Monday, October 31, 2005

Being Holy

By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)
Many people think that holiness is about what we do: If we do enough good deeds, we are holy. But the truth is, you can no more become holy by your good works than you can become a banana by painting yourself yellow and hanging from a tree. It just doesn’t work that way.

The Bible says that we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ. It is not our doing but His doing that matters. He offered His body as a sacrifice so that we could be sanctified — made holy — before God. The Greek word for “holy” means to be set apart. To be holy means to be set apart for God’s special purposes.

Being holy does not flow forth from doing holy deeds. Holy deeds flow forth from being holy.

Consider the banana again. It is a banana, not because of what it does, but because it flows forth from the life of the tree. It begins as a bud, then flowers, then begins to come forth as fruit. It does not strive, it does not strain. It does not try to create itself. It simply receives the life of the tree, and that life does the work within it. It does not try to color itself yellow. Being yellow does not make it a banana, but the banana is yellow because that is its nature.

Holiness is the same way. We do not strain to become holy. We simply enter into the work of Jesus, and He makes us holy. As we allow His life to flow through us, we begin to live and act in ways that reveal God’s special purpose, the destiny He has prepared for us.

Holiness is all about Him, not about us. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

The Bible says that Jesus has offered His body “once for all.” That means that there is nothing else anybody can add to it. He has already done all that is necessary for us to be holy.

Stop trying to be holy — you’ll never make it. Instead, by faith enter into the holiness of King Jesus the Messiah. Then let His life work in you to bring forth the fruit of a powerful, world-changing destiny. For without Him, you can do nothing.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Seeing the Invisible

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Rabbi Daniel Lapin describes faith in a very similar way:
The word faith itself simply means the ability to see something presently still invisible as clearly as if it were already here. (Buried Treasure: Secrets for Living from the Lord’s Language, p. 107)
This makes perfect sense when you consider what the world is made up of. For as the author of Hebrews says:
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:3)
The Word of God is invisible — it cannot be perceived with our physical senses. Yet, it is the substance, the underlying reality of the entire universe. The invisible Word of God is what faith is all about--faith is believing that Word. Therefore, when we walk in faith in God’s Word, we are relating to the world in the most effective way. That is why Paul said that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). That is why Oral Roberts said that when we learn to see the invisible, we will be able to do the impossible.

Learn to see the invisible, by faith in the Word of God, and you will change the world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Falling From Grace

You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
Falling from grace is not about falling into sin. It is about falling into self-reliant, performance-based, behavior-oriented religion. It is falling out of intimate relationship with God. It puts the focus on us and not on Him. Any time we try to justify ourselves in any way, we have moved away from the way of God’s all-sufficient grace.

If you find you have fallen from grace and have been trusting in yourself, repentance (trading your thoughts for God’s) is always a beneficial thing. Set your focus on Jesus and trust Him in everything.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Doing the Works of God

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My father in heaven. Many will say to Me, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Jesus is still talking about false disciples and their fruit. There are many false disciples who will come to Him and say, “Lord, look at all we have done in Your name.” They come presenting themselves to the Lord on the basis of their works and behavior. But they do not know the Lord--in fact, Jesus declares, “I never knew you.”

They know nothing of the will of God. That is because they do not will to do His will and have no desire to fulfill His desire. They are into rules and regulations, not intimate relationship with God. They are entangled with the spirit of religion.

They eat from The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They suppose themselves to be doing good, but the good from that tree is as detrimental as the evil, for it leads them to trust in themselves and not in God. Jesus says that they actually practice lawlessness.

Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). Though these false prophets perform miracles in Jesus’ name, they do not believe in Him, therefore they do not do the works of God. Nor do they please God because without faith it is impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Performance-based religion will never please God, because it is totally devoid of faith in Him. It is not good works and better behavior that is required, but a new birth from above. Always and in everything, we must be totally dependent upon God. Then we will be eating from the Tree of Life. This is the will of our Father in heaven.

Faith Pleases Love

  • Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)
  • Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)
  • Faith without works is dead. (James 2:17)
  • Faith works through love. (Galatians 5:6)
  • God is love. (1 John 4:8)
Without faith it is impossible to please God, for God is love, and faith works through love.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Fruit Doesn’t Lie

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
Jesus told us to beware of false prophets. How do we recognize the false prophet? By their fruit.

  • Every good tree bears good fruit.
  • Every bad tree bears bad fruit.
  • A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.
  • A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
This means that if the fruit is bad, the tree is bad. If the fruit is good, the tree is good.

What is the fruit of false prophets? The spirit of religion. False prophets always seek to lead us away from trusting in God. They want us to trust in themselves, in their gods, or in ourselves (our abilities, strength, understanding, works, behavior). Those options always lead to death.

False prophets offer us the fruit from The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It may appear very pleasant, good for fruit, and the way to life. But it disconnects us from God and causes us to lean on our own understanding. The Bible says,
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 paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)
When we set our heart on the LORD and put all our trust in Him, He will direct our paths. We will be operating out of His wisdom and guidance. We will be tuned into life, dialed into prosperity. We will be eating from The Tree of Life.

Adam and Eve were deceived by the false prophet — the serpent in the Garden — and they were disconnected from the life of God. They thought if they could eat of The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would be able to direct their own path. But that path led them only to bitterness and death.

False prophets are false shepherds. Though they come pretending to care for the sheep, they are actually wolves — thieves who break in to steal, kill and destroy. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came to give us the abundant life of God (John 10:10).

False shepherds come to sow tares in God’s wheat fields. The thing about tares is that they may look very much like wheat. But when they come into fruit, their true character is revealed — they are nothing but worthless weeds, destined for destruction (Matthew 13:24-30).

False prophets load us up with rules and regulations. They hit us with accusation, condemnation and rejection, on the one hand. Then they proffer rationalization and self-justification on the other. It is all bad fruit from a bad tree.

God offers us good fruit, from the good tree — the Tree of Life. It is the fruit of faith, trusting completely in God, and not in ourselves. It is the fruit of forgiveness and acceptance through Jesus Christ. It is the fruit of intimate relationship with Himself.

Fruit doesn’t lie. False prophets will never bear good fruit — it will always have a poisonous seed within. Jesus Christ always bears nothing but good fruit — it will always lead to abundant life with God. What is more, all those who know the Lord Jesus have the Holy Spirit within. It is the work of the Spirit to bring forth the fruit of Jesus Christ in their lives: love, joy peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Friday, October 21, 2005

Speak to the Storm

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:3)
All of heaven and earth were created by the Word of God. Since it all consists of the Word, it must therefore be obedient and respond to the Word. We see in the Creation account that God has authorized man to speak His Word over the earth:
  • God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27). That is, man was made to represent the image of God on earth.
  • God puffed His Spirit — the Spirit of Life — into his nostrils (Genesis 2). This is paralleled in the New Testament when Jesus puffed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).
  • God commanded man to fill the earth and subdue it, and to exercise dominion over it (Genesis 1:28).
  • The first assignment God gave Adam was to have dominion over the animals by naming them. Whatever Adam called each animal, that is what they were named (Genesis 2:19).
All who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, are authorized to speak in His name and with His authority. We are authorized to speak His Word, and when we speak it in faith, it will not return void but will accomplish the purpose and pleasure of God.

All creation, which was framed by the Word of God, is groaning together with birth pangs, waiting for the revelation of the sons of God (Romans 8:19-22). It is earnestly expecting, even longing for us to arise and speak the Word of God which will restore order. We are authorized to subdue nature with the Word of God.

In Mark 11, after Jesus spoke to the fig tree and caused it to wither, He spoke to the disciples most solemnly:
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)
Now, about speaking to the storm — when a storm arose on the Sea of Galilee, as Jesus and the disciples were crossing to the other side, the disciples feared because their little boat was being swamped. Jesus was peacefully asleep in the stern when they came to Him and said, “Teacher, don’t You care that we are perishing?”

Notice carefully what Jesus did: “He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39). Jesus arose and spoke the Word of God to it. He was not quoting a particular Scripture, but He was speaking the character and purpose of God that is revealed in Scripture — for the LORD IS Peace (Joshua 6:24), and He calls us all to “be still and know” that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

But it takes faith, not fear. After calming the wind and the waves, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (v. 40).

Many people, even many Christians, have been full of worry and fear about the many storms of this hurricane season. But Jesus would have us let His love cast out our fear, and exercise faith, just as He did on that stormy sea.

What is a hurricane but a mountain of weather? And Jesus has told us how to deal with mountains — speak to them in faith. It is not enough to just speak to them, we must have faith to believe that it will be done for us. And it is not enough to simply have faith, we must open our mouths and speak in agreement with our faith. It is in this way, Jesus says, that mountains will move.

That is exactly what Jesus did when He spoke to the storm. He believed in His heart that what He said would be done — and it was. When Jesus asked the disciples about their faith, I do not think He was simply saying, “Why don’t you trust me?” I believe He was challenging them to learn how to use their faith, just as He used His.

All of creation is groaning, waiting in expectation for the body of Christ to arise, just as Jesus arose in the boat, and set things in proper order by speaking the Word of God to it.

With the recent hurricanes, and the havoc they have brought, many Christians would ask, “Why did God allow this to happen?” But I believe that God would ask of the Church, “Why have you allowed this to happen?” For He has given us His Word, and the authority to use it.

Instead of wringing our hands and simply beseeching God to do for us what He has already given us faith and authority to do, it is time for us to rise up as the Church and say to the storms, “Peace, be still.” Tell hurricane Wilma to go jump in the ocean.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

When Your Love is Set On Him

Because he has set his love upon Me,
Therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known my name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.
(Psalm 91:14-16)
Look at the benefits of setting your love on the LORD and knowing His name:

  • He will deliver you. The Hebrew word means that He will slip you out of trouble and danger, and cause you to escape.
  • He will set you on high. When you acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge you and establish you in a place far above all your enemies. When you humble yourself before Him, He will lift you up and exalt you.
  • You shall call upon Him and He will answer you. When you regard His voice, He will regard yours. He will hear and answer you, and grant your request and the desires of your heart.
  • He will be with you in trouble. You will never go through anything by yourself. He will never forsake you, but will be with you all the way until your victory comes forth.
  • He will deliver you and honor you. The Hebrew word for “deliver” here means that He will strip away all that afflicts you. He will strengthen and equip you to stand, and prepare you for every circumstance. Not only that, He will also honor you, load you up with glory (the weight of every good thing), and gladly acknowledge you before all.
  • He will satisfy you with long life. He will fill you up with many days and abundance of life—a long, satisfying life.
  • He will show you His salvation. The Hebrew word for “salvation” is yeshua. It means deliverance, health, victory and prosperity. It is a contraction of two Hebrew words: the name Yahweh (the personal, covenant name of God) and yasha (to be wide, open and free). In the New Testament yeshua is a name, translated “Jesus.”
To set your love on the LORD means to be devoted to Him, to cling to Him, to desire Him, to delight in Him, to be attached to Him, to long for Him, to establish your heart on Him. It means that He is all you need and all you want.

To know His name means to acknowledge Him, to confess Him, to be thankful toward Him, to be diligent toward Him, to consider Him in all things, to learn of Him, to honor Him with praise.

There is everything to be gained when you set your love on the LORD and know His name. His name is Jesus. 

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Flame of Divine Words

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
“Behold this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.”
Also I heard the voice of the LORD saying;
“Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?”
Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
And He said, “God, and tell this people.”
(Isaiah 6:6-9)

Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts:
“Because you speak this word,
Behold, I will make My word in your mouth fire.”
(Jeremiah 5:14)

Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones.
(Jeremiah 20:9)

“Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD,
(Jeremiah 23:29)

John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize your with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Luke 3:16)

When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29)

Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice was as the sound of many waters. (Revelations 1:12-15)

Faithpoint: Our God, who is Love, is a consuming fire. The fiery love of His Word is a refining fire that burns away everything that does not belong, everything that does not come from Him and could never have any place in Him. He has given His people the right to speak His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. Why speak lesser words when we can light the way and prepare the path by the flame of divine words? Let the Holy Spirit give you utterance.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Benefits of Heeding

Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you!
O Israel, if you will listen to Me!
There shall be no foreign god among you;
Nor shall you worship any foreign god.
I am the LORD your God,
Who brought you out of the land of Egypt;
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.
But My people would not heed my voice,
And Israel would have none of Me.
So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart,
To walk in their own counsels.

Oh, that My people would listen to Me,
That Israel would walk in My ways.
I would soon subdue their enemies,
And turn My hand against their adversaries.
The haters of the LORD would pretend submission to Him,
But their fate would endure forever.
He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat;
And with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.
(Psalm 81:8-16)
In Psalm 81, the Lord reveals the benefits of heeding His voice (to heed is to listen and obey).

  • If you listen to the voice of the LORD and walk in His ways, you will not subject yourself to any foreign gods. You will not be enslaved to false ideas and false affections.
  • You will open your mouth wide, enlarge your expectations, and God will fulfill them.
  • You will not be given over to your own stubborn heart and walk in your own feeble counsels. Your heart will be pliable toward the Lord and you will walk in His wisdom and guidance.
  • Your enemies will be subdued. You will no longer be in subjection to them — the LORD will bring them under subjection to you. (Understand that people are not your real problem—they are not your enemies). Yes, those who hate the LORD might pretend to submit to Him for a time, but their days are numbered.
  • God will prosper you with the best and the sweetest, and you would be fully satisfied.
Jesus put it this way:
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was its fall. (Matthews 7:24-27)
Heed the voice of the LORD, built your house on the Rock and enjoy the benefits.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Narrow, Little Way

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
The world thinks there are many paths that lead to life, that the gate is wide and the way is broad. Truth is relative to them. “Whatever works for you is good for you, and whatever works for me is good for me.” “I’m OK, you’re OK.” Each becomes his own barometer for what is right. “Whatever floats your boat.” “Whatever gets you there.” Now it has been reduced to a shrug of the shoulders and “Whatever.”

But long ago, Jesus taught us something very different: “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Many non-Christians and nominal Christians love to quote Jesus when He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (See Godly Discernment or Judgmental Spirit?). They don’t want their “many ways” ideology to be disturbed by anyone discerning between right and wrong, truth and error, good and evil. But who quotes Jesus when He says, “Narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way?”

G. K. Chesterton, brilliant Christian apologist of the last century (and author of the famous Father Brown detective stories) said that many people reject Christianity, not because they tried it and found it lacking, but because they found it difficult and so never tried it all.

“Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.” There are many ways that lead to loss, ruin and misery. They are exceedingly easy to enter, and so many people pass through them. Not just heroin addicts, alcoholics, gamblers, prostitutes and the sad little lives featured on the Jerry Springer show. They pretty much know they are messed up, and the bitterness of their way is very near the surface of their lives.

But also politicians, corporate executives, university professors, even church leaders. So many of them have taken destructive paths, but they are able to rationalize their choices for a time. Until one day, their cleverness catches up to them and they find themselves on the broad path that promised them pleasure and plenty, but delivers only pain.

Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. God gave Adam and Eve the choice between the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (See The Tree of Life and The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). The Tree of Knowledge seems very appealing, but its fruit is poison. The world spends itself in having intimate knowledge and relationship with good and evil, and the result is destruction. Broad is the way.

Jesus invites us to partake of the Tree of Life. “Enter by the narrow gate,” He says. In John 14:6, He spells it out clearly, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (another verse the world does not care to quote — too restrictive for politically correct multicultural diversity).

This little gate is so narrow that you cannot carry anything with you except total dependence upon God through the Lord Jesus Christ. But it will be all you will ever need. In fact, without faith, you cannot enter at all.
For without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
The gate the leads to life is narrow, and the way is restrictive. But Jesus invites you to enter into that gate, and He will lead you all the way. He IS the way, and it is in relationship with Him that you will find the abundant life of God.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Faith and Sight

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
Faith is not about seeing in the natural; it is about seeing beyond the natural. The problem many people have is that they are trying to see with their senses instead of with their spirit. Faith is seeing in the spirit.

In Hebrews 11, the author addresses the matter of faith and sight. In verse 1, faith is the substance, the underlying reality, the “title-deed” of things we expect to see but do not yet appear.

In verse 3, we see that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. The very nature and origin of the universe is such that what is seen is fully dependent upon something that cannot be seen, the Word of God.

In verse 5, we learn that Enoch was translated to glory with God, “so that he did not see death.” He pleased God because He had faith, believing what God said. He came to such a place in his life and in his walk with the Lord, and was so tied into the Spirit of life, that he saw completely past death, and it did not touch him.
For without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)
Enoch received the reward because, instead of trying to perceive reality with his senses, he decided to seek after God. He saw with his spirit, by faith.

Of Abraham — “by faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country” (v.9) It was given to him in promise, but by all appearances it did not look anything at all like it belonged to him. But he was able to patiently abide there because he was looking “for the city which has foundations, whose builder is God” (v. 10). He saw in the spirit that it was so.

Neither Abraham nor Sarah looked at their aged, worn bodies, but believed the promise of God that she would conceive and give birth to a son. “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars in the sky in multitude — innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore” (v. 12).

Of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob —
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. (vv. 13-14)
In this life, they did not see the full achievement of all that was promised. But they saw past the natural, even past the age in which they were living. The promises were far off, but they saw them anyway. They were assured, persuaded, convinced of them. They embraced and welcomed them. They confessed that it was so, that it fully belonged to them, even though they had no personal experience of it. They declared that they were strangers here because they were seeking a homeland in the promises of God. They saw it all in the spirit and rejoiced.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received promises, offered up his only begotten son … concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead. (vv. 17-19)
Abraham had never seen a dead man raised before. But he was through following his senses. He was now following the promises of God.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. (v. 20)
Isaac did not see these things in the natural, but in the spirit. He spoke them by faith. In their turn, Jacob and Joseph saw by faith and declared what they saw (vv. 21-23). And it all came to pass.
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, whereas the Egyptians, attempting to do so, were drowned. (vv. 24-29)
In the natural, Moses could see the pleasures of sin and all the treasures of Egypt. He could also see the reproach of Christ, and Pharaoh’s wrath. But he looked past those things to the reward that comes by faith, not by sight. He endured because he looked in the spirit and saw the invisible God, by whom all things were created.

In the natural, he had never before seen the events which are described in the Passover. He had never before seen the Red Sea part, leaving a pathway of dry ground all the way to the other side. But he believed and obeyed the Word of God, so He saw it all come to pass.

Oral Roberts said, “When you can see the invisible, you can do the impossible.” That is what happened with all these heroes of faith. They looked past the natural and into the spirit. They saw by faith all the things God promised them. His invisible words were more real to them than all they experienced by their senses, their emotions, their thoughts. They saw the invisible, so they were able to do the impossible.

Walk by faith, not by sight. Look into the spirit and see all that God has promised in His Word. Embrace it joyfully and, with every word that comes out of your lips, confess that it belongs to you.

Monday, October 10, 2005

In Christ — For the Glory of God

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame in Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which he made us accepted in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
In Christ, we have been blessed by God with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies. The nature of the universe is that the natural proceeds from the spiritual (cf. John 4:24 and Genesis 1:1), so every spiritual blessing makes available to us every natural blessing as well.

In Christ, we have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world.

In Christ, we have been predestined to be adopted as sons of God. We are in the family of God, bearing His name and partaking of the inheritance He has for all His own.

In Christ, the Beloved, we have been accepted by God the Father. The Greek verb behind “accepted,” literally means that God has bestowed us with His favor.
In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound toward us all in wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth — in Him. (Ephesians 1:7-10)
In Christ, we have redemption through His blood. We have been bought and brought out of the slave market in which we were held captive. The ransom price that has secured our freedom is the blood of the Lord Jesus Himself.

In Christ, we have forgiveness of sins. The Greek word for “forgiveness” here is aphesis and signifies a release. We have been released, not only from the bondage of sin, but also from the penalty of sin.

This is all according to the overflowing riches of God’s grace. Out of His wisdom and prudence, He has given us insight and discernment, which has revealed to us the mystery of His will. God is pleased to do all this, not out of any obligation, but completely out of the desire and purpose of His own heart.

In Christ, we are being gathered with all things in heaven and earth into a unity in Christ. This is the “dispensation of the fullness of times” in which we are now living. Heaven and earth are being made one.
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after your heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14)
In Christ, we have received an inheritance. Whenever you see the word “Father,” you can know that there is always some sort of inheritance involved. In Christ, we have God as our Father. Therefore, there must be an inheritance.

In Christ, we have a secure expectation. The word for “trusted” in this passage would better be translated as “hope.” It is the anticipation of good things we have because of Christ.

In Christ, we are signed and sealed by the Holy Spirit. We belong totally to God and are secure in Him (God is not careless with that which belongs to Him). The Holy Spirit is Himself the guarantee, the earnest, the first deposit of the inheritance God has promised. What God has begun in us, He will bring through to completion.

What we receive in Christ is all to the praise of God’s glory. He is letting us in on a good thing — the goodness of who He is. Let all the world know, that they might come to Him and enjoy His goodness throughout eternity.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Enjoying God

The Westminster Confession says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Someone else has said, “The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.”

In the book The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, there is a scene where two main characters, Celie and Shug, are walking through a meadow full of purple flowers:
“What do you think God wants?” Celie asks.
“He’s just like everything else — He just wants to be loved,” says Shug.
“Are you saying God is vain?”
“No, I’m saying that He wants to let everyone in on a good thing.”
God is great and God is good, and He wants to let us all in on His goodness. That is what the glory of God is all about. The Hebrew word for “glory” is kabod and literally means “weight.” It was often used of the value of gold and other riches. The glory of God is the weight, or value of His goodness.

The good news of the gospel is that God greatly desires to share His goodness with all who will come to Him. Though Adam disconnected from the will of God in the Garden of Eden, Jesus freely submitted Himself to the redemptive will of God in the Garden of Gethsemane — so we could truly know God in all His goodness.

John Piper, a Baptist preacher who calls himself a “Christian hedonist,” suggests reading the Westminster Confession this way: “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”

If the reason we were created is to glorify God by enjoying Him, then what Andy Stanley says in Visioneering is true: “Spiritual Maturity is measured by how readily we respond to the person of God rather than the promises of God.”

In other words, it is all about God Himself. It is good to believe His promises, and very wonderful to experience His presence, but it is in loving His person that we experience the deepest joy.

That is why we were created, to fall in love with God and enjoy the goodness of who He is — forever. It is true satisfaction and abundance.

Friday, October 7, 2005

God Gives Good Things

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7-12)
Our way with God is always to be this: ask, seek, knock. It has already been promised that we will receive what we ask, find what we seek, and have the door opened to us. Why? Because God is a good Father who gives His children good things.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down for the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
When we go to Him, we can always count on Him to give us good things. Always. For there is not variation or shadow of turning with Him. That is, He does not change.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
  The lord will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
  From the who walk uprightly.
(Psalm 84:11)

Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:5)
God does not deceive, He does not compromise, He does not hold back. If we ask for bread, He will give us bread. He won’t try to trick us with a stone that looks like bread. He won’t try to pass off a serpent for a fish. God may work in mysterious ways, but He doesn’t work in deceitful or stingy ways.

Even though we may be flawed fathers on earth, we still know how to give good gifts. How much more, then, will our Father in heaven, who is perfect in every way, give good things to us when we ask?

Now, Jesus adds something very interesting to the mix: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” We know this as the “Golden Rule.” Notice that it is preceded by the word “therefore.” An old saw in Bible interpretation says that, whenever you see a “therefore,” find out what it is there for. “Therefore” connects us to this passage on asking and receiving.

If you want to receive good things, are you willing to give good things? For our receiving comes not only from God, but from men as well. In Luke’s rendering of this sermon (in the same position, following “Judge not”) Jesus says this:
Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you give, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)
God is a good Father who gives good things to those who ask. Therefore, ask, and expect to receive good things. But remember that it will be measure back to you in proportion to the measure by which you give to others. You can be quite free to do that because you have the assurance that you will receive what you ask, find what your are seeking, and the door will be opened widely before you.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Healing in the Atonement

Surely He has borne our griefs
  And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
  Smitten by God, and afflicted.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
  He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
  And by His stripes we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:4-5)
Heard a bit of silliness on the radio tonight, as I rode down to Subway for dinner. Hank Hanegraaff was finishing up his broadcast (“The Bible Answer Man”) and, apparently, someone phoned in with a question about healing and the atonement (the work of Jesus on the cross).

Mr. Hanegraaff’s opinion is that healing is not guaranteed for us in this life. Though Isaiah 53:5 states, “By His stripes we are healed,” he maintains that this is not at all about physical, bodily healing, but solely about spiritual healing.

Isaiah 53 is a messianic passage. It foretells of the Messiah and the role He plays in God’s eternal plan. We understand this to be about Jesus. In verse five we see that “He was wounded for our transgressions and wounded for our iniquities.” In verse six, we learn that He was not simply wounded because of them, but that He actually bore them in our place: “The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Now, let’s turn our attention to verse 4 for a moment. It says that Messiah “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” The Hebrew words behind “griefs” and “sorrows” literally mean “sicknesses” and “pains.” Clearly, this is a reference to bodily afflictions and illnesses.

Hanegraaff does acknowledge that this is so, and is wise to do so. It is hard to deny, especially when Matthew’s Gospel, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, attributes this verse to the healing ministry of Jesus:

When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast the spirits with a word, and healed al who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

“He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.”
(Matthew 8:16-17)
Isaiah 53:4 is undoubtedly about healing, including healing of the body. Christians who believe and teach that healing is included in the atonement often use this verse to show that. But more often than not, the reference to healing is made using verse 5, where it clearly states, “And by His stripes we are healed.” It is a good summary statement, and it is plain in the English text.

Hanegraaff finds that ironic. That is because he has convinced himself that verse 5 has absolutely nothing to do with bodily healing but is solely about spiritual healing. To his thinking, those of us who teach healing in the atonement might have reason to find bodily healing in verse 4, but since verse 5 is only about spiritual healing (to his way of thinking), it is totally off-base to use it to teach bodily healing.

That Hanegraaff would find that to be ironic struck me as silly and obtuse. What is truly ironic is that he would acknowledge bodily healing in verse 4 but totally deny it in verse 5.

He has somehow developed a disconnect between verses 4 and 5. He argues well how the healing in verse 5 is spiritual healing. But who denies that? No doubt, spiritual healing is included. But that does not mean that physical healing is thereby left out. To limit this verse to bodily healing would certainly be incorrect. But then, so is limiting it to spiritual healing.

Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between them — they are both present in the atonement. We don’t have to read bodily healing into that verse (which would be eisegesis). Rather, by exegesis, we discover that bodily healing is already present in that verse by its immediate context. Isaiah was not suddenly changing his topic to something completely different. No, he was simply expanding his topic.

It is perfectly within context to understand verse 5 as including bodily healing because it is specifically declared (in the Hebrew) in verse 4.

On the other hand, to deny that verse 5 includes bodily healing is to rip the verse from its context. You have to disconnect it from verse 4 to suppose that it has only to do with spiritual healing.

Bodily healing is just as much in the atonement as spiritual healing, and they both belong to all those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ.

Healing Scriptures and Prayers

Healing Scriptures and Prayers
by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

The Reality of Words

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible. (Hebrews 11:3)
While he was at it, Hank Hanegraaff decided to take a swing at a another point brought by many of those who teach that healing is in the atonement — the idea that our words can cause things to be. In answer to that, Hanegraaff asserts that words cannot create reality.

That flatly contradicts the clear teaching of Scriptures. For, in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He did it by words — the Word of God. As the author of Hebrews declares (and finds well within our ability to understand), the “worlds were framed by the Word of God.” For example, God said, “Light be!” and there was light.

The power of words to create reality was not lost on John, who began his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

It also helps us understand why God puffed His own breath, His own Spirit into Adam’s nostrils. Ancient Jewish commentary says that man thus became a “speaking spirit.”

The first assignment God gave to Adam was to call, or to name the animals. This was not “busy work,” but a creative task, setting the character and destiny each animal.

Words are very powerful. God created the heavens and the earth by them. He created us in His image and gave us the ability to speak words, and we will have to give account for every word we utter.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Godly Discernment or Judgmental Spirit?

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brothers’ eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
Jesus teaches us not to be judgmental, that is, not to be prejudiced and condemning. Everything we do and say needs to be done and said in love, for God is love (1 John 4:8). This does not mean, however, that we are not supposed to be discerning. We see this in Matthew 7:6:
Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
To obey this directive, we need to be able to discern what is holy and what are the pearls. We must also be able to discern what are the dogs and the swine. We also need to be able to discern the false prophets:
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:15-17)
In order to discern the false prophets, we must be able to discern their fruit, whether it be good or bad — whether it comes from the Tree of Life or from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

There is even a spiritual gift of discernment given by the Holy Spirit. It is the “discernment of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10), the ability to know whether something originates from God, from satan, or simply from the heart of man. The Greek word for “discernment” is diakrino and comes from the word for “judge” (krino) in Matthew 7:1.

God is light, God is love, God is life. His way will always be about those things which shed light, express love and promote life. When we have God at work in us, we have light, love and life at work in us. Because of light, we have the ability to discern. Because of love, we do not condemn. The judgment of discernment promotes life; the judgment of condemnation brings death.

We must always practice discernment, and there are even times when we must declare what we have discerned, but it is never right for us to condemn anyone. Before we seek to discern anything else, we must first discern our own heart. For how can we help someone with a tiny speck in their eye if we have a large plank hanging out of our own? But when our heart is clear, and operating in the light, love and life of God, then we will be able to see, discern and be of help.

It is always appropriate for us to discern, but it is never right for us to condemn. Godly discernment sheds light, shows love and promotes life.

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Don’t Strain, Abide

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Have your ever considered that the branches of a vine or fruit tree do not have to strain to bear fruit. It comes forth very naturally from the life of the tree. In fact, the fruit is the overflow of the life of the tree.

Many Christians are struggling and straining to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. They wrestle with themselves to honor Christ by living godly lives.

But instead of struggling, what we need to do is abide in Christ. He is the vine, we are the branches, and the life of the vine will itself bring forth the fruit through the branches.

We do not have to make fruit come forth, we simply need to let it come forth. Pal said, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

If you have received the Lord Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit within you to bring forth the fruit of Christ in your life. You have the mind of Christ within you to think with the thoughts of heaven. Abide in Christ, yield to the Spirit, and let God do the work within you. You bring the basket, He’ll bring the fruit.