lucifer—who is also known as Satan, “the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2),” and “the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).”  His bio, in Ezekiel 28: 12-17, reads like this…

You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were in Eden, in the garden of God…an anointed cherub…blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you…

So I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor…

His arrogant ambition and the self-centered nature of his will are also noted for us in Isaiah 14:12-14…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Daystar, son of Dawn!  How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

You said in your heart…

I will ascend to heaven;
…above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the height of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.

His opponent, of course, is God—the Sovereign, All Powerful, All-Knowing, Holy Being who not only…

…created the heavens…formed the earth and made it…[and] formed it to be inhabited;
…speak[s] the truth…[and] declare[s] what is right (Is. 45:18-19);
…gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist (Rom. 4:17);
…is light and in [whom] is no darkness at all (1 John 1:50;
…is love (1 John 4:10)….

…but is the One who could, at any time He chooses, destroy His impudent adversary with just one word from His mouth.  Instead, in His wisdom, He continues to allow him to “…prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).”  And, why is that?  Because in this cosmic battle of wills, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each—relatively speaking—puny and seemingly insignificant human being who lives on this planet; and, is determined every time he or she is faced with the choice of doing what will satisfy his or her own selfish desires, or what will be pleasing to God.

Screwtape

Screwtape’s Perspective on Humanity

In the classic apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis provides us with additional insight into the nature of this war of wills through the instructional letters that seasoned demon, Screwtape, writes to his nephew, Wormwood, a lowly demon-in-training.  Here, in a slightly abridged version of one such letter, we learn that in the view of Satan and his minions

…Humans are amphibians– half spirit and half animal…As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for as to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks…As long as [they live] on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty…

…To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy [God] wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us (demons) a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.

He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because he has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy (God) wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. 

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy [God] does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation.

Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs– to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtue as we do to vice.

He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys…[3]

 

Servants to Sons

God’s Desire is to have Sons who Choose to do His Will over their own


Worship and the Will of God

Although he didn’t refer to it as such, the act that Screwtape is describing when a child of God chooses to obey the will of His Father—even in the face of any thoughts, feelings, or circumstances to the contrary—is something that God looks upon as Worship.  For, in spite of what we have been conditioned to believe, worship isn’t so much about what we do as we gather together in church on Sunday morning; it is more about what we do when we leave church and, going back out into the world, we come face to face with the people and situations that Satan likes to use in an attempt to get us to abandon God’s will in favor of our own.  It is then that, as we are strengthened by the Spirit and reminded that…

God is God, and we are not;
He created everything, He owns everything, and He established all the rules by which His creation operates;
He knows everything, is everywhere, and has all the power;
He is holy and always does what is right; and,
His thoughts or ideas, and His ways of doing things are better than ours; and,
He can always be trusted to do what is right, not only for us but for everyone else, as well…

…we can lay aside our will and what we want, and choose to do what Jesus would do, if He was there in our place.  This, in fact, is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when, in the face of the Cross and in spite of His own human desires, He surrendered His will to that of His Father, so that His Father’s would be done on the earth.  What we learn, then, from His example, is that worshiping God simply means living surrendered to Him, in any and every circumstance in life, and anything less is not true worship.

With that in mind, then, we need to submit to and embrace the work of the Holy Spirit as He continues the work of restoration in our souls, so that in every situation our attitude will be…

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (Ps. 95:6).

Worship the Lord

 

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The song of a soul restored…

 

 

[1]  Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man (Richmond, VA: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Incorporated, 1968), Book 3, 81-83.

[2]  Nee, Spiritual Man, 77.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), chapter 8.

Sanctification:  Restoring the Soul through the Word of God

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A well-worn Bible
We really stretched our spiritual muscles in our last exercise—Sanctification: Restoring the Soul through Prayeras we learned how the Holy Spirit teaches us to talk to our Heavenly Father through prayer, and how He uses those prayers to…

Make us One with the Father in His Person; and,
Make us One with the Father in His Purpose.

 Additionally, through these prayers He opens up an emotional “love-line” between God and us; creating a place where we are free to express our deepest feelings and concerns without censure; and where, as our spirits and hearts become united with God’s over time, we are able to absorb and share in the things which are nearest and dearest to His heart.

Prayer, however, isn’t the only tool that the Holy Spirit uses in the restoration of our souls; He also relies on the Word of God to instruct us on how to listen to God, and to discern His will.  In much the same way that the Spirit employs prayer to bring our hearts into one accord with the Father’s, He uses the Word to transform our minds from ones programmed for evil by the world, our flesh, and the devil, into ones which have been rewired for righteousness by God—that is, ones having been brought into alignment with the very mind of Christ. 

Mind Under Construction

Mind Under Construction

For some insight into this mind, we need look no further than Philippians 2:5-8, where the Spirit through the Apostle Paul admonishes us to…

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by being obedient, to the point of death, even death on the cross. 

This sort of humble, selfless mindset certainly doesn’t resemble the ones we brought with us into our new relationships with God; rather, ours was more like the one described in Ephesians 4:17-18…

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.  They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 

To put it another way, while they were in their unregenerate states…

…our minds served no useful purpose as far as God and His kingdom were concerned;
…our mind’s ability to grasp or comprehend the Truth of the Gospel was clouded over;
…our minds were estranged from and even hostile to God;
…our minds were uneducated or untaught in the ways of God; all because…
…our hearts were rigidly firm in their will and purpose, and not easily penetrated by the Truth of God’s Word…

 …conditions which were due to the fact that…

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). 

All of this changed, however, when we were Born Again and the Holy Spirit moved in with us, beginning the transformation of our once darkened minds into ones filled with the light and life of Christ—and, ones in complete agreement with the will and purpose of God our Father.  A change as radical as this, though, isn’t something that takes place very quickly or easily.  It can only be brought about as we, who were previously uneducated and untaught in the ways of God, begin to learn…

Who God really is;
What His purposes are for mankind;
What His plans are for the earth; and,
The means He uses to see that these plans and purposes are achieved. 

Since this kind of information is not and has never been available to the minds of natural men, in order for us to obtain it, we must trust the Holy Spirit for its provision; for, it is He who…

…searches everything, even the depths of God.  For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?

So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Holy Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual (1 Cor. 2:10-13).

And, it is these spiritual truths which He has made available to us is the Bible, the Spirit-inspired training manual on God and His Ways—and, the book also known to us as the Word of God.

Truth is


The Bible as the Word of God 

Although we often hear it spoken of as such, what do we really mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?  Well, in checking the dictionary for the meaning of the word “Word,” we find it formally defined as…

…a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning…[1]

…which is just a fancy way of saying that a word is the spoken or written representation of a person’s thoughts—a definition wholly consistent with the way it is used in John 1:1-4—where, the Word spoken of is a Person, who is none other than Jesus Christ

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

In this passage, the Greek term used for Word is logos which, roughly translated, means collected thought and wisdom and, in this case, refers to the collected thought and wisdom of God.  That is, in describing Jesus as the logos of God, John is saying that Jesus is the embodiment of the collected thought and wisdom of God, who was spoken into the world, not only during its creation and throughout all human history, but also in His Incarnation—something which he makes clear later in John 1:14, where he tells us that…

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In essence, he is saying that everything God thought about truth, righteousness, holiness, love, compassion, humility, mercy, grace, integrity, strength, perseverance, selflessness, and so much more, was expressed to us in Jesus.  And, not only that, everything that God intended for mankind to be was manifested in the flesh for us by Jesus.  As the righteous and obedient Son who came to carry out His Father’s will on the earth, He was, is, and always will be the Divine Template for what a Child of God should be like; and, He will be the One against whom we will all be measured—that is, as we all…

…attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph. 4:13-15).

It is this Word, then—this collected thought and wisdom of God made visible to us in the Person of Jesus—that the Holy Spirit has scribed, or written down, in a book called the Bible.


What We Need to Know about the Bible

When we speak of the Bible, what we are actually referring to is the collection of books considered to be the sacred texts of both Judaism and Christianity.  The word itself comes from the Greek word biblia, the plural form of biblion, which is a diminutive of biblos—the word meaning book.  It got its name because books were originally made from byblos, or papyrus—the plant that was used to make parchment, or the material upon which books were written.  Byblos was also the name of the Phoenician city that exported papyrus to other parts of the ancient world.

The Jewish Bible, written mostly in Hebrew, came first and consisted of three parts:  the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.  Later, when the Christian Bible came into being, it was written in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and contained the same books of the Hebrew Bible, only in a different order—and, with the books of the New Testament added to it.  In order to distinguish between the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures, the terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” were introduced, and were in general usage by the end of the second century AD.  Although the Greek word for testament is usually translated as “will,” the Hebrew for it is translated as “covenant.”  Therefore, when we speak of the “Old” and “New” Testaments, what we are actually referring to are the covenants that God made with His people during each of these two eras.

Now, in order to add to our knowledge about and to enhance our study of the Bible, there are a few more things that we need to understand about it—the first being, it is unlike any other book that has ever been written.  It is unique in all of literature because it is the only trustworthy source of God’s words—and of His self-revelation to mankind—that exists in the world.  Actually, the Bible is not just one book but a collection of books—sixty-six, to be exact—that have been arranged in a systematic, progressive, and comprehensive way so that God’s revelation of Himself could be made known and understandable to any and all who chose to receive it.  Although it was transcribed by many men over the course of fifteen hundred years, men who employed a variety of genres and styles in its recording, it is remarkably consistent in its message, in its portrayal of the person and purposes of God, and in its honest representation of the nature and character of humanity.

The only way to explain such a consistency in its content over so great a period of time is to say that, in spite of its having so many human scribes, the Bible has only one author—and that author is God Himself.  Only the One who is able to declare that…

…I the Lord do not change… (Mal. 3:6), and …I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done (Is. 46: 9-10)…

…could be capable of accurately documenting a story which transcended the generations of the very ones who took part in recording it.  Through the means of divine inspiration, or through the intimate involvement of His Spirit, God made known His thoughts and words to a select group of men, and then He guided them in the ways in which those thoughts and words were to best be presented.  While each presentation reflected the personality of the man who was doing the writing, as well as the times during which he lived, the words were always God’s; words which repeatedly conveyed the timeless truths that every man and every generation should know.

Scribes at work on the Word

We learn more about this matter of inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Bible was…

… breathed out by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

This breathing out by God means that the words of the Bible were imparted directly by the Spirit of God, an impartation which made the Bible a living book imbued with power.  Hebrews 4:12 confirms this when it tells us that…

…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In other words, as a living book, the Word of God is able to penetrate our innermost beings in order to confront us with the truth about God and ourselves, and to convict us of our deviations from, or our rejections of, that truth.  As the only real source of truth in the world, the Bible, then, becomes the only trustworthy guidebook which man has for life.  Not only does it teach him how to live successfully—that is, to live like Jesus—in the here and now, it also instructs him on how he can obtain eternal life, or the life in the hereafter, which God has promised to give to those who will come to Him through faith in Jesus.

Since God’s purpose in authoring the Bible was to make Himself known to mankind, it would follow that He intended His Book to be for all people of all time, and that it was not something reserved for just Christians and Jews.  This would mean that everything in it would have application, at some point, for every person who has ever lived, and that its principles and truths would be so universal that they would be relevant to every age and every culture.  This would make it possible for even the most seemingly disparate people to be able to comprehend them; meaning that the peasants working in the rice patties of ancient China, the tribesmen hunting for heads in the jungles of Africa, twenty-first century penthouse dwellers, and kings and con men throughout each generation would all be able to learn the truth presented within its pages.

The Bible is about Jesus

Some of the other things about it that we need to know are…

The Bible is a multi-layered presentation of truth.  By that, I mean that it presents us with a number of important truths, on several different levels or dimensions, all at the same time.  Through the stories of real people, who are taking part in real life activities, at real times in human history, we not only learn important lessons that we can use in our everyday lives, we also learn about God’s prophetic or future plans for all of mankind, for the earth, and for His enemies, and learn about the person and character of God, as well.

The Bible is consistent in its method of teaching.  Throughout the Bible, the way in which God explains spiritual truths to us is by taking the things with which we are familiar and using them to teach us about those things which are beyond our comprehension—that is, He takes the things that we can see, which are temporal or earthly in nature, to explain those things that we cannot see, because they are spiritual and eternal in nature.  And, toward this end, He purposefully incorporated things in His creation which He could use for His divine illustrations.

The Bible is ALL about Jesus.  He is there at the very beginning, He is there at the very end, and He is there in every chapter and verse in between.  Throughout the Old Testament, He is seen covertly—that is, some aspect of His Person is hidden within the pictures or types that were created by the lives of the Old Testament characters; and, He is represented in each of the feasts and in the rituals of the Old Testament system of worship.  In the New Testament, though, He is seen overtly or openly, making His appearance in the flesh as the fulfillment of each of those Old Testament pictures or types—and, as the physical manifestation to us of the collective thought and wisdom of God!  And, it is through His application of this thought and wisdom, which permeates every page of the Bible, that the Holy Spirit is able to transform our minds from the carnal to the spiritual, to restore our souls to their original function as mediators, and to teach us how to…

…prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2).

Restoring the Mind and Emotions

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2Instead of our usual musical selection, and to add to our understanding of the Bible we have been talking about, here is the video, “The Bible:  The Story Behind the Story,”  which is also available for viewing in our Video Vault…

 

 

 

[1] word. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/word (accessed: June 04, 2016).

Sanctification:  Restoring the Soul through Prayer

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PrayerDuring our previous exercise in Sanctification, we learned that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to…

  • Birth us as the spiritual children of God; then,
  • Mature us into sons and daughters of God who are committed to carrying on the work of Christ in the world.

While the birthing part of the Spirit’s work is accomplished at the time of our Regeneration, the maturing part is something which takes place over time, as the Spirit works relentlessly yet lovingly within us to restore our souls to their original function as mediator between our spirits and bodies—which is to say, as the conduit through which the knowledge of God’s will is transferred from the one to the other.  The goal of all this work is to bring us to the place where we are living in obedience to God, with our carnal or fleshly natures under the control of His Spirit, for the purpose of implementing God’s will on the earth.

The way in which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this great work of restoration in a Child of God is by…

Teaching him to talk to His Father through Prayer;
Teaching him to listen to and discern the will of His Father through the Study of His Word;
Teaching him to obey His Father through Worship… 

…with the wonderful end result of all this being the production of the Fruit of the Spirit—or, the reproduction of the very Character of Christ—within the emotions, mind, and will making up his personality.  Since talking to God is such an integral part of the sanctification process, this exercise will be given over to learning more about Prayer and the way the Holy Spirit works through it to restore our souls.


Talking to God through Prayer 

Since learning to talk is one of the earliest developmental milestones in the life of a child, it should come as no surprise that one of the first things the Holy Spirit does in the life a new child of God is teach him to talk to his Heavenly Father.  This extraordinary privilege is made possible when, as a result of the New Birth, the spirit of the new believer is awakened from its previously coma-like state and the lines of communication between his spirit and God’s Spirit are opened up and activated.  Once this system is operational, the two parties involved in this wonderful new relationship can begin to communicate with one another.  This is essential because…

People in relationships must be able to talk to each other;
People who love each other must be able to express that love; and,
Prayer is the language of love connecting the Father with His children. 

The late Dr. Myles Munroe expanded on this concept in the following way…

To understand its essence, we must realize that prayer began with the creation of mankind.  It was not instituted after the Fall but before it.  Prayer existed from the beginning of God’s relationship with man…

The essence of prayer is twofold.  Prayer is…
…an expression of mankind’s unity and relationship of love with God;
…an expression of mankind’s affirmation of and participation in God’s purposes for the earth.

To pray means to commune with God, to become one with God.  It means union with Him—unity and singleness of purpose, thought, desire, will, reason, motive, objective, and feeling.  It is also the medium through which the human spirit affects and is affected by the will and purpose of the divine Creator.  Therefore, prayer is man’s vehicle of the soul and spirit by which he communes with the invisible God.[1]

In other words, prayer isn’t just about us mouthing words to God; it about us learning to speak to Him in such a way that we…

Become One with Him in His Person; and,
Become One with Him in His Purpose.

 

Prayer Makes Us Like Jesus

 
Becoming One with God in His Person
 

Let’s face it—when we first came to faith in Christ, about the best thing that could have been said about anyone of us is that we were a big spiritual mess.  That’s because, up to that point, we had spent our entire lives dancing to the tune of the world; living according to its standards, with our carnal natures dictating the ways we thought, spoke, and acted.  The Apostle Paul accurately described our pre-salvation condition in Ephesians 2:13, where he said that…

…you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were, by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).

However, when our spirits were reborn and the Holy Spirit came to live within us, He began breathing life into our once dead spirits by…

  • Assuring us of our salvation and of our new positions as sons and daughters in the family of God—thus, prompting us to go to our Father with prayers of thanksgiving and praise for His gracious gift of salvation;
  • Writing the laws of God’s holiness upon our hearts—thus, making us conscious of the sin in our lives and prompting us to seek His forgiveness through prayers of repentance;
  • Making us aware of and sensitive to the needs of others—thus, moving us to prayers of petition and supplication on their behalf; and,
  • Calling our attention to the injustices in the world around us—thus, compelling us to prayers of intercession in an effort to bring about change.

The more we prayed these Spirit-led prayers, the stronger our spirits became while the weaker our flesh grew.  Then, with our spirits growing stronger, it became easier for us to…

…be imitators of God as beloved children (Eph. 5:1);

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:18);

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former way of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24);

…set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth…put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you:  sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3: 2,5); and,

…put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…forgiving each other…And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col. 3: 12, 14)…

…changes in our attitudes and actions enabling us to become more like Jesus while, at the same time, becoming One with God in His Purpose.  And, just what is that purpose?

 

Prayer and the Purpose of God


Becoming One with God in His Purpose
 

We find God’s purpose laid out for us quite clearly in Ephesians 1:4-14, where it was revealed that…

…he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love, he predestined [pre-designed] us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, according the purpose of his will…

…In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will; and,

…In him [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In short, it was God’s purpose, before the world ever began, to have a family of spiritual sons and daughters who would be holy, just like Him.  In order for them to be holy, though, they would first have to be redeemed and forgiven of their transgressions of God’s holy law—something made possible through the gracious and atoning work of Christ on the Cross.  To those choosing to receive His gift of redemption and Sonship, God also purposed to reveal the mystery of His will, which is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven, or the rule of God, to Earth through Christ; and, His plan to provide them with an eternal spiritual inheritance, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit Himself.

So, then, what is the ultimate purpose of this great Purpose of God?  It is so that, as we become One with Him in His Person and Purpose—that is, as we are transformed from sinners into the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus, and carry that image and likeness to the four corners of the earth—

…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14); and, 

…in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7).

And, just how did our participation in this great Purpose of God begin?  It all began with prayer!
 

The Practice of and the Pattern for Prayer 

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the purpose for and the restorative power of prayer, all that remains for us to accomplish in this exercise is to discuss the Practice of Prayer itself.  Since there are a number of guidelines for prayer scattered throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, as a means of providing ourselves with a handy reference, I have organized some of them into the following question and answer format…

  1. How should we come to prayer?

In faith…

…[for] without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6);

With confidence…

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16); and,

…this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15);

In humbleness

Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:6-7); and,

Without any unforgiveness in our hearts…

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).

  1. When should we pray?

At all times and without ceasing

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Eph. 6:18);

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:16-18).

  1. Who should we pray for?

Everyone…

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:1-4);

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:28);

Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you might be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:13-16).

  1. What are we to pray about?

Everything… 

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38);

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9);

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:2);

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5);

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7); and,

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father maybe glorified in the Son (John 14:13).

Many of these guidelines were covered, at least in principle, in the instructions and the Pattern for Prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:1-13, when He said…

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The Lord's Prayer

The Pattern for Prayer Given by Jesus

 

Finally, we are to pray, remembering always that…

…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For [when] we do not know what to pray for as we ought…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).

 

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Damaris Carbaugh reminds us that prayer takes us into the presence of God…

 

 

[1] Dr. Myles Munroe, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer: Earthly License for Heavenly Interference (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House 2002) 35-36.

Sanctification:  The Work of the Holy Spirit

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The Holy Spirit
As promised in our introduction to Sanctification, this workout time will be given over to becoming better acquainted with the Holy Spirit, our Trainer and Coach for this entire series of exercises.  The way in which we will do this is by asking and answering the following questions…

His Person—Who is He?
His Position—What does He do?
His Power—How does He do it? and,
His Presence—How does He relate this to each one of us? 


His Person:  Who is He?

Although some may have mistakenly thought of the Holy Spirit as nothing more than an emanation of God’s power, or some impersonal spiritual force from God, in reality, He is a Person—the equal, yet distinctive third Person of the Godhead, or Trinity.  This Trinity is actually a community made up of God the FatherGod the Son, Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit—three separate and unique Persons who are united in purpose, with each one working together to bring about the achievement of that purpose.  As a member of this Godhead, the Holy Spirit is every bit as divine as God the Father and God the Son; meaning that He shares in the very same divine attributes which they possess. Like them, He is:

  • Omniscient—that is, He is all-knowing (1 Cor. 2: 10-11);
  • Omnipresent—that is, He is everywhere present, all at the same time (Ps. 139: 7-10; John 14: 26; John 16: 12-13);
  • Omnipotent—that is, He is all-powerful (Luke 1:35);
  • Eternal—that is, He is, always has been, and will forever be (Heb. 9:14); and,
  • Holy—that is, He is pure and totally separate from sin (Rom. 1:4).

The Trinity1ax
Even though He is singular in His Person, the Holy Spirit is known by a number of different names, with at least twenty-five of them found throughout the Old and New Testaments; with these names giving us some much needed insight into His Person, and into His ministry.  The names by which He is known are:

  • The Spirit—which is translated as “breath” or “wind.”  As breath, He is the “breathing out” of God that imparts news life (Gen. 2:7, Ps. 104:30), and that gives divine inspiration to the Word of God (Heb. 4:12); and, as wind, He is invisible and sovereign; and beyond human understanding or control (John 3:6-8).
  • The Spirit of God (1 Cor. 3:16), the Spirit of Jehovah (Is. 11:2 1 Cor. 12:11), the Spirit of the Lord Jehovah (Is. 61:1-3), and the Spirit of the Living God (2 Cor. 3:6)—in His relationship to God the Father;
  • The Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9), the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:19), the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:6,9), and the Spirit of His Son (Gal.4:6)—in His relationship to God the Son;
  • The Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), the Holy Spirit of Promise (Eph. 1:13), the Spirit of Holiness (Rom. 1:4), the Spirit of Judgment (Is. 4:4), the Spirit of Burning (Is. 4:3-4); and the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13);
  • The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding (Is. 11:2, 2 Tm. 1:7), the Spirit of Counsel and Might (Acts 1:8, 8:29 16:6-7), the Spirit of Knowledge and the Fear of the Lord (Is. 11:2), and the Spirit of Life (Rom. 8:2);
  • The Holy Spirit of Joy (1 Thes. 1:6), the Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:29), the Spirit of Supplication Zech. 12:10), and the Spirit of Glory (1 Pet. 4:14);
  • The Eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14)—all in regards to Himself; and,
  • The Comforter (John 14:26).  As the Comforter, He is also known as the “Paraclete” (Gk. Paraklētos), or as the “one who is called alongside” of the believer for assistance.

The Spirit Searches


His Position:  What does He do?

Because He is a Person, the Holy Spirit does the things that any other personal being does:  He thinks (Rom. 8:27), He feels (Rom. 15:30), He wills (1 Cor. 12:11)—and He acts, with some of His actions being described for us in:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:10—-where the Holy Spirit searches the thoughts and the deep things of God;
  • Acts 8:29 and Acts 13:2—-where the Holy Spirit speaks;
  • Acts 15:28—-where the Holy Spirit makes decisions;
  • Romans 8:26-27—-where the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us before God;
  • John 15:26 and John 16:14—-where the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus;
  • John 14:26 and 1 Corinthians 2:13—-where the Holy Spirit teaches us;
  • Romans 8:16—-where the Holy Spirit reassures believers of their salvation;
  • 1 Corinthians 12:11—-where the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to believers;
  • Ephesians 4:30—-where the Holy Spirit grieves over sin; and,
  • Acts 16: 6-7—-where the Holy Spirit overrules human actions.

The Holy Spirit teaches...


His Power:  How Does He Do It? 

Although no one has ever been able to adequately explain the Trinity or how it works, one thing that seems to be apparent about it is that:

  • God the Father is the One who wills and plans;
  • God the Son is the One who does the Father’s will and carries out His plans; and,
  • God the Holy Spirit is the One who provides the power (Gk. Dunamis, or dynamic power) needed to apply the work done by the Son.

In other words, the role of the Holy Spirit is to see that the will of the Father and the work of the Son are carried out to completion.

Although we cannot actually see the Spirit’s power as He is working, we can see the evidences of that power, not only throughout the Scriptures but throughout our world, as well.  Even as He, in Genesis 1:2, was busy hovering over the darkness and chaos preceding the first coming of life—waiting in anticipation for the Word of God to be spoken so that He could perform or empower that Word into reality—He is constantly, yet invisibly, at work, bringing light and life to those who are living in darkness.  From the creation of the world until now, the power of the Holy Spirit has been at work:  striving with and convicting men of their sins; performing miracles; inspiring the prophets and the preachers; protecting God’s people; maintaining life as we know it on this planet; and most importantly, magnifying Jesus, and shining the light of God upon the Truth. 

Speaking of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit was also clearly seen in every aspect of His life, including His incarnation; His anointing for ministry at His baptism; His ministry to His disciples and to the crowds which followed Him; His transfiguration; His sacrificial death on the cross; His resurrection; and, the empowerment of Jesus’ disciples on the Day of Pentecost.

Truth


His Presence:  How does He apply the will of God and the work of Christ to us?

Since it was the will of God that:

  • No one should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 2:9);
  • We believe on the One (Jesus) whom He has sent (John 6:29);
  • We be sanctified, or made like Jesus, and be set apart for the His holy purposes (1 Thes. 4:3);

It became the work of the Son to:

  • Provide the redemption and forgiveness of sins needed to save us from perishing (Eph. 1:5-7);
  • Be sent to earth, to live a sinless and righteous life before men, to die an agonizing death on the cross in order to make atonement for the sins of all men, and to overcome death through His own resurrection; and,
  • Go back to the Father, so that the Holy Spirit could be sent to apply the work that He had accomplished.

As for the way in which the Holy Spirit goes about applying both the will of God and the work of the Son in our lives, He does this through the on-going work of His Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Holy Presence, as He:

  • Convinces of us of our sins, the righteousness of Christ, and the judgment waiting for us in the future (John 16:8-11)—so that we can be brought to repentance;
  • Regenerates, or brings back to life, our long dead spirits, thus reconnecting our spirits with God’s (Titus 3:4-7);
  • Comes to live within us—writing the laws of God upon our hearts, and teaching us to live lives that are pleasing to God—reproducing the very character of Christ in us as a result (James 4:5, Heb. 10:16, Gal. 6:22-23);
  • Baptizes us and places us into the Body of Christ, giving us gifts of service, and then empowering us to use those gifts to carry on the work of the Son (1 Cor. 12:4-11, 1 Pet. 4:10); and,
  • Guarantees our inheritance by His seal, until we can take possession of it ourselves when we get to Glory, (Eph. 1:13).

As you can see, the Holy Spirit is a very busy and a very important Person in our lives; for, in the plan of God, it is His work to birth us as the spiritual children of God, and then, to help us mature into sons and daughters of God who can carry on the work of Christ in this world, and prepare for His coming Kingdom in the next.  In light of what we learned in our introductory exercise in Sanctification, the initial work of the Spirit in this regard will include…

  • Opening up the lines of communication with God, and teaching us to talk to Him through Prayer;
  • Transforming our carnal minds into Christ-like ones, and teaching us how to hear from God, through the Study of His Word; and,
  • Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit, or the character of Christ, in our lives through a combination of Prayer, Bible Study, Worship, and Testing of what we have learned…

…beginning the process whereby our Spirits, Souls, and Bodies are restored to their proper places and functions, with the Spirit controlling our thoughts, feelings, and actions—and our flesh responding with submission and obedience to the Will of God.

 

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The Gaither Vocal Band and “Search Me, Lord”…