Monday, July 31, 2006

World-Changing Prayer

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
These sentences from the prayer Jesus taught us to pray are cast in the imperative mood. The primary use of an imperative is as command:
Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Some have noted that the imperative mood can have a secondary function as an “imperative entreaty,” that is, for example, as a request one makes of deity. But either way you wish to understand it — command or request — the real point to be understand is that it is an active sense of prayer, not a passive one.
  • It is a prayer you pray with full expectation of it being fulfilled, because it is manifestly the will of God for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • It is not a prayer you pray and then give up on when it does not seem to be coming to pass, saying, “Oh well, I guess it just wasn’t God’s will.”
  • It is a prayer you keep pressing until it does come to pass.
  • It is not a prayer you wish God would fulfill, or hope God will fulfill; it is a prayer that you expect God to fulfill because He has already expressed His will about it.
  • Jesus specifically taught us to pray in this way, so we should have every expectation that when we do, it will come to pass.
  • It is not a prayer that ignores the will of God, or tries to overcome the will of God; it is a prayer that enforces the will of God, pressing for it to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  • It is not a sweet little prayer of acquiescence; it is a powerful, dynamic, life-changing, world-changing prayer by which we cooperate with God to see His will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
In this prayer, I do not acquiesce to the will of God — rather, I am counting on the will of God. I expect it to be done fully and completely — and today will not be too soon. In this prayer, I engage with the will of God, and where I see things out of alignment with it, I call for the will of God to be done in those things just as it is being done in heaven. I am full of joy that the will of God will indeed be done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Lord’s prayer is about much more than changing our little minds and adjusting our little attitudes and believing God for our own little needs. It is about more than what God wants to do in us; it is about what God wants to do in the world. As long as we limit this prayer to what God wants to do in us, we are hindering what He wants to do in the world through us. The Lord’s prayer is a mighty big prayer, but so many Christians pray it in such an awfully small way.

Get into alignment with the purposes of God in this world, then step into partnership with Him by calling for His kingdom to come everywhere it does not yet appear. Wherever you see things out of whack with His plan, call for His will to be done there just as it is in heaven. For this is a prayer by which we change the world. We are to pray it until Jesus returns — and expect to see it all happen.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Go with Going, Come with Coming

Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seeds for sowing,
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
Bringing his sheaves with him.
(Psalm 126:5-6)
In the economy of God, those who sow shall invariably reap:
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sow to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)
We may sow in tears, as Isaac did in a time of famine, but that will not hinder the harvest or the joy: “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the Lord blessed him” (Genesis 26:12).
So Jesus answered them and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house of brothers or sisters of father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
Jesus wept, and Lazarus was raised from the dead (John 11:35-44). That is sowing in tears and reaping in joy.

Notice that, in this psalm, there is a purposefulness and consistency in sowing. It is he who “continually goes forth” sowing who will come back rejoicing in the harvest. The Hebrew for “continually goes forth” is the same verb repeated twice. It is an idiomatic device used for emphasizing a point. We might read it this way: He who “goes with going.” There is a single-mindedness to this kind of sowing. Tears do not impede it; adversity cannot hold it back.

This kind of sowing brings dramatic results. For he who “continually goes forth” sowing shall “doubtless come again” with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves (his harvest) with him. He shall “doubtless come again.” This is the same Hebrew idiom again, for the verb for come is used twice in succession. He who goes with going with seed to sow, shall come with coming, rejoicing in the harvest. There is no question about it; it is assured from the beginning.

Jesus talked about faith as a seed, about the Word of God as a seed, and about the kingdom of God as a seed. Our job is to continually go sowing them and all our resources. When we get serious about planting seed with great purposefulness and faith, even in the midst of adversity, then it is quite certain that we will come back with a rich harvest that will have us shouting with joy.

When we go with going, we shall come with coming. When we sow in tears, we shall reap in joy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Authority and Power for Miracles

Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons. (Mark 3:14-15)
Jesus had a plan and a purpose. He came to establish His kingdom, destroy the work of the devil and take away the sins of the world. He chose disciples to partner with Him in the work of this ministry, and He gave them assignments. He chose them, first of all, so that they might be with Him — to walk with Him, live with Him, learn from Him.

He also chose them for a threefold assignment: To preach the gospel, heal sicknesses and cast out demons. Now, God will never give us an assignment without also giving us the authority and power to carry out that assignment. So Mark notes the Jesus chose the disciples that He might send them out to have power. The Greek word for “power” here is exousia and actually means “authority.” Jesus chose the disciples to give them the authority to preach, heal sicknesses and expel demons. In Mark 6, we find that this is exactly what they did:
And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power [exousia] over unclean spirits … So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them. (Mark 6:7, 12-13)

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power [exousia] over the unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease … These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them saying, “…As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. (Matthew 10:1, 5, 7-8)
Now, this authority was not just for the original disciples, but for all who would follow Him. Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus gave them a final commission, saying,
All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20)
No commission comes without authority. That is why Jesus began by saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” In commissioning the disciples, He was authorizing them, giving them authority to do what He was sending them out to do. What was He sending them out to do? To preach the gospel, make disciples of all nations, baptize them and teach them to observe everything that Jesus had taught them. Whatever Jesus had taught His own disciples to do, that it what they were to teach their disciples. And what did Jesus teach His own disciples to do? To preach the gospel, heal sicknesses, cast out demons — and even raise the dead!

Here is the assignment and the authority, but where is the power to do it? Luke answers that in how he records the Great Commission, both in the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts:
Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father … And He said to them, “… You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:4, 7-8)
The Greek word for “power” in these verses is dynamis. It is the ability to get things done, even the working of miracles. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 12:9, where Paul speaks of the working of miracles, the Greek word translated “miracles” is dynamis.

Dynamis is the miracle working power of God. When the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of His garment, Jesus declared, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power [dynamis] going out from Me” (Luke 8:46).

Now, many Christians think that the power Jesus used to work miracles was the power He had because He is the Son of God. But this is not what the Scripture says. Indeed Jesus was (and is) the Son of God. But He was (and is) fully human as well as fully divine. So if it was not His own divine power He used, by what power did He perform miracles? Peter gives us the answer in the words he spoke to Cornelius:
God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power [dynamis], who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38)
Jesus did not perform these things out of His own power as the Son of God, but because God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and power, and because God was with Him. That is, He did them out of His humanity, anointed with the Holy Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit anointing and power that is available for all Jesus’ disciples. It is what He promised us in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”

This dynamis is the power to be witnesses concerning Jesus Christ to all the world. A witness is one who brings evidence and produces proof. God gave us the Holy Spirit and power so that we could give evidence and produce proof about who Jesus Christ is and why He came. That is why Jesus said, in Mark’s version of the Great Commission,
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18)
This miracle working power does not come from us; it comes from God. But it has been given to us, along with divine authority, in order to fulfill the great assignment Jesus has given us — to be witnesses to Jesus Christ in all the world.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
Speaking of this verse, someone asked, “Is there sin in heaven? There is here.” Yes, there is sin here. And sickness. And demonic oppression. And strongholds. And enmity. And unforgiveness. And death. But there are none of those things in heaven.

And that is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven!” (the Greek has it in the imperative mood).

If the will of God were already being done on earth as it is in heaven, we would not need to be calling for it. But it is not fully being done yet on earth, and so we call it forth.

The kingdom reign of the Lord Jesus Christ has already begun, and His kingdom has been breaking into the world ever since He came. But it has not yet arrived in all its fullness. We are now living in the in-between time, in between the inauguration and the consummation. Some theologians call this "already/not yet." That is it has already begun, but it is not yet completed.

Our job is to keep calling for the kingdom of God to come and keep coming, and to call for the will of God to be done and keep being done on earth exactly as it in heaven.
  • When we see sickness, we have the authority of the Lord's Prayer to call for the will of God to be done in that sick body just as it is being done in heaven.
  • When we see demonic oppression, we have the authority of the Lord's Prayer to call for the will of God to be done in that person or place just as it is being done in heaven.
  • When we see death, even then we have the authority of the Lord's Prayer to call for the will of God to be done in that body as it is in heaven.
  • Where there is sin, we have the authority to call for the name of God to be hallowed (that, too, is in the imperative mood), for the kingdom of God to come, and for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven. And we have the further authority to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, who came to destroy the works of the devil, take away the sins of the world and reconcile us to the Father.
Church history is full of people being healed and demons being exorcised. There have also been many people raised from the dead in the name of Jesus. These have all been increasing in these latter days.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have the privilege to pray the prayer the Lord Jesus taught His disciples, and it is a very powerful, world-changing prayer. It does not happen by a passive and rote recital of the words (that would be treating the Lord's Prayer as nothing more than magic), but by an active exercise of the authority we have been given therein.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Subduing the World

Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:4-5)
In the beginning, when God created man and woman, He blessed them and gave them this mandate: “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).

How do we subdue the earth? The apostle John gives us the answer: “This is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.” The same Greek word, niké, is behind both “victory” and “overcome.” You might recognize the word niké as the name of a popular brand of sports shoes. Literally, it means to subdue. It is about forcefully bringing something into subjection.

When God created man, there was still much on earth that needed to be brought into line with His plan. So He gave man, who was created in His image, the authority to do just that. By the time Adam was done, the whole world was to look just like the Garden of Eden. Of course, we know that Adam and Eve disconnected from God and hooked up with satan, and God’s plan for the earth was dealt a severe blow. But we also know that God sent His Son into the world to destroy the works of the devil and reconcile us back to the Father. The works of the devil were destroyed at the Cross, and we have been made more than conquerors (hypernikeo) through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:37). It is by faith that we receive this victory.

God raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father, far above all principality, power, might and dominion. That is, He put all things under the feet of Jesus, subjecting them to Him! (Ephesians 1:19-22). Not only that, but God has also raised us up together and made us sit together in Christ at the right hand of the Father. All things have been subdued and placed under the dominion of Christ — and of us, too, since we are seated in Christ on the throne of heaven. All of this we receive through faith in Jesus Christ. No wonder John calls our faith the victory that overcomes the world!

Now, notice that John speaks about this victory, this overcoming, in two tenses. There is the past tense, the act by which the world has been overcome. This is what happened at the Cross on our behalf — the mighty act of redemption that not only set us free and reconciled us to God, but also destroyed the works of the devil. We stand in this great victory by faith. It is this act and this faith that John refers to when he says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.”

But there is also a second tense that John uses to talk about this victory. It is a present and continuing sense: “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world … Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” The victory has been won, the enemy has been subdued and put under the feet of Jesus, and the works of the devil have been destroyed. Our work now is simply a “cleanup” operation, enforcing the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ over all His enemies.

As we continue in our faith in Jesus Christ, we will keep overcoming the world again and again, subduing it and bringing it under the lordship of Christ and the dominion of God’s kingdom. Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Dynamic Prayer

Someone suggested that prayer is either about us trying to change God’s mind, or else it is about letting God change our minds about what He is doing. Of course, prayer is not at all about us trying to change God’s mind about anything, and the person who offered this choice understood that, which is why he went with the second option: Prayer is about letting God change our minds.

But this is a false dichotomy, on two counts: First, there are more ways to think about prayer than just these two. Second, neither of the options he suggested is correct. Prayer is not about us trying to change God’s mind, nor is it about God trying to change our minds. The latter might seem to be very pious and loaded with humility, but it is just as erroneous as the former. For God already has a way to change our mind: He does it by the Word of God, illuminated to us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 29-16).

This same person went on to suggest that we should not be surprised to receive a No answer to our prayers. He then offered the example of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He prayed, “Not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). But that is a very specific form of prayer — a prayer of consecration. However, there are other types of prayers offered for other types of reasons. The apostle Paul talked about praying with all kinds of prayers and supplication in the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 6:18).

There are, for instance, prayers that lay hold of God's promises. When God has promised, I do not expect to receive No for an answer, or else God would be a liar, which is an impossibility. When God has promised and I have pray in agreement with it, I expect to hear Yes.

We don’t come to prayer in order to change God’s mind. Someone has said, and quite correctly, that prayer is not about overcoming God’s reluctance but about laying hold of His willingness. Nor do we come to prayer in order to have our mind changed. Rather, we come to prayer believing what God has said in His Word and expecting to receive whatever He has promised. Jesus had a number of things to say about this in regard to prayer:
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:24)

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:12-14)

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)

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (John 16:23-24)

Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:18-19)
Jesus also taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come! Will of God, be done on earth as it is in heaven” (see Matthew 6:10). It is in the imperative mood. It is not merely a request we make; Jesus authorized us to speak it forth. We do not beg for it, then sit and wait for a Yes or No. Jesus has already authorized it. And in Him, all the promises of God are Yes and Amen (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Prayer is not passively waiting around for God to change our minds about something, never being certain whether God is going to say yes or no to our request. There is no power, no authority, no faith to that kind of praying. It is wimpy, even lazy.

If you want God to change your mind, get into His Word and let the Holy Spirit show you what it is about, then you will be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to go to prayer with faith, not wishy-washiness, and your prayers will be powerful.

Prayer is active, forceful, dynamic. It is not trying to change God's mind about anything, nor is it about having your mind changed. It is about taking the authority we have been given by Jesus Christ and bringing forth the kingdom of God, bringing forth the will of God on earth as it is in heaven.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wealth and Moderation

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you always have all sufficiency in all things, may have abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8 )
It’s fine to live in moderation. There is only so much that a person needs to live well. But notice that God’s plan is not only for all sufficiency, which is quite enough for every need we have, but also for abundance, which is more than enough, so that we can give to every good work.

Many Christians settle for sufficiency for meeting their needs — but then they have nothing left for giving to all the good works God wants to do through His people. To me, that is selfishness.

Now, this sufficiency and abundance generally do not come by outright miracles — although these can and do happen. But God has many ways to get His provision to us, ways in which we can partner with Him in the process. For example:
  • God gives strength for labor. Work is not a dirty word. God had work for Adam and Eve in the Garden, to tend and keep it. Work is part of the blessing; toil is part of the curse.
  • God gives wisdom for conducting business, for craft, for trade, and even for investment.
  • God also gives favor and opportunity to His people.
  • To the one who is ready to sow, God gives seed.
God is never at a loss for the means to supply for His people.

God’s plan is for abundance — excess! Yet, it is always very much a matter of the heart. That’s why the apostle John said, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2). Do our hearts know what to do with the abundance, the more than enough that God desires to bless us with? If not, then a little heart surgery is in order.
Lord, if I’m only going to blow the abundance on myself, and forget about You, then please don’t let me have that abundance. Instead, teach me what to do with it, so that I may have the abundance to give to every good work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The abundance of God has always been about being blessed and blessing others. Those who have not learned how to bless others have not yet learned what it truly means to be blessed.

Friday, July 21, 2006

On the Prophetic Gift

Under the New Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ has given His Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This is so, even though we now have the Holy Spirit resident within us. The gifts and the Spirit are not in conflict with each other, nor does the possession of one mean that we have no need for the other. They work together. Indeed, it is the Holy Spirit who gives power and anointing to the gifts.

These ministry gifts were given “for the equipping of the saint for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). That He gave these gifts to the Church “till we come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” is evidence that they have not passed away from the Church, for we have not yet reached that fullness.

The prophetic office and the prophetic gift are very often thought of as being primarily predictive in nature, that is, of foretelling the future. But that is a minor part. Though it may often be predictive, prophecy is much more about revealing the heart of God to His people.

The prophetic role is often also thought of as being primarily individual in nature. Many Christians want a prophet they can run to each week for a personal word. But the prophetic office is more for the Church than for the individual. As individuals, we already have the Holy Spirit in us. We already have an anointing so that we can know whatever we need to know (1 John 2:20). If we hear from the prophet something we have not already heard from the Holy Spirit, we should be very careful about it. Rather, the prophetic role is to confirm what we are already hearing from the Holy Spirit in our own spirit.

At the congregational level, not everybody is on the same page about what the Spirit is saying, so the prophetic role is more about recognizing and announcing, for the edification of the body, what the Spirit is saying and doing in the body.

Is the prophetic ministry a ministry of guidance? Yes. But let us be careful not to equate “guidance” with “prediction.” Though they may overlap, they are not the same; prediction is at the service of guidance. The guidance the prophetic offers us, generally, is in helping us understand the trajectory of what God wants to do in us and through us. It is generally not seeing into the future, but understanding the present moment. When we understand how God is working and what He wants to do in us, it helps us understand, in practical terms, how we should proceed. In that sense, it gives us guidance.

Paul talked about the gifts of the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8). Your mileage may vary, but I understand them in this way: The word of knowledge is about what has happened or is happening right now; the word of wisdom is about how we should proceed — what we should do about what has happened or is happening right now.

Prophecy is not about condemnation. God is not in the condemning business. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:17-18 ). Those who do not believe are already condemned by their unbelief. It is not something God has done to them, but something they have done, or rather, failed to do. “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).

Paul describes the nature of the prophetic gift as being for edification, exhortation and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3). It may even be a convicting word, but it will not be a condemning word. A convicting word leaves room for repentance, while a condemning word leaves no hope. The prophetic word will be a word that builds up both the individual and the body.

Prophetic ministry has a specificity to it. For example, out of the many words and promises God has for us in Scripture, how should one believer know which is the particular word needed for another believer in a specific situation? We should all be studying and meditating on the Book, of course, but it’s a pretty big Book, with a lot of things to say. Should we simply rely on our study habits and memory skills, we would soon come up short.

Here is where the prophetic ministry can help. Out of the many logos words of Scripture (the entire body of the Word of God), prophetic ministry can bring forth a rhema word. A rhema word is one that acutely and accurately applies the Word of God to the present need, whether that need is hidden or out in the open. In this way, the prophetic word often reveals what is going on the spiritual realm as well as in the natural. Because of its ability to address the present need with precision, the prophetic word is often called a now word.

Often when I minister to a group or an individual, and a situation comes up where I don’t know how to proceed, I ask the Lord, “What should I do here? What should I say?” The Holy Spirit starts bringing things to mind, especially various Scriptures. He often then shows me, not only what to present, but how to present it and what to emphasize about it.

As a Bible teacher and worship leader, I look for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I make my preparations. As I present, I look for Him to take what I have prepared and direct it however He desires. Sometimes He will direct it in a way I had never even contemplated. Sometimes He ignores my preparations altogether and brings forth something that is as much a surprise to me as it is to everyone else — bless His name!. I consider that to be a prophetic element. The end result is that people get ministered to in a deeper, more on-target way than if it were just up to me.

Every believer can manifest the gift of prophecy at one time or another — to receive from God the right word to say to the right people at the right time. It will never contradict Scripture, and in fact, it may often be no more than a Scripture we present to another. In other instances, the Scripture that comes forth may open a flood of words that minister and heal. Or there may be a picture, an image, a vision that comes to mind and addresses the situation in some way, with the result that a congregation or an individual is encouraged, exhorted or comforted in some way.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wherever He Is, There We Are

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

And He gave some to be to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Christ is the head of the church; and He is the savior of the body. (Ephesians 4:23)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the Church; we are His body. The body always goes with the head; the head always goes with the body. Though we may sometimes joke that somebody left home without his head, nobody every actually does. Head and body always go together. The head without the body is lifeless, and so is the body without the head.

Head and body always operate together. That is why it is very important to understand that the relationship between the Lord Jesus Christ and all those who receive Him is this: His is our head; we are His body. Wherever we are, there He is also. Wherever His is, there we are also.
  • Wherever we are, there He is also. At the Great Commission, the Lord Jesus promised, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). The apostle John said, “As He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).
  • Wherever He is, there we are also. The apostle Paul said, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
The Lord Jesus Christ is not a disembodied head, nor are we a headless body. We are part of each other. He dwells with us on earth, guiding, empowering and working through us. We dwell with Him in the heavenlies, in the place of ruling and reigning.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Generational Curse ~ and Blessing!

Someone asked if there were such a thing as generational curse.

Let me put it this way: If a person comes from an ungodly line, has ungodly behavior modeled before him, is trained up in an ungodly worldview, walks in ungodly ways, and receives the consequences of all that ungodliness in his life — is that not a curse? And it that not generational? And is that not an inheritance.

On the other hand, if a person comes from a godly line, receives a godly faith, learns to walk in godly behavior and wisdom, and receives positive results — is that not a blessing? And is that not generational? And is that not an inheritance?

Some inheritance is genetic. Some inheritance is learned behavior. Some inheritance is spiritual—like the sin nature we all received from Papa Adam.

In the Old Testament, God spoke of curse that extended to the third and fourth generation. But He also spoke of blessing that goes to a thousand generations. That, too, is spiritual inheritance.

A study was done on the descendants of Jonathan Edwards and those of an ungodly contemporary. The differences in how those two lines played out was quite drastic.

I find it very significant that when the Philippian jailer ask Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved,” Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, and your household” (Acts 16:31).

Of course, this does not mean that his household would be saved apart from each one having faith. But it does show that when the jailer came to faith, it opened up a magnificent opportunity for his household to come to faith as well. His decision to receive Christ changed the course of his family line and household. That is a blessing.

As I climb my family tree, I find many of my ancestors had a very vibrant faith, which passed down from generation to generation. That was a great blessing which brought me very close to the gospel, and I received the Lord Jesus Christ at a very young age.

I don't necessarily accept every teaching that goes under the rubric of “generational curse,” but I do believe there is such a thing as generational curse — and generational blessing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Satisfaction Guaranteed

The Hebrew word for “satisfy” is saba, to fill, make full, have plenty, be fulfilled. Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones declared to their generation, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” But the psalm writers declared to their generation an abundance of satisfaction. They were looking for it in a different place, or rather, a different Person.
As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;
I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.
(Psalm 17:15)

The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
Those who seek Him will praise the LORD.
(Psalm 22:16)

The LORD knows the days of the upright,
And their inheritance shall be forever.
They shall not be ashamed in the evil time,
And in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.
(Psalm 37:18-19)

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
(Psalm 63:3-5)

Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.
(Psalm 65:4)

Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
(Psalm 90:14)

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)

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits …
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103:2, 5)

He waters the hills from His upper chambers;
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works.
(Psalm 104:13)

What You give them they gather in;
You open Your hand, they are filled [saba] with good.
(Psalm 104:28)

For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness.
(Psalm 107:9)

I will abundantly bless her provision;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
(Psalm 132:15)

The eyes of all look expectantly to You,
And You give them their food in due season.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.
(Psalm 145:16)

For He has strengthened the bars of your gates;
He has blessed your children within you.
He makes peace in your borders,
And fills [saba] you with the finest wheat.
(Psalm 147:13-14)

When we look to God for everything, He will satisfy us in every way.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Big Picture of Redemption

The Gospel, God’s plan of redemption, is more than about just providing us with a fire escape from hell. We have not fully completed our Christian duty by telling our neighbor or co-worker about Christ, as important and wonderful as that is. Paul said,
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4)
We are in a warfare, and God’s plan is to, through us, pull down strongholds, cast down arguments and everything that exalts itself against Him. Everything would include the governments, industries and culture systems of the world. All of these are to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

God desires the nations, not to judge them, but to bring them into obedience of Christ. That is what Psalm 2:8 portrays, where God says to the Son:
Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance,
and the ends of the earth for Your possession.
That is not the intent to destroy but to save, for the Father is not giving the Son an inheritance that is going to be destroyed, but one that is going to glorify Him.

All those who have been born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are joint-heirs with Christ. That is, we have just as much a share in this inheritance as He does. God is going after the nations and all their systems to redeem them. For the rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ entails more than the people — it covers everything.

What is more, God is doing it through His people. The manifold wisdom of God is to be made known by the Church (Ephesians 3:10). This rule and reign belongs to us, too, because we are seated in Christ Jesus at the right hand of the Father (the place of ruling and reigning).

Jesus reigns on the throne, not only over heaven but over all. He is Lord of all. He is not waiting to begin His reign anywhere; He is already sovereign everywhere. Further, His Body is present on earth in tangible form; He just needs for His Body to begin exercising His authority on earth.

The kingdom of God is not all present and not all future. It has already been breaking into this present age, though it has not fully manifested yet. Ever since John the Baptist, the kingdom of God has been forcefully advancing and forceful men lay hold of it. Jesus taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, keep coming!” (that is the sense of the Greek text). It has already begun to come, but we pray for it to keep coming more and more until it is here in all its fullness.

The enemies of Jesus are already under His feet in the spiritual realm. But He is waiting for God to bring that spiritual reality forth into the natural realm (for all natural reality is based on spiritual reality). When God wants to do something on earth, He does it through His people, to whom He has given authority to have dominion.

When the disciples asked, “Lord will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus gave a two-part reply. First, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” Notice that He did not say, “Not now.” The timing of it is for God to know.

But what else did Jesus say in answer to that question? “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses, etc.” This is how Luke writes about the Great Commission, given just before Jesus ascended to His eternal throne to rule and reign over His kingdom. The kingdom advances by the authority Jesus has given us and by the power the Holy Spirit to bring evidence about who Jesus is and what He has come to do.

The death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ changes everything.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Created and Upheld by the Power 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)

God … has in these last days spoken to us by His Son … who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the Word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Notice that not only are the worlds created and upheld by the Word of His power, but our sins have been purged by the very one who spoke everything into existence. Our Creator has also become our Redeemer.

Truly, as the Scriptures say, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; see also Deuteronomy 8:3)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Kingdom, Power and Glory

Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:13)
This is, of course, the closing doxology of what we have come to know as the Lord’s Prayer. The two main features of a doxology are the ascription of glory (the Greek word is doxa) and the declaration of eternality. Not only does all glory and praise rightly and fully belong to God, but it belongs to Him forever and ever.

This part of the Lord’s Prayer tunes us up to the fact that the kingdom, the power and the glory all belong to God. It is all about Him. And yet …

… and yet, He has graciously chosen to make them about us, too.

The kingdom. Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all other things will be added to us. God’s righteousness is His rightness, or as the Amplified Bible puts is, His way of doing and being right (Matthew 6:33). In the kingdom of God, all things are set right—that’s why we pray for it to come, so that the perfect will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).

Paul said, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
  • The righteousness of God comes and sets things right on our behalf.
  • The peace of God (no doubt, Paul, being Jewish, would have had the Hebrew shalom in mind) is wholeness, completeness, oneness. As others have said, it means that nothing is missing, nothing is broken. God’s peace comes to make us completely whole in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Joy is the delight we have in Him and in His presence, for in His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).
The power. The kingdom belongs to God, and so does the power. This is the same dunamis power of God by which Jesus performed all His miracles, healings and deliverance. For as Peter preached to Cornelius, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power [dunamis], who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). These works of power were a demonstration of the kingdom of God in their midst.

This kingdom power comes not only to bring healing to us, but God’s plan is for us to bring salvation and healing to others by this same power. Jesus said, “But you shall receive power [dunamis] when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We are to do with this power the same thing Jesus did with it: preach the Gospel, heal sickness and disease, and expel demons. For this power is a demonstration that the kingdom of God is in our midst. It is this same power that Paul spoke of in one of his doxologies:
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power [dunamis] that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
The glory. Not only the kingdom and the power, but the glory belongs to God as well. But God invites us to enjoy this glory with Him.
For the LORD God is a sun and a shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
(Psalm 84:11)
The upright are those who walk by faith. For Abraham “believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to Him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Paul said, “For [God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

God gives His people grace and glory, or as the NIV puts it, “favor and honor.” Glory is the manifestation of God’s greatness and goodness, and He does not withhold any good thing from those who have been made righteous in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The glory God has for us is the exact same glory He has given to the Lord Jesus Christ. For on the night before He was crucified, Jesus prayed this prayer at Gethsemane:
I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that thy also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me; and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23)
The kingdom, the power and the glory all belong to God, but out of His great favor and honor, He has blessed us to enjoy the benefits of them with Him.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Renewal of All Things

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:28-29 NIV)
“Renewal of all things.” Other versions have “regeneration” (KJV, NKJV, NASB, Young’s Literal Translation). The Bible in Basic English says, “in the time when all things are made new.” Weymouth has “New Creation.” The Greek word speaks of rebirth and restoration.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.(2 Corinthians 5:17)
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the Sons of God. For the creation was subject to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:19-21)
Where is the Son of Man now seated? According to Paul in Ephesians, He is seated at the right hand of the Father in the heavenlies. That’s where He has been ever since 40 days after the resurrection. He is seated on His glorious throne. Paul also said that God has seated us there with Him (Ephesians 2:6). It doesn’t get more glorious than that!

Since the Lord Jesus Christ now sits on His glorious throne, it follows that the renewal of all things has already begun. The old age is passing away, and the age of God’s kingdom is now breaking in and advancing. Everyone who is in Christ is now a new creation; old things have passed away. Paul adds, “Behold” That is very important in Scripture; it alerts us to give full attention and credence to what He is going to say next: “Behold, all things have become new.”

Jesus promised that all things would be renewed when He sat down on His glorious throne. Though it was still a future even to them at that moment, it is no longer a future event to us. It has already begun, and has been going on ever since He ascended to heaven. We are now in the time between the inauguration of His rule and reign and the time when His kingdom is fully and completely manifested on earth as it is in heaven. The old age of darkness is already passing away, and the true light of Jesus Christ is already shining (1 John 2:8).

The time of His reign is now; so also the time of hundredfold return. In a somewhat parallel passage in Mark, we read:
Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s who shall not received a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters ad mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-20)
For it is our privilege as those who are in Christ, not only to become new creations ourselves, but also to participate in the renewal of all things. Just as Jesus taught us to pray, “Kingdom of God, come!”, so also He calls us to involve ourselves for His sake and the sake of the Gospel. We get to sow our lives and possessions into His kingdom work on earth. Not only that, we get to participate in the harvest of what we sow. But it is not merely about our own enlargement, although that happens as part of the process — it is about the enlargement of the kingdom of God and the rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ over all.

The renewal of all things has already begun, for the Lord Jesus Christ now rules and reigns on His glorious throne. Have you become a new creation through faith in Jesus Christ? Are you giving yourself for the Gospel and Kingdom of Christ? The ROI is magnificent!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Apostle Junia

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. (Romans 16:7)

First, let me get an obvious joke out of the way: A female apostle is not an epistle. (ha ha)

Can a woman be an apostle? Many Christians might be surprised to find that Paul recognized a woman as an apostle in his letter to the believers at Rome. Junia is a woman’s name, and she is named, along with Andronicus (who might have been her husband), as of note among the apostles.

Some theologians and Bible commentators, finding the conclusion that Junia was a female apostle hard to accept, try to avoid it in two ways. First, they say that Junia was a textual corruption of the name Junias, which is supposed to be a contracted form of the male name Junianus. But early records from those days do not show any such name as Junias, and only very scant reference to the name Junianus — but there are plenty of instances of the female form Junia.

The second way they try to avoid the conclusion that Junia was a female apostle is to say that Adronicus and Junia were not actually of note among the apostles (that is, as being themselves apostles), but were merely well known to or highly regarded by the apostles. But the Greek construction more naturally means “among.”

Consider also this comment from John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople in the 4th century. He understood the Greek language very well, seeing that it was his native language. Concerning Junia, he says:
Oh! how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle! (from his homilies on Romans).
For Chrysostom, there was neither ambiguity nor embarrassment. He celebrated Junia as an apostle and lauded her devotion.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Reminding God

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)
In addition to being all-powerful, all-wise and everywhere present, He is also all-knowing. But does He have a faulty memory the He needs to be reminded? Then why does He set watchmen on the wall and tell those who make mention of Him to give Him no rest?

The Hebrew word behind “make mention” is zakar and means to remember, to remind, to cause to remember. “You who make mention of the LORD” are literally the Lord’s remembrancers. Their job is to remind Him relentlessly until He has established what He has promised.

God has a wonderful memory, but there are some things He chooses to forget:
I, even I, am He who blots your transgressions
for My own sake;
And I will not remember [zakar] your sins.
(Isaiah 43:25)
God has a wonderful memory, but He is not one bit offended by His people reminding Him of those things He has spoken. Consider this prayer of Jacob, and how he reminded God of the promises He made to Abraham and Isaac:
Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you … For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” (Genesis 32:9, 12 )
In the Psalms, the book of praises, we find this:
LORD, remember [zakar] David
  And all his afflictions;
How he swore to the LORD,
  And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house, or go up to the comfort of my bed;
  I will not give sleep to my eyes
  Or slumber to my eyelids,
Until I find a place for the LORD,
  A dwelling place for the Mighty one of Jacob.”
(Psalm 132:1-5)
The psalm writer shrewdly reminds the Lord of the vow David made to Him. I say “shrewdly,” because his real aim is to remind God of the promise He made right back to David concerning his line:
The LORD has sworn in truth to David;
  He will not turn from it;
“I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body.
  If your sons will keep My covenant
And My testimony which I shall teach them,
  Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore.”
(Psalm 132:11-12)
In this roundabout way, the psalm writer brings to God’s remembrance the promise He made (this promise is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of David who now rules and reigns forever).

We also find remembrances in the New Testament. Jesus said of the Table of the Lord, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” This, of course, is something we do for the sake of our own remembrance. But it can also be an occasion to remind the Lord of the promises He has made to us in the covenant of Jesus’ shed blood. It is the new and better covenant God foretold in the Old Testament. It is based, not only upon better promises, but also upon a better sacrifice (which is the lesson in the book of Hebrews). As we, in faith, take the bread and the cup of communion, we not only remind ourselves of God’s promises, we are putting Him in mind of them.

How long are we to remind God of His promises? He tells His watchmen to give Him no rest until He establishes what He has promised. This calls for faith, which includes patience and persistence. Do not give ever give up reminding God of His Word until you see all the things He has promised established in your life.

Now, if you will excuse me, it is time for me to go to the Table of the Lord.

(See also Warring With the Bread and the Cup)

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Warring with the Bread and the Cup

Do this in remembrance of Me. (Luke 22:19)
Yesterday I took the Table of the Lord, and I took it in the mode of warfare. Jesus said of this Table, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” To remember is to recall something to mind, to relive the experience of something. The remembrance of which Jesus speaks is not a passive remembering, but a very intentional one.

So I took of the Table to put myself in mind of the Lord Jesus Christ, His body given for me, He blood shed for me. I took it to recall to my heart the covenant promises He has secured for me. For He said, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20).

I also took the Table to put God in mind of His covenant promises to me, for I was drawing on them to see them come forth in my life. Just as one places a demand on a check by presenting it to the bank and cashing it in, I was placing a demand on the provisions of the covenant God made with me in the blood of Jesus Christ. I’m done with making my own provision for anything anymore; I’m depending upon the provision God has made for me. If I can’t have it through the covenant of God — believe me — I don’t need it and I don’t want it! For His provision is all the blessing and abundance of heaven itself.

Finally — and here is where it became spiritual warfare — I took the Table of the Lord to put satan in mind of the body of the Lord Jesus given for me and the blood of the Lord Jesus shed for me. I wanted the devil to know that I know who I am in Christ, what I have in Christ, and what I can do in Christ. I wanted to put him in mind of the fact that I belong to Jesus Christ and He belongs to me, and that I am in covenant with Almighty God. This means that to mess with me is to mess with God. I wanted the devil to know that I would not be accepting his lies and accusations, his fears, his poverty, his sicknesses, his bondages, or anything else he wants to deliver to my doorstep — I’m refusing delivery! I wanted him to recall how and where and why his head was crushed. I wanted to serve notice that I am in receipt of God’s promises and that I am enforcing the provisions of the covenant I have in the blood of Jesus, and that satan and his devils will have to clear off all that is mine.

There is, of course, much more to the Table of the Lord than spiritual warfare. There is intimate and profound fellowship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There is spiritual nourishment, refreshment and strengthening. There is the intense joy of His manifest presence. But there is also a time for warring with the bread and the cup.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Battle With Your Baptism

Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the Living God? (1 Samuel 17:26)
When David asked this concerning Goliath, he was not engaging in idle name-calling or WWF-style trash-talk. No, he was getting to the very heart of the matter — his covenant with God.

Circumcision, the cutting away of the male foreskin, was the covenant sign God established with the children of Israel. All men of God, young and old, bore this sign in their body and were constantly reminded by it that they were in covenant with the Living God. The essence of covenant is in exchange: All that we have belongs to Him; all that He has belongs to us. Our enemies are His enemies; His enemies are our enemies.

Goliath was uncircumcised; he had no such covenant with God. Goliath was a Philistine, an enemy of covenant Israel, and therefore an enemy of God Himself. So David understood that when Goliath defied the armies of Israel, he was actually defying the armies of the Living God — and this would not stand.

But why did Saul and his armies allow Goliath to carry on in this manner? Surely Almighty God knows how to vanquish His enemies. But the problem was that Saul and his men had forgotten how to trust in God and walk in the authority of His covenant provisions.

David, however, understood his covenant position with God very well and was thus undeterred by the size of the Philistine armies or even the size of Goliath himself. He was ready to take them all on, fully relying on the Living God with whom he and all Israel were in covenant. He knew it would be more than enough to prevail in any battle. So David defeated Goliath, cut off his head and sent the Philistines fleeing.

But what does this have to do with baptism? Just this: As circumcision was the sign of covenant with God under the Old Testament, so baptism is the sign of covenant with God under the New. It belongs to all those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ, and identifies us with the people of God.
Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we all shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believer that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. (Romans 6:3-9)
John said, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The Son of God took on flesh, becoming fully human as well as fully divine, and identifying Himself so thoroughly with us, took on all our enemies and defeated them at the Cross. For all those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ, the devil and his works no longer have any authority over us.

Baptism is an ordinance, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ has ordained it for us. But it is also a sacrament, that is, an outward and physical sign of an inward and spiritual reality. All who have received Christian baptism have received a precious sign from God that we belong to His people and have covenant relationship with Him.

David said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the Living God?” Today, we can face any enemy or adversity and say, “What is this unbaptized circumstance that it should defy the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is battling with our baptism.

Martin Luther understood this very well. He hung a plaque on the wall of his study which read, “I have been baptized.” This was his battle cry whenever the devil came after him with lies and accusations. He said, “The only way to drive away the devil is through faith in Christ, by saying: ‘I have been baptized, I am a Christian.’”
Whenever the devil comes railing after you like Goliath, with deception, condemnation, sickness, depression, poverty, fear — whatever — remember that he is an “uncircumcised Philistine.” He has no covenant with God. But you do — and your baptism is the outward, physical sign that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, who has destroyed all the works of the devil. God has given you this sign so that you may remember who you are — and whose you are — and walk in the covenant promise of God and the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … Yet in all these things were are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:31-37)
Through faith in Jesus Christ, we enter into covenant relationship with God. Baptism is not the cause of that relationship, but it is the outward sign God has given to show that we have covenant with Him. Remember your baptism — the sign of who you are in Christ — and go do battle against the things that do not line up with the authority of heaven.