Christianity 201

March 6, 2017

The Phrase “With God” Implies a 2nd Participant

Today I’m excited to be able to return to Mary Agrusa at the blog The Thought Just Occured to Me. In the process of choosing today’s selection, I also read three more of her articles, but settled on the one below. Click the title below to read at source, and then navigate to read other items by her.

The Key Ingredient

“Jesus looked at them and said…”with God all things are possible” Matt. 19:26.

Now for a boring grammar lesson. We all should know (unless we slept through English class) what with means. With is: to be accompanied by, to be in association with, to have or to possess. Simply stated it is someone/something PLUS someone/something.

Most expositions I’ve heard on Matt. 19:26 follow this general track. Men are hopeless basket cases, unable to accomplish anything redeemable on their own. However, with God, and by that what is meant is God all by His lonesome, all things are possible. The problem with that understanding is the pesky four letter word with.

According to Jesus, God doesn’t do the possible all by Himself. He’s not the ultimate spiritual Lone Ranger arriving on scene atop his faithful charger Silver. Who then does He work in tandem with? God has His Tonto. In case you didn’t realize it Paleface, Tonto is us!

Not off floating on a cloud somewhere in heaven listening to harp music God, Who is the Key Ingredient, resides in every believer. There’s only one way for Him to get from Point A to Point B. We take Him there. All He performs is done through His people who make up the Body of Christ.

God does everything through you and me. What we deem impossible may sound intimidating, even daunting.  That’s true if we take into account only our abilities and strengths, and not God’s. He is already aware of our capabilities, and just calmly waits for us to finally “be still and know that I am God.”

with-god-quotationPossibilities are co-operative ventures; 100% God and 100% man. Perhaps the reason we don’t see these happen as much as we’d like to is that we’ve removed ourselves from the equation. Doing so never produces the correct answer because we’ve left God with no one to work through. Sans a willing partner, God takes to the sidelines and waits patiently.

It’s time to remove the false mindset that we can ever be separated from God and His love. Christ is in us right now, and vice versa. We’re inseparable. Scripture attempts to repeatedly hammer this truth into our thick little skulls. However, when wrapped in feelings of inadequacy and failure our minds are renewed, but with the wrong information. We wind up living in an altered reality that God never designed for us.

How about you? Based on your strengths, abilities and resources what possibilities (not to mention impossibilities) seem unattainable? Which would you prefer:

1) God shows up and single-handedly makes things happen,
2) You and God work together to perform things you never imagined you could do?

Which do you think He’ll opt for? Next time you quote Matt. 19:26 are you willing to keep yourself in the equation? With Christ in and working through you, can you ever really fail?

September 10, 2014

Greater Works than these Shall He Do

“…nearly every miracle has a human element…” ~ Mark Batterson

I thought I’d throw a little King James into today’s title.  (I thought it was “shall ye do.”) That’s the way I first heard this verse, but now, as a mature adult, I still find my mind carries the baggage of expectations that like Jesus, I would raise the dead and walk on water. Or greater, right?  Because the verse is about greater. So I appreciated reading what follows from Mark Batterson’s new book The Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible (Baker Books, Sept. 2014).

Grave Robber - Mark BattersonOne of the boldest statements in the Bible is found in John 14:12:

Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing and they will do even greater things than these.

Greater things?  It would sound like heresy if it didn’t come from the lips of Jesus.  It’s one of those verses that we tend to rationalize, so let me tell you exactly what it means.   If you follow Jesus, you’ll do what He did.  You’ll seek to please the heavenly Father first and foremost.  You’ll care for the poor, you’ll wash feet, and you’ll offend some Pharisees along the way.  You’ll also traffic in the miraculous.  And it won’t just be as an eyewitness.  It’ll be as a catalyst.  Please believe me when I say, you are someone else’s miracle!

Make no mistake about it:  only God can perform miracles.  So God gets all of the glory.  But as you’ll see, nearly every miracle has a human element.  Sometimes you need to step into the Jordan River, like the priests of Israel, before God will part the waters.  And sometimes you need to wade into the Jordan seven times, like Naaman.  Only God could miraculously heal Naaman’s leprosy, but he would have forfeited the miracle if he hadn’t positioned himself for it by repeated obedience.  So while some miracles take only a single step of faith, others require multiple attempts!  But whether it’s ankle deep or waist deep, you’ve got to wade into the Jordan River.  Sometimes you’ve got to do the natural before God will do the supernatural.

The playground we live on, planet Earth, was designed with natural boundaries that mark the outer limits of human possibility.  The speed of light is the fence line, and the laws of nature are the fence posts.  some of them are well-known, like the law of gravity or Newton’s three laws of motion.  Others are more obscure, like Bell’s theorem.  While those fence posts are constantly being repositioned by scientific research, they establish a borderline between what is possible and what is impossible.  It’s the invisible, impassable fence between the natural and the supernatural, and no human can dig under it, climb over it, or walk around it.  But God has put a gate in the fence.  His name is Jesus.

If you follow Jesus long enough and far enough, you’ll eventually trespass into the impossible.  You’ll turn water into wine, feed five thousand with two fish, and walk on water.  I’m not suggesting that you go walk off the nearest dock and see ho many steps you can take.  God will probably manifest His power very differently for you than He did for the original disciples.  But if you believe what Jesus said, then you’ll do what Jesus did.  The miracles you experience should be even greater than the miracles Jesus performed, in terms of both quantity and quality.

Grave Robber, pp. 25-26

April 15, 2013

God Through Us

Keith Brenton posted this a few days ago, even as he is in the middle of a very challenging season of life. So I wanted to post this partly to encourage you to pray for Keith and his family as they deal with Angi, his wife, as she battles cancer.  To learn more go to his blog and scroll back to February 19th and then read forward.  To read today’s post at source, click here.  


God works through us.

It’s not that He can’t work in other ways; obviously He can and does. But because He believes in us — that astounding fact of scripture which simply cannot be denied or dismissed — He wants to work through us.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ~ Philippians 1:3-6

Can you conclude anything from this that there is a partnership in the gospel? That “he who began a good work in you” can be anyone other than God? So is this partnership just between Paul and the folks at Philippi?

(for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), ~ Galatians 2:8

No! It’s God working through Peter to the circumcised and through Paul to the Gentiles! How does He do that?

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

Is it just to Peter and Paul? Does He just makes work for us? No! It’s for all, and for every:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. ~ 2 Corinthians 9:8

Does He just give us the grace to prepare ourselves for the work? Not by a long shot! There are gifts attached to those grace:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.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 12:3-8

So He gives us specific gifts to prepare us for the work He has prepared for us to do. But prepared us in what way?

Now 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 Corinthians 12:4-6

He empowers us. The Spirit, the Lord, God. How much power are we talking about?

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:20-22

That’s a lot of power! Does He do it long-distance?

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. ~ Colossians 1:24-29

No; from within! Christ in us. It’s His energy working powerfully within us. That makes us partners in the gospel with God, through Christ!

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:1

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:20

How does Christ dwell in us? Through His Holy Spirit:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ~ Romans 8:9-11

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

The Spirit of God! The Spirit of Christ! Without His Spirit within us, we have no hope of resurrection! We have no chance of escaping destruction! Without His Spirit, we have no way to partner with God in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

We can know scripture forward and backward and think we know everything it means, and if we do not have the Spirit dwelling within us, we are pointless and powerless in our attempts to minister. By the Spirit, God speaks through us:

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:3

And the One who knows how best to prepare and empower each of us does so at His own discretion, not ours:

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 Corinthians 12:7-11

Therefore we work for the common good, Paul says, in partnership with God to build His building, sow and water and tend His field:

For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:9

So how do we respond to this offer of powerful, dwell-within partnership?

Do we say, “Well thanks, God, but I’ve got my Bible and I understand it completely and perfectly; that’s all I need and I don’t really want your help”?

Or, “I’m just not sure about all that miraculous stuff or being a part of that; it’s not that I believe You can’t do it, but it scares me a little bit and I’d rather just believe that You don’t work that way anymore because it’s too likely to be perceived as fake and I don’t want to have my credibility damaged”?

Perhaps just: “Oh, You don’t need me, Lord. Use my brother; he talks better than I do”?

Maybe: “I’m catching the next outbound boat for the other direction.”

Do any of those sound familiar?

Too familiar?