Monday, April 6, 2020

Let Us Exceeding Rejoice

The word freedom comes with a variety of definitions, such as; the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint; absence of subjection to foreign domination or despotic government; the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. Out of these definitions, "the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved," seems to best sum up what Jesus accomplished for humanity. When looking through the scriptures we find that God began the process of redeeming man as soon as man fell, promising that a Redeemer should come who would break the dominion of Satan and restore to man his lost dominion and standing. Some of the most compelling passages of scripture concerning this monumental event were foretold by the prophets, especially the prophet Isaiah.

In Isaiah 7:14, we have a declarative statement of the incarnation, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Notice how this would come about, "The Lord Himself" emphasizing God's might and power shall give a sign or miraculous work and wonder for our benefit. What would this miraculous work be? "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son." She is to be a daughter of the House of David, (remembering that Christ would be of the House of David and that Joseph was not Jesus' father, God was) and she shall conceive and bear a Son and His name shall be called "Immanuel," that is, God with us. Hallelujah!

As we proceed forward, look at Isaiah 9:6, "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, (inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration; extremely good; marvelous) Counselor, (the great attorney of God's family)  Mighty God, (all powerful) Everlasting Father, (having no beginning or end) Prince of Peace" (complete freedom from disturbance; complete quiet and tranquility). Yet, in all these glorious names, He would humbly come as the sin substitute for all humanity.

Turning to the four gospels, it is there we see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane pouring Himself out in prayer as He was about to face the most horrific event that he would ever face. We see Him arrested, taken to the High Priest Caiaphas; insulted and struck; He is taken before Pilate, then Herod; He was mocked; see Him scourged, His back laid open, blood flowing, His flesh torn as the cruel blows fall mercilessly upon His bared back by the awful Roman lictor. His own clothes replaced with the mock garment of kingly authority; a mock crown of thorns pressed deep upon His brow; more mocking comes and His own clothes are placed roughly about Him, forced to carry the patibulum (a wooden beam weighting about 100 pounds) in which He would be nailed to. Heading to Golgotha, He staggering beneath the weight of the patibulum and fal1s to the ground. Rising from the ground, He again heads ever closer to Golgotha.

Weakened by the loss of blood from the merciless beating, He staggers blindly up the mountain side, surrounded by soldiers who encircle Him. He and the patibulum which He carried are laid roughly down upon the stauros (a wooden beam in which the patibulum was attached to form a cross). Next,  Roman soldiers with cruel hate drive the spikes into His hands; then He is lifted up naked, and the Cross is dropped into a hole to support it. Jesus the Nazarene is crucified! We watch the mob as it surges backward and forward about the Cross. We hear the chief priest's hurling their bitter taunts in the face of the suffering Son of God. We hear the mob in their bitter denunciation, led on by their priesthood. Such a horrific sight. It was not a sight for angels, or for men, but for demons only, and yet the worse was yet to come for the suffering Substitute.

In see this unfold, we now have a better understanding of the prophecy spoken by Isaiah, "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4) In the Four Gospels we see Him only stricken of man, but Isaiah sees into the spiritual realm. He sees the Redeemer as He hangs there,"stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." God is dealing not with Jesus' body, but with His spirit. Isaiah goes on, "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. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6) Here we see God taking our sin and laying every bit of it upon the spirit of the innocent Lamb of God, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us..." (2 Corinthians 5:21) 

Jesus, who is God the Word who became flesh (John 1:1, 14) is now man's sin Substitute. He has taken man's place. The whole human race is now represented in Him, as He hangs there under judgment on the accursed tree becoming a curse with every curse (Galatians 3:13). We also see that He becomes sick, with all of humanities sicknesses, "Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief and made Him sick..." (Isaiah 53:10 AMP) God takes your sin and mine, as well as every sickness and every curse and places it upon Jesus, into His very being. Jesus, nailed to the cross, suspended between heaven and earth becoming the outcast of heaven and earth. From the cross the Son of God cries out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me." (Matthew 27:46) Finally, the time had come when "Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last." (Mark 15:37) As mentioned before, when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane pouring Himself out in prayer as He was about to face the most horrific event that he would ever face, it was finally here.

Not only was it the Father's plan for His sinless Son to die on the cross, that His blood be shed for all humanity, but he was to go to hell itself to pay the full penalty of man's sin. God in His justice could not have acquitted humanity so that mankind could stand in His presence until every charge against him had been wiped off the books. (Isaiah 43:25) Only then could man stand before God as clean and as free as though he had never sinned. God could not pardon man until an adequate sacrifice had been made. Jesus tells us, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matthew 12:40) Peter quotes David the king, "For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption." (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27)  The story unfolds.

Peter tells us, "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit." (1 Peter 3:18) Notice, Jesus was made alive in spirit. He would not have been made alive in spirit had not He died in spirit. As it was with Adam, so it was with Jesus. Jesus died in spirit on the cross, before He died in the flesh. Peter declares that Jesus not only died in the flesh, physically, but that He also died in spirit, spiritually, and therefore His resurrection was a double resurrection. He was made alive, first in spirit, and then in the flesh, His spirit being raised from the dead and re-united with His body. The Apostle Paul tells us, "He put off from Himself the principalities and the powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them." (Colossians 2:15) Here is a picture of Christ in hell, with the whole host of demons attempting to keep Him there, but when the penalty of our sin had been paid in full, when justice was satisfied, Satan had no power to hold Him.

Paul tells us, "Jesus was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification." (Romans 4:25) The very moment the sin problem was settled, the moment Jesus
Christ was legally justified, was made alive in spirit once more, He cast off the hosts of demons, and became the Master of hell by taking from Satan the keys of death and hell. (Revelation 1:8) Jesus died as our sacrificial Lamb, but He rose as Lord, as Master of death, of hell and of the grave. The matchless, mighty Son of God had gone into the strong mans house, bound him and took his spoils. (Matthew 12:29) Jesus has taken from Satan all his authority, his dominion and now offers it to fallen man through His matchless name and grace. What does this mean to humanity?

It means that every person who repents (express a sincere regret or remorse about their sin), confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and takes Him as their Savior, stands legally acquitted in the presence of God, free and clear of all charges against them. It means that God is vindicated, He has taken advantage of no one. He can now save humanity by His grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8), but also judge every person for rejecting His way to freedom. It means that Satan is defeated, and man can be free from sin, sickness, disease, poverty, death and all the works of the devil. It means that man is legally justified, declared righteous and is an heir of God and joint heir with Christ. (Romans 3:21 through Romans 8:39). It means that man, through faith in Christ receive the promise of eternal life. (1 John 2:25) It means that man can become a child of God and have all the privileges as sons and daughters. (John 1:12-13) It means that heaven is legally the home of God's children.(John 14:1-4)

Let us look beyond "Resurrection Sunday" and live in the abundant and the triumphant life that Jesus has given to us. "...I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ..." (2 Corinthians 2:14) Remember, we are no longer imprisoned or enslaved by the god of this world. (2 Corinthians 4:4) So, let us never forget what Jesus has done for us, "And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail" (exceeding rejoice) (Matthew 28:9) and every day, exceeding rejoice in our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ. Have a wonderful Resurrection Day. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always...

Monday, March 30, 2020

The God Kind Of Love

With all the "do's and don'ts" that church leaders have developed over the years and have placed upon believers, it seems that we have forgotten the one most important "do's" that Jesus gave to the church. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35) Love is God's most potent characteristic, "...God is love..." (1 John 4:16) and it should be the same in the life of every believer.

As new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) believers have the God kind of love already dwelling within them. Now this might be difficult for some to believe, that believers can walk in the same kind of love that Jesus emulated in His ministry on earth as the Son of man. But let's look at what the apostle Paul tells us, "Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5) Do you see that? By virtue of being born again, God's love was instantaneously pour out in the heart (recreated spirit) of every believer through the Holy Spirit who dwells in the believer who is also God.

Next, we see something else concerning the God kind of love in the believer. The apostle Paul tells us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:22-26) Love is a fruit of the recreated spirit. Again, as soon as one is born again, the God kind of love becomes a part of the believers recreated spirit through the Holy Spirit.

However, a closer look at this passage reveals some important things. First, And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Have you responded by faith to this statement? Have you crucified the flesh with its passions and desires? In other words Jesus said it this way, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." (Luke 9:23) Do you deny the flesh with its passions and desires on a daily bases? If not, then the God kind of love will not be able to take root in your heart.

Secondly, If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Unfortunately, most believers do not comprehend what it means to walk in the Spirit. Simply put, to walk by the Spirit is to yield to the influences of the Holy Spirit and not the influences of the flesh. To do this we must apply what the apostle Paul applied to his life as he followed Christ, "...and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20) You cannot escape this spiritual principle. You must live "By faith in the Son of God!!!" Believers will never live beyond the passions and desires of the flesh until they operate in revelation faith that is, unwavering faith upon the Word of God. The sad thing is, most believers operate in sense knowledge faith, which is natural faith that every person has. This type of faith relies solely upon what our five senses can comprehend.

Finally, if believers do not truly live by the influences of the Holy Spirit, but live by the influences of the flesh, that is the senses, they will do exactly what the apostle Paul warns not to do, "Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." These things are the result of placing "do's and don'ts" upon believers rather than focus upon the one commandment that Jesus gave to the church, to love one another. The God kind of love is what brought forth the incarnation. The God kind of love is what motivated Jesus to love the people that He came into contact with as the Son of man even though they were constantly antagonistic toward Him. The God kind of love is what led Jesus to surrender His life into the hands of those who would kill Him. The God kind of love is what paid the sin debt accrued by humanity. The God kind of love has provided the means for humanities greatest need, redemption. It is the God kind of love that will destroy the denominational barriers and differences in the church which will show a lost world that believers are Jesus' disciples.

To walk daily in the the Spirit and exercise the God kind of love is a choice that every believer must come to grips with. I believe the Lord is saying to many believers today the same thing that He spoke to His people Israel on Mount Carmel through the prophet Elijah, "...How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; (walk by the Spirit) but if Baal, then follow him" (walk by the flesh with its passions and desires)." (1 Kings 18:21) So, let us do the former, ditch the flesh once and for for all and respond to what the apostle Paul says concerning what truly matters, " working through love."     

Monday, March 23, 2020

Arise and Go Home

Not to long after the birth of Jesus, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and says, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him." (Matthew 2:13) So Joseph takes Mary and Jesus to Egypt. After the death of Herod the king the angel of the Lord appears again to Joseph in a dream saying, "Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child's life are dead." (Matthew 2:20) and so he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. Luke adds something that is interesting to this account, "And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." (Luke 2:40)

Next, Luke tells us that Joseph and Mary take Jesus, who was twelve at the time, to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. (Luke 2:41-42), and again we see something very interesting concerning Jesus,  He was " the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." (Luke 46-47) Luke records once again, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52) Point being, we see that from childhood Jesus increased in wisdom.

 As we look through the Gospels, we see that the religious leaders who were in office during the time that Jesus walked the earth as the Son of Man were always looking for a way to discredit Jesus. Every time they did so, the wisdom of God in Jesus defused the entire situation and put the religious leaders to shame. Jesus certainly did not respond to their evil with any malice in His heart. His responses to them was because He was "...grieved due to the hardness of their hearts..." (Mark 3:5)  One particular time, Jesus got into a boat and went into His own city, "Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, "This Man blasphemes!" But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" — then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." And he arose and departed to his house." (Matthew 9:1-7)

There are a few lessons that we can learn from this situation. One is believing that God has not changed nor has His Word changed. What He did through Jesus and the early church still applies today. Jesus tells the scribes that their hearts think evil. But look at the wisdom of God in operation. Of course it would be easier to say to someone "Your sins are forgiven you" because things are "easier said then done." But are they? Although the scribes do not respond to His question, Jesus says to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." The paralytic responds to Jesus' Word, "And he arose and departed to his house." 

Jesus tells us, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23) Today, as it was for Jesus then, it should be no more difficult for believer's today to say, "Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise and walk." The only thing that can prevent this is simply a lack of faith in the integrity of God's Word. Although the disciples that Jesus chose and named apostles observed His ministry for over three years, they too dealt with the same issue prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. They did not believe. Not only did Thomas need tangible evidence of the resurrection (John 20:24-25) but Jesus rebuked all the disciples after His resurrection due to the unbelief and hardness of heart. (Mark 16:14) Even though Jesus foretold the apostles of His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21); even though Mary Magdalene and the two disciples that Jesus met on the Emmaus Road told the apostles that Jesus was alive (Mark 16:9-13); it was a lack of faith in God's Word (Jesus' Words to them) that caused them to easily dismiss the word or will of God.

Sadly, enough in many sections of the church today the same thing happens. There is an unpersuadableness, a lack of true Bible faith in the Word of God. Look at how the multitude responded to what Jesus did for the paralytic, "Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men." (Matthew 9:8) What a drawing card for those who do not know the Lord. Letting God perform the supernatural through His children as evidence of His great love and all that Jesus did for humanity. However, the only way that these things can be a part of the church today, is to rid ourselves of doubt, fear and unbelief and be filled with the revelation knowledge of the Word of God which builds faith (Romans 10:17). Let us pray the prayer that Paul prayed for the church and believe, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened..." (Ephesians 1:17-18) and then be a doer of the Word...

Monday, March 16, 2020

Confess With Your Mouth

It's been said that, "Christianity is called the great confession." The apostle Paul tells us, "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." (Ephesians 4:29) This biblical principle is one of the greatest lessons that a believer should learn and live by because most believers are defeated in this life by the very words that proceed out of their mouth. The Book of Proverbs provides us with numerous warnings concerning the use of our words. For instances, "You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth (Proverbs 6:2) or, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18:21)

When we think about the power that is released through words, we must look at the way God used His Words at creation. In Genesis 1:3, 6-7, 9, 11, 14-15, 20, 24, 26, 29-30 it is recorded, "Then God said...and it was so." We may tend to think, "Well that was God and not me." However, a close look at Hebrews 1:1-4 reveals something that is not only intriguing, but will also give us a clear understanding of the power of God's Word spoken through the lips of the believer, "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 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, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." (Hebrews 1:1-4)

Our focus is on only a portion of the passage. Notice, upholding all things by the word of His power...If this said by the power of His Word, we could then agree that His Word has power. However, the fact is, His Word is His power. This is a very important truth that believers must come to fully understand if they are to "Walk by faith and not by sight" God's Word is power! The gospel of John reveals numerous times that Jesus did not speak His own words, "...but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things." (John 8:28) John's gospel also reveals, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (John 1:3) Jesus knew the power of words which is why He always spoke the solution and not the problem. There is no indication in the gospels that when anyone came to Jesus for healing or deliverance that He ever asked them how they got themselves in that condition. Why? He only spoke the things that came from His Father, God's Word!

Now think about this. How do you suppose you would talk if Jesus walked up to you and said, "whatever you speak from this time forward will happen just as you say?" Do you suppose that you would chose your words very carefully? Of course you would. Do you really want all the negative things that you have been confessing to come to pass? Of course not. Interestingly enough, He has already told us this in His Word. Remember the two verses from Proverbs shown above. Unfortunately, most believers do not speak words that edify and impart grace to the hearer. There is a tendency to listen to what the world speaks and then follow suit.

The apostle Paul tells us, "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children." (Ephesians 5:1) Believers are to imitate God in the same manner that Jesus did. If believers would start imitating the Father and speak the Word of God from the heart, they will experience the very abundant life that Jesus promised right hear on planet earth. They will also be freed from being held captive by the corrupt words that have proceeded time and time  from their own mouth. When we truly understand the power of words and use them correctly, we will also understand what Jesus said when He said, "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 11:23)

This scripture is a promise that is released by faith. Notice the word "says" appears three time in this one verse. This is not a theory, it is in fact, a spiritual law. Jesus continues, "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) Wouldn't it be nice that every one of your prayers were answered every time? Well, Jesus tells us that if we have faith and do not doubt we will have whatsoever we ask of Him. So, if we haven't yet, let us speak the Word of God and not let any corrupt communication proceed from our mouth. Let us train ourselves to speak God's Word; let us begin to speak forth the results and not the problems; let us confess the Word of God not the circumstances; let us begin releasing faith filled words from our mouth; as we do we will also keep the devil in his defeat position, under our feet. Jesus said to the devil, "IT IS WRITTEN."

Monday, March 9, 2020

Touching Heaven

Prayer is a vital part of the believers life. In his book, E.M. Bounds on Prayer, Bounds states, “Prayer is the medium of divine revelation. It is through prayer that God reveals Himself to the spiritual soul today, just as in the Old Testament days He made His revelations to the people who prayed. God shows Himself to the person who prays.” The Lord desires, not only to have His children pray to Him, but have communion with Him through prayer. Prayer has many meanings such as: to ask; to beseech; to call to one’s aid; communicating with God; an act of communion with God.

The act of communion with God involves more than just praying in a general sense. In fact Jesus tells us what ineffective prayer is, "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words." (Matthew 6:7) He also tells us how to pray effectively, "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. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." (Mark 11:23-24)

The apostle John reveals a very important key for us when it comes to asking the Lord for anything, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him."(1 John 5:14-15) So how can we know that what we ask Him is according to His will? How can we move from hoping that He will answer our request to having assured confidence that He will answer?

Peter says it this way, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue." (2 Peter 1:2-3) and the writer of Hebrews says, "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 1:3)

Take notice to two important things here. First we see that "His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue." So, when we pray we must believe that He has given us "all things that pertain to life and godliness." But how do we acquire "all things that pertain to life and godliness?" Through having knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is not sense knowledge, that which we understand in our minds, but revelation knowledge, that which is conceived in our heart, the recreated spirit. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The other thing that we must understand is, upholding all things by the word of His power.  Notice that it does not say that power of His word. Literally, actually, factually, God's Word is His power or His power is manifest by His Word(s). A great example of this is in creation, "Then God said...and it was so." (Genesis 1). So, if His power is in His Word(s) (which it is) and His power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ, (which He has) then praying the Word of God is the way that we can, as John said, "...that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." His Word is His Will and His Will is His Word.

So, let us no longer just talk at the Lord with many words, but pray His word knowing, "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11) God's Word get results every time if, one, "does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them..." (Mark 11:23-24) In short, we pray His Word, believing that we have already received the petitions that we have asked of Him and His promise is, you will have them. PTL...

Monday, March 2, 2020

Get Up And Go

When the Charismatic movement hit the church, many things happened both good and questionable. Unfortunately, when good things come as a means of reformation and restoration to the church they oft times become carnal, which of course, is then questionable. Many times the Bible records, especially in the writings of the apostle Paul, that believers are to "walk by the Spirit" or "live by the Spirit." There is a very good reason for this; it is to help the believer from becoming carnal or in other words, to help them to not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

One of the good things that turned questionable during the Charismatic movement was the "Shepherding or Discipleship movement." In short, the movement gained a reputation for control and abuse in the name of "making disciples." One of the errors of the movement was that a great deal of emphasis was placed upon the importance of the disciples obedience, not to God per se, but to the shepherd that the disciple looked to for discipleship. Disobedience to one's shepherd was in many cases, viewed as being equal to disobeying God. This resulted in the shepherding movement being rejected and somewhat swept under the proverbial carpet. Basically, the former shepherding or discipleship movement was about an elitist attitude among church leaders that attempted to clone and control less mature believers  This is in opposition of shepherds feeding and tending to the Lord's sheep. Despite the shepherding/discipleship movement becoming twisted and then rejected, the shepherding/discipleship of believers is both important and biblical. 

"And Jesus came and spoke to them, 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) "Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted." (Galatians 6:1) There are only two scriptures shown here out of the many that direct the more mature believer to disciple other believers. Hopefully, we get the point.

From the Christian perspective a disciple is a follower of Jesus and His teachings. However, the word disciple also means, a pupil, student, adherent, learner and apprentice. With this in mind, let's look at the command that Jesus gave His disciples concerning making disciples.  Jesus tells them to "go and  make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; (Matthew 28:19-20) Jesus is saying, go make pupils, students, adherents, learners and or apprentices to follow Me (Jesus) and My teachings. Notice, that Jesus is talking to those He had discipled. He tells them to go and do what He had taught them and emulated before them. (Although not all inclusive, see Matthew chapter 4 - 10 as a guide of both Jesus' discipleship techniques as well as what He had taught and emulated before His disciples)

The apostle Paul said, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) This is a key to understanding the importance of discipleship for today because it falls in line with what Jesus spoke to His disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20) Paul is telling the church,  to follow him as an example of one who is following Christ. He is saying that he has made Christ his example and model in all things, and if the church were to follow Christ as he follows Him, they will not fall into error. Notice that Paul is only using himself as an example of one sold out to Christ and that if believers were to follow his example, they will never go astray. This is discipleship and it is lacking in the church today.

We must also note that not all of Paul's letters were written to a church, but also to individuals that he personally discipled, like Timothy and Titus. Paul is not using his position as a means of control or abuse, but he is very personal in his approach to them, "To Timothy, a true son in the faith:" (1 Timothy 1:2), "To Titus, a true son in our common faith:" (Titus 1:4) Paul gives these men personal counsel which in a sense demands these two men to keep moving towards Christ. He also gives them (us) some of the best information on Kingdom building and order in the church. Again, the focus is on Christ not Paul.

In brief, church leaders must not continue to to drop the ball when it comes to true biblical discipleship as well as not neglecting, rejecting or making carnal the moving of the Holy Spirit. However, if we look at various times throughout church history where reformation and restoration was trying to find its way in to the church, we see a typical scenario played out among church leaders. Some have embraced the things of God and have kept it pure; some have embraced the things of God and have twisted them; and others have either totally rejected the things of God from the start or have criticized it when it became twisted and then refuse to implemented it properly in the church.

For the church to become the "Bride" without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, it must become a church of faith, "But 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) Not some general faith where we say we believe God's Word and never act on it, but a faith that produces fruit and pleases God. One of the best ways to accomplish this is  to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you..." This is  true biblical discipleship. The time is now for church leaders to really be led by the Holy Spirit not what their wisdom might conceive. Leaders must teach and emulate the life and ministry of Christ to believers of all ages so all believers will "Go" and do the same . It is time for church leaders to show less mature believers that true bible faith always has corresponding works. 

"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." (Romans 8:5) "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) "But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18) This is how the church can embrace reformation and restoration, not twist it or reject it, but see the power and glory of the Lord manifest in the lives of His children, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." (John 14:21) Grace and peace to you all...

Monday, February 24, 2020

Hangin' Out

One of the main ingredients that gave the early church such great success was they engaged in fellowship with one another daily. The word fellowship has many expressions: a partnership; to partner together as one; to participate; to communicate; to have common interest; a state of being together; communion; community; association for religious and spiritual purposes. It is noteworthy to understand that believer’s in the early church did not function independently. They recognized the power, life, and unity that’s released through true Christian fellowship, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…For there the LORD commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133) Jesus said it this way, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." (Matthew 18.20)

The nature of fellowship or community was first established within the three persons of the Godhead; the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit. God desired to establish community on earth and He did so through the first family, Adam and Eve. Man was given the choice to enjoy community on earth with one another, and also with God. Choice is at the center of community and is what makes it a powerful experience. It is not something that can be forced into operation; on the contrary, it must be something that one desires. Knowing this, we can better understand God's desire to create community on earth. We also can see the destructive nature of broken fellowship that the first community on earth experienced which has affected the entire human race.

Today, in our individual lives we are faced with the issue of fellowship/community once again. Our busy lives can become a crutch that keeps us focused on our own kingdom and not see the power and life that can be experienced through daily fellowship with one another. After God had established community on earth, Satan came along and proposes his own plan to Eve which Adam also bought into. Satan's plan seemed to be attractive to Eve but in fact was full of deception. Man was now faced with choice; and the choice that he made was an act of disobedience so tragic it caused the breakdown of community and fellowship.

Not only had community been twisted between God and man, but also between man and woman, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8) The fellowship which God intended between Himself and man was now broken and the very essence of community on earth would suffer unimaginable consequences, “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him." (Genesis 4:8) Can you fathom that? By the second generation of man, the first murder has taken place. Not only did Cain kill his brother Able, but Cain was driven away and became a fugitive and a vagabond. (Genesis 4:14)

We must come to understand that Satan continues to work at keeping the children of God from fellowship and community because he knows the power that is released. Look at Gods response to the people in the land of Shinar when they came as one to build a tower and make a name for themselves, "And the LORD said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them." (Genesis 11:6) Look at the power releases in community. These people were spiritually dead yet they saw what community could accomplish. The church has the Holy Spirit, so now think how much more power can be released in just one congregation functioning this way. Now, think how much power would be released if the entire church would come into fellowship/community with one another.

It takes individual choice to build community. It also takes a desire to see the church become even more powerful and influential than it has ever been. The creation of man reveals an important key to living in fellowship/community, "Then God said,"Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness..." (Genesis 1:26) The apostle Paul tells us, "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children." (Ephesians 5:1) Man was made in the image and likeness of God, so with that in mind believers should then talk and act like God. One of the ways we imitate God is through community. As mentioned above, the nature of fellowship or community was first established within the three persons of the Godhead, so let's imitate God by choosing to be an active part of Christian community. The grace of our LORD Jesus Christ be with you...