Sunday, July 31, 2005

Who’s the Boss?

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)
Many Christians (mostly men, but not a few women) look at this passage and think it is about who’s the boss. They completely miss the point. It is the sort of question people ask who don’t understand very much about intimate, personal relationships.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word. (Ephesians 5:25-26)
Notice that Paul does not say, “Husbands, boss your wives,” or “Husbands, make your wives submit.” Nothing of the kind. Rather, he says something completely different: “Husbands, love your wives.”

Then Paul gives definition to that love. It is not the world’s idea of love, but God’s idea. We see this clearly portrayed in the Lord Jesus Christ: “Just as Christ also love the church and gave Himself for her.”

The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8), and it is the nature of love to give and serve. God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16). Jesus came, not to serve, but to be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

So Paul is not talking at all about “who’s the boss.” Rather, he is talking about “who’s the servant.” When he says, “Husbands, love your wives,” he is saying, “Husbands, give yourselves to your wives, and serve them.” BIG difference!

Some husbands go to God and complain, “Lord, that woman you gave me won’t submit.” They sound like Adam when he was caught in sin: “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). As if that made any difference at all concerning his own responsibility.

Husbands are to love and serve their wives regardless of whether their wives submit to them. In fact, husbands are to submit to their wives, for Paul speaks in verse 21 of “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Husbands are supposed to submit to their wives every bit as much as wives are supposed to submit to their husbands.

In fact, the greater obligation is on the husband to love, serve and give — even if the wife does not submit.

Husbands, forget about who’s the boss — you will not like where it leads you. Focus instead on who’s the servant-lover, then you will be much more like Christ. For God is love, and love gives and serves.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

How Praying in the Spirit Helps Me

This is a response to someone who asked about speaking mysteries in the spirit (1 Corinthians 14:22). See Downloading in the Spirit.
Jeff, I'm guessing that you have experienced this downloading of something from God that is ministering to your inner man. Can you please give me an example of this in your life? What do think this “something” is that is going on in the spirit that the mind cannot understand? It seems rather pointless to have something going on within me that I don't understand and is therefore useless to my spiritual growth. Do you speak in tongues? If so, what languages do you speak in?
Dear Stan,

Yes, I believe I have experienced the downloading of things from God which minister to my spirit. For example, whenever I go to preach or teach or lead worship, I spend some time praying in the Spirit. Since I have started doing this, I have found that my ministry time has been much more empowered and effective, with a much greater clarity.

I also pray in the Spirit when I need to make a decision about something, or need the answer to a problem. I often find that, immediately afterwards, the guidance or answer I am seeking from God shows up.

If it seems pointless to have something going in me that my mind does not understand, that is probably because my mind always wants to be in charge. But my mind was not made for that. The Bible says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Notice that it does not say, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart AND lean on your own understanding.”

The mind was never meant to be the boss. On the day Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, man died spiritually and the soul lost its connection with God. In that vacuum, the mind just assumed control.

There is nothing illogical about my spirit being edified by things my mind does not understand. There are also plenty of things that go on in my body that my mind does not understand (and medical science still has much to discover about it, as well), but the physical function of my body proceeds merrily along anyway. For example, my breathing is an involuntary process, not something I regulate by my thoughts.

My mind is not my spirit, nor is it the master of my spirit—it is the servant of my spirit. My mind functioned before I ever experienced the new birth, the spiritual birth from above by the Spirit of God. But I am not a mind, I am spirit, and I have a mind.

So what is the “something” that is going on in my spirit that my mind does not understand? I think there are a number of things that happen through praying in tongues.

1. Wisdom and revelation. Paul prayed in Ephesians that God would give his readers the spirit of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17). Paul was a very articulate communicator, but he wasn’t asking for better skills at preaching and teaching, or to make him more cogent or coherent in his letters. I think he realized early on that his communication would not mean a thing unless the Holy Spirit was ministering it to the heart. Now, I don’t think Paul necessarily had speaking in tongues in mind when he prayed this prayer. But I do think that speaking in tongues is a powerful way for this to happen.

2. Intimate fellowship with God. That was the purpose Paul prayed that prayer in Ephesians in the first place. God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:11). But that does not mean we cannot experience them. In Isaiah 55, we see that He sent the revelation of His Word. In 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, we see the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit bringing forth the deep things of God:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of ma the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. BUT God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
When we pray in the Spirit, we are not limited by our own understanding because the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:11).

3. Unhindered worship. When we pray in the Spirit, we give thanks to God well (1 Corinthians 14:17). Worship is a spiritual activity, that is, a Holy Spirit directed activity. No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

In Acts 2, speaking in tongues was worship, for the people declared, “We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11). Peter’s evangelistic sermon was apparently in his own language, not speaking in tongues.

4. Effective prayer. Paul said that the Spirit helps us because we do not know what or how we should pray (Romans 8:26). “But the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Now, whether one wishes to take “groanings that cannot be uttered” in an absolute sense or simply understood as things which cannot be articulated by our own words, the point remains that in 1 Corinthians, praying in tongues was an activity involving the Holy Spirit.

When we pray in the Spirit, our prayers are focused because the Holy Spirit is not distracted. They are pure because the Holy Spirit has pure motives. They are effective and powerful because the Holy Spirit knows exactly what to pray.

By this time, you probably realize that, Yes, I do speak in tongues. But I don’t know what languages I pray in. There are so many known languages and dialects in the world (and that’s not counting the languages of angels) that I would not even know where to begin to try to figure out which ones I am speaking. Fortunately, identifying languages is not a Biblical prerequisite for speaking in tongues.

The Lord bless you in all things.

(See also Benefits of Praying in the Spirit.)

Friday, July 29, 2005

"Ask Me, Command Me," Says the LORD

Thus says the LORD,
The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker;
“Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons;
And concerning the work of My hands;
you command me.”
(Isaiah 45:11)
Here is a verse that makes a lot of Christians uncomfortable. Everyone is cool with “ask Me.” It’s when they get to “command Me,” that they start to get wobbly. They think, “Are we supposed to boss God around?”

No, that’s the kind of question people ask who don’t understand what intimate personal relationships are about. For them, to command means to insist that someone do something that is against their will. We need to grow up.

God is love, and the nature of love is to give and serve. When we get close to God and begin to understand His heart, our heart will become more like His, and we will begin to understand that this is about relationship, not about religion, rules or regulations.

In Isaiah 45:11, the word “ask” means to inquire, request, or even demand. Now, to demand does not mean to be controlling, abrasive, abusive, belligerent or petulant. It simply means to lay claim to or call for something. You might notice on any check you write or receive that is says, “Pay to the order of ...”

That check is a promise to pay the sum specified. The bearer of the check then demands that which has already been promised. He does this by endorsing the check and ultimately presenting it to the bank and account upon which it has been drawn. The demand presents no breach to the authority of the person who issued the check. In fact, the demand actually acknowledges and honors the sovereignty of the check writer.

For another example, if my father promises to do such and such a thing for me at such and such a time, it does him no dishonor when I go to him and say, “Poppa, the time has come. Do what you have promised.” Rather, it honors him because it honors his freely given word.

In the same way, God has made certain promises to His people. Therefore, to demand — to lay claim to or call for — that which He has promised does not in any way take away from the fact that He is God and that He is sovereign. No, it actually honors His sovereignty and pleases Him greatly. For it is taking God at His Word — and that is what faith is all about. In fact, it displeases God when we do not make demand on His promises. For without faith, the Bible says, it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).

The use of “command” in Isaiah 45:11 operates in the same way. It is not about bossing God around or getting Him to do anything against His will. It is about taking Him at His Word and honoring His authority by exercising the authority He has given to us. We command what He has promised.

So how do we know what that authority is? How do we know what we can call for and lay claim to? How do we discover what we can demand of Him and command His hand concerning?

One word: Ask.

The LORD says, “Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons.” The Bible says that if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, you have the right to be called a “son of God” (John 1:12). God has also made certain promises concerning you and you have the right to ask what those are. And if you ask, God will tell you. He will reveal it to you in His Word and by His Spirit.

Don’t be afraid to ask God what He has promised concerning His children. Then boldly go to Him and command His hand concerning those promises.

(See also Commanding the Hand of God?)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Weaned, Quieted Heart

LORD, my heart is not haughty,
  Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
  Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
  Like a weaned child with his mother;
  Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD
  From this time forth and forever.
(Psalm 131)
This is called “growing up” in the LORD. Paul said, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). He is not talking about “children” in the Lord, but about “sons,” that is, those who have come to a place of maturity in their relationship with God.

It has nothing to do with chronology. There are many who are old in years but still children in the Lord — they just never grew up. On the other hand, there are those who are very young in years but who know how to be led by the Spirit of God — they are the mature sons Paul is talking about. (It is not about male and female either. If men can be the “bride” of Christ, women can be the “sons” of God.) In Psalm 131, David shows what that maturity looks like:
My heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty.
There is no pride or arrogance, no unjust assumptions about what we see with the eyes (for our eyes can easily deceive us).
Nor do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me.
We don’t have to figure everything out with our reasoning. The Bible says, “Trust in the LORD with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

There are things too profound for our own understanding. God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:11), but God sent His Word and His Spirit so that we could operate according to His ways and thoughts. Paul said,

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

That’s why it is important for our maturity to be led by the Holy Spirit, for He searches and reveals the things that are too profound for us.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
This maturity is about relationship, not about reasoning. The weaned child is calm and quiet with his mother, not because he has figured everything out, but because he has learned to trust his mother, that she loves him and will take care of him.

Notice that this is a decision we must make. God cannot calm and quiet our soul if we are not willing. We must choose to trust Him, then the peace of God comes and we know that all shall be well. One way to begin is simply by saying, whatever the circumstance, “God, I choose to trust You.” Say it often, at every turn in the road. Instruct your soul with this and let it become big inside you.
O Israel, hope in the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
This is David’s conclusion, his kingly counsel to the people of God. To “hope” means to trust, with a positive expectation, a joyful anticipation.

When we have our expectation in God, there is no haughtiness or arrogance, because now we know that it is all about Him and not about us. This is our “standard operating procedure” from now on.

Set your trust, your hope, your expectation upon God in all things — now and forever. Let the Spirit of God search the deep things of God and reveal them to you (simply ask Him, and the Word of God will “come alive” for you). Learn to hear His voice and be led by Him. Then you will move forward in your life in calmness, quietness and confidence.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Psalm ~ An Open Invitation

Anybody who has kept up with The Faith Log soon discovers that a lot of what I write about is instigated by some passage in the Psalms. I've been praying through the Psalms for over 15 years now, and it really has become an ongoing conversation between me and Yahweh. Psalms lend themselves so wonderfully for that because that is exactly what they are — living conversations between the LORD and His people.

There is the “give and take” of relationship, and the psalm-writers don't hold anything back. Sometimes they are exuberant in praise, sometimes they whine and complain, sometimes they breathe out venom on their enemies.

Sometimes there is a real wrestling with God, Jacob-style. I like the title Mark D. Roberts has given to his book about the Psalms — No Holds Barred: Wrestling With God in Prayer. VERY appropriate. Sometimes there is confusion and disappointment. Psalm 88 does not have a happy ending –“The darkness is my closest friend” (NIV).All these things are held in tension. In Spirituality of the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann describes it as orientation, disorientation, reorientation. But it all becomes part of the Book of Praises (Hebrew tehillim), as the Psalms are called, because it is all brought to the LORD for Him to deal with.

Does that entice you? The Book of Psalms is an open invitation for you to come and lay out all the issues of your heart before the LORD. In the process, you will discover the heart of God.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Breakthrough of a Broken Heart

There is an old Jewish proverb that says, “The teacher cannot place the truth in the heart of his student. He can only place it on top, so that when the heart breaks, the truth will fall in.”

There are things that God wants to do in our hearts, but He will not force His way in to do them. Yes, He is the healer of the brokenhearted, but sometimes a heart cannot be healed until it is broken. Then we are ready to let the Lord come and do a work in us.

There are things that I have been crying out to God for, and this morning my heart has been breaking over something I have been reading. It is not tragic things I have been reading about, but some very good things — ways that God is using people to bless others. My heart is bursting because I very much want to be a part of it — to hear the voice of God in such a powerful way, and to declare it boldly, that many will be blessed by the revealing of their heart before God and turn to Him.

One of the touchstone verses of my life has been this:
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of disciples,
  That I may now how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens me morning by morning,
  He awakens my ear to listen as a disciple.
(Isaiah 50:4 NIV)
That is what my heart cries out for this morning.

Sometimes the breakthrough we need the most is the breaking of our hearts.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Opening Your Heart to the Voice of God

He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your heart.
(Psalm 95:7-8)
The LORD is our God, but He is also our Shepherd. David brought this out very well in Psalm 23. In the New Testament, we see Jesus declaring, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Then He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

Notice that in Psalm 95, after calling us the “sheep of His hand,” there is an invitation, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart.”

Now, notice that the vehicle for hearing the voice of the Shepherd is not the ear, but the heart. Jesus said a number of times, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” but He was not talking about the flaps on the sides of our heads, He was talking about our hearts.

If you want to hear the voice of the Lord, you must open your heart — the core of your being — to receive His Word. Faith comes from hearing the Word, and will be followed up by willing obedience. As James said, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Hearing without obedience is a deception, a hardness of heart.

Our hearts have long been discipled by the world, conditioned to be hard toward the voice of God. But God has given the Holy Spirit as an anointing oil to soften up the hardened heart.

Perhaps you are thinking, “It’s too late. My heart is already too hard to hear. What’s the use?” But I tell you there is something you can do. You can go to the Lord, whatever your condition, confess your heart to Him and ask Him to change it:
  • Father, my heart is hard toward You, but I want to hear Your voice. Please soften my heart.
  • Father, my heart does not even want to obey You, but please come and open my heart to Your words, and give me a heart of joyful obedience.
  • Father, there are things in my life I want to hold on to, even though they keep me from You. But come and change the desires of my heart to line up with Yours.
God will not turn you away. He is ready to come and do a powerful work in your heart and change your life for the better. Listen to His promise:
I know the thoughts that I think toward you, say the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD and I will bring you back from your captivity. (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
Open your heart to the LORD and you will hear His voice. He will reveal His heart to you and bring you into the blessing He has prepared for you all along.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Downloading in the Spirit

For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however in the spirit he speaks mysteries. (1 Corinthians 14:2)
Someone asked “What do you think it means in this verse when it says, ‘in the spirit he speaks mysteries?’” To answer that, let us first look at 1 Corinthians 14:14, where Paul says: “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.”

Praying in tongues does not primarily yield something to the intelligence of the mind. Nonetheless, there is something going on in the spirit. It is a kind of prayer that the mind does not understand.

What is a mystery? Usually in the Bible, a mystery is a secret, not one that God is keeping from His people, but one that He is revealing.

That is what is going on in 1 Corinthians 14:2, “in the spirit he speaks mysteries.” He is downloading something from God that is ministering to his inner man. For in verse 4, Paul says “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.”

“What is the conclusion then?” Paul asks in verse 15. “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”

In other words, Paul recognized that some of what he prayed was not going to be intelligible to his mind, but there would be edification going on in his spirit — the speaking of mysteries, or downloads from the Spirit of God, so to speak.

That seems to be quite okay with Paul, who decided he was going to pray both ways in his personal prayer life. “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all,” he says in verse 18.

Then in verse 19, he draws the distinction between the dynamics of private prayer and public assembly: “Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

That is why tongues, when addressed to the church, must be accompanied by interpretation. At that point, the mysteries a man speaks when he prays in tongues can become a prophesy that edifies the congregation.

(See also The Benefits of Praying in the Spirit.)

Are you hearing from God when you pray?

Friday, July 22, 2005

That You May Believe

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God … that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:13)
Here is the final reason John offers for writing his letter: That you may believe in the name of the Son of God. Or as you may have noticed in the NKJV, “that you may continue to believe.”

This is the same purpose he gave for writing his Gospel:
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:30-31)
John is passionate about Jesus. He is not speaking theoretically, but out of personal experience, his relationship with Jesus Christ, the Living Word.

But there were false teachers about, then as now, creeping into the midst and leading believers away from this personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. These teachers denied that Jesus is the Son of God, that the Son of God came in the flesh. These were antichrists, denying that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Christ.

So John very purposefully brings forth his testimony about Jesus. His purpose from the beginning has been to bear witness and declare what he had looked upon with his own eyes, heard with his own ears, touched with his own hands, to declare of Jesus
  • That He is the Son of God, that is, He is fully divine.
  • That He has come in the flesh, that is, He is fully human.
  • That He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.
John writes, “That you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” For he desires to have fellowship with his readers, all of them together enjoying deep and intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son. This is where fullness of joy is found, in continuous fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Faith in Jesus Christ is not a matter of the mind, giving mental assent to some theory. It is a matter of the heart, entering into personal relationship with who Jesus really is — the Son of God come to bring us back into fellowship with the Father.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Releasing the Favor of God

But You, O LORD, shall endure forever,
And the remembrance of Your name to all generations.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion
For the time to favor her,
Yes, the set time has come.
For Your servants take pleasure in her stones,
And show favor to her dust.
(Psalm 102:12-14)
God has favor for His people, and He has established a time for that favor to come forth in powerful manifestation. It is associated with a “remembrance,” a reminder to point all generations to God and His promises. For He is the Lord of all eternity, and the blessing He has determined for His people — salvation, restoration, healing, deliverance, prosperity — shall fully come to pass.
The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.
(Luke 4:18-19)
We are now living in “the acceptable year of the LORD,” the year of the LORD‘s favor.

Now, notice what releases the favor of God in the set time: “For your servants take pleasure in her stones, and show favor to her dust.” The word “for” shows a causal relationship. The set time of God’s favor has come because His servants have shown favor. In other words, the servants of the Lord have become intercessors on behalf of God’s people and God’s purpose. You see, whenever God wants to do something in the world, He speaks a word and gets His people to pray in agreement with it. We see this in Isaiah, where the LORD says:
I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent,
And give Him no rest till He establishes
And till he makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
(Isaiah 62:6-7)
The watchmen are intercessors who take the promise of the Lord and present it before Him as a memorial, a reminder. The Hebrew root word for “make mention” in Isaiah 62 is zakar (Strong’s no. 2142). It has the same root as zeker, the Hebrew word behind “remembrance” in Psalm 102:12 (Strong’s no. 2143).

These intercessors “make mention” to the Lord, relentlessly reminding Him of His promises. Day and night they bring up the promises He has made over His people, and they do not stop until He establishes what He has said He will do.

In other words, they show favor to the dust of Zion. The word of “favor” in Psalm 102 literally means to stoop in kindness. Causatively, it means to implore, or petition for kindness.

God releases His favor because His servants intercede, seeking His kindness and reminding Him of what He has spoken. They have so much confidence in His Word that they are bold enough to “get in His face” with it.

That is faith, and it pleases God greatly. It arouses His desire and stirs up His passion. For He has found what He has been looking for — people who trust fully in Him and Him alone.

Now look at what happens as a result:
So the nations shall fear the name of the LORD,
And all the kings of the earth Your glory.
For the LORD shall build up Zion;
He shall appear in His glory.
He shall regard the prayer of the destitute,
And shall not despise their prayer.
(Psalm 102:15-17)
Notice that, when the favor of God is released, it is a blessing, not only for the people of God, but for all earth: Nations come to fear the Lord, and so begin to move in wisdom and understanding. Heads of state begin to recognize His glory, and the name of the LORD is hallowed, that is, received as uniquely holy. Zion is built up, and the presence of the God is manifested in the midst of glory of it all.

What is more, the LORD hears and answers the prayer of the destitute, the “poor in spirit” who have come to that place in their lives where they see that that they are totally dependent upon God. They cast themselves upon Him in faith, and He answers their cry. The Good News is preached to them. They are healed of their broken hearts and all their afflictions. They are set free from all their captivities. For it is the acceptable year of the LORD — and God’s favor has been released!

The set time has come for God’s favor to be released into your life and into your world. Will you be an intercessor who shows the favor of the LORD to others, bringing His promises to bear and crying to God on their behalf? Will you be a watchman on the wall, reminding God of the provisions in His Word until His salvation appears, His kingdom abounds and the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of His glory? You hold the key.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

That You May Know You Have Eternal Life

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
John has been writing about eternal life from the beginning of his epistle. His testimony has always been of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is all about eternal life.

From John’s Gospel
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life. (John 3:36)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47).

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:28)

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that You Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:1-3)
From John’s epistle:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life—the life was manifested, ad we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. (1 John 1:1-2)

And this is the promise that He has promised us — eternal life. (1 John 2:25)

We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren. He who des not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14-15).

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (1 John 5:11)

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)

We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
How to know
It is possible to know that we have eternal life, and that is why John writes. The reasons for how we can know are all throughout the epistle.
  • We can know by the fellowship we have with the Father and with the Son (1:3).
  • We can know by walking in the light, for God is light, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1:5-7).
  • We can know by God’s faithfulness to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1:9).
  • We can know by the anointing of the Holy Spirit in us to teach us all things (2:20, 27).
  • We can know by abiding—Him in us and us in Him (2:27).
  • We can know by the love of God at work in us and through us (3:16-19; 4:7-11, 20-21).
  • We can know because our heart does not condemn us (2:20-21).
  • We can know because we do what is pleasing in His sight (2:22), for without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).
  • We can know because we believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another (3:23-24).
  • We can know because we confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (4:1-3).
  • We can know because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (4:4-6).
  • We can know because He has given us of His Spirit (4:13).
  • We can know because we confess that Jesus is the Son of God (4:15).
  • We can know because we have known and believed the love that God has for us, for God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him (4:16).
  • We can know because there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (4:17).
  • We can know because He first loved us, and we love Him in return (4:19).
  • We can know because we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One (5:1).
  • We can know because we love God and keep His commandments (5:2-3).
  • We can know because we overcome the world, and the victory that overcomes the world is our faith (5:4). We overcome because we believe that Jesus is the Son of God (5:6).
  • We can know because of the water—1) the baptism of Jesus, by which He identified with us in or sin. 2) the sign of water baptism by which we identify with His life, His righteousness and His resurrection (5:7-8).
  • We can know because of the blood of Jesus, shed for us, which cries out on our behalf (5:7-8, see also Hebrews 12:24).
  • We can know because of the Holy Spirit bearing witness (5:7-8).
  • We can know because He who has the Son has life (5:12).
  • We can know because if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And it we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we have asked of Him (5:14-15).
  • We can know because the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (5:20).
Now, understand that this is not how we have eternal life. We have, or receive, eternal life purely by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, this is how we know that we have eternal life. These things give us the assurance that eternal life is indeed at work in us.

If you believe in the name of the Son of God, then you can know you have eternal life.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It Will Not Be Taken From You

One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42)
There was Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet — listening to His voice, enjoying His presence, learning of Him. Cut to Martha, serving with a scowl. “Lord, don’t you care? Do something about Mary!”

Jesus quickly gets to the heart of the matter, gently but firmly: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.”

There’s the problem: a heart crowded and distracted by many things. One thing and one thing only is necessary — to be with Jesus. When you choose that good part, it will not be taken from you.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Because Some Are Trying to Deceive You

These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. ( 1 John 2:26)
John offers another reason for writing: Because some are trying to deceive you. This goes along with his earlier reason: Because you know the truth.Paul, like John, also warns us that there is a spirit of deception at work:
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age had blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
There are those who try to bring something that sounds very good, but ultimately denies that Jesus is the Son of God who came in the flesh. The beginning stages of Gnosticism, in John’s day, represents such a teaching. It presented Jesus as divine — which is true — but they denied His humanity.

Ironically, there are many philosophers of religion today who celebrate the Gnostic view as a sophisticated form of Christianity. The so-called Jesus Seminar, of recent years, represents such a proclivity. For example, they wished to promote the gnostic Gospel of Thomas as the “Fifth Gospel,” as if it had some sort of canonical or sem-canonical status. It does not and never has. There are various other groups about who try to separate the “Christ of faith” from the “Jesus of history,” seeking to drive a wedge between the divinity and humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

That denies the very basis of our salvation. The truth is that Jesus Christ is able to redeem us and reconcile us to God precisely because He is both fully human as well as fully divine.

There are many other forms of error that center on the nature of Jesus Christ. But John declares, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).

It is never enough to know the truth simply as a proposition. We must know the truth as a person, the person of Jesus Christ, who said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

So the testimony John brings is one the comes from personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ:
That which was from the beginning which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of Life—this lie was manifested, and we have see, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you. (1 John 1:1-3)
This is that testimony John preached all along, the same testimony his Christian readers heard and believed from the beginning of their faith. It was not just a proposition they received, but a person. It was not a religion they had entered into, but a relationship. They were born from above by the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit not only birthed them, but actually lived in them.
Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. (1 John 2:24-26)
It is this abiding relationship that will aid them in discerning deception and standing strong in the truth. For it comes with the anointing of the Holy Spirit:
But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you, but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all thing, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (1 John 2:27)
This is what Jesus promised His disciples on the night of the “Last Supper.”
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. (John 16:12-15)
It is very important to recognize that there are those who would deceive us. For there is no life in a lie, only dead religion. But if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, you have entered into a vibrant, personal relationship with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — full of light and life. Don’t let it be obscured by deceptions, but let the Holy Spirit take the things of Jesus — the things that come from the Father — and reveal them to you. Then you will be filled with a joy that remains.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

How to Have Mountain-Moving Faith

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says” (Mark 11:22-23)
First, hear the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). What do you give your attention to? What do you listen to? What do you let in through your eyes and your ears? That is eventually what you will believe. Show me what you devote yourself to today, and I’ll tell you what you will be believing tomorrow. Listen to the Word of God. Open yourself up to it and hear it. Faith will come.

Second, immediately stop speaking words that contradict or disagree with the Word of God. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Your understanding was made to serve you. It was never meant to be your master.

Your mouth can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. It can be your biggest asset, or your greatest detriment. So if you cannot yet speak words of faith, at least refrain from speaking things that do not line up with what God says.

You might be silent for a while. There is no harm in that. Abraham Lincoln said that it is better to keep silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Third, let the Word of God fill up your heart. Jesus said that it is out of the abundance, or overflow, of the heart that the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). David prayed, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). When the meditation of your heart is acceptable, or pleasing, to God, it is because your heart is filling up with faith. Then the words of your mouth will be powerful and full of faith.

Finally, when you have filled your heart in abundance with the Word of God, open up your mouth and speak it forth. Don’t be afraid even to shout it out (there is a great release in that). Whatever circumstance you may be facing in your life, God has a promise. Open your mouth and proclaim that promise. Whatever your mountain is, declare the Word of God to it. Every mountain must eventually line up with God’s Word.

Have faith in God. Get to know Him in His Word and let Him fill your heart with His heart. Then speak out of your heart the promises of God. Mountains will move.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Because You Know the Truth

I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (1 John 2:21)
Here is another reason John writes his epistle: Because you know the truth, and that no lie is of the truth. Where does this knowledge of the truth come from? From knowing Jesus. You see, truth is personal. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Through faith in Jesus, we have fellowship with the Father.

Not only that, but we have an anointing from God that pertains to the truth. In 1 John 2:20, John said, “But you have an anointing form the Holy One, and you know all things.”

An anointing is an empowerment from God that lifts burdens and destroys yokes (Isaiah 10:27). This anointing is a work of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:2).

John’s readers were being led by Gnostic teachers to think that they need some special, esoteric knowledge in order to really know the truth. Not so, says John: “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know the truth, and that no lie is of the truth.”

The recipient’s of John’s letter not only knew the truth, but they knew how to discern between what is the truth and what is the lie, for they had come into fellowship with the Father through faith in the Son, and they have received an anointing of the Holy Spirit to free them from the bondage of deception.

In other words, what they needed, they already had. They simply need to trust the work of God in their lives.

Now here was the key for discerning between the truth they had received and the lie they were hearing from false teachers: “Who is a liar, but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22).

What does this have to do with the anointing? Everything. It is not readily apparent in the English text, but if you read it in the original Greek text, you would quickly see that “anointing” and “Christ” have the same root. “Christ” actually means “Anointed One.” The one who denies that Jesus is the Anointed One, he is anti-christ, or anti-anointing.

The Gnostic teachers, believing that flesh is evil, denied that Jesus was the Anointed One. They rejected His humanity and thus denied both the Father and the Son. They were therefore antichrist and of the lie.

So we see it is the anointing that we receive from the Holy Spirit that helps us discern the truth from the lie, and identify those who are against the anointing. For those who are against the Anointed One are the same ones who are against the anointing.

If you know the Lord Jesus Christ, you not only have fellowship with the Father, you also have an anointing, a witness from the Holy Spirit to help you discern the truth from the lie. Whoever denies that Jesus is the Anointed One of God is of the lie, not of the truth.

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?"

Jesus answered him, "Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward."

Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake."

Jesus answered him, "Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times. Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me."
(John 13:36-14:1)
At the darkest hour, and with Peter's coming betrayal revealed to him, Peter hears these words from the Lord Jesus, "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me."

Every sin is a betrayal of the Lord Jesus, but He tells us, "Let not your heart be troubled." His ability to deal with the darkness of our heart is much greater than the darkness itself. He gives us the promise of forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9). So we can confess our heart to the Lord (He will not be shocked — He already knows what is in it), let Him take care of it, and move on in the joy of the LORD.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

God Doesn’t Send Anyone to Hell

God doesn't send anyone to hell — He lets them go.I think it was C. S. Lewis who said this (or something very like it): In the end there are only two kinds of people: 1. Those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and they enter heaven. 2. Those to whom God says, "Thy will be done," and they enter hell.

If people don't want God and His ways, He doesn't make them have to have them. But they will be miserable, for there is no place where God is not present. Even in hell — God is there! It is His presence that makes it hell for those who are in rebellion to God — they do not want Him but they cannot avoid His presence. They are totally unprepared for the experience of His glory — for them the glory of God is will be a tormenting flame.

God cannot cease being who He is, He cannot cease being omnipresent, and He will not veil His glory forever just because some people don't want it. He is, after all, God.

Step into the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. What in hell do you want?

That You May Not Sin

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. (1 John 2:1)
Here is a third reason the apostle John gives for writing his letter: That you may not sin.Now, John is not ignoring sin, as if sin did not matter. That was an error of the Gnostics, whose philosophy so separated the spirit from the body that they thought the acts of the body had no real consequence upon the soul.

Nor was he denying sin, as if it did not really exist. That, too, was a Gnostic error, for whom the solution to sin was not the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. To them, the problem was one of ignorantly supposing that sin had any reality at all, so their solution was the so-called “knowledge” that sin is not real. (The Greek word for “knowledge” is gnosis. Hence the name Gnostics.)

No, John’s teaching is that sin is real, that it is universal, and that it has consequences which must be addressed. That is why he says,
  • If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Even so, John says, “These things I write to you, so that you may not sin.” This does not mean that it is impossible for the believer to fall into sin. For John declares God’s provision:
And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)
What does John mean, then, when he says, “I write to you, so that you may not sin?” Was he describing a purpose for writing that could never be achieved? No, for he was writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and God would not set before us a purpose that could never actually be fulfilled, for He does not lie.

John’s purpose is simply this: Though it is possible for a believer to fall into sin, it is also possible for the believer to not sin. There is never a time in which we can excuse sin by saying, “Oh, it could not helped.”

As Paul tells us:
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful [i.e., full and faith, and dependable], who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
It is always possible for us to walk in the light as He is in the light and pursue deeper fellowship with God. He will never lead us into sin, but always away from it. It is important to understand that it is not enough to run from sin. That tactic will always fail. What we must do is run to God and walk with Him. David was called a “man after God’s own heart” not because he was without sin — he broke all the commandments — but because, even when he found himself in sin, he ran to God and not from Him.

Even if we do sin, there is forgiveness with God, and He is faithful to cleanse us from sin, so that we may be increasingly free of its power in our lives. That is why Jesus came.

Dear friend, I write this to you so that you may be free from sin. But if you do find yourself in sin, even habitual sin, do not despair. For the purpose of God is to deliver you, not only from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin, as well. One day, we shall even be delivered from the presence of sin.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

That Your Joy May Be Full

And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:4)
That your joy may be full. The first reason John gave for writing his epistle was that we might have fellowship with the Father and the Son, and the people of God. Along with that is a second reason: That your joy may be full.

Whenever we get into deep fellowship with God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — joy is inescapable. As David said to the LORD, “In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). The presence of God is all about joy. It is where joy dwells and is experienced in all its fullness.

Jesus, also, talked about fullness of joy. He said, “Until now you have asked nothing My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Here again, we see that joy is all about the Lord. When we ask in Jesus’ name we receive whatever we ask, and our joy is made full.

You see, asking in Jesus’ name means to ask as He would ask. We discover how Jesus would ask in any situation by getting into fellowship with Him and learning His heart. Those prayers will always be answered, for the Father will not deny the Son: “You have given Him His heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of His lips” (Psalm 21:2).

Fullness of joy always traces back to the presence of the Lord and intimate fellowship with Him.

God’s desire for you is to walk in fullness of joy. This is established by the mouth of three witness: David, Jesus and John. Enter into fellowship with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ, and the new birth by the Holy Spirit. Seek after His presence and get to know Him more and more intimately. Explore His heart in prayer and meditation on His Word. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you that things that belong to Jesus (John 16:14). Spend your life with Him. Then your joy will be full.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fellowship With the Father and the Son

That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and the with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
In the book of 1 John, the apostle gives a number of reasons for writing his letter, beginning with this one: “that you also may have fellowship with us.”

To get to the place of fellowship, he declares what he has seen and heard, what he has personally experienced of the Lord Jesus Christ. For that is the whole basis of the fellowship he seeks with his readers.

Fellowship is community, a common unity, a coming together for one theme and purpose. The Greek words is koinonia, which speaks of joint-participation, intimacy of relationship and freely sharing together.

The psalm writer says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133). He describes it as a high-priestly anointing and as the mountain dew which brings a daily refreshing. It is in that place of unity, he says, that the LORD has commanded the blessing — life forevermore!

The unity of this fellowship is centered on the Lord. It is not just with each other that we enjoy relationship, it is with each other in the company of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. As Paul puts it in the closing benediction of his letter to the Corinthians, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, , and the love of God, and the community [koinonia] of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

It is for this reason that John writes and brings to us what he has seen and heard of the Lord, so that we may enter deeper into this fellowship with God and with His people

Many people, even many Christians, are out of joint with God. The answer is to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ, to watch for His works, listen for His voice and learn of Him. Then we will enter into true fellowship, the one that consists of intimate relationship with God and His people.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Something Worth Knowing

One of the key words in 1 John is the word “know.” There are two Greek words used, and they refer to perception, understanding and experience. John is not speaking of that which we merely know in the mind, but of that which we know in the heart. For this knowledge comes out of relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and requires a work of the Holy Spirit that takes place in the heart. That is the context of the following statements, and they are not to be understood apart from faith in Jesus Christ:
  • We know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. (1 John 2:3)
  • We know all things because we have an anointing of the Holy Spirit. (1 John 2:20)
  • We know the truth, and that no lie comes from the truth. (1 John 2:21)
  • We know that He is righteous. (1 John 2:29)
  • We know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:29)
  • We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:2)
  • We know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
  • We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. (1 John 3:14)
  • We know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)
  • By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. (1 John 3:16)
  • By this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him, when we love in deed and truth. (1 John 3:19)
  • By this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:24)
  • By this we know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. (1 John 4:2)
  • By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error: He who knows God knows us; he who is not of God does not hear us. (1 John 4:6)
  • By this we now that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. (1 John 4:13)
  • We have known and believed the love that God has for us. (1 John 4:16)
  • By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. (1 John 5:2)
  • We know that we have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
  • If we ask anything according to His will, we know that He hears us. If we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14)
  • We know that whoever is born of God does not sin, but keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18)
  • We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. (1 John 5:19)
  • We know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 5:20)
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). He is talking about being born from above (heaven) by the Spirit of God. Those who are not, cannot see the kingdom of God — it is not just difficult, it is impossible. But those who are from above by the Spirit of God can behold the kingdom. We can see it and know it, have an understanding of it and perceive it at work in our world.

The most important question about knowing is this: Do you know Jesus? Have you been born again by His Spirit? He offers it to you: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). If you believe, then you will know.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Pursuing Heaven for the Sake of Earth

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)
Those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ have been born again (actually, born from above) by the Spirit of God (John 3:3). Our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We have been raised with Christ and seated with Him in haven at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 2:6).

So doesn’t it makes perfect sense to seek those things which are above — to go after the things of heaven? It is also a very necessary thing, if we are going to fulfill our calling. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven!” Those phrases are actually given to us in the imperative mood. That is, they are commands. Yes, Jesus has given us the authority to command the kingdom of God to come and His will to be done. We are His partners in this thing.

If we are going to command the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven, then ought we not to have a pretty good idea of what is going on in heaven? I don’t know about you, but I want to pray with some specifics. Some Christians pray so generally that it is hard to know where, when, how, or even if their prayers have been answered. Not me — I want to target specific situations with the will of God. In order to do that, I first need to see heaven, to seek those things which are above. I need to do what Paul tells us in the next verse:
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Colossians 3:2)
You might have heard the saying, “He’s so heavenly-minded that he is of no earthly good.” But I tell you that you will not be of any earthly good unless and until you set your mind on the things of heaven, because that’s where the real change comes from.

Set your mind on the things of heaven — where you were born again, where your citizenship is, and where you are seated with the Lord Jesus Christ in the throne room of God. As you begin to see what the will of God being done in heaven looks like, start calling for that will to be done on earth in the same way. Get specific, and start applying the provisions of heaven to the problems of earth.

The Focus of Our Faith
The Focus of Our Faith
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Colosse
Bite-Size Studies Through Colossians
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

The Wickedness of Men and the Faithfulness of God

An oracle within my heart concerning
    the transgression of the wicked:
  There is no fear of God before his eyes,
For he flatters himself in his own eyes,
  When he finds out his iniquity and when he hates.
The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit;
  He devises wickedness on his bed;
He sets himself in a way that is not good;
  He does not abhor evil.
(Psalm 36:1-4)
There is nothing new about wickedness. It’s been around since the Fall. It begins when we get out of joint with God — no fear of the Lord, no honor and respect for His ways. But we were made to worship, and when we do not worship God, we begin to worship ourselves. When we take the focus off of God, we invariably focus all our attention on ourselves.

Disconnected from God and His thoughts, we start to manufacture our own thoughts. Instead of speaking the Word of God, by which the whole universe came into existence, we start speaking our own self-absorbed words. They have no faith to them because faith comes by the Word of God. Nor do they contain the wisdom of God. All that is left is fear, hate and evil.

The heart begins to feed on its own darkness, plotting, scheming, devising wickedness. It becomes hardened, hating and despising good rather than evil.

David has given us an apt description of the wicked. But now he moves onto the second part of his psalm, and the reason for his praise — the brilliance of God’s faithfulness and the perfections of His goodness toward those who love and trust Him. It is a completely different tune:
Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens;
  Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the great mountains;
  Your judgments are a great deep;
O LORD, Your preserve man and beast.
(Psalm 36:5-6)
The mercy of God is through the roof! It is the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven. The faithfulness of God extends from earth to heaven like an impenetrable curtain surrounding us. The rightness of God is like the great mountains in its awesomeness — it cannot be shifted one inch. His judgment runs deep, setting things right at the very foundations of the world. This spells out salvation and deliverance for all who look to Himwho have the fear of the LORD before their eyes — and destruction for all who do not.

But as wonderful as that is, David has only told half. He has spoken about the character of God as woven through Creation. Now he turns his pen toward the goodness of God as expressed in Covenant.
How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
  Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,
  And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
For with You is the fountain of life;
  In Your light we see light.
(Psalm 36:7-9)
The lovingkindness (Hebrew hesed, the steadfast, immovable love) of God goes beyond excellence. It is exceedingly precious and valuable. All who have been touched by it and trust Him completely — they are in covenant relationship with Him. He is their God; they are His people. He takes care of them completely — they are abundantly satisfied with the abundance of His provision (abundance multiplied by abundance). Nothing in His house is held back from them.

Not only are their needs well taken care of, He also satisfies the desires of their hearts. For He gives them drink from the river of His delights. They drink their fill and become drunk on the wonders of His love. He is the fountain of life, and the light that causes us to see and understand.

At first, the description David gave of the wicked might have seemed a little imposing and fearful, like the recent terrorist attacks in London. But now with the description He gives us of the faithfulness of God, the wicked become a quickly fading memory. For the wickedness of the wicked is consumed by the glory of God’s goodness and power. David has given us the true perspective. The passion of God burns forever; the wicked and their wickedness soon become as dying embers.

So David does the math and brings the goodness of God to bear against the wickedness of men:
Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
  And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
Let not the foot of pride come against me,
  And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
There the workers of iniquity have fallen;
  They have been cast down and are not able to rise.
(Psalm 36:10-12)
Here is our answer in these days of terrorist attacks. Do not let them instill fear. Trust in the LORD and enjoy His protection, His provision — and even His pleasures. As for the workers of iniquity, they have already fallen. They will soon realize that they have been cast down and are not able to rise. It is only a matter of time.

Friday, July 8, 2005

Calmness of Soul in the Midst of Attack

In the LORD I put my trust.
(Psalm 11:1)
David, psalm writer, begins with this confident declaration. His mind is made up, his heart is set. He is addressing those who would try to stir up his soul with their fear. But his peace will not be disturbed.
How can you say to my soul,

“Flee as a bird to your mountain.
For look! The wicked ready their arrow to the string.
That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”
(Psalm 11:1-3)
David is not buying into that. He will not be fooled to join in with them and wallow in fear.

“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” they ask.

David’s answer is rock solid:
The LORD is in His holy temple,
The LORD’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold,
His eyelids test the sons of men.
(Psalm 11:4)
God has not budged one inch. He is where He has always been. What is more, He knows exactly what it going on. It has not escaped His notice. It has not come as a surprise. He does not have to stop to rethink and figure out what to do. He is observing what lengths men will go to perpetrate evil, or oppose it.
The LORD tests the righteous,
But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.
Upon the wicked He will rain coals,
Fire and brimstone and a burning wind
Shall be the portion of their cup.
(Psalm 11:5-6)
Perverse and cowardly men have done great evil in London this week. But their evil will come back multiplied upon their heads, and upon all who aid and comfort them. For God has seen, and He will let the law of the harvest do its work upon them.
For the LORD is righteous,
He loves righteousness;
His countenance beholds the upright.
(Psalm 11:7)
The foundations of the righteous cannot be destroyed, because God is the foundation. You might think that this is about London, or England, or the United States of America. But it isn’t. It is about God! For all who do evil are fighting against God, in whom there is no evil.

This thing is all about God, and He has not abdicated His throne. He reigns forevermore, and He will soon set things right.
Q: What can the righteous do?
A: The LORD reigns.
Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1).

The Luxuriant, Pliable Heart

Delight yourself also in the LORD
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
(Psalm 37:4)
When David says to delight yourself also in the LORD, he does not mean in addition to whatever else you happen to be delighting yourself in. Rather, he means in addition to what he said in verses 1 through 3:
  • Don’t fret because of evildoers — they will soon be cut down like grass.
  • Don’t be envious of the workers of iniquity — they will soon wither as the green herb.
  • Trust in the LORD.
  • Do good.
  • Dwell in the land (don’t get antsy).
  • Feed on His faithfulness.
Then he says, delight yourself also in the LORD. The Hebrew word for “delight” means to be soft and pliable toward, and to luxuriate in. Let your heart be soft and pliable toward the Lord. Enjoy the rich experience being with Him. The Westminster Catechism teaches us that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

I have discovered that the more I delight myself in the LORD, the more I receive the desires of my heart. I see this first in that, the more I spend my life with God, the more I desire of Him. Then He grants that which I desire the most.

The more I fellowship with God, the more I realize that I don’t want God to get involved in what I’m doing, I want to get involved in what He’s doing. My thoughts and my ways are meager, weak, ineffective, stale — and I’m tired of them.

Letting go of my own thoughts and my own ways, I am now free to embrace God’s thoughts and God’s ways. They are limitless, continually fresh and new each day. They are world-changing, because they are the reason the world came into being in the first place.

God freely offers us His thoughts and His ways—through His Word and through His Spirit. Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father so we could fellowship with Him, think His thoughts and walk in His ways. Open yourself up to Him and let Him change your heart. Let Him fill your life with things that will truly delight you.

In Psalm 36, David said of those who trust in the LORD, “They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of your house, and You give them drink from the river of your pleasures.”

This could be you.

Start praying this psalm back to the LORD:

Dear Lord, I do not fret because of evildoers and I do not envy the workers of iniquity — they shall not last. But I trust in You, and so I will do what is good. I will dwell in the land and not be afraid. I will feed on Your faithfulness. I will also delight myself in You — luxuriating in Your thoughts and walking in Your ways. I will be pliable towards you, and I invite you to come and change my heart. I thank You for the Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again so that I could have this wonderful relationship with You. I thank You for the Holy Spirit, who gives me new birth through faith in Jesus Christ and reveals Your heart to my heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

The Journey of Spiritual Fatherhood

I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name’s sake.

I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one.

I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father.

I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the world.
(1 John 2:12-14)
The apostle John is a contemplative sort, and there is often a lyrical quality to his writing. This passage is, perhaps, a song — a hymn about how one grows in the Lord from new-born babe, to mature faith, and on to fatherhood in the Spirit. He considers four stages of enlargement:

Little children. The Greek word is teknion. John is addressing recent converts, newly born from above through faith in Jesus Christ. Their sin’s are forgiven because of Jesus, and they are now in the family of the Lord, being reconciled to the Father.

Little children. A different Greek word, paidion, is used in the second instance. This refers to those who are receiving instruction in the Lord. They are new disciples, in training, novices weaning away from the ways of the world. Having known the Lord as God-Who-Forgives (El Nasa, Psalm 99:8), they are now leaning into the heart of their Father and learning from Him. Their Father has now become their Teacher.

Young men. These are men and women who are well into their discipleship. They are vigorous and bold in their faith. They have entered into service, been tested and tried, and their devotion is sound and effective. The Word of God is strong in them and so they are strong in their walk with the Lord. Jesus promised His disciples, “If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). The Word is established and at home in them and these “young men” know how to appropriate the promises of God to get things done. They are now powerful overcomers—they have overcome the wicked one. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), and these “young men” know how to walk in that authority and enforce His victory upon the enemy.

Fathers. These are those who were once new-borns in the Lord. They began their instruction in the “School of the Father’s Heart” and grew up into a strong, vibrant faith. This did not happen overnight, but came about through a continual focus of the heart upon God and His Word, a “long obedience in the same direction” (to quote Eugene Peterson).

John addresses them twice, but he says the exact same thing both times: “You have known Him who is from the beginning.” That is, they have come into a deep and pervasive experience of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have taken His yoke upon themselves and learned of Him, and have found rest for their souls. They have learned to know Him, not only in the power of His resurrection, but also in the fellowship of His sufferings.

And now they are fathers. They are passing the inheritance they have received in the Lord on to the next generation. They are bringing forth sons and daughters into the kingdom of God and releasing them into their divine destiny. By their manner of life they teach us that there is no higher calling than to come into intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. This relationship only gets richer and deeper, far beyond the ability of human words to describe.

Where do you find yourself in this hymn? Have you received forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ? Have you come to know God as your Father and to learn of Him? Is the Word of God so established and at home in your heart that you know how to walk in the victory the Jesus has won over the world, the flesh and the devil? Have you come to that place in your faith life where all you want is to know Him more and more, and to bring others to that same place because you realize that there is no greater joy, no higher calling?

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Judge Me, LORD

Vindicate me, O LORD,
For I have walked in my integrity.
I have also trusted in the LORD;
I shall not slip.
(Psalm 26:1)
“Vindicate me, O LORD.” That’s how the NKJV renders it. The good old KJV has, “Judge me, O LORD.” The Message says, “Clear my name, GOD.”

Though David believes himself to be in the right, he is willing, even desiring, for God to come and weigh his heart. There is a sort of ambivalence or apathy here. He hopes to be proven in the right, but he is willing to be found in the wrong, so that he may be corrected.

The judgment of God is not a bad thing. It is a very good thing. For one thing, God Himself is good, so all He does is good. For another, the judgment of God is what comes and sets thing right.

I don’t know about you, but I want God to come and set my heart right. It often gets out of whack — in fact, I was born with my heart out of whack — and I want it to function properly, so I can walk in fellowship with God, in the inheritance and destiny He has always had for me.

So I want God to judge my heart, but I want Him to do it according to His mercy. You see, it is the judgment of God that comes and sets things right, but it is His mercy that sets me on the right side of His judgment. When God finds something wrong in my life, I don’t want Him to get rid of me, I want Him to get rid of it. In other words, His judgment deals with the sin in my life, but His mercy holds on to me. His mercy is the flip side of His judgment.

The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Here is both the justice and mercy of God. I don’t want God to simply forgive my sin; I want Him to cleanse me from it, to remove it from my life altogether. I want Him to deal with my heart and bring into line with His heart, which is nothing but good. That is the only effective way I know of dealing with the issues of my heart—bring them to the Lord. I seek no other way, for my trust is solely in Him.

So this morning I have cried out to the LORD, as David did, “Judge me, O LORD — if my heart is wrong, then set it right. If my heart is right, then back me up.”

I had already planned, as part of my devotional time this morning, to partake of the Table of the Lord. The elements were laid out before me and as I thought on “Judge me, O LORD,“ I began to remember again that I was seated before the divinely instituted sign of that very thing. God judged me, and vindicated me many years ago on the Cross. Jesus gave His body and shed His blood to bring forgiveness and cleansing — to set my heart right with God. The Table of the Lord ministers the reality of that to my soul.

So I took the bread and the cup, and with each bite and each draft (I don’t do just a little dab and sip), I began welcoming and receiving the vindication God has for me — forgiveness, cleansing, healing, deliverance, freedom, blessing, favor, prosperity of soul and in all other things — the fullness of salvation.

If you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, you have already been judged and set right. Now let the reality of that work through you like leaven. Let Him judge your heart and set it free from the darkness that encroaches, to bring you into a joy-filled life and a world-changing walk with Him.

Monday, July 4, 2005

His Words, Your Mouth

You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night;
You have tried me and have found nothing;
I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
Concerning the works of men,
By the word of Your lips,
I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.
(Psalm 17:3-4)
There are a few dynamics going on in this passage. First, there is the heart/mouth connection. “You have tested my heart ... I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.” The heart is the place of purposing, the mouth is the place of speaking what the heart has purposed. Out of the abundance, or overflow, of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).

Then there is the matter of purpose, or intent regarding the words of our mouths. Most people don’t purpose anything at all about what their mouths will or will not say. Very often, they speak foolish, negative and hurtful things. At best, these are idle words, and we will have to give account to God for every one of them (Matthew 12:36).

In purposing that his mouth will refrain from transgressing, David, the psalm writer, means more than, “I will not use profanity,” or “I will not plot murder or violence,” or things like that. Rather, he is determining that he will not let anything come out of his mouth that would not come out of God’s. That is why he declares, “By the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer.” This is the third dynamic.

There are plenty of people — good Christian people — who fill their mouths with things that would never come from God. They speak negative, fear-filled, evil things — evil in the sense that they lack the good.
  • “Well, you know me, I’m always messing up somewhere.”
  • “Every winter, I can count on having one or two really bad colds.”
  • “Why does everything I do always have to go wrong?”
  • “My daughter Susie is the pretty one and Mary is the smart one.”
  • “The price of gas just keeps going up, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
  • “Granddaddy had cancer. So did Poppa. I guess I’ll probably get it, too.”
People repeat these kinds of things all the time. They say them over and over, until they finally believe them. But the problem is that such words leave no room for the promises of God. They have a lot of fear in them, but nothing of faith — at least not the Biblical kind of faith.

How much better it is to put the word of God on our lips, to let His promises fill our mouths:
  • “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)
  • “My God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
  • “By His stripes I have been healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
  • “I walk in the favor and blessing of the Lord” (Psalm 5:12).
  • “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Let these kinds of things be in your heart and on your lips. The Hebrew word for “meditate” literally means “to murmur.” In the Old Testament, to meditate on the word of God meant to put it on the lips and talk about it to yourself. You could tell when someone was meditating because you would see their lips moving. Then you could tell what they were meditating on by listening to the words the that came out of their mouths, particularly in pressure situations.

No matter what your circumstance, God always has a promise for you. Start searching it out in His Word. You might even use one of the many little booklets available at your local Christian bookstore which list out the many promises of God and even categorizes them for your convenience. Start meditating on the Scriptures and let them fill your heart in abundance. Then when you address a negative circumstance, let it be the Word of the Lord that fills your mouth. It is okay to identify the problems, but then purpose in your heart and begin putting the promises of God in your mouth.

(See also, God's Word in Your Mouth)

Sunday, July 3, 2005

The Excellence of the Name

O LORD, our Lord
How excellent is Your name in all the earth.
(Psalm 8:1,9)
The Hebrew word for “excellent” means “large, powerful, expansive, famous, mighty, worthy.” The name of the Lord is beyond all boundaries. There is nothing greater than His name. In the modern vernacular, you might say that the name of the Lord is over the top, off the hook, out of the box, through the roof!

The nature of a name is that it reveals or establishes the nature and destiny of a thing. Whenever God reveals Himself by a name, He is telling us what He will be to us, what He will do for us and how He will operate in our lives.

Moses stood before the LORD at the burning bush, where God gave him the assignment of going before Pharaoh to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. Moses objected: “When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13).

God answered and revealed His name: “I AM WHO I AM … Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you” (v. 14). The name of the Lord is a revelation He Himself gives to us.

I AM. The Hebrew word is hayah (the Hebrew letters are hay-yod-hay). It is the word for being, for existence. It is the basis for the name Yahweh (the Hebrew letters are yod-hay-vaw-hay) usually rendered in our English texts as LORD (all caps).

In calling Himself “I AM WHO I AM,” God was describing Himself as self-existent and self-sufficient, not dependent upon anyone or anything for His existence. Because He is self-sufficient, He is therefore all-sufficient for any and every need we could every have. I AM WHO I AM means “I am your all-sufficient God.”

If God had never revealed Himself as the one who meets all our needs, we would never have had reason to trust Him to take care of us. But because God has revealed Himself by this and many other of His names, we have a right to take Him at His word (the self-revelation of His name) and believe Him for everything His name signifies.

Without the revelation of His name, it would be nothing more than presumption for us to look to Him for our deliverance. But because God has revealed Himself to us by His name, we can walk in the confident assurance that He will fulfill His name on our behalf. ~ O Yahweh, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth. It goes beyond all boundaries and exceeds all expectations. Make Your name famous in all the earth. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

Words of Destiny

The Hebrew word for “word” is dabar. It is also translated in the verb form as “speak,” which certainly makes sense, for what is a word except that which is spoken. That is how dabar is translated. What it means is to arrange or subdue, which is what we are actually doing when we speak words.

We are created in the image of God, and when God speaks, He is arranging and subduing things. That’s how the whole universe came into existence. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Hebrews 11:3). God spoke, and there it was. When darkness was upon the face of the earth and God spoke the words, “Light, be!” He was subduing the darkness and arranging the light to be. And so it was.

God created us to have dominion. “What is man that You are mindful of him … You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:6).

Since the works of God’s hands were actually created by the words of His mouth, it only makes sense that man, being created in the image of God and given authority over those same works by God, would exercise that dominion by the words of his mouth. That is why Adam’s first assignment was to call the animals. The call was a name, a word which established the nature and character of the animals. God did not tell Adam what to call the animals. Rather, He imparted the authority to speak the word of destiny over the animals — to exercise dominion over them — and then simply stood back and observed what Adam would do with that authority, what he would call them. How delighted God must have been to see His son, Adam, operating in the family business!

So it should not seem strange or unusual for Jesus to say, as He did to His disciples,
Assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” (Mark 11:23)
In fact, in this command, Jesus is taking us back to the original mandate God gave man. He is teaching us how to use our words properly — which is what dabar is all about. This calls for discipleship, training our mouth and heart to operate in the authority God originally intended. For not only do words mean things, they actually cause things. That is why Jesus said that we will have to give account for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36).

Let not your words be idle. Realize that every word you speak is a word of destiny. Let the words you speak be in agreement with the Word of God, by which the heavens and the earth were created. Let your heart and your mouth be filled with the promises of God — His Words are never spoken in vain (Isaiah 55:11). Then open up your mouth and begin arranging and subduing the world, bringing it into line with His will.