Christianity 201

July 30, 2018

The Lord’s Refining Ministry

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

by Russell Young

There is great neglect in the church when it comes to recognizing both the need for transformation through personal refinement and of its means. Many see their acquisition of an eternal hope having been accomplished by Christ on the cross with this being the end of the matter; however, Paul spoke of something more. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom 5:9─10 Italics added.) “More” than justification through the blood of Christ is needed to avoid the wrath of God. That “more” is accomplished through Christ’s life in, and on behalf of, the believer. Paul taught of a great mystery that had been kept hidden, “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col1:27) Apparently, the “mystery” remains a mystery to many. Perhaps this is so because teachers want to attribute the believer’s eternal salvation to Christ’s sacrificial offering alone. Christ, however, rose from the dead, has been given to the confessor as Spirit (2 Cor 3:17, 18), and is continuing his life in those who have covenanted his lordship. (Rom 10:9) Through his presence in the believer, he offers himself so that they, too, might live a righteous life and might be refined and conformed to his likeness.

The prophet Daniel spoke of the believer’s refining. “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand but the wise will understand.” (Dan 12:10 Italics added) Because a person has been pardoned for sin does not mean that all dross or impurity has been removed from his or her person and practices. Redemption from existing sin (Heb 9:15), resulting in justification, has been provided so that the Spirit might be given (Gal 3:14), enabling refinement. (Gal 5:5) Paul wrote that redemption of the body allows the believer to become adopted by God. (Rom 8:23) Only by such purification can a person be conformed to the likeness of Christ. The Word often equates the application of great heat to gold as the means of burning off the dross and impurities within it and applies this metaphor to believers.

In their blindness many do not see their impurities or their need. The Lord admonished, “Not everyone who says to me “Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21) Paul wrote that he was given the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 15:16) In addressing the church of Laodicea the Lord required of those who thought that they were wealthy, but who were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked because of their “lukewarm” deeds, “to buy from him gold refined in the fire, so that they could become rich.” (Rev 3:18) Many in in the church of Laodicea were under the impression that they were wealthy when it came to their spiritual position. They were in the church, doing church things but their commitment to righteousness was “lukewarm.” His admonition was “to buy” from him gold refined in the fire so that they might actually become rich, and white clothes (righteousness) to wear to cover their shame, and salve for their eyes so they could truthfully see him. It is purity in heart–being refined–that has great value.

How does a person “buy” gold from Christ? To “buy” means that a transaction needs to take place where one item is traded for another. What did the Lord expect of these people? The only thing that they had to offer was themselves and their acts. The Lord followed his condemnation by stating, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (v 19) They needed more. They needed to be “earnest” in their walk, to pursue cleansing from impurities, to accept discipline, to repent of their sinful attitudes and ways.
Daniel has revealed that at the time of the end a two-step purification process would take place. People would be made spotless and then refined. The sacrificial offering of Christ made them spotless but did not refine their hearts, attitudes, and practices.

Paul told the Corinthians, “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body,” (2 Cor 4:11) and went on to say, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor 4:16) A need exists to be renewed inwardly.

According to Paul, slavery to righteous practices leads to holiness. “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) and added, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” (Rom 6:22) He also taught, “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope,” (Gal 5:5) and stated, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:13) Slavery is not passive; a slave must obey, and eternal salvation comes through obedience (Heb 5:9) for the refinement of the body and for service. All who do evil will be weeded out of his kingdom. (Mt 13:41)

Eternal salvation requires both redemption and refinement, the “more” that Paul spoke about to the Romans. The church has come to understand the blessed ministry of Christ through the redemption offered by his blood, but it has had difficulty discerning the need for purging sinful practices as accomplished through the Lord as Spirit, the need for engaging the Lord’s refining processes.


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

(All Scriptures are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.)

February 4, 2018

Sunday Worship

Psalm 24.NIV.3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.

Psalm 24.The Voice.3 Who can possibly ascend the mountain of the Eternal?
    Who can stand before Him in sacred spaces?
Only those whose hands have been washed and hearts made pure,
    men and women who are not given to lies or deception.

It is not he who sings so well or so many Psalms, nor he who fasts or watches so many days, nor he who divides his own among the poor, nor he who preaches to others, nor he who lives quietly, kindly, and friendly; nor, in fine, is it he who knows all sciences and languages, nor he who works all virtuous and all good works that ever any man spoke or read of, but it is he alone, who is pure within and without.” – Martin Luther

Jim Grant is a graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with an MDiv in Biblical languages. I and a DMin in Church Revitalization from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His doctoral dissertation was about “implementing principles of intercessory prayer as a means of revitalizing a Plateaued Church.” We discovered his blog, Preach Between the Lines yesterday and thought this would be a great fit for our Sunday Worship series. In 2018 he is working his way through the poetic/wisdom books. Click the title below to read at source.

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

Psalm 24 – … The author asks us some questions – Who may ascend to the hill of the LORD? – in other words who can come to the LORD’s Temple? – thinking of Jerusalem and Temple Mount. The Jews had a very rigid practice of ceremonially “washing” in large vats to cleanse themselves before worship. Coming to the Temple – more importantly before the LORD’s sanctuary, people did not nonchalantly rush into the presence of the LORD. “Who may stand in His holy place?” The second question makes us evaluate if we are worthy to stand in his presence. Thinking of God on His throne; who is worthy and righteous, holy or without guile to stand before the Holiness of God Almighty [El Shaddai]?

Of course the rhetorical questions have the same answer: No one. I believe that we have made worship all about us, rather than about God and His majestic power and love. I hear too much about people wanting to “feel” the Spirit. If a person knows the Lord Jesus Christ – they should already KNOW the Spirit and not need to “feel” the Spirit. Feelings lie all the time to us; they cannot be trusted to verify a godly experience. If we are to “approach the House of the LORD; if we are to come into His presence,” we must be cleansed and pure.

I am not sure how many believers think about what they are doing when they “go to church.” Usually there has been a lot of activity and emotions in trying to get the family ready on time. We come sliding into the pew and are no more ready to worship than the man on the moon. Then the music guy is trying to pump us up to “sing louder.” Truthfully I’m not ready to sing many times until after the song service is over. As a pastor I love hearing the wonderful worship songs and the genuine praise of people toward God – I’m just not sure it is accomplished by strobe lights and fog machines!

We must have clean hands – I never was allowed to “come to the dinner table” with dirty hands. I hand to “get ready to eat.” Washing my face and hands was my responsibility. Of course I got inspected and if I was not clean I had to do it over. The Holy Spirit is our guide to us, letting us know whether we are really cleansed for worship [dining with the Father]. I have noticed that my hand naturally get dirty when I walk around in this world. I don’t have to handle dirty or mud to get dirty. When I do have “dirt” [sin] that i must deal with, well it takes more than running water over my hands!

The second requirement to WORSHIP the LORD is to have a “pure heart.” I take this to mean that I am right with God and mankind. Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. God knows our motives and attitude – If I regard iniquity in my HEART, He [God] will not hear me. Verse 4 gets more specific – one who has not lifted his soul to falsehood – in other words not a hypocrite, not a liar! I have witnessed people who intentionally lied about who they are, pretending to be something they are not. We can be liars by the way we behave, our actions will tell whether we are pure or not. There is work to be done before coming before the Holy God of our salvation. If we do the work of “getting ready” the dinner/presence of the LORD will be most enjoyable!

If we are honest with ourselves, and come clean with the Lord our God, there is great mercy and forgiveness in His love. The Pharisees made Temple worship about them; pretending to be religious and holy – Jesus knew better. His response was Woes pronounced on them, and a warning to us not to be taken in by their hypocrisy. Let’s get ready for TRUE WORSHIP of the KING OF KINGS!


Who may ascend to the hill/mountain of the Lord?

Four conditions requisite to render such an ascent possible.

  1. The one who abstains from evil doing: He that hath clean hands.
  2. The one who abstains from evil thought: and a pure heart.
  3. The one who does the duty which he is sent into the world to do: That has not lifted up his mind unto vanity (or, as it is in the Vulgate, Who hath no received his soul in vain.) And,
  4. The one who remembers the vows by which he is bound to God: nor sworn to deceive. And in the fullest sense, there was but One in whom all these things were fulfilled; so that in reply to the question, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?” He might well answer, “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” John 3:13 . “Therefore it is well written,” says St. Bernard, “that such an High Priest became us, because he knows the difficulty of that ascent to the celestial mountain, he knows the weakness of us that have to ascend.” Lorinus and Bernard, quoted by J. M. Neale (paraphrased; sourced)

Worship song: King of Glory by Chris Tomlin

 

 

September 24, 2015

Through a Glass Darkly

Today, a guest post from the blog Flagrant Regard. A longer version appears at the link in the title below.

‘Through A Glass Darkly’ – A Lesson On Spiritual Renewal

“We are all messed up like a person compromised with impurity; even all our right efforts are like soiled rags. We’re drying up like a leaf in autumn …”
Book of the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 64, verse 6

THE JOURNEY GETS MESSY

At the point of our conversion (or in my case, my reconversion), we’re given a new perspective by God which allows us to see more clearly the world around us and how broken it is. At the same time (and maybe more importantly) we are given much needed insight with respect to our own soul and moral character and how poorly developed they truly are. We become aware of God’s unmerited love for us but receive along with that a glimpse of how distant our goodness is from the goodness and purity of God. And because of our new, clearer perspective, we find ourselves humbly asking God for strength and the ability to live our salvaged-by-Grace lives for Him with a sincere determination.

But at some point, after this ‘great awakening’, we lapse back into familiar ways – well I believe most of us do – and find that the things of the Spirit become less important or engrossing compared to the urgent issues and distractions that make up our day-to-day existence. Still having the Spirit of God within us, we may become aware of this lapse, but often feel helpless to deal with it. And then guilt sets in – the biggest nail in the coffin for a once spiritually inspired, enthusiastic mindset. So we pray, “God get me out of this funk.” Or, “Make me better than I am.” Or, “Fix me (or things) again so I can feel connected to You!” But these repeated requests or prayers often come across as a seemingly useless endeavour. It’s like trying to repair or clean things up with broken and dirty implements.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

As our spiritual energy and connection to God seems to diminish, we feel caught in a loop and a dryness of the soul begins to overwhelm us. This is a dangerous ‘tipping point’ for some believers. If they don’t feel or see enough of God’s power in their lives, they walk away from the faith and give up ‘trying’.

HOW YOU BRING AN END TO A SPIRITUAL RUT

Here’s the thing: you can’t. As your spiritual life continues, you will lose connection with God frequently and all your efforts to rekindle the excitement or ‘vision’ you had the day you knew God had entered your life will, in your mind, amount to a hill of beans. You’ll feel adrift in stagnant water and those living waters Jesus promised his followers are somewhere on the other side of dark mountains that have seemingly hemmed you in. Welcome to the valley of the shadow of death. You have now joined the ranks of every single believer who’s ever asked God to change them! This might come as a shocker, but you were meant to arrive here.

“Why?”, you ask.

kitten distressed

Because it is at this time, God is about to reveal to you that everything you think you have done or have attempted to do to put things right between you and Him is not unlike your trying to clean a pair of glasses with dirty rags. And as long as you continue to assume you’re the one who has to clean up your spiritual lenses to restore clarity, perspective and objectivity to your own soul-view you will fail miserably because God has set it up that way.

Again, you ask, “Why? Why would God allow me fall so hard if I am doing my best to put things right?”

He does this so that He can reveal within us His power, His strength and what His vision for you truly is. It’s only when every light you’ve tried to keep going has gone out that it’s His time to shine! When your knees have hit the floor it’s then He eagerly shows you how strong His arms are by pulling you back up. He takes your worn-down perceptions – all the methods that you thought were going to keep you connected to Him or ‘spiritual’ – and tosses them into His washing machine. Then He hands you back those things that are really needed to really make a difference in your world, your outlook and life-experiences.

God likes to show off – the Scriptures evidence this repeatedly with respect to His character and/or his modus operandi. Deep in our personal valleys, if/when we continue to walk by faith (what little there may be of it at times) He will restore our spiritual sight by showing us who He really is by answering our prayers from an unexpected angle or entering our world in ways we never would have anticipated.

12583170413_a0a235164c_b

“Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”
~ G.K. Chesterton

This kind of thing – beautiful and powerful spiritual renewal – happens frequently over one’s lifetime in the hearts of those who humbly walk with God. Admittedly, it takes a lot of patience and waiting for it to happen. But God helps with that too … just hang … on … a little … longer!

Wash, rinse, repeat.

This is God’s style of restoration and it’s so welcomed, especially when we’re spent from our trying so hard. With respect to our dealing with ourselves and God, preacher and author, John Ortberg, instructs us to ‘try softer’.

“Often the people in the Gospels who got in the most trouble with Jesus were the ones who thought they were working hardest on their spiritual life. They were trying so hard to be good that they could not stop thinking about how hard they were trying. It got in the way of them loving people. … there is an alternative: Try softer. Try better. Try different. A river of living water is now available, but the river is the Spirit. It is not you. … Don’t push the river.”
~ John Ortberg, from the book, ‘The Me I Want To Be’

WHAT’S THE WORD ON ALL OF THIS?

I cannot emphasize this enough: the Bible and its guiding principles as presented to us through the many colourful characters who authored it is like having a legal representative with you when you are in your darkest trial and at your lowest ebb. It stands beside you to instruct you when direction is seeminly absent. It is there to remove (not add to) your guilt when you may be completely bereft of feelings, spiritual enthusiasm or at the tail end of your faith. There is NOTHING you are experiencing (including the dryness of soul and even the disdain for all things spiritual) that has not been experienced by those who went before us – from Adam to Amos, Joseph to Jesus, Paul to Peter.

Read the Word and wait. Don’t read it, and you’ll feel utterly alone. I don’t care if you’re a literalist or a liberal – the Power of God is in that set of 66 books. You will find God in those words (try to resource a good translation like the New International Version or The Voice) and they will comfort you and set you up for that glorious moment of restoration – the big wash – that is coming to restore you to a fresh awareness of God’s will for your life and a clarity of vision that only He can provide.

FINAL THOUGHTS

In the medical field, visual clarity isn’t something that occurs by one’s trying to see better or by applying a plethora of home-remedies. It occurs via the efforts of a skilled outside agent who is able to alter the eye’s lens in order to enhance or correct poor vision. Similarly, we must await God’s agent – the Spirit – to restore to us the perspective, outlook and vision we are deeply in need of to get through this thing called life. We cannot experience these necessary renewals through any amount of redo’s that we embark on, no matter how sincere our effort.

Wait for God to be the Saviour He truly is. You will not be disappointed.

“But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run—never winded, never weary. They will walk—never tired, never faint.”
The book of the prophet Isaiah, chapter 40, verse 31 (The Voice Translation)

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”
Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 10, verse 13 (New Living Translation)

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, chapter 7, verse 10 (NIV Translation)

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”
Book of Revelation chapter 3, verse 19 – Jesus speaking through John the disciple to the church in Laodicea (N.I.V. Translation)

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Paul’s letter to the Phillippians, Chapter 2, verse 13

“To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Second letter of Peter, chapter 1, verses 1 thru 4 (NIV Translation)

 

©Flagrant Regard; used by permission