Tag Archives: spiritual maturity

Turn on the Light!

Turn on the Light!

Jesus is the Light

Last week, we asked, “Where’s the light?” The answer to that question is Jesus.  Jesus is the Light of the world, in whom there is also life. Jesus’ light dispels the darkness that is so prevalent in our world:  the deceitfulness of sin.  Because of The Light, we have spiritual discernment and are able to see truth clearly in a world where there are no absolutes nor standards of integrity.

How is that possible?  Through the transformation that begins when we became “new creatures in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17).  Each day, we become more like Christ—a light that is to shine in a darkened world.

Light transformation

In Ephesians 5:8, Paul explains the extraordinary transformation Christ makes in the life of His believers.

Paul accomplishes this by contrasting the believer’s old life with their new life.  Paul borrows an example from nature that would be easily understood by his readers—light and darkness.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.  

“For you were once darkness.”  This statement of conclusion describes the state in which current saints found themselves before Christ.  Darkness (skotos) described their past condition.

We were not “in darkness” but we actually “were darkness”.  Metaphorically this describes individuals in whom “darkness becomes visible and holds them sway.” They are morally darkened by sin, spiritually bankrupt, and desperately in need of salvation (Rom. 3:23).

Who are you?

“But now you are light in the Lord.”  What caused the change between “once darkness and now light”?  Salvation!  God’s plan of salvation provided a change in status—from darkness to light.

Light (phos) is used figuratively to describe truth and its knowledge, together with the spiritual purity (in contrast to vv. 3-5) associated with it.  God took us (sinners) who were “foolish, disobedient, and deceived and according to His mercy, He saved them (us)” (Titus 3:3-5).

Life as a light bearer

“Walk as children of light.”  As new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), a new relationship emerged.  No longer in fellowship with darkness, we became children and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17) with all its power (Ep. 1:19) and privilege (Ep. 2:6).

In addition, our lives were redirected to God’s purpose—to walk as children of light.  As “light bearers” we now offer to the lost the same light we received when we walked in darkness.  By hearing our personal witness and the Gospel, the darkened world will be attracted to The True Light, Jesus Christ (John 8:12; 9:15).

As you plan your daily activities remember to embrace your identity as children of light.  Look for opportunities to “turn on the light” in dark places and “show others the goodness of God, for He also called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9, NLT).

Where’s the light?

Where’s the light?

This is the panicky question young children ask their parents as they enter a dark room.  They are concerned in knowing where the light can be found.

Similarly, “Where is God?” is the panicky question we ask as we see our “secure” world coming unraveled before our very eyes.

Jesus is the Light

I know my last few WordBytes have centered around a song.  Guess what?  I have a new song for you this week.  It is a familiar song typically (but not exclusively) sung during Christmas as we celebrate the advent of Jesus into this darkened world.

We’ll walk in the light, Beautiful Light,

Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright.

Shine all around me by day and by night.

Jesus, the Light of the world.   

Guess what?  Jesus is STILL the Light of the world 365 days of the year!

Light that dispels the darkness

Even amid the darkness cast upon our world and our environment, nothing can extinguish the brightness that Jesus offers to “penetrate” the darkness.  Why do I say that?  Examine the historic evidence in the biblical record.

In the Old Testament, we first meet Jesus as part of the Holy Trinity that entered the “earth without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, let there be light; and there was light.” (Gen. 1:2-3) In Creation, God’s light entered the physical realm.     

In deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt, the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day to guide them; by night, He provided a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (Exod. 12:21-22).  In Deliverance, God’s light showed the way.

In the New Testament, God sent the consummate Light in Jesus Christ.  The Gospels give evidence of Jesus as the True Light.  The Apostle John introduces Jesus in these terms in John 1:4-5, 9.

 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Jesus was the Light that would shine on our souls and redeem us from the darkness:  the bondage of Satan, and the deceitfulness of sin.

Our Journey through Darkness

Our life is perhaps a consummate example of how Jesus penetrates the darkness that rises in our life.  Take time right now and reflect on when there seemed to be no answer to a problem or a solution for a particular situation.  Nothing but darkness!  It may have risen externally, by way of personal danger, family illness, or financial struggle.

Do we ever take time to reflect on not only, how we made it through, but more importantly, who brought us through the darkness?  That’s why I journal, because it records the “dark places” in my life and how Jesus provided the light I needed to see.  It also captures the scripture that the Holy Spirit shared to burst through the darkness that seemed to hem me in.

One of my “light” scriptures was given to me while experiencing my mother’s transition.  It was Psalms 138:3.

In the day when I cried, thou answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul.  

Another came from Habakkuk 3: 19:

The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.

In my dark places and in my tight spaces, Jesus has been and will always be my Light.

Walk in the Light

Today, we don’t have to stay in darkness.  We must be careful not to be deceived in believing that the answers to our world and personal problems (darkness) can be found in power, money, nor political affiliation.  Have they produced the light we need for joy, peace, and contentment?  Why not?  Because darkness cannot create light!

Let us come out of the darkness and walk in the marvelous light that God has given us through Jesus our Lord and Savior (1 Pet. 2:9).  Walk in the beautiful Light.  JESUS IS the Light of the world.

Have you got good religion?

Have you got good religion?

Do we have it?

“Have You Got Good Religion?” is an African American gospel song which imagines a series of questions Jesus might ask believers.

After the opening query, “Have you got GOOD RELIGION?”, there are five (5) additional questions which Jesus asks.  The individual then answers with an emphatic response, “Certainly Lord!”  As there have been many renditions of this song, there also have been many modifications to the “original” questions.

For this teaching, I’d like to share the original verses:

  • Have you been redeemed?
  • Have you been to the water?
  • Have you been baptized?
  • Is your name on high?
  • Has your name been changed?

The occasion or background for this dialogue is not given nor is it even important.  But as I purview the Church in the 21st century and the role of each of us as believers, I find the questions very appropriate.

Do we have good religion?

What is religion?

The origin of the word religion is from Latin religio or religare which means “obligation, bond, or to bind”.   Modern classification describes religion as a particular system of faith and worship.  It is also belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power especially a personal God or gods. 

I’m sure one time or another our faith walk has been described in terms of how we pursue our “religion.”  As we share our beliefs as it relates to world events, we might be told, “you are taking this religious thing too far!” Or as we refuse to acquiesce to some immoral or dishonest act, we may be accused as being “too religious”.

So what is good religion?

I concur with both definitions of religion put forth earlier.  I worship only One God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life (Ps. 104).  He is the ruling authority in my life.  My Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ redeemed me and translated me from darkness into light (1 Pet. 2:9).  Jesus lives in me through His Holy Spirit who empowers and guides me in all things.  I am a Christian and I worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

We must be careful however, not to allow man-made rituals and practices to keep us from true righteousness—being in right relationship with God AND with each other.  Such was often the case with the Pharisees who often mistaken religious activities for true worship and love for God (Matt. 15:1-20). Sadly, we see this in our churches who cling to history and tradition.  These often result in the quenching of the Holy Spirit.

What’s in a song?

I think the questions put forth in the song, help us to define what “good religion” looks like.  Then we can begin to examine ourselves to see if we are still of the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

    • Have you been redeemed? To be redeemed means we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  We no longer belong to Satan but are now part of God’s family. (Titus 2:11-14)
    • Have you been to the water? Have you been baptized? Baptism is our public testimony to our willingness to follow Jesus.  It is our external witness to our allegiance to Him. (Rom. 6:3-4)
    • Is your name on high? “On high” refers to “heaven” where the Book of Life is kept until Judgment Day (Rev. 20:11-15).  In it are the records of all people considered righteous before God.  Our name is in the Book because we have Christ’s imputed righteousness. (2 Cor. 5:19).
    • Has your name been changed? Our name is the source of our identity.  Biblical name changes were the result of spiritual identity changes in the life of those who have been with God, i.e., Abram to Abraham, Sari to Sarah, Jacob to Israel.  Our spiritual identities are changed when we become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
How would we respond?

If God were to pose the six questions contained in our song today, can we say emphatically. “Certainly Lord?” What would be our proof?

F.B. Meyer, noted theologian shared this description on religion—I offer it as my definition of “good religion.”

In Matthew 15:16, our Lord teaches that true religion is certainly not a matter of eating and drinking or outward ceremony.  It is the intention of the soul, the continual drawing from Christ the life power needed for our work and ministry to others.  

Is our life a witness to God’s power and love?  Have we joined Jesus in His work to serve in this fallen world?   If we can say, “Certainly Lord!” then our life and works become a testimony of our “good religion.”  (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

Although and Yet: A Prayer of Faith

 

Although and Yet: A prayer of Faith

Wickedness leads to judgment

Last week we were introduced to Habakkuk the prophet.  Habakkuk lived and prophesized in the reign of king Manasseh, when wickedness abound.  Destruction by the Chaldeans was imminent.  God would use them as an instrument of His judgment.

If God were to assess the moral condition of our nation, would we be prepared to receive His punishment?  Last week, we listed the “sins of Judah” that resulted in its fall.  Disobedience is a slippery slide that leads to a continuum of sins (James 1:13-15).

What’s in a name?

Before being taken into captivity, Judah would experience the loss of all its material wealth and property.  All the blessings of God (Deut. 28:1-14) would be eliminated because of the wickedness and rebellion of Judah (Deut. 28:15-68).

How was Habakkuk to respond to God’s pending punishment on the nation of Judah? Habakkuk is an unusual name which means “to embrace or cling”. In the final chapter of this book, his name becomes apparent as Habakkuk chooses to cling firmly to God regardless of what happens to his nation.

Although and yet.  These two conjunctions reflect how devoted Habakkuk was to his God and the trust he would need to navigate through the dark days that lie ahead.

Habakkuk’s declaration

In the final chapter of the book, Habakkuk concludes with a prayer confessing his continuing trust in the rightness of God’s dealing with Judah (Hab. 3:17-18).

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

May I digress and spend a moment on the grammar Habakkuk used in this prayer.  Though is a conjunction meaning “in spite of the fact that”.   When used at the beginning a phrase, clause, or sentence, it offers a contrast to the main sentence.   Yet is also conjunction that means, in this context, “nevertheless.”  What are you saying, Habakkuk?  Put it in 21st century language we can understand!

In spite of rising costs and inflation,

And drought burned crops and dying cattle in the fields,

In spite of fires, floods, and ravaging storms,

And our shrinking GNP and personal investment accounts,

In spite of doing more with less

And receiving little in return

Nevertheless, I will rejoice in my Lord!

I will be joyful and trust in God.

He is my salvation!

That is the kind of faith we need today. Our world continues to shift from the familiar to the unrecognizable.  These lead to uncertainty and fear.  How will we respond?  Take a moment and write your own declaration of faith.  What is your “in spite of” and your “nevertheless”?

Habakkuk’s faith

Habakkuk concludes his prayer by living up to his name.  He praises God’s wisdom even though he doesn’t fully understand God’s way.  Habakkuk chooses to cling firmly to God regardless of what happens to his nation.

That faith and trust is captured in his closing statement (Hab. 3:19, NLT):

The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

He makes me as surefooted as a deer,

able to tread upon the heights.

In the King James version of this verse, two different words are used for “make”.

  • “He will make my feet like hinds’ feet” or “to transform into”.
  • “He will make me to walk upon my high places” or “tread, bend, or march”.

The deer in this verse was not the domesticated goat we see on farms today but was a wild mountain goat that was equipped the move through the rugged terrain of the mountains.  Narrow openings and ledges, crooks, and jagged rocks.  This is where the deer lived, yet they moved confidently knowing they were created for that world.

Application for us.  Our sovereign God has created us for such a time as this.  He is transforming us and bending us so that we will be able to not only survive but thrive.  But our ability to walk upon “our high places” is dependent on our faith and trust in God—even if we don’t understand His ways.  We must live by faith (Hab. 2:4).  If we do, then we too will be able to walk on our high places (Hab. 3:19).

Obedience and the Journey to the Cross

Obedience and the Journey to the Cross

Obedience and the Journey

We continue our Lenten season journey to the Cross.  In this study, we discussed the meaning of obedience to God.  Obedience is discerning what God wants and choosing to seek that outcome.  Our response of obedience flows from a heart that hears God’s voice and feels God’s love.  It is a matter of choosing and turning to Him versus the lusts of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

The hallmark of obedience is modeled by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ especially as He journeyed to the Cross.  Jesus demonstrated for us “perfected” obedience by His humility, His faithfulness, and His submission to God’s will.

We decided that obedience was both the outcome of our faith walk and the means by which spiritual maturity is accomplished.  We “perfect” (bring to fruition) our obedience through the Holy Spirit and practicing spiritual disciplines that conform us to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  We daily accept the “obedience challenge” by exercising our freedom in Christ rather than being disobedient slaves to sin.

Let go of the ego!

As we perfect our obedience, probably the most difficult part of our journey is our willingness to “let go.”  Letting go requires releasing those things that cause us to be independent of God and operate outside the will of God.

Letting go necessitates that we pray often, wait expectantly, and trust unequivocally.   When we “let go and let God”, the results are always more than we can accomplish in our own power (1 Cor. 2:9).  Much of the difficulty in “letting go,” often times, lie in our inability to “let go of our ego.”

What’s with the ego?

Ego, in this case, is not an exaggerated sense of self-importance but the use of “fleshly” knowledge and “human” effort to accomplish God’s purpose. This is often the case when we endeavor to live righteous and holy lives in our own power.  Some of us attempt to do this by “works”:  we visit the sick, feed the hungry, and do all the things we think will please the Lord.

Some of us become “masters of spiritual disciplines”:  we read our Bible every day, fast and pray, and tithe ten percent.  Regardless of our approach, we “miss the mark” using fleshly methods to create spiritual outcomes.  In Philippians 3:4-5, the Apostle Paul, confesses his attempt to live holy by operating out of his flesh.

Even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 

Interestingly the pronoun “I”, in the passage above, in Greek is translated “ego.”  Paul’s failure was not due to lack of works or poor self-discipline; nor was it the result of a poor attitude or “stinking thinking.”   Paul attempted to do the work and will of God in his own strength.  What was the best solution for Paul’s dilemma?   He declared his faith and dependence on Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:7-9). Paul “let go his ego” and chose to obediently follow God.

Preparation for Holy Week

As we prepare for Holy Week, let us consider the journey through the lens of obedience.  To help us with this exercise, take time to meditate on Philippians 3:8 (NRSV).

I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. 

When we meditate, we “focus our thoughts” (versus daydreaming).  We invite the Holy Spirit to join us.  There can be no meditation without His presence.   Below are three (3) simple methods of meditation you can try.[1]

Meditation method #1:   Emphasize different words in the text.

Meditation method #2:   Rewrite the text in your own words.

Meditation method #3:   Formulate a principle from the text.  What does it teach?

Don’t rush this exercise.  Spend time re-reading and focusing on each word.  Give attention to the verse, each phrase, and words included in this scripture.  Remember, all Scripture is the inspired word from God (2 Tim. 3:16).  Take time to hear not only what God is saying to Paul but also, what is God saying to you.

Journal what you learn from your meditation—about God, the Gospel, your ego, and yourself.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show how you can practice obedience as you daily journey to the Cross.

[1] Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitley.

Perfected Obedience

Perfected Obedience

So, what have we learned about obedience?

According to Webster, obedience is defined as submission to authority.  Operating with that definition, our natural response is to challenge, resist, and even disavow.

On the other hand, obedience from a Christian worldview is more than just following the letter of the law.  It is discerning what God wants and choosing to seek that outcome.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for obey means to hear.

It is described as an attitude and faith-rooted disposition (2 Cor. 2:9; Phil. 2:12).  It is the outward response of the heart that hears God and turns to Him.

Where does obedience come from?

Obedience is evidence of a personal relationship with God.  It is not motivated by guilt or shame but by love (John 14:15).  We agreed last week that mature obedience is both the outcome of our faith walk AND how we can achieve spiritual maturity.  Each time we make a decision or choose a direction, or reply to an action, we are challenged to “response with a heart that hears God”.

Jesus our example

The writer of Hebrews offers us another perspective on obedience—perfected obedience.    

Though He [Jesus] was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.  Hebrew 5:8-9 (NKJV)

Our text gives us a clue into how our obedience becomes “perfected”.  It begins and ends with a clear understanding of Jesus and His walk of perfected obedience.

Firstly, Jesus never sinned. Jesus had no need to become perfect for His work of salvation.  Jesus was perfect in His nature (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15).  Imagine that! Even as a rambunctious child, a growing teenager, and a vibrant young man—Jesus never sinned.  No defiance, no hiding behind excuses.  To fulfill God’s requirement for a “blameless sacrifice for sin” (1 Pet. 1:19), Jesus suffered and was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:8).

Secondly, Jesus learned.  What did He learn?  Jesus learned what it meant to be human by experiencing all the emotions and sensations that we as frail humans feel.  Why?  So that He could identify with our depravity and brokenness.

Jesus willingly experienced the full range of emotions He had placed in us at Creation (Heb. 4:25).  Jesus was moved with compassion (Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34); He cried (Luke 19:41, John 11:35); He withdrew (Matt. 14:13); Jesus condemned (Matt. 23:1-12).

But it is in Jesus’ passion that we see the greatest evidence of humanity.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, He was in excruciating agony, sweating drops of blood (Luke 22:42; Mark 14:36).  Ultimately, Jesus bore the full weight of our sins by hanging on a Cross and dying.  (Matt. 27:50)

Jesus was perfected

Finally, Jesus was perfected. The literal translation of perfected is “to bring to an end a proposed goal”.   Jesus accomplished the purpose crafted by God before the foundation of the world—to bring redemption, restoration, and reconciliation to all mankind.  Jesus became the “all and everything” that was needed to bring salvation to fallen man.

Jesus learned about humanity and why His sacrificial death was the only solution for the sin problem.  He became “the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9), the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29), and the “first-begotten from the dead” (Rev. 1:5).

Jesus’ perfecting was accomplished through His obedience.  Jesus’ submission to and love for God resulted in the greatest gift we as believers will ever receive—freedom from sin and eternal life.  To put into words the enormity of God’s plan of salvation is impossible.

Perfected obedience—a new level of love and gratitude

I close with these words from F.B. Meyer on “The Perfecting of Christ”.  May his words move your spirit to new levels of obedience.  

For the long and steep ascent of life, our Father has given us a Companion, a Captain of the march, a Brother, even Jesus our Lord, who passed through the suffering of death, and is now crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:9-11). He has passed along our pathway, and climbed our steep ascents, that He might become our merciful and faithful Friend and Helper.  In this sense He was perfected, and became unto all them that obey Him the Author of eternal salvation.  But if we are to walk with Him, and realize His eternal salvation, we must learn to obey.

Understanding perfected obedience is captured in the life and love of Jesus the Christ.  Jesus is our model and the example we daily strive to emulate.  Let us endeavor, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be conformed to His image and ultimately transformed into all that God has purposed us to be (Eph. 2:10).

Mature Obedience

 

Mature Obedience

Faith outcome and spiritual maturity

Last week we opened with this question:  Is obedience the outcome of our faith walk or is it the means by which spiritual maturity is accomplished?   The answer we discovered is that obedience is BOTH.

During our faith walk (which will continue until this life ends), our choice to either obey or disobey God will result in “life lessons” that will make us stronger instruments of God.  Through these lessons we “grow” or mature spiritually.

Oswald Chambers shared this thought on obedience and spiritual maturity.

Spiritual maturity is not reached by the passing of the years, but by obedience to the will of God. Some people mature into an understanding of God’s will more quickly than others because they obey more readily; they more readily sacrifice the life of nature to the will of God.

A lesson in obedience

Let me detail the correlation between obedience and spiritual maturity with the following illustration.

A toddler, immature physically and mentally, has one basic desire—to satisfy their immediate needs.   They will do just about anything to have their way, disregarding safety, or well-being along the way.  This includes climbing up on high counters or grabbing objects that are dangerous to their health, i.e., laundry pods.

Toddlers show little concern for their own safety or well-being if the result is physical satisfaction. They are best served and protected by their guardian who will provide for and protect them.  Toddlers must be taught to obey the direction of their guardian who will help them to gain a healthy fear of the world they live in.

Is obedience only for children?

Spiritually, the toddler illustration can also be true for believers.  Oftentimes, we live in the moment—desiring what will immediately satisfy our needs.  In that moment perhaps the Holy Spirit is directing us to “pray and wait” or to seek godly counsel through others or the Bible.

Many times, we will even fain obedience (fake it) by responding “I’m praying about it” when we already know what God has directed us to do.  Ours is just to obey. Such was the case with Jonah.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah saying, “Go at once to Nineveh and cry out against it.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3)

Reluctant obedience = disobedience

Jonah was reluctant to bring God’s message to Nineveh, the capital of Israel’s hated enemy, Assyria.  Foolishly, he thought he fled from the presence of the Lord (Psalm 139:7-10).

God was very clear in His instruction to Jonah.  “Go at once” and “Cry out against Nineveh”.  He was without excuse, yet he chose to be disobedient. The Lord did not allow him to escape.

Jonah eventually acquiesced.  God’s purpose was accomplished. Nineveh repented (Jonah 3:10).    But unfortunately, Jonah failed to mature spiritually (Jonah 4:3-4).  He was unsuccessful in understanding the nature of God and His mercy (Exod. 33:19).

Practicing mature obedience

Like Jonah, do we often find ourselves running from the presence of the Lord?  Is God asking us to respond to a divine directive we prefer not to do?  This is a great place to begin practicing mature obedience.

We practice mature obedience by first seeking God’s will through reading and meditating on His Word.  This will then move us naturally into prayer based on what we have read.  We have the assurance of the Holy Spirit to “guide us in all truth and to glorify God” (John 16:13, 14).

Finally, we must quickly respond to what God has instructed us to do. We must obey.  Hesitation is often the result of doubt, which soon leads to disobedience. Mature obedience can be practiced every day.  It begins with a willing heart that is swift to say, “Yes, Lord.”

A Better New Year’s Resolution, Part 2

A Better New Year's Resolution, Part 2

A better new year

As we shared last week, new year’s resolutions are not the best way to create change in our life.  Strength of character and self-will, often fall short in taking us where we really want to be.  We determined that “the best way” to introduce real change in our lives is through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  We must put on our “new man”.  In Christ we have a new identity.

Embrace our identity in Christ

When I began my Christian walk, the meaning of “in Christ” was a mystery to me.  I tried to understand it based on those things I was familiar with.  For example, I established membership in the local church.  I was in fellowship with its members to serve and glorify God in my life.  But “in Christ”, what did it mean?

In Christ is the present experience of the risen Christ indwelling the believer’s heart.  By the Holy Spirit we take on the personality of Christ.  It is more than an imitation of the life and teaching of Jesus.  It describes the believer’s union with Christ as a result of the divine action of grace by God.  The result of that action is the believer is transformed into a “new man.”  (2 Cor. 5:17).

Renewed in knowledge

Knowledge is defined as general awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.

However, in Colossians 3:10 knowledge means “precise and correct knowledge”.  It is used in the New Testament of the knowledge of things ethical and divine.  It is this type of knowledge that is needed today to navigate the challenges of our times.

Paul tells the church at Colosse to “put on the new man” who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.  “New man” and “old man” were terms introduced by Paul to contrast the believer’s new versus old behaviors and lifestyle (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 2:15; 4:22-24, Col.3:9-11).

So why did Paul tell the church to put on the new man? Because the new man has access to the “precise and correct” knowledge needed for righteous living (living in right relations with God and with mankind).  This knowledge is provided through the Holy Spirit living within the new man (John 16:13).  This is where transformation takes place.

In addition, this new man’s knowledge is further strengthened as a result of being created in the image of God.  In Christ we possess God’s divine nature—His DNA.  DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms.  It is the unique string of characteristics that make us who we are—physically and mentally.  In Christ, we have been given a new spiritual DNA that equips us for the purpose and plan God has created for our lives.

True Knowledge

In Christ, we not only have renewed knowledge but also “true” knowledge.  Paul describes this in 2 Peter 1:2-4.

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, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Knowledge (of God) protects us against error and deception, regardless of its source.  It helps us discern and use God’s truth to guide our life.  True knowledge sharpens our spiritual eyes to see not only potential dangers but also the possibilities that God has in store for us.

Promise of a better year

If we want a better new year, we must be intentional.  Our aim should not be wasted on things that never work.  Our focus must continue to be on the Person who has the authority and power to “make all things work together for our good.”  (Rom. 8:28).   That person is Almighty God (Ps. 97:1-2).

Our divine truth is this.  Being in Christ and knowledge of God will provide us with everything we need to be successful not only in 2022 but also all the way to glory. Let us diligently seek the Lord more this year than last.  This is the best way to a better new year.

Looking beyond what we can see

Looking Beyond what we can see

Anatomy of the human eye

As we consider looking beyond what we can see, it might be helpful to review how we see physically.

The human eyes work very similarly to a camera. When you look at an object, the light it generates enters your eyes. The light first passes through the corneas, which begin focusing the light. It then passes through to the pupils. The size of the pupils changes to regulate the amount of light entering the eyes.

 The light is then focused through the lenses and onto the retinas. The retina is a light-sensitive layer in the back of the eye that contains highly evolved cells called rods and cones. The retina then changes the image into electrical and chemical impulses, which are transmitted along the optic nerves and into the visual center of the brain. It is when the image reaches your brain that vision occurs.[1]

Man is a remarkable creation of God. He is made physically perfect for the lifetime God has designated for him (Ps. 90:10).   However, as remarkable as Creation is, God’s work of salvation has resulted in our ability to see spiritually, the things we would normally overlook.

Seeing supernaturally

I love the Old Testament because of its value in capturing the wonders and works of God.  As I prepared for this series, the scripture text that came quickly to mind was the account of the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 6:8-23.  This passage shares the incident in which the King of Syria, enemy of Israel, sent raiders to capture Elisha.  You will enjoy reading the entire text as it shows the confidence of Elisha as he prepares to meet this great army that surrounded the city of Dothan.

2 Kings 6:15-17 is most relevant to our discussion on seeing with spiritual eyes.  We may find the advice Elisha offered his servant relevant to us as we face the challenges of 21st century living.

And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”  So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

The chariots of fire that the servant saw were heavenly hosts primed to do battle with the Syrian army on behalf of Elisha.  Elisha saw the heavenly army and recognized that there was no need to fear.  He saw past the potential danger and saw God at work. After Elisha’s prayer, the servant, through God’s enablement, saw that the mountain was full of God’s presence.  He looked beyond what he could see.  He looked from God’s perspective.

Kingdom reality

Seeing with spiritual eyes begins with understanding who God is and our position in the Kingdom of God.

Broadly speaking, the kingdom of God is the rule of an eternal, sovereign God over all the universe. Every authority that exists has been established by God (Romans 13:1). So, in one sense, the kingdom of God incorporates everything that is.  More narrowly, the kingdom of God is a spiritual rule over the hearts and lives of those who willingly submit to God’s authority.[2]

 God is the Almighty Sovereign who manages the affairs of the world from heaven. Through His providential will, God orchestrates every event in our lives. Our position in Christ elevates us to God’s children and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:16-17). We are the recipients of His promises, His privileges, and His presence (Eph. 1:3-5).

Kingdom reality does not deny the presence of sin and its outcomes on the world.  We are sadly aware that we live in a fallen world.  However, we know three things.  First, Jesus Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Secondly, we are overcomers, too. (Rom. 8:37; 1 John 5:4).  Finally, we know how history will end.  WE WIN! (Rev. 21:1-8)

Looking beyond what we can see

Looking beyond what we can see allows us to “reframe” our experiences through the lens of kingdom reality. Closed doors are seen as God’s protection.  Waiting is seen as God’s time of preparation—either of us or our desired end.

Seeing this way equips us to move forward in the midst of trouble versus being overwhelmed.  We do not lose hope.  Instead we look past what we see physically.  We see God (2 Cor. 4: 17-18).

It’s not that we spiritualize everything that happens to us, but we truly believe what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Rome: “All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord who are called according to His purpose.”  (Rom. 8:28)

Seeing with spiritual eyes is not “mystical” like a third eye.  Nor is it “recreational” like fortune telling or a Ouija board.  It is “relational”. Just as the light helps the physical eye to focus, so our focus on kingdom reality helps the spiritual eye to see from God’s perspective and power (Luke 1:37; Jer. 32:17,27).  Just as the retina physically changes the image we see into sight, the Holy Spirit informs us as to what is truth and what is error (Acts 26:18).  Bottom-line is this.  Looking beyond what we can see is dependent on the Source of Light who is Jesus Christ.  “In His light we see light” (Ps. 36:9)

[1] www.ceenta.com/

[2] Gotquestions.com, “The Kingdom of God”

 

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 2

Seeing with Spiritual Eyes, Part 2

Looking beyond what we can see

The ability to see has been associated with many things in the biblical record.  It has been linked to wisdom (Job 42:5), to salvation (Eph. 1:18), and to discernment (John 7:24). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it helps to expand our understanding of seeing with spiritual eyes. Seeing with spiritual eyes help us to “look beyond what we can see”.

To see or not to see

The prophet Jeremiah was a heartbroken prophet with a heartbreaking message. He labored for more than 40 years proclaiming a message of doom to the stiff-necked people of Judah.

Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not: (Jeremiah 5:21-29)

Despite Jeremiah’s many warnings, they did not see that their behavior was headed for a collision with the judgment of God. Judah continued to worship idols, disobey God’s covenant, and practice social injustice. Their lack of vision and refusal to surrender to God’s will resulted in exile to Babylon for 70 years. Judah’s loyalty had become divided and had blinded her to the things of God.

Barriers to seeing spiritually

The “usual suspects” stand as barriers to seeing with spiritual eyes. They are our flesh, the world, and Satan.

Our flesh is the natural or “unredeemed” part of us that take us away from the purpose of God. Our flesh sees with natural eyes and refuses to obey the leading of the Holy Spirit. Paul the Apostle notes that it is impossible for the natural man to see with spiritual eyes (1 Cor. 2:13-16).

The world is that which is contrary to the things of God. It includes the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).  We are told by the Apostle John, that those who love the world do not love God (1 John 2:15). Divided loyalty ultimately leads to disobedience (Titus 1:16; James 4:8).

Satan does what Satan always does:  he discourages, he deceives, and he destroys. Of all the barriers, Satan is the greatest challenge. Why? Because most people don’t believe he exists. He remains the unseen “puppeteer behind the curtain”. But be assured he is very real. Look for him where there is conflict, confusion, and chaos. However, to see him, we will need spiritual eyes.

Our flesh, the world, and Satan keep us from viewing the world as it really exists.  In addition, the postmodern, 21st century worldview has created a “distorted” picture of what we see.  This is especially true with identifying sin.

Our “spiritual sensibilities” are slowly being dulled.  The ultimate goal, of course, is complete spiritual blindness.

How do we gain spiritual sight?

First and foremost, we need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus shared with His Disciples the importance of the Holy Spirit in guiding them in all truth (John 16:13-14).  Each day it is important that we invite the Holy Spirit to join us through reading scripture, meditation, and prayer.  As we do, we train our spirit man to “listen for the Spirit’s voice” as He communicates with us.

Secondarily, we can practice the presence of the Holy Spirit.  Practicing the Holy Spirit’s presence acknowledges the fact that God, in all His fullness, is always with us (Ps. 139:7-12).  Because of that, we should not limit this practice to our devotion and prayer time only but also include it in our “normal rhythm of life.

Finally, we must be intentional in our pursuit of the knowledge of God and our growth in Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Seeing with spiritual eyes is not a natural attribute for believers. Therefore, it must be developed. The Apostle Peter describes this process as “giving all diligence to add to our faith” (2 Pet. 1:5-8). Diligence translated means earnestness in accomplishing, promoting, or striving after anything. Peter describes the results for believers who lack that diligence: “They are short-sighted, even to blindness…” (2 Pet 1:9)

Let us make a commitment today to develop spiritual eyes. While it’s been said that “the eyes are the windows of the soul”, it is more important to believe that seeing with spiritual eyes will “keep your soul.”  (Mat. 6:22-24).