Christianity 201

July 6, 2018

On the Days You Can’t Perfectly Fulfill Every Command

While searching something else this week, we came across the writing of whose site is called Feeding on Jesus. As usual, click the title below to read this at source.

When Your Very Best Doesn’t Seem Like Enough

“For the word of God is living and active… (Heb. 4:12, ESV).

Several years ago, Holy Spirit gave me a charge. It was one of those moments when He took a verse from the Bible and made it mine. Out of Isaiah 8:12, He very clearly commanded me, “Do not dread.”

The only problem was, in that particular season of my life, it felt like there was a whole lot to dread. I did my best to live out the directive He had given me, but I was painfully aware of only being partially able to fulfill it.

In retrospect, I have learned something essential from that experience. I now see and understand that His command began immediately to do a deep work in my heart, once He gave it to me. The command itself was and is, power. He had injected power into me by the very act of commanding. As I persevered and held onto His word, it was at work in the core of me. Little by little, day by day, month by month, that rhema from His heart was transforming me into a person free of dread.

Now I have come to understand something critically important: He hadn’t expected me to be able to fulfill His command perfectly when He first delivered it to me. Rather, He was inviting me to begin to engage with it, and with Him… in an ongoing process that was going to make me increasingly fearless, by small and very gradual increments. (I wish I had understood that better at the time! It would have relieved me of a lot of unnecessary pressure.)

How about you? Is there a particular directive in Scriptures that you know Holy Spirit has highlighted for you personally… but you are just not quite there yet? Does it feel discouraging to read those words in the Bible, and feel like you are not adequately living up to them?

The Comforter wants to greatly encourage your heart today. He wants to reassure you that it’s actually His job to get you there. His word is living and active. Once He deposited it into your spirit, it immediately went to work. Even if you can’t yet see all the fruits of the process, be assured that it has begun, and amazing things are going on deep inside of you.

Continue to engage with that word that He gave you. Meditate on it, speak it over yourself as often as you can, chew on it, think about it, and pray about it. It’s working. It really is. With perseverance over time, you will see the mind-blowing finished product wrought by the hand of the Master Artisan! He who began the good work in you will be faithful to bring it to completion!

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4, NIV).

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Can we give ourselves grace to be in process? Are there areas of your life where God has made amazing progress in developing you? Does reflecting on them help provide perspective for whatever He is currently working on?

 

June 20, 2018

Overrealized Eschatology

Ephesians 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

This is our very first time with Ted Gosard who blogs at Jesus Community. Like our sister blog, Thinking Out Loud, Ted has an extensive blogroll of interesting websites and writers which I encourage you to be aware of. Given the wide mix of authors we introduce here, we thought this article provided balance on what can be a sensitive, personal subject for some. Click the title below to read this at source.

The Deeper Life Mystique and Mistake

April 27, 2018

Deep Calls to Deep

This is our third time taking you to the writing of Lori Thomason at Pure Devotion. Click the title below to read at source. Click here to read her story.

Deep is Calling

Psalm 42:6-8 (Message) When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse everything I know of you, from Jordan depths to Hermon heights, including Mount Mizar. Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids. Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers crash and crush me. Then God promises to love me all day, sing songs all through the night! My life is God’s prayer.

“Deep calls to deep” is a verse read many times. It is a sense of longing for the gentle whisper that requires a response. Reading the same passage in The Message translation is a more apt description of what the deeper things of God feel like. Chaos calls to chaos. The violent shaking of the storm with the wild winds and waves tossing us from the complacency of what is to the confident hope of what could be if we walk by faith and not by sight. Deep calls out to deep as the Lord beckons us to come closer to step out of the proverbial boat to walk on water with Him. We call out to the deep but prefer wading. There is no real interest in what is beneath the ocean’s surface where grace turns to obedience and calling becomes our destiny. When our soul begins to slump, it is in that moment we look for the Living God to bring His Power and New Life. When He rushes in and change begins to unravel our comfortable, convenient and seemingly controlled existence – we are shaken from the security of what is and to be completely undone to new possibility.

Living in the south, our physical intuitiveness can feel the rain coming. The humidity descends with all the damp pressure. The air is thick. The clouds circle overhead and it becomes overcast. The thunder begins to roll and lightening begins to flash. Sometimes just a few gentle droplets or a torrential downpour – its all the same. Spiritual discernment sees pasts the rising waves. It perceives the winds of change sweeping through our life. Our heart comprehends what our mind does not want to accept – transformation always requires a transition. You cannot stay where you are and find a new position. You cannot remain who you are and assume a new identity. You cannot hold on to the past and fully embrace the future. God put this longing to answer His Call in our heart and mind calling it eternity. He planted a measure of faith in us to achieve that calling equipping us from our creation with exactly what is needed to be who He created us to be. Nothing in this world can stop God’s Plan. We must only answer His Call.

Hebrews 12:25-29 (Message) So don’t turn a deaf ear to these gracious words. If those who ignored earthly warnings didn’t get away with it, what will happen to us if we turn our backs on heavenly warnings? His voice that time shook the earth to its foundations; this time—he’s told us this quite plainly—he’ll also rock the heavens: “One last shaking, from top to bottom, stem to stern.” The phrase “one last shaking” means a thorough housecleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered. Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!

“He is jealous for me… Loves like a hurricane… I am a tree… Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy… When all of a sudden…. I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory… And I realize just how beautiful You are and how great your affections for me… Oh how He loves us so.”  (John Mark McMillan)

We sing this popular worship song often not really listening to the words but repeating it from memory. What if God’s Love for us produces violent shaking in an effort to make us release the ordinary and receive the extraordinary? What if our hunger and thirst is to seek more and discover full satisfaction? Could it be that all the “chaos” in our life is to stir up the inner gifting and anointing planted by God for His Purpose? God wants to prosper us. It begins in our soul. Makes its way through our heart. Enters our mind. Changes our thoughts. Transitions us from fear to faith and we become courageous in confident hope. See God is doing something in us far greater than the immediate gratification sought after by a weak flesh and fickle heart. He knows exactly what it will take to draw us into the deep. He creates the vortex that will soon overtake us.

Our God is likened to an “all-consuming fire.” Like the burning bush before Moses, thought engulfed with flames, the bush remained. God loves us like that in an explainable display of His Glory that complete overtakes our life yet within Him – we are safe and secure. Like the three Hebrew boys cast in a fire, yet they were never forsaken and certainly not alone. The Lord was waiting in the fire for them. He accompanied them until it was time to come out. Not a hair singed or garments reeking of smoke, they were presented to the people no worse for wear. The people recognized the Living God in that moment. Our calling will always include those who are watching for and waiting on the Kingdom of God to be presented.

Psalm 93 (Message) God is King, robed and ruling, God is robed and surging with strength. And yes, the world is firm, immovable, Your throne ever firm—you’re Eternal! Sea storms are up, God, sea storms wild and roaring, sea storms with thunderous breakers. Stronger than wild sea storms, mightier than sea-storm breakers, Mighty God rules from High Heaven. What you say goes—it always has. “Beauty” and “Holy” mark your palace rule, God, to the very end of time.

The deep calls us to be drowned in His Grace. It is an invitation to die to self and be overtaken with life. If you find it easy to exist in God – there is so much more to discover. The deeper you go the less likely it is that your flesh will survive. Full surrender is required to fully accept salvation and eternal destiny. God is King. He is Sovereign. He is All-Power, All-Knowing and everywhere at the same time. He knows us inside and out. He created us with a purpose and definite plan that is in full execution. The answer of our heart to the deeper things of God is always the same – “yes”. It doesn’t have to loud or dramatic. Most often it is in the darkest place or most dangerous height when a single step of faith seems illogical and impossible – and the Lord says, “Do it anyway…”

Will you? Will you allow the chaos of calling overtake you? Will you answer His Call to come deeper? Will you let God mess up your ordinary life to make it extraordinary? Will you say, “Yes” to it all? Delayed obedience is considered disobedience. It is a quiet rebellion that denies the impossibilities of miracles to accept the ordinary. God has something waiting for you and me that is just beyond our comfort zone, outside the boundaries of convenience, and just outside of our control. Do you want it? Do you desire the Lord above all things? Deep is calling deep. Chaos is crying out to chaos. Our destination is called beautiful and holy. Do you want to meet Him there? He is calling you deeper… Just say, “Yes!”

I Peter 2:9-10 (Message) But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

January 15, 2018

Increasing Your Measure of Faith

We’re paying our third annual visit to radio preacher, pastor and author James MacDonald and their devotional from the radio show Walk In The Word titled Our Journey. The devotional is also available as an online resource. Click the title below to read at source.

Growing Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5, ESV)!

Ever feel like your faith is small? Perhaps you wish you could do more or be more. Maybe when you look around you, it seems as if everyone else has BIG BOLD FAITH, while yours is just . . . tiny.

If that’s you, then consider these three things you can do that will immediately begin to grow your faith.

1. Believe that your faith can increase.

Every Christian has been given a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). While each of us has been given a certain capacity to believe, it can increase. Isn’t that great news? Exhibit A for growing faith is the Apostle Peter. Remember what Peter was like in the Gospels? He tried hard but failed, said the wrong thing at the wrong time, and kept messing up at critical moments. Peter was the one who swore loyalty to Jesus then denied even knowing Him (Mark 14:26–31, 66–72). Peter was the one who followed Jesus after His arrest but only from a safe distance (Mark 14:54). When Peter tried walking on the water, he sank, and Jesus called him, O you of little faith (Matthew 14:31). Ouch.

Yes, Peter had little faith and a lot of growing to do, but he made one good decision: He followed Jesus’ instructions, went to that upper room, and waited for the Holy Spirit to come and fill him. When the Spirit of God filled Peter in response to his faith, he was transformed. He preached boldly, and three thousand people were saved. Peter became such a powerful, faith-filled man that Acts 5:15 reports that people even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.

Peter was a changed man, transformed by the power of the Spirit through faith. Do you want Peter-size faith? Believe that your faith can increase, and then . . .

2. Expose your mind to God’s Word.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Faith can’t grow without the soil of God’s Word.

Have you learned yet to love the Word of God? Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts (Jeremiah 15:16). Is your mind steeped in God’s Word? Have you gotten past the discipline stage of reading the Bible (gutting it out because you know you should) to the delighted stage (actually wanting to read it, even craving it)?

The more we wash our minds with God’s Word, the more our faith can grow. When we fill our minds with trash—or with everything but God’s Word—what happens to our faith? It falters and even withers. According to Romans 12:2, your transformation comes by the renewal of your mind. So what are you putting into your mind?

We must read the Word, study it, memorize it, meditate on it. Human words don’t build faith; God’s do. And as you immerse yourself in God’s Word, you’ll also learn to . . .

3. Practice genuine prayer.

Faith comes through genuine prayer. Not rote repetition of empty words but genuine, on-your-knees, heartfelt prayer, laying hold of God by faith.

“Hmmm,” you might say, “I’m not very good at that. Where’s the seminar on genuine prayer?” The seminar is conducted in your home daily in a private place where you can kneel down. The seminar is given by the Holy Spirit Himself and is available 24/7. If you want to learn how to pray, get on your knees, open your heart, and ask, “Lord, teach me to pray.”

Prayer has incredible power to build your faith. When you are filled with anxiety, concerns, or burdens, pray. Get by yourself, kneel in humility before God, and in the simplest language you know, talk to your Father about it. Through genuine, heartfelt prayer, you can exchange your anxiety for faith.

So for all those who want their faith to keep growing—believe that your faith can increase, expose your mind to God’s Word, and genuinely pray.

And ask the Lord—as the apostles did—Increase our faith (Luke 17:5)!

Journal

  • Have you gotten past the discipline stage of reading the Bible (gutting it out because you know you should) to the delighted stage (actually wanting to read it, even craving it)?
  • What are you putting into your mind? Survey the scene; what is your “dose” of God’s Word vs. entertainment, social media, etc.?

Pray
Lord God, I know that You are wholly faithful and worthy of all my trust. Thank You for patiently growing me. I confess that my faith can be weak and my heart is prone to give way to fear and anxiety. I do believe, and I humbly ask You to help my unbelief. Thank You for the precious gift of Your Word and the privilege of prayer. Please help me to fix my eyes on You, and stir my heart to get and stay in the Scriptures. Grow in me genuine delight and deep faith in You. Lord, teach me to pray. I admit that I am dependent upon You for these gifts, and I trust You for them, praying this in the worthy name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.

January 9, 2018

Four Characteristics of a Faithful Christian

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Once again we’re back with Shane Idleman, founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. This is Shane’s mission statement when preaching:

“To bring Centrality and Relevance to Jesus’ words. To understand theology in a deep, yet impacting way. To compare and contrast biblical truth with error. To allow the power of the gospel to truly shape and challenge hearts so that deep, meaningful change takes place…to magnify The Message.”

To read this at source on the church blog, click the title below.

Characteristics of a Faithful Christian

Although many godly traits are attributed to faithfulness, these four are vitally important. How can we increase faith and serve God with all of our heart? Here are just four ways:

1. Holiness is a priority. Charles Spurgeon rightly noted, “There will be three effects of nearness to Jesus—humility, happiness, and holiness.” If these three are not present, hard questions need to be asked: “Do I have a rebellious spirit? Do I love the things of the world more than the things of God? Have I let bitterness and pride set in?” We have to fight for holiness…our relationship with God is dependent upon it. Holiness produces faith and spiritual power; carnality produces faithlessness and a life void of spiritual power

Carnality gives God “His due” – a few hours on Sunday – but forgets His call to “come out from among them [the world] and be separate.” Holiness is a fire burning deep within. Do we stoke the flames and increase the heat or continually put them out? We are so “stoked” when it comes to the things of the world, but why not the things of God?

Carnality quenches the fire of the Spirit and dries up the rivers of living water. We cannot love both Christ and this world. A carnal Christian does not pray, really pray and seek the heart of God. A deep prayer life exposes facades and crushes hypocrisy. A carnal Christian does not worship, really worship in total abandonment. Deep, penetrating worship cannot take place in a carnal heart until repentance takes place.

You won’t find those who are carnal at prayer nights or worship mornings, but you will find them spending much of their time at Cinemark and the Mall. Check your calendar and checkbook. Where are your priorities?

If this is you, allow God to awaken and restore: “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Do you desire peace and joy again? Simply return to God: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Full surrender is the fertile ground for seeds of joy and peace.

2. God’s Word is the source of authority. A faithful Christian is not continually looking for advice outside of God’s Word. Too often we look to Merrill Lynch for financial advice, a local nail salon for marriage counseling, and guys at work about how to prioritize our lives. Look to God for the final say – He is the “Wonderful Counselor.”

3. Reliance on God’s strength, not man’s. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9). God will often break us down in order to build us up. He’ll take away our strength – what we have been trusting in – so we look to Him, and Him alone. The refiner’s fire involves fire and heat. The waves of change involve being plummeted, tossed, and turned: “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).

God reminds, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” God is always the fourth man in the fire (cf. Daniel 3:25).

4. Keep His Word despite setbacks. Faithful Christians keep the course regardless of the storm…regardless of the criticism…regardless of the heat. We must teach perseverance. Many theologians are divided on the timing of the rapture, or if it will occur at all. Telling people, “Don’t worry. You’ll be out of here before it gets hard,” is inconsistent with those who are suffering in other countries. And it does not prepare people for tribulation, challenges, and difficult times. One thing we do know for certain is that Christ will return. In Rev. 3:11 He says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” The message of hope is always urgent.

Christian Heritage Fellowship offers a riveting example of why we should not wait to share the good news:

On Sunday night, October 8, 1871, D. L. Moody, preached to the largest congregation that he had yet addressed in Chicago. His text that evening was, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” At the conclusion of his sermon he said, “I wish you would take this text home with you and turn it over in your minds during the week, and next Sabbath we will come to Calvary and the Cross, and we will decide what to do with Jesus of Nazareth.” Then his song evangelist, Ira D. Sankey whose hymns are sprinkled throughout most evangelical hymnbooks, began to lead in singing the hymn, but Sankey never finished the hymn, for while he was singing the rush and roar of fire engines whistled by the church on the street outside, and before morning much of the city of Chicago lay in ashes. To his dying day, Mr. Moody deeply regretted that he had told that congregation to come next Sabbath and decide what to do with Jesus.

Turn, or return, to Him today. We are not even guaranteed tomorrow.

September 15, 2017

Changed from Glory to Glory

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But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded… – Exodus 34:34

Many times a phrase from scripture becomes, for lack of a better term somewhat enlarged through propagation in hymns or modern worship choruses and then finds its way into preaching. This is especially true when phrases rendered in the unique styling of the KJV become common in church life. Sometimes they can become part of the Christianese verbal landscape. Such it is with the phrase we’re looking at today.

The King James Version of 2 Corinthians 3:18 reads:

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

First of all, the key in the context of this passage is not changed or glory, but rather the idea of the veil. This begins in verse 7 of that chapter, but because the imagery is unfamiliar to many of us, I want to look at verses 12-18 in four translations; two of which add additional words to bring clarity.

First, here’s The Voice Bible (added words in italics, as is that translation’s custom)

12 In light of this hope that we have, we act with great confidence and speak with great courage. 13 We do not act like Moses who covered his face with a veil so the children of Israel would not stare as the glory of God faded from his face. 14 Their minds became as hard as stones; for up to this day when they read the old covenant, the same veil continues to hide that glory; this veil is lifted only through the Anointed One. 15 Even today a veil covers their hearts when the words of Moses are read; 16 but in the moment when one turns toward the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 By “the Lord” what I mean is the Spirit, and in any heart where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is liberty. 18 Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

Next, we have The Amplified Bible (added meanings in brackets, as is that translation’s custom.)

12 Since we have such a [glorious] hope and confident expectation, we speak with great courage, 13 and we are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites would not gaze at the end of the glory which was fading away. 14 But [in fact] their minds were hardened [for they had lost the ability to understand]; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed [only] in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil [of blindness] lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns [in repentance and faith] to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom]. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.

Third, we have the Common English Bible.

12 So, since we have such a hope, we act with great confidence. 13 We aren’t like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t watch the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were closed. Right up to the present day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. The veil is not removed because it is taken away by Christ. 15 Even today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But whenever someone turns back to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. 18 All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Finally, Here’s the full passage in The Message:

7-8 The Government of Death, its constitution chiseled on stone tablets, had a dazzling inaugural. Moses’ face as he delivered the tablets was so bright that day (even though it would fade soon enough) that the people of Israel could no more look right at him than stare into the sun. How much more dazzling, then, the Government of Living Spirit?

9-11 If the Government of Condemnation was impressive, how about this Government of Affirmation? Bright as that old government was, it would look downright dull alongside this new one. If that makeshift arrangement impressed us, how much more this brightly shining government installed for eternity?

12-15 With that kind of hope to excite us, nothing holds us back. Unlike Moses, we have nothing to hide. Everything is out in the open with us. He wore a veil so the children of Israel wouldn’t notice that the glory was fading away—and they didn’t notice. They didn’t notice it then and they don’t notice it now, don’t notice that there’s nothing left behind that veil. Even today when the proclamations of that old, bankrupt government are read out, they can’t see through it. Only Christ can get rid of the veil so they can see for themselves that there’s nothing there.

16-18 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

I was going to look at the one verse only and present about a dozen different renderings of it, but decided to go more in depth with these four translations. By now you have a clear picture of the imagery here — in reference to Moses — but you see that the opposite situation is hoped for. The classic Albert Barnes commentary points us to this:

This is said in contradistinction probably to Moses. The splendor on his face gradually died away. But not so with the light reflected from the gospel. It becomes deeper and brighter constantly. This sentiment is parallel to that expressed by the psalmist; “They go from strength to strength” Psalm 84:7; that is, they go from one degree of strength to another, or one degree of holiness to another, until they come to the full vision of God himself in heaven. The idea in the phrase before us is; that there is a continual increase of moral purity and holiness under the gospel until it results in the perfect glory of heaven. The “doctrine” is, that Christians advance in piety; and that this is done by the contemplation of the glory of God as it is revealed in the gospel.

We won’t spend more time here, but to say that in understanding various types of imagery like this one, we are really learning more about the ways of God and the desire of God for our lives. Here’s a modern worship song which uses this phrase:

 

 

 

April 21, 2017

Intentional Followership

Today we’re paying a fourth visit to Paul Steele at the blog Paul’s Ponderings. Usually at this point I encourage you to click the title below to read at source, but I also want to point you to a blog post Paul did in the form of an infographic. Before or after you’re done here, check out 6 Helpful Scriptures to Guide our Choices.

3 Components to Spiritual Formation

Intention in spiritual formation is essential. Our faith cannot, and will not, remain static. Every day our spirits are either being molded into the likeness of Jesus or into the likeness of the world.

Passivity is not an option.

Without intentional action our spirits will be conformed to the way of the world. If we are not moving towards Christ we are moving away from him.

The Apostle Peter was very aware of the importance of spiritual formation.

In 2 Peter 3:17-18 he wrote:

I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends. Be on guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen. (NLT)

There is a great danger in not being intentional about our spiritual formation in Jesus Christ.

Peter pointed out 3 dangers that we face when we are not serious about our spiritual formation:  (1) losing our faith, (2) being led astray, and (3) living in error.

No matter how strong we believe our faith is right now, it is not enough to sustain us through all of life’s ups and downs. The faith that is sufficient today will not be sufficient tomorrow.

The writer of Hebrews shared a similar sentiment when he wrote:

 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds* and placing our faith in God. (Hebrews 6:1, NLT)

God expects us to be engaged in spiritual formation. Maturity will only happen through intentional effort.

If we are not willing to do what it takes grow spiritually and to deepen our relationship with God, then we will continue to miss out on the life He created us to live. We cannot remain the same and remain with Jesus. Either we are moving with him or we are allowing ourselves to be left behind.

If spiritual formation is this important, how do we make it a part of our lives?

The entire Bible is filled with instruction and example of how we can partner with the Holy Spirit to bring maturity to our spirits.

Today I want to share with you a little bit of what the Apostle Paul told the Colossians about spiritual formation.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers* of this world, rather than from Christ.(Colossians 2:6-8; NLT)

Let’s take a moment and examine what Paul wrote about spiritual formation:

1. We need to be consistent – Vs. 6

Faith is the key.

We came to salvation because we trusted in Jesus to deal with our sins. We experience spiritual maturity because we trust Jesus to lead us to the life God created us to live. Without this faith in Jesus we are unable to grow. If we cannot be consistent in our trust (trusting Jesus to take away our sins but not to lead us to life) means that we will be stunted in our maturity and our relationship with God will begin to die.

The consistency we need becomes visible through our obedience.  We need to ask ourselves these questions: Am I willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads me? Will  I risk my life, career, and reputation for the sake of the Gospel?

By being obedient we demonstrate that we trust God.

2. We need to be concrete – Vs. 7

Remember the parable Jesus told about the wise man and the foolish man?

The point of the story is people need to build on a firm foundation. The wise man is able to survive the storms because his house is built on the rock, which was able to withstand the power of the waves. The foolish man is destroyed because his house is built on the sand, which washed away with the raging water.

Being concrete is about holding on to truth. Jesus’ teachings are a firm foundation because they are truth. We receive truth through instruction, reading, relationships, and experiences. By constantly seeking and applying  truth to our lives we are building on a firm foundation. This foundation will provide us with the security we need to survive any situation.

3. We need to be cautious – Vs. 8

It is easy to be led astray by something that seems credible.

Proverbs 14:12 reads; There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.  (NLT). What seems to be right and what sounds good are not the best indicators of what is truth. We can get very lost following what seems to be right to us.

This is about influence. Who will we allow to influence us? What type of media will we use? Is their message in agreement with the message of Jesus?

The best way we can safe guard ourselves from being led astray is to know and live the teachings of Jesus. Only when we are familiar with the truth are we able to identify the lie.

Spiritual formation is essential for our relationship with God. We need to remain consistent in our faith, we need to be concrete in our belief, and we need cautious about what influences us.

These 3 components will help us stay on the path of spiritual formation. Without them we will be prevented from living the life that Jesus has for us to live.

Don’t neglect your spiritual formation. Be intentional about the person you are becoming and make an effort to become like Jesus.

 What is an essential component to your spiritual formation?

March 12, 2017

A Fractured Gospel

by Russell Young
Although the gospel message has been around for about two thousand years, its understanding remains muddled. The Word has presented that eternal salvation comes through a person’s “doings,” through obedience, and through belief. It seems that many have selected from these the option that appeals to them and have concluded a means of meeting God’s condition so that they might rest their hope in him. The truth is that all three are components of the same gospel truth and they need to be appreciated as such. Belief (faith) motivates obedience and obedience compels the believer to act in ways that are pleasing and acceptable to God.
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It gets tiresome to attend to debates, written or verbal, about the validity of one component while disregarding the others. The disputes are endless and where eternal salvation continues to be perceived as through a single factor the debates will continue to persist and will achieve nothing except division and lost souls. Time and energy are wasted and confusion is produced as many self-righteously defend their position. Unfortunately, after two thousand years, church practitioners have often become entrenched in reliance upon a singular aspect of the gospel and objectivity has been lost. Consequently, many who now claim to be called to present the gospel cannot even clearly define it. This ought not to be so. Too many people are being left stillborn in churches while others are dying in the deserts of their communities.
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Jesus taught: “Do not be amazed at this (the Son of Man having authority as judge), for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (JN 5:28─29 NIV; See also 1 Pet 1:17; Mt 7:2; 12:36; Jn 5:28─29; 2 Cor 5:10) A person’s doings or practices should not be confused with the issue of “works” which applies to salvation through the works of the law. The Lord taught that evidence of faith, a person’s testimony through his or her practices, matters.
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In Hebrews it is recorded: “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) Christ also presented the need for obedience-Mt 7:21; 2 Thess 1:8─9; Rev 12:17, 14:12, Rev 22:14 (KJV), etc. The Lord is the Spirit and one purpose of his indwelling presence is to sanctify the obedient believer and to fit him or her for God’s heavenly kingdom. The believer must be made into the likeness of God’s Son (Rom 8:29) if he is to enter God’s kingdom.
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Many times the Lord has proclaimed that salvation comes through belief or faith in his person and ministry. However, belief is revealed through the practice of obedience. It is recorded: “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Heb 3:18─19 NIV) Those who do not obey Christ, the Spirit, lack saving faith and will not dwell with him.
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Faith/Belief resulting in obedience and “doing good” is what saves a person from judgment and into God’s glorious kingdom and presence. Without righteousness, which is the result of God’s “handiwork” (Eph 2:10) and is achieved through the Spirit (Gal 5:5), the confessor must remain forever separated from the Lord. (Heb 12:14)
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The truth of the gospel needs to be appreciated and clearly proclaimed if the dead are to be brought to life. Confusion is destroying the church of God and making it powerless is a depraved generation. Those who loudly proclaim a component of the gospel as being the necessary and full truth will be accountable for much one day. Those who are confident that they have brought many into the kingdom may find that they, like their sheep, will be shut out from the wedding feast and from God’s holy kingdom. Many false promises through a fractured gospel are being persuasively proclaimed to win the lost to church communities. In the end, many are presenting no gospel at all.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514

 

January 14, 2017

6 Roadblock to Christian Growth

We’ve featured popular Charismatic Christian author J. Lee Grady here several times, but not in the past few years. I really enjoy the balance his writing provides. This appeared at Charisma News a few days ago; his writing can also be found at the Charisma blog Fire in my Bones. I encourage you to read it there by clicking the link in the title below.

6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

J. Lee GradyA few days ago, I was driving from my home in Georgia to a church in Alabama to preach for five days. I didn’t think the predicted “snowpocalypse” would hinder my trip until I arrived in the town of Anniston—where state troopers had blocked the main road due to ice on bridges.

The road was closed, and I couldn’t get to Birmingham on Highway 431. When I tried a different route, I ran into more ice and more roadblocks. This had never happened to me in Florida—we don’t have ice on roads. So I was stuck. I had to turn around and go home.

Thankfully, my host rescheduled our meetings, and I arrived at his church two days later, after all the feared ice had melted. But the whole experience reminded me that there are times when we can’t get where we need to go because our roads are blocked.

As Christians, we are called to move forward in our faith. The apostle Paul set the example for us when he said: “I press toward the goal to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). You are not supposed to stay in the same place spiritually year after year. God wants you to grow. But often we get stuck, usually because of one of these six roadblocks:

1. Lack of spiritual hunger. Let’s face it: The main reason many Christians get stuck in a rut is they are happy to be there. But God is looking for people who refuse to be content with where they were last year. He is calling you higher. You must ask the Holy Spirit to set your heart ablaze with a desire for more of His presence and power.

David is our example of spiritual hunger. He wrote: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants after You, O God” (Ps. 42:1). He actually felt lousy when he wrote those words, so we can’t use our discouragement as an excuse. David fanned the flames of spiritual fervor even when he felt like quitting.

2. Plain old laziness. Many of us become motivated at the beginning of the year to pray, study the Bible, go back to school or lose weight. But nobody wins a race by sprinting the first 50 feet and then sitting down. Winners must stay in the game. You must be determined to finish what you start instead of leaving a trail of aborted attempts.

Paul exhorted the Romans to be “fervent in spirit,” but first he warned them not to be “lazy” (see Romans 12:11-12). The Greek word used here, okneros, is the same word Jesus used in the parable of the “lazy servant” who didn’t invest the money he was given by his master. If you are sitting on your dreams or procrastinating when you should be growing your faith, the “lazy” label applies. Don’t just start and then give up. Be consistent and keep going.

3. Unpacked baggage. The Israelites who left Egypt could have marched into the Promised Land in a matter of weeks, but they ended up in a holding pattern for 40 years. Why? They were dragging their sin with them. The more weight you drag behind you, the less likely it is that you will reach your destination.

I knew a Christian guy who had a thriving ministry to college students. But because he refused to get help for his pornography habit, his addiction prevented him from functioning normally. It finally weighed him down so much that it destroyed both his marriage and ministry. You may think you can “manage” your sin, but it is more powerful than you are. You can’t move forward while carrying a load of shame and addictions. Repent, confess your weakness to someone else and get free.

4. Fear of change. Many people feel a tug in their hearts that says: Start that Bible study. Go on that mission trip. Write that book. Launch that business. But they never get past step one because they feel frozen in their tracks. Nothing will keep you in spiritual limbo like fear. It paralyzes.

Some people keep their dreams inside them for decades—and then they take them to the grave. If you want to grow, you must take risks. Don’t let your fear of public speaking, airplanes, crowds, strangers or people’s criticism stop you from trusting in the God who is bigger than all those things.

5. Shallow relationships. Who are you hanging around with? Abraham had to part ways with Lot because they had very different goals. Lot had a selfish motive, and Abraham was fully surrendered to God’s plan. If you spend all your time with selfish people who are content to live spiritually fruitless lives, you will end up just like them.

If you want to move forward spiritually in 2017, don’t expect the crowd to go with you. Some people don’t want God’s presence. Don’t let them drag you down. Be willing to find new friends who will support your spiritual commitment.

6. A religious spirit. Religious people build memorials to honor what God did in 1967, sing songs from that era and write books about “the way we’ve always done it.” Yet when the Holy Spirit calls them to “sing … a new song” (Psalm 96:1), or if He starts doing “a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19a), they get offended. They insist God must move the exact same way He did 50 years ago.

But God does not stay in the same place or do things the same way. His character is unchangeable, but He always has a fresh word and a new anointing to pour on His people. He loves to surprise and overwhelm us. Don’t let religious inflexibility keep you from experiencing the adventure of following His Spirit.

J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression.

November 13, 2016

Relish Meat in Your Spiritual Life

by Russell Young

Teachings about spiritual maturity are of more importance than might be appreciated at first glance.  The Word speaks of the necessity of being “born again,” but a new birth is the production of a baby, or in a spiritual sense, of a spiritual infant.  An infant is incapable of doing anything; he or she is there in body, soul, and spirit but needs constant attention and cannot function as a contributor to the kingdom.  This is not the permanent state to which the believer has been called.

The believer has been delivered from the law and from his or her sinful state so that they might be useful to the kingdom of God. (Ep 2:10; 1 Cor 11─15) The writer of Hebrews has recorded: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5:13─14 NIV) Spiritual maturity comes from training about righteousness and it is something that every believer needs to pursue if he or she is to grow to spiritual adulthood. The teachings that are often presented as being of greatest importance have been referenced in Hebrews as being elementary or “milk.”  “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” (Heb 6:1─3 NIV)

As important as the foundational teachings are, they do not provide the understandings that develop spiritual maturity.  In fact, the writer has revealed that if a person falls away through lack of righteous practices after having “tasted” the presence and the power of the Spirit—enjoying milk–, it is impossible to bring him or her back to repentance.  They are not to become “lazy” or indifferent concerning issues of righteousness. Paul stated that, “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Rom 6:19 NIV) “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14 NIV)

Spiritual maturity is a matter of applying the knowledge that the believer has that compels him or her to live righteously before the Lord.  During the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt 5:6 NIV) To hunger after and to thirst for demands an earnest seeking for righteousness so that their thirst and hunger might be quenched. The Lord is eager to assist in this matter. Righteousness is not given at the time of confession of faith; Paul said that it is being “awaited” through the Spirit (Gal 5:5), but those seeking it must deliberately train themselves to distinguish good from bad. Spiritual maturity comes through training and practice, from seeking and following, from crucifying one’s interests and through suffering in order to defeat temptations. Its development often requires the Lord’s discipline and the acceptance of punishment. Paul taught that we must “offer [ourselves] to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Rom 6:13 NIV) If a person is to live he or she must “put to death the misdeeds of the body.” (Rom 8:13 NIV) Spiritual maturity demands the development of a special kind of living where a person’s natural spirit with its interests is put to death and the life of Christ is lived. It is obedience that brings righteousness and life. (Rom 6:16)

Spiritual maturity comes from dedication to obeying the Spirit; it is not freely given.  Those who rest in the nourishment of milk as their spiritual food will remain unskilled in in achieving spiritual maturity and even risk dwelling apart from the Lord. (Mt 13:41; 1 Jn 3:10; 2 Pet 2:21) And, those who teach that milk is sufficient food for life will produce spiritual babies and are even deceptive in their teachings. (1 Jn 3:6; Gal 6:7─8)

Spiritual maturity is to be sought; it is to be pursed with all a person’s heart, soul, mind, and body so that the believer can gain victory over the flesh, the evil one, and the world.  It is those who “overcome” who will dwell with the Lord in the New Jerusalem. (Rev 21:7)


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US


 

August 30, 2016

Settling for Less than All

A fuller title might be, Settling for Less than All Christ Desires for Me.

Do not let your zeal subside; keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
 – Romans 12:11, Berean Study Bible

This is a little different from what we normally do here and you need to click to look up some of the scriptures. When I saw this I thought it would fit well here.

We’re also breaking our six-month rule here since we’ve included Alabama pastor Scott McCown here on six other occasions, the last just a month ago.  So I hope you’ll visit his blog, The Morning Drive, or click the title below.

 

 The World’s ______

This weekend while at a “superstore,” I walked past the back to school / college section. I was not looking for anything in that section but something caught my eye. I had to do a double-take. A cup that read, “World’s Okayest Student.”

I did an image search for the cup and found there are cups, t-shirts, coffee mugs, bags, badges, and more with similar phrases: World’s Okayest Boss – Nurse – Mom – Dad – Child – Teacher – Husband – Wife – Principal – Employee . . .

The World’s Okayest . . .

I get the humor. I catch the sarcasm. It is funny, well it would be if.

If it weren’t true. Too many in life whether at school or in the workplace do just enough. They are not the worst but they are not striving to improve. They are just average, they are just okay and they are okay with that.

What ever happened to trying to improve? What happened to setting your sites a little higher and striving for better?

Sadly, there is probably a version that says, “World’s Okayest Christian.” If not I wonder if I could sometimes be the face of the “World’s Okayest Christian.”

Let’s not be just okay. Let’s become more. Let’s grow in Christ, in service, in love, and in faith.

I refuse to be just an Okay Christian!

  • Jesus condemned the church at Laodicea for not being cold or hot, but for being lukewarm – okay.  Laodicea was Asia’s “okayest” church. (Rev 3:15-16).
  • The Hebrew writer challenges his readers that they ought to be teachers, but they were satisfied with where they were- they were the “okayest” and he knew they should be more. (Heb 5:12-14).
  • Paul similarly corrects the Corinthians for not growing and still being the “okayest” – 1 Cor 3:1.
  • Peter would tell us, Don’t just be the okayest. Grow in grace.” In fact he does tell us togrow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 3:18).
  • Paul says of himself,Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” Phil 3:12-15).

I will be more that okay. I will be the best I can be. I will strive for better than I am in what ever I do, school, work, parenting, marriage, and especially as a disciple of Christ. Will you join me?


Q.: Why are the scriptures at C201 always in green?

A.: This week we were cutting some branches that were growing into our neighbor’s lawn and I was again reminded when I looked at the green color inside how there is so much difference between a dead branch and a living branch.  In Psalm 119:25 we read,

My soul is laid in the dust. Give me new life because of Your Word. (NIV)
and again in vs. 28,
My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. (NASB)
My words, or the words of our daily writers, may be helpful, but the power lies in God’s word.

August 14, 2016

Servants, Friends, and Brothers

•••by Russell Young

  “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (Jn 15:15, NIV)

Many apply the encouragement of being friends with Christ to themselves, although the Lord was clearly speaking to his disciples. The wording contains several points that might enlighten the reader concerning the status that the Lord has presented for friendship with him.

He said, “I no longer call…” All of redeemed humankind start their lives as servants (Rom 6:22; Eph 6:6; Rev 22:6).  They have been bought with the blood of Christ (1 Cor 6:20) and belong to him (Rom 7:4; Jas 2:7). He is their lord and master and without obedience to his call upon their lives they cannot achieve the holy state that is required for eternal salvation. (Heb 5:9) Those who are Christ’s must be led by him. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27, NIV) It is against human nature to want to be ruled by another; but, without the instruction, leadership, and power of Christ no one can live righteously. Those who are blind need a leader. The believer is to live humbly before Christ. (Mt 23:12; Jas 4:6; 1 Pet 5:6) His beginning is that of a servant.

The reason that Christ elevated the relationship of his disciples from servant to “friend” was because they knew his business and what he was about.  He had revealed his business to them and they had heard and had chosen to participate in its accomplishment.  They knew him and had forged an honourable and loving relationship with him. They no longer needed the level of guidance that a servant requires because they understood his will and had responded according to it.  His mission became their mission. Friends take seriously the heart and the goals of friends.  The requirement for service had not changed, but oversight and direction for it was no longer necessary; the Lord’s purposes were being mutually achieved.

Readers of God’s Word should not confuse the issue; they are servants until their heart is in tune with God’s will and their practices reflect his purposes…until his will has become their will.  Until such a state exists, the believer remains a servant and requires direct and personal leadership from the Lord; he remains a servant.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right [“power”, KJV] to become children of God.”  (Jn 1:12, NIV) John’s teaching is that believers have the power (The power comes through the Holy Spirit.) to become children of God. Paul has recorded, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14, NIV) It is Paul’s teaching that believers (those who follow the Lord’s leadership) “are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Rom 8:29) They will no longer display the characteristics and interests of their old nature, but will have been conformed to his.

servants friends and brothers  Being classified as a son of God is an even greater elevation.  A son of the Father is also a brother of Christ. “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister, and mother.” (Mk 3:35, NIV)

The privilege and honour of being elevated to the status of a brother of Christ from being a friend is not one that is given freely and without cost.  The believer’s adoption comes at the redemption of his body (Rom 8:23); it follows his conformation to the likeness of Christ. The person who would enjoy the privilege of a brother of Christ and of a son of God must warrant it. He or she must have the characteristics of a son so that they might belong in the family.  They must honour and love their brothers, including Christ, and they must obey their Father. (Mt 7:21)

A son or daughter knows the affairs of the household because they are in it and commune personally with those in it and especially with their Father, loving him, seeking direction from him, and honouring him. Those who in their arrogance reject the authority of the Father through his Son and who continue to disregard his admonitions for righteousness and obedient service, who remain slaves to sin and their own interests, will not be a permanent part of God’s family. (Jn 8:35)

Those of this world are God’s enemies, alienated from him; their interests are not his interests. As they separate themselves from the world through the ministries of Christ they will be brought to the various relationship stages…first as a servant, then a friend, and into the relationship of a son of the Father and as a brother of Christ.

August 7, 2016

The Signs of Eternal Salvation

•••by Russell Young

Each of us wants assurance of an eternal hope.  The apostle John has provided clarification concerning this matter, but did not let assurance rest on a confession of faith once made.  Near the end of his first epistle he has recorded: “I wrote these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 Jn 5:13, NIV) The things that he wrote were contained in his first letter. From his epistle fifteen characteristics have been identified that expose knowledge of the believer’s hope. A person may know that he or she has eternal life if they:

  1. img 080716enjoy fellowship with Christ and the Father. (1:3, 2:24)
  2. do not keep on sinning. (2:29, 3:6,9)
  3. obey God’s commands (2:3, 3:24, 5:3)
  4. do not love this world or the things in it (2:15, 16, 5:4)
  5. purify themselves. (3:3)
  6. see a decreasing pattern of sin in his or her life. (3:3, 6, 9, 5:18)
  7. love other Christians. (2:9, 10, 3:10, 14, 4: 7, 11, 12, 4:19-20)
  8. experience answered prayer. (3:22)
  9. experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (2:27, 3:20, 24, 4:13)
  10. know the truth; can discern between spiritual truth and error. (2:21, 3:6)
  11. suffer rejection (hated) because of their faith. (3:13)
  12. love others. (4:7)
  13. have concern about the material needs of others. (3:17)
  14. are like Christ in this world. (4:17)
  15. have a clear conscience. (3:21)

No one can “work” to achieve what is required for eternal life and a single confession of faith will not accomplish it.  Without the Spirit the believer does not have the capacity to accomplish that which is needed, but would be left with his or her own sinful nature and a demanding body.  The life that manifests these characteristics is being worked in the believer by the Spirit of Christ in order that the Lord might be the first-born among many brothers and sisters in his likeness.  A person’s work is to believe and to believe to the extent that he or she is willing to submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Heb 5:9; Rom 8:4).  The transformed believer will display the identified characteristics.

A person’s eternal salvation is not accomplished by adhering to the practices of an institution, nor living by a list of rules.  It does not take place through a specific religious experience or by engaging in a certain type of service.  Neither is it superficial “belief” that lacks trust and obedience.  Eternal salvation comes through Christ and the believer’s personal relationship with him.  The hopeful person must practice obedience so that Christ might live in and through the person who claims his name. (Col 1:27) A relationship must develop that leads the believer in a righteous walk because that is the only walk engaged by the Lord.

The apostle Paul said, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I might be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27, NLT) He did not rest in the belief that he had mastered the life of faith.

God does not want his people to walk in fear but in love for him and in obedience to his will. Perfect love (which is obedience) casts out all fear and like the Israelites of old, his people have been told of his expectations. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Mt 22:37, NIV)

The love that God expects is revealed in a close relationship with him.  It requires reading his Word so that the Spirit might use it for any cleansing that is necessary to accomplish the believer’s transformation and develop holiness. And, it is based on an active prayer life through which sin is confessed and forgiveness sought so that a clean conscience can be maintained.  The importance of being made holy, washed by the cleansing of God’s Word (Eph 5:26), was made clear by Paul.  Righteous thoughts and actions lead to holiness (Rom 6:19, 22) and without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Heb 12:14)

All of God’s creation was fashioned for his good pleasure.  Humankind is part of that creation.  When all is said and done, God will be eternally satisfied with his work and the transformed believer.  Those who have listened to his voice, who possess the characteristics of his Son and those revealed by John, will be part of his eternal joy.

July 24, 2016

Sanctification by the Blood and Sanctification by the Spirit

•••by Russell Young

A person’s understanding of sanctification and its application is significant when it comes to his or her knowing the truths of the Word of God and in understanding the doctrine of salvation.  Sanctification is revealed as coming by the Spirit, by the blood of the covenant, by the truth, and by the Word.

sanctificationThe Greek word hagiazo which has been translated as sanctification means “to sanctify, to consecrate, or devote a person or thing to a particular, especially to a sacred, use in service to God.”  The Greek hagiasmos, also translated as sanctification, is “intended to express a state or attitude of voluntary consecration to God, a continued act of consecration; or a state of choice as distinct from a mere act of choice, an abiding act or state of choice, a standing and controlling preference of mind, a continuous committal of the will to the highest well-being of God and of the universe.” (Charles Finney, Lecture LVIII) Accordingly, a person is sanctified or consecrated to God by the blood of Christ when he makes a confession of faith and proclaims the Lordship of Christ.  However, continued consecration must be realized through a person’s abiding attitude to God as revealed through his or her practices.

The believer cannot be sanctified or consecrated to God and seek his or her own interests.  Sanctification following confession of faith necessitates death to self, a voluntary state of devotion to the Lord’s purposes.  “Sanctification is nothing more nor less than entire obedience, for the time being, to the moral law.” (Finney) It is the attitude or abiding in a sanctified state of consecration to God that requires the Spirit and his ministry.  Although a person might be set aside in part for building the kingdom, he may yet not be cleansed (transformed) in heart and mind for that purpose or to dwell in the kingdom.

Paul taught that he had been chosen “to be a minister of Christ Jesus so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16, NIV) He was not addressing sanctification by the blood of Christ, although that is essential. Accordingly, his teaching addressed the need for a person to have the attitude or the will to walk righteously so that he or she would become an offering acceptable to God “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  To Titus and to the Thessalonians Paul revealed that salvation came through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.  “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13, NIV) To Titus he wrote: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5) The Holy Spirit provides renewal (transformation) through the indwelling presence (Col 1:27) of the Spirit of Christ as he washes away the darkness that pervades the believer’s heart and mind.

Vessels that are unclean, including people, cannot be used for noble kingdom purposes.  It is necessary for the believer to live righteously and to be transformed through the sanctifying work of the Spirit if he or she is to be used for noble purposes by God.  Paul wrote to Timothy: “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Tim 2:20-21, NIV)

Neither is sanctification a singular event as by the blood of Christ as some accept.  Its state must be maintained or kept. (1 Thess 5:23) The writer of Hebrews recorded that those who deliberately keep on sinning are treating “as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them.” (Heb 10:29, NIV) The “blood of the covenant” is the shed blood of Christ that brought the Old Covenant to a close and allowed the believer right to the New Covenant.  It purified him or her and set them aside for use in God’s service. (Eph 2:10) The blood of the covenant sanctified the believer concerning the sins committed under the first covenant. (Heb 9:15; 2 Pet 1:9) The sinner had been dead in his trespasses and sins and has been given new life for service to God. This is sanctification through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, through his willingness to take on himself all of the sins of the world.  The believer’s sins were washed away and he was left pure. Sanctification by the Spirit is to follow.

The Lord spoke to His disciples concerning the need for continued cleaning.  Before His crucifixion, He washed His disciples’ feet.  Peter had objected to act of what he perceived as being humiliating to his Lord and told Him, “You shall never wash my feet.”  The Lord responded, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Peter then wanted to be washed all over.  The Lord again addressed him: “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.” (Jn 13:10, NIV) Although many take this as representing a person’s need to be humble in service, the issue is really one of spiritual cleansing or of sanctification.  The disciples had been sanctified or as He has stated, have had a “bath.”  However, throughout the day their feet had become dirty.  In a spiritual sense, throughout the day they had been dirtied by sin.  He needed to cleanse them of this if they were to have any part of Him.  The “bath” is “the sanctification of the blood” while the washing of the feet (one’s daily sins- sanctification by the Spirit) still needed to be done.

When the writer of Hebrews related, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”, he is stating those who deliberately continue to sin are showing disregard for Christ and His sanctifying ministry for the believer, both on the cross and following.  The Spirit of grace is insulted when a person has failed to honor the Lord’s ministry in his or her life.

Sanctification by the Word and by the truth refer to the same issue. (Jn 17:17) God has revealed his gospel and the truths that he expects to be honored concerning his law and through his covenants.

The Spirit, if followed (“obeyed”-Heb 5:9) will accomplish the righteous requirements of God’s moral law (Rom 8:4) and leave the one who is believing sanctified, holy in his sight, and suitable for his Kingdom.

 

February 7, 2016

Beware the Teachings of Man

We’ve asked Russell Young to become a regular contributor here; in addition to being active in our comments section. This article got me thinking about how we have a clergy class who we expect to be the arbiters of all things spiritual, instead of learning how to go to the source

 

See that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8, NIV)

A god of this age is philosophical thought. Its expression has been seen in teaching about the issues of life (abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, tolerance, etc.) and even in spiritual teachings. Our institutions of “higher learning” have derailed the gospel message; philosopher-theologians often leave the confines of God’s Word in search of understanding so that Believers might be ‘better informed.’ Their proclamations are often accepted as “truth” and they are honored as being the source of all knowledge and the founts of wisdom. The problem is that their “truths” often come from “principles of this world” as Paul has warned. Their philosophies are deceptive.

The reason why our pastor/teachers are accepting the deceptions of these philosopher-theologians must be discerned by themselves. Is it that the Holy Spirit only speaks to a few? Is it that they do not hear the whisperings of the Spirit? Is it due to the ease that comes from relying on another’s mind? Is it that they have been convinced of authenticity of a world system that honors institutional learning?

Why is it that our theological institutions have replaced the ministry of the Holy Spirit in His teaching role with that of esteemed men? Through John’s gospel our Lord stated,

“When he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you in all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” (John 16:13-14, NIV)

Modern ChurchThe neglect of cherishing the Spirit and of seeking Him as the source of truth, and the practice of relenting to human understanding has led many astray and is resulting in the destruction of the modern church. The LORD said that He would not give His glory to another, and in the end He will not give it to those who have honored themselves or who honor others for their human thought. This is a serious matter!

Paul wrote,

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8, NIV)

This passage is straight-forward. How do believers know the leading of the Spirit if they are led by men? What teaching is being provided to help them avoid destruction? Teachings about righteousness that allow the believer to mature and to “train himself to distinguish good from evil” are the “solid food” of God’s Word. (Hebrews 5:14) The nature of one’s “sowing” will lead to his eternal life or to his destruction. This teaching and the many that require the practice of righteousness, the transformation of the heart to one that pleases God, and the awaiting judgment have all be cast aside in favor of man’s persuasions of provision provided through God’s grace. This is a very serious matter!

Paul taught that “the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:4, NIV) It is the teaching of our Lord that He did “not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17) He fulfills them through His life lived in the believer which is one’s hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) In the end the LORD is going to destroy the earth and its inhabitants because “it has been defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken his everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5)

What disappointment awaits those who have relied upon man rather than upon God! Woe to those who teach man’s philosophies rather than God’s truths. Those who do so will face God’s wrath. Concerning the “distortion” of truth and the destruction that follows, Peter wrote:

“He [Paul] writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16)

Teachers will be judged for their deceptions!

The world has a great pull on the interests of man. The Israelites wanted a king so that they might be like the rest of the world and the Lord gave them one. Philosophical-theologians want to honor the institutions of man just as do teachers of other disciplines and the body is reaping its reward.

It is “hollow and deceptive philosophy,” as Paul has presented, that is deceiving many. The church needs to rest its understanding on the teachings of God’s Word through the Spirit’s revelations and not on the musings of man. Destruction is going to fall on many for their neglect of the precious “gift” of the Spirit and of His ordained ministry. In the end the wisest philosopher will receive no exaltation over the humblest servant of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 111:10)

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