Tag Archives: The Holy Spirit

A Foretaste of Glory: The Holy Spirit of Pentecost

 

A Foretaste of Glory

The promise of Pentecost

Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday.  This will mark the end of Eastertide and introduce the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Promise (Acts 1:4; Luke 24:49; John 14:16).

Many churches will dress their altars in red to symbolize the fire of Pentecost.  This fire, the Holy Spirit, fell upon the apostles and early followers of Jesus who were gathered in the Upper Room (Acts 2:3).  This fire would empower the apostles then and believers now to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world.

Pentecost marked the availability of the Holy Spirit to everyone who would “call upon the name of Jesus” (Rom. 10:13; Acts 2:38).  Collectively, individuals responding in faith would form the Church promised by Jesus to His disciples (Matt. 16:18).

The presence of the Holy Spirit

While we may know about the various ministries of the Holy Spirit, it is even more important to fully grasp the enormity of His Presence within us.  I love the way Jesus described this phenomenon in John 17:23 (NLT).

I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Imagine.  We have deity living within us!  Jesus in believers and God in Jesus.  Why?  So that we will be in complete agreement.  Our will, our thoughts, and our lives operating together.   And when the world sees us, they will see God and know how much He loves us.

Like the disciples on the day of Pentecost, we need the Holy Spirit’s power and direction as we live for God’s glory.  Pentecost is not only a day on the church calendar, but it is also an invitation to join God in His ministry of deliverance, wholeness, and grace (Eph. 2:10).

Stormie Omartian, bestselling American Christian author, describes our partnership with the Holy Spirit this way:

God wants to lead you to places you cannot get to without Him, and He does that by the power of His Spirit. He can bring you into the realm of the miraculous—not as a show, but as a demonstration of His love and compassion for the lost, hurting, or needy. Who among us doesn’t want or need that?

The glory of Pentecost

In meditating on the glory of Pentecost, the words of the hymn, “Blessed Assurance” echoes within my heart and mind:

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine

Heir of salvation, purchase of God

Born of His Spirit, Lost in His love. 

This song captures in totality the work of salvation.  It describes in its opening lines the work specifically of the Holy Spirit who gives us a foretaste of the glory that belongs to those who are in Christ.

“Foretaste” is made up of two Latin words:  ante which means “ahead, before or previously” and gustus meaning “flavor, zeal” (this is where we get our word gusto).  Foretaste is described as a taste before possession; a limited awareness of something to occur.

This is a good illustration of what the sealing of the Holy Spirit accomplishes.  The Holy Spirit whets the spiritual appetite for those things which God has reserved for believers until the day we all shall see Jesus for ourselves (1 John 3:2).  Paul referred to this time as the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:4).

As we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, let us look forward to the time when we will be fully in the presence of God.  While we wait, let God’s Spirit lead us to where we might witness and serve.  Having received a foretaste of glory, let us not squander the power within us—the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is my story, this is my song.

Praising my Savior all the day long.

Living the Resurrected Life

Living the Resurrected Life

Resurrected Living

Since Easter, we have embarked on the journey to gain a greater understanding of the resurrection.  More specifically, we have focused on its reality, its wonder, and its power in our everyday life.

Hopefully, what we have come to realize is that our “everyday life” can be lived more fully through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20).  This power we learned is through the Holy Spirit that also dwells in us.  “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He (God) who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11)

Living the resurrected life can be realized as we incorporate three (3) key principles to our understanding.  Resurrected life is: (1) transformational, (2) intentional, and (3) relational.

Resurrected life is transformational.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, our life begins to change.  How does change occur?  By emptying ourselves of our agendas and replacing them with God’s plan.  We move from a “self-directed life” to a “Christ-directed life”.

Paul explains this transformation to the church in Galatia (Gal. 2:19-20, NLT):

I have been crucified with Christ.  I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Our transformation is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.  It is our responsibility to cooperate with His instructions.  Each day we empty ourselves through our acts of obedience and by loving one another.   We then let the Holy Spirit fill that space in our heart (the filling of the Holy Spirit) and follow His lead.

As we empty ourselves, there is more room for the Holy Spirit to occupy.  In the filling, we begin to look and act more like Jesus.  We become conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).

Resurrected life is intentional.

It begins with acceptance of resurrection as a “new way” of life.  When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we did more than buy the “fire insurance”.  We spiritually “died with Christ on the cross”.  Part of that dying includes ending our “preoccupation” and “attraction” to the things of this world (1 John 2:15-16).

Paul explains this intentional behavior to the church at Colosse (Col. 3:1-5, NLT):

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.  For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.

Living intentionally is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.  That’s why we must be thoughtful and mindful in our pursuit of the resurrected life (Rom. 12:1-2).   This process should include disciplines which help us daily renew our hearts and mind, i.e., prayer, study of God’s Word, meditation.

Resurrected life is relational.

The Apostle John captures Jesus’ final hours with His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17).  Jesus knew that in less than 24 hours He would be on the cross.  After spending 3 ½ years in intimate relationship with His Disciples, Jesus would leave them on their own.  However, the Disciples would not be alone (John 15:7-15).

In chapter 15, Jesus takes time to stress the importance of relationship and preparation for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Disciples’ success would depend on their ability to stay in relationship with or abide in Him.  This “abiding” would be accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Abiding describes the “dwelling as it were within Jesus and to be continually operative in Him by His divine influence and energy.”[1]  This relationship is like that which Jesus experienced with the Father (John 10:30; 14:31; 15:10).  The Disciple’s power would come through developing a similar relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Our success in living the resurrected life is also dependent on our abiding relationship with Jesus (vv.1-11) and our demonstration of love for our fellowman (vv. 12-17).

Resurrected life in the 21st century

Resurrection is more than a one-time event.  While the resurrection of Jesus is a documented, historic occurrence that took place over 2,000 years ago, it is much more.  Its power continues to exert an unprecedented and recurring influence in the hearts and lives of believers around the world.  Even in 2021, when the Gospel is shared, people believe and become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

For believers, resurrected life is a time for transformation as we experience a new relationship with God the Father, Jesus our Lord, and the Holy Spirit.  Resurrected life is possible as we intentionally pursue God’s plan and will for His kingdom.  Resurrected life is an experience, from which, we will never be the same.

Why is this important for us today?  Because with Christ’s resurrection, we have an opportunity to “new life” that is found by our faith in Jesus Christ.  It is in resurrected life that victorious living begins. We can depend on God’s power and Jesus’ victory beginning on Resurrection Sunday AND extending throughout all of eternity.

[1]  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

Resurrection Spirit

Resurrection Spirit

Preparation for ministry

We continue our celebration of Eastertide, the 50-day period following Easter.  This season gives us the opportunity to reflect on the power and the presence of the resurrection in our lives.  It culminates on Pentecost Sunday (May 23rd) which marks the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on man.  In discussing the resurrection, we would be remiss if we ignored the source of “that power”.  That source is the Holy Spirit.

Jesus directed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem “for the promise of the Father, which, they had heard about” from Him” (Acts 1:4).  That promise was the Holy Spirit.  With His arrival would come “power” needed to fulfill their commission.  This would not be temporary nor external power.  But this power would come from the indwelling of the Spirit within each of them (John 14:17).  For God’s kingdom to grow, the Disciples would need the power of the resurrection Spirit.

The Disciples laid the groundwork for the spread of the gospel message after Jesus’ ascension.  It would later be the work of the New Testament writers, like the Apostle Paul, to teach the Church how that gospel would be lived out in the believers’ daily life.  That would include the work of the Holy Spirit.  Paul’s teachings in the book of Ephesians gives us great insight into the power of the resurrection Spirit in those who are in Christ.

Role of the Holy Spirit

In Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul focuses on the work of the Triune God in fulfilling the work of salvation.  God the Father provided the way to redemption (Eph. 1:3-8).  He chose believers and predestined them to adoption.  Jesus Christ the Son offered Himself for the redemption and forgiveness of sin for those who accept Him by faith.  He paid the righteous demand for sin (Heb. 9:21-22).  The Holy Spirit’s role in the work of salvation would be to seal those in Christ until eternity future (Eph. 1:13a-14).

A seal, in biblical times as today, is used to guarantee security or indicate ownership.  Ancient seals were often made of wax, embedded with the personalized imprint of their guarantor.  In both the Old and New Testament, the significance of the act of sealing was dependent on the authority of the one doing the sealing.  It would authenticate the guarantor’s ability to “make good” on that which was promised within the sealed document.  In this case the promise of the believer’s salvation and future inheritance.   

Sealing of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit not only endows the believer with power to accomplish the purposes of God (Phil. 1:6; 4:13) but He also gives assurances that God will do and can do all that He has pledged—promises and blessings for today and an inheritance in the future (2 Pet. 1:3-4; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).   

The Holy Spirit seals those who trust in Christ (Eph. 1:12, 13).  His presence is God’s guarantee that believers are owned by Him and secure in Him. Since the Holy Spirit’s task is to apply Christ’s work to God’s people, He anoints those in Christ the moment they believe (2 Cor. 1:21-22).

The believer is then secured as a member of God’s family, not in their own power, but because the Spirit is applying the promises made possible by God through our relationship with Christ.  His sealing comprises the initial down payment or the earnest of the full redemption of God’s possession in eternity future (1 Cor. 6:19-20). 

Resurrection Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the power of God for the people of God.  Our position in Christ makes resurrection power available to us.  It is our responsibility to access it (Eph. 1:18-20).

I leave you to consider these thoughts from preachers, past and present, who speak clearly on the power made available to each of us through the resurrection Spirit.

Smith Wigglesworth, British evangelist, influential in the early history of Pentecostalism, wrote this about the Holy Spirit:  

Enter into the promises of God. It is your inheritance. You will do more in one year if you are really filled with the Holy Ghost than you could do in fifty years apart from Him.

Charles Stanley, Pastor, televangelist, and theologian, offers this insight:

The power of the Spirit is God’s divine energy and authority released in believers’ lives for the purpose of righteous living and fruitful service. When we walk in the Spirit, we’re relying on His strength to accomplish God’s will. When we do God’s work by His strength, in His way, and with His wisdom, we’ll be blessed no matter what goes on around us. Walking in the Spirit doesn’t mean life will be easy—but we never have to walk through it alone, because our Helper is always with us. 

Is it time to access the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit?  Absolutely!  Today, take hold of God’s divine power living within you.

Living in Resurrection Power

Living in Resurrection Power

Resurrection Reality

“Christ has risen!” (Matt.28:5)   “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; He is not here” (Mark 16:6).  “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen” (Luke 24:5).  These are the biblical explanations to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection noted in the synoptic Gospels.

But one of the responses by Jesus’ followers (not recorded in the biblical record) might have been, “Ok, but what now?”  They had received the resurrection proclamation from the women who visited the empty tomb early Easter morning. They had personally seen the glorified Christ “behind shut doors” (John 20:19-30).  But, “what now?”

Even after this, the Disciples did not fully comprehend the implications of the resurrection and how it would change their lives forever. The Disciples and the New Testament Church would now face persecution and even death for their belief in Jesus Christ.   They would need to depend on resurrection power to achieve Jesus’ commission (Matt. 28:19-20).

Even now, in the 21st century, we as believers must come to terms with how the reality of Jesus’ resurrection impacts our lives every day.  To successfully navigate the challenges of today, we need resurrection power.

What is resurrection power?

Resurrection power is the supernatural power God used to raise Jesus from the grave (Eph. 1:19-20). It is this same power that has delivered us from sin’s power and penalty (Rom. 6:14).

Sin kept us in our brokenness and our bondage.  It manifested itself in our lives as guilt, shame, and misery.  These led us to dark paths of despair, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. However, as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), we have access to the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the grave (Rom. 8:11).  Satan has been crushed.  We are free (Col. 2:15).

Although we may be tempted, we are able to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Even if we stumble or fall, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39).  We have been sealed with the Holy Spirit, our Guarantee, until we arrive in heaven (Eph. 1:13, 14).

Living in the power of the Resurrection

In the final days of His earthly life, Jesus hinted about this resurrection power.  He assured His disciples, “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12).

The Apostle Paul knew how to live in the power of the resurrection.  He wanted to not only “share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings” but also, to know Him and the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10).  It was through the power of the Holy Spirit that Paul proclaimed the sufficiency of God’s grace through the “power of Christ that would rest on him” (2 Cor. 12:9).

How do 21st century believers live in resurrection power?

The early New Testament church gained its potency through the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Through resurrection power, we too, as 21st century disciples, can gain the same strength to accomplish God’s purpose.  In addition, it is through this power that we can find personal forgiveness, acceptance, and wholeness.

The Holy Spirit is the source of resurrection power.  It is through His presence that we are empowered for service to the Lord (John 16:13-15). The work that has been entrusted to us is destined for success because of the Holy Spirit working within us (Phil. 1:6).

The key to unlocking resurrection power is our willingness to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Cooperation is critical in every endeavor a person may attempt.  If we are to live successfully in resurrection power, we must follow Jesus’ example who practiced obedience and humility.  Although Jesus was God’s son, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross (Phil 2:8).   We must learn to cooperate with the Holy Spirit.

Opportunities for resurrection power

Easter 2021 is over.  Once again, we have received (through every form of media) the resurrection proclamation. We have personally experienced the glorified Christ through our new life in Him.  The question we must ask ourselves is, “what now?”

As I look around and reflect on the state of our world, it is more evident than ever, “we need supernatural power” to deal with our challenges.  The human needs of the 1st century still exist today.  The resurrection power of Jesus Christ is still as powerful as when He rose on Easter morning.  And we have access to the same resurrection power in 2021.

Let us begin today to access resurrection power on behalf of our families, our communities, and our nation.  Let us courageously intercede on behalf of those experiencing the effects of sin in our world—hate, hurt, and hopelessness (2 Cor. 5:15).  Jesus, teach us how to live in your resurrection power TODAY.

Recognizing Our Sin

Recognizing Our Sin It wasn’t me!

Chuck Berry, guitarist, singer and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, recorded a song in the 60’s that has become the automatic response when Ron and I accuse each other of some “mishap in the house.”  These lyrics have been modernized in a television commercial showing a child (hiding under the dining table) joyfully eating a cake obviously confiscated from the dessert buffet.  The lyrics are these: “It wasn’t me, baby!  No, it wasn’t me, baby!  Must have been some other body, uh, uh, baby, it wasn’t me.”

This is often the response we hear when people are confronted with their sin.  Listen to the news this week, this month, this year!  Rather than take responsibility and quickly confessing, we begin to distance ourselves from the sin.  Denial doesn’t remove the sin.  Instead, it allows sin to strengthen in our life.  Our willingness to accept responsibility for our sins is further complicated by living in a postmodern world where truth is relative.  This further numbs us to the presence of sin in our lives.

Because of these factors, it is critical that we take personal responsibility for our sinful actions.  This process begins with our being intentional in identifying sin in our lives (1 John 1:6-8, 10).

Living the Way of Jesus

This year as part of my spiritual development, I am reading Michaele Lavigne’s notable book, Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time.  The book is organized around the Christian calendar, using scriptural texts that follow the seasons of the Christian Calendar.  While Jewish celebration revolves around the Exodus from Egypt, the Christian Church year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus.

Lavigne includes weekly practices that invite readers to the rhythms of the Christian calendar and to orient us to God’s reality.

We do not merely ask God to join our lives: instead, we are invited to participate in God’s life. Subtly and explicitly, this way of making time reminds us that we [Believers] are part of a story that is different from the stories we hear all around us.[1]    

This Season of Lent provides us an opportunity to walk with Jesus as He makes His way to the Cross and to gain a whole new understanding of what it means to be Christ’s disciple. This includes how we address sin in our lives—both subtle and obvious.

For Lent, Lavigne has suggested weekly practices that invite us to observe “who we really are and what the world is really like”.  Practices to date have included Silence, Honoring Others’ Requests, and Recognizing our Sin.  It is this last one that I share my personal reflections.  Perhaps you will find it helpful in your journey to becoming more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

Where do I start?

I was invited to begin with prayer and to consider what Jesus may need to “clean out of me”.  Are there desires, activities, or decisions that are cluttering my life and preventing full worship of Jesus?  I was to write them down and then take them to the One Person who could help me with my “sin problem”.  I was to take them to Jesus.

Jesus alone could clear out and burn away the things that harmed me (John 2:13-22).  Jesus would shine His light of truth on those things that kept me from being in right relationship with God and with others.  I was to listen to anything Jesus might share with me during our time together.  That was the most illuminating part of this practice.   Once I confessed my sins, Jesus faithfully forgave me and cleansed me from my sins (1 John 1:9).

At the end of the week, I was to process what I learned from this practice of recognizing my sin.

What did I learn about myself?   About God?

I learned that there were things that cluttered my life and prevented me from spending quality time with the Lord.  I had allowed busyness to dominate my time.  My schedule was interfering with my time with my First Love (Rev. 2:4).

For me, even ministry work (externally focused) sometimes takes time away from prayer, reading God’s Word, meditation, journaling, and more.  Dedicated time with Jesus provides “sacred space” where He can direct, reproof, instruct, nurture, and correct me.  It is time when I can “d-r-i-n-k” from the fountain of life (Ps. 36:9).  And as I drink, I am being transformed (Rom. 12:2).

What did I Learned about God?  He never changes!  Hallelujah!  God is loving and patient.  Even in my foolishness and sin, He never gives up on me.  “The Lord will wait that He may be gracious unto me.” (Is. 30:18)

Recognizing My Sin:  The Conclusion

I close with this quote from F.B. Meyers concerning sin.  “We often expose ourselves to more anguish in our effort to retain and to restrain [our sins], than to remove them absolutely and forever.”   Where are you spending your efforts?

It is our responsibility to keep sin at bay in our lives.  While we live in this flesh, we must deal with the presence of sin.  However, we have been delivered from its power in our lives (Rom. 6:6-14).   The intentional practice of recognizing sin can draw us nearer to Jesus and becoming the people our Heavenly Father created us to be.

[1] Living the Way of Jesus:  Practicing the Christian Calendar One Week at a Time

Sin: What do we do with it?

 

What do we do with sin?

What do we do with sin?  John wrote in his epistle that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us   1 John 1:8).  For too long this question has been asked only by theologians and scholars as they “pontificate” over spiritual things.

But the people who should be asking this question are those who are currently stewards of God’s grace, desiring that God’s “kingdom will come”—to our nation, to our churches, and more importantly, to our homes.

Unfortunately, the people of God have allowed the “elephant in the room” (sin in disguise) to go unchallenged. Did we really expect “the  lost” (2 Cor. 4:4) to lodge complaints about sin?  It is time to speak up!

We express concern over the difficulties created by the COVID pandemic and the financial uncertainties we now face.  But what do we do with the sin that is at its root?  Hate,  greed, and selfishness?

As we struggle with the racial and political division in our nation, we demand respect, equality, and justice.  In response to the rise in homelessness and poverty, we advocate for humane responses  for those forced to live marginalized on the fringes of our society.   But what do we do with the sin that is at its core–strife and indifference?

Sin is a subject that is glaringly absent in our discussions concerning the plight of our world especially in our church pulpits.

Many of the issues we face in society are as a result of sin. 

Sin originates from thoughts and feeling that focus on activities that satisfy personal (and usually) selfish desires (James 1:14-15).  These desires are then acted upon by the will (spirit and heart) which has the power to do what is good—or evil.

Social reform and political posturing cannot affect these human dimensions. What then is the remedy for the heart that is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9)?

God has devised His plan of redemption to deal with the issue of sin. 

Redemption is “grace-based”, no longer requiring God’s forbearance (Rom. 3:25), nor demanding redundant, ineffective sacrifices for the sins of men (Heb. 10:11).  God became, through His Son, the just and the Justifier of him which believed in Jesus (Rom. 3:24).

Faith in the Son is the starting point of redemption and the end is a righteous soul (Rom. 5:21)—a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Jesus   replaces the stony heart of man with a new heart of flesh.  He places His Spirit within man that will cause him to “do right” (Ezek. 36:26-27).

So what do we do with sin?

We must first recognize sin in our own life.  We begin by aligning our will with the will and counsel of God (Col. 3:1-3).   This requires that we read His Word, become fervent in prayer, and seek his guidance.

Secondarily, we must boldly speak out against sin in our society.  It includes our witness to God’s expectation that we love one another (1 John 4:7-8) and seek to be “reconciled” (in right relationship) to each other (Eph. 2:14-15).

Finally, we are to advocate for all things (not just what fits our political preference) that glorify and honor God (Gal. 5:22-24).  Sound simple? It is when we place God over our personal needs and agendas (Matt.6:33).

If you personally, are in the midst of sin, first confess and repent quickly.  God is faithful to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1: 19).  Then reckon yourself dead to sin (Rom. 6:11) and no longer let sin have dominion over you (Rom. 6:14).  That’s what we do with sin!

Truth: The Divine Perspective

Truth: The Divine Perspective

Truth is an incredibly significant concept.  Our view of truth shapes not only our personal lives but also our society.  It especially impacts our relationship with God including our view of Scripture.

Our definition of truth is affected by what we watch, what we read, and even the opinions of our friends.  Add to that the sway of social media, your “truth” is being adjusted with every post and tweet you receive.  Imagine there are 500 million tweets sent every day[1].  Scary isn’t it.

Let’s face reality!  We live in an age where we are being bombarded by varying opinions as to what is or isn’t truth.  Because of these deceptive trends, it is important that we have a reliable and trustworthy compass by which to navigate in this world.  We need guidance from God.  We need God’s divine perspective.

God’s perspective of truth

In the Old Testament, truth is rendered as true or faithful.  In either case, the Hebrew concept communicates reliability and trustworthiness.   This trustworthiness is frequently used to describe God’s divine faithfulness (Ps. 31:5; Jer. 42:5).

In the New Testament, truth emphasizes reality as God has revealed it in creation (Rom. 1:18) and in the gospel (Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 1 Tim. 2:4).   God’s perspective of truth is given to us through His Word and through the Spirit of Truth—the Holy Spirit.  Armed with these divine gifts we are provided a continual source of truth.

Truth in action

Adherence to the truth was critical during the formation of the early Church. Pressured by the Judaizers to continue with the practice of circumcision, the church at Galatia was in danger of spiritual error.  They were rejecting the truth (salvation through Jesus Christ alone) to avoid persecution.  We at one time or another have been guilty of quietly accepting error versus being truth tellers.  That is to our shame.

In Galatians 5:7, Paul poses a question to this young church: “You were getting along so well. Who has interfered with you to hold you back from following the truth?”

Paul continues by stating emphatically, “This persuasion does not come from the One who calls you.”  When we drift from the truth that God has revealed, we can be assured of its origin—the puppeteer of deception and lies, Satan.

Coram Deo is a Latin phrase translated “in the presence of God”.  It has its origin is Christian theology which summarizes the idea of Christians living in the presence of, under the authority of, to the honor and glory of God.  Truth is to be lived coram Deo.

Practicing God’s divine perspective

Truth is to be practiced not only within the church but also outside its four walls. Imagine the impact that error has on every aspect of our society—in our homes, in the workplace, and in our institutions.  Practicing God’s divine perspective acknowledges the importance of sharing truth in every sphere of our life.

Using God’s revelation, we have access to reliable knowledge—divine truth—about God, about ourselves, and how we are to live in relationship with our fellow man.  Unfortunately, we often separate our “faith walk” from our “lifestyle”.  God’s truth should permeate every area of our life.  Practicing God’s divine perspective requires that we walk in God’s truth continuously. 

Our dependence on God’s truth is not based on emotional sentimentalities but firmly grounded in the nature of God (Deut. 7:9).  We walk in accordance with His moral realities and act in harmony with His divine revelations (Ps. 26:3).   Practicing God’s divine perspective recognizes God’s trustworthiness.

Knowing the reliability of God and accepting the reality of God, we can begin to operate from God’s divine perspective.  God’s divine truth becomes the vehicle by which we can successfully navigate in this 21st century postmodern society.

[1] Brandwatch.com

Finding our wilderness rest

Finding our wilderness rest

Finding our wilderness rest

Rest.  Who needs rest?  We all do!  Health professionals agree that the need for rest is critical.  It is essential for our overall well-being.  This includes our emotional health and cognitive performance.

But how can we rest?  21st century living has introduced a unique set of challenges that radically impair our ability to rest.  Our current life experiences have resulted in heightened anxiety within our families, our cities, and our nation.

Similarly, rest for believers has always been (and will continue to be) challenging.  This is because we live in a fallen world.  However, the writer of Hebrews (Heb. 4:9-11) offers a “viable solution”.   He invites believers to enter God’s rest—wilderness rest.

Defining rest

Webster defines rest as not only sleep but also as freedom from worry or trouble.   Rest in the Bible is used most frequently in non-theological terms.

However, it takes on spiritual meaning when used in relationship to God and His people.  Most specifically, when used in reference to the Old and New Covenant.

God addresses wilderness rest

In the Old Testament, Sabbath rest is first introduced in Genesis as God ceases from His work of creation (Gen. 2:2-3).  God later commanded Sabbath rest as part of the Mosaic Law (Exod. 31:15).  He knew that all living creatures needed physical renewal.

Canaan rest began with the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt.  Rest was defined as deliverance from slavery.  Canaan rest established protection from and victory over Israel’s enemies as they entered into the Promised Land (Josh. 14:15).  By following God’s commandments, Israel would no longer be threatened by attack from Canaanite inhabitants (Josh. 23:1).  Peace in the land would be their rest.

Most importantly, Jesus Christ’s arrival and selfless act of atonement introduced us to God’s eternal rest.  This rest surpassed those previously offered beginning with precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4) and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 26).  Believer’s eternal rest will culminate with Jesus Christ in eternity.

Accessing God’s rest

Accessing God’s rest is possible through development of an intimate relationship with Him.  Our rest can be found in listening to His voice and obediently acquiescing to His will (John 10:27).  For example, believers should let God’s Word and Spirit guide us.  God has already provided solutions for our problems therefore releasing us from unnecessary anxiety and fear.

On this matter of rest, Lawrence O. Richards, noted theologian writes:  “The struggle Christians are engaged in is not that of finding their way through life but of entering God’s rest.”  That is, believers need to be more responsive to the Lord.

Responding to wilderness rest

We can find rest as we listen for and respond to the Lord’s voice.  We trust the Creator of all rests—Sabbath rest, Canaan rest, and Eternal rest.

Only Sovereign God can create, deliver, and protect.  He gives use victory over the challenges we face (Rom. 8:37).  God knows the end from the beginning and His purpose will stand (Is. 46:8-10).  It is God’s desire that we live more fully as recipients of His gift of rest.  He invites us to draw near.

Tools for Encouragement

Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification.  Romans 15:2 (KJV)

As In The Word Ministries moves into its second decade of service, we will be launching a new program entitled Contending for Children (CFC).   While we declare that “children are our future”, unfortunately there are still gaps in services leaving our children victims of violence, neglect, and abuse.   It is our opinion that in order to live victoriously as individuals, both women and their children need to be included in our ministry efforts.

That being the case, my radar is continually in search of trends and new thinking concerning children.

In researching the topic of encouragement, I was introduced to an article by Dr. Timothy Evans entitled, “The Tools of Encouragement”.  While its focus is children, I found “spiritual fodder” for our series on encouragement for 21st century living.

Encouragement versus Discouragement

In his article, Dr. Evans cites attitudes and behaviors that compare encouragement to discouragement.  For space sake, I have listed below at few which, I feel, may fit with our discussion of encouragement.  I challenge you to review the total list  as an “informal assessment” of your personal “encouragement style” with others God has placed in your life.   

ENCOURAGEMENT DISCOURAGEMENT
Hopeful view of people’s nature Hopeless view of people’s nature
Individual’s behavior is purposeful Individual’s behavior is caused by outside forces and victimization in the past
Influence without strings Control, force, and fear
Equality as human beings Superiority-sitting in judgment
Chatting-talking with Advising-telling to
Being ourselves, fine as we are Pleasing and proving
Recognizes effort and improvement Recognizes only tasks well done
Courage to be imperfect Fear of mistakes

 After a review of the behaviors, I found that many of the actions I had believed to be “helpful” could have instead been discouraging to those whom I had hoped to assist.

I now better understand that encouragement needs to flow from a heart that “stands with” the person in need of support.  Its end result should reflect renewed hope and confidence.   Jesus understood this dynamic and demonstrates for us the best model for encouragement.         

The Master Encourager:  Inspiration to hope and service

By His very nature, Jesus was the greatest of all encouragers.   Whether with His disciples or with the crowds, Jesus’ words spoke life and possibilities to those in need of support and confidence.

Jesus encouraged others to an expectant hope.  Jesus comforted His disciples with living hope—hope found in the promise of His resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3).  Jesus told them not to have their hearts troubled because “if they believed and trusted in the true and living God, they could also believe and trust in Him” (John 14:1).  Hope was fostered by the fact that God had a purposeful future planned for them including a place in heaven.

Jesus encouraged others in preparation for service.  Jesus spent His closing days with His disciples ensuring them that He would not leave them as orphans but instead promised the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, would come alongside them to help fulfill their purpose and their service to mankind (John 14:16-18).  The Holy Spirit now indwells each of us in the 21st century to do the very same thing.

Encouragement—RECAST  

Although we as Christians may not experience overt persecution or hatred, we do feel the pressures and disappointment that comes from living in this fallen world.  Discouragement is not an uncommon human experience.  Therefore encouragement is needed.  

For the recipient, encouragement helps individuals manage through times of trials and spiritual discipline.  It undergirds them when they may feel like giving up (Heb. 12:5). Encouragement gives hope and helps believers to continue their walk of faith (Rom. 15:4).

For the donor, encouragement nurtures patience and kindness (1 Cor. 13:4-7). It takes attention away from self and refocuses on the needs of others (1 Thess. 5:11).  Encouragement of believers ultimately supports the Great Commission—the advancement of God’s kingdom.

I’d like to close this series with as acrostic that will help to remind us of the importance and purpose of encourage.  The word is HOPE:  Helping Others’ Purpose Evolve.   As believers we are to follow the example of Christ in encouraging other to pursue their purpose outlined before the foundations of the world (Eph. 2:10); to accomplish the days fashioned for them before they existed (Ps. 139:16).

The Whole Counsel of God: What is it?

 

For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  Acts 20:27  (NKJ)

One of the things this nation is not short on is advice.  If you turn on the television, every station has its personal brand of advice—The Real, The Talk, The View.  And let’s not forget social media.

Life and spiritual coaches have been added to the deluge of resources ready to “create a better life for you”.  Online counseling by Chat, Video or Phone.  Get Help and Get Happy.  Therapy Anytime, Anywhere.   Each of these resources and programs are targeting different groups of viewers—boomers, millennials, Xers to influence their thoughts and actions.  And the real question is influence for what?

If ever there was a need for reliable counsel, it is now!

Definition of Counsel

The noun “counsel” means advice, especially that given formally.  Counsel is synonymous with guidance, direction and instruction.  The Hebrew word that best communicates the concept of counsel is ‘esah, which adds purpose or plan to the definition.   It is both used of God’s counsel and of human counsel.

Counsel Given—Counsel Received  

The Old Testament portrays counsel as that which is usually given to kings (1 Chron. 13:1).  Counsel may have come from trusted advisors but more frequently through God’s prophets (Deut. 18:14-21).

Proverbs suggests that one should seek counsel from many with the thought that human beings are limited and need contributors to be sure all alternatives are considered (Prov. 11:14;  Prov. 20:18).

In the New Testament, especially in the church, though they were a close-knit fellowship, involved in one another’s lives, there is almost nothing about counsel or acting on the advice of others.  The closest thing to “counsel” would have been that given to the early churches via apostolic letters.

Regardless of the counsel received, no advice or counsel frees the person’s responsibility for making his or her own choice. Such was the case in our text as Paul gives instructions to the Ephesian elders.

What constitutes “the whole” ?

What is the “whole counsel of God”?  If you search different Bible versions for clarity, you may still be left asking, “What is it?”  In our text, the different Bible versions read, “the whole counsel of God” (ESV) or “the whole will of God” (NIV) or “the whole purpose of God” (NASB).

The phrase the whole counsel of God was introduced by Paul in Acts 20:27 in his farewell speech to the elders of the Ephesian church.  In this context, the whole counsel of God refers to the “gospel message”.

Paul spoke the complete gospel—the whole truth about God’s salvation including the “mystery” of God extending His plan of salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews (Ep. 3:9).  Paul’s declaration of the “whole counsel of God” made him “innocent” of anyone’s decision to reject God’s truth as revealed, at that time.

The whole counsel of God, in summary, is God’s truth revealed in His purpose and His will.  God communicates His whole counsel in two key ways—the Bible and the Holy Spirit.

Paul witnessed to the fact that, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, NRS).   The Bible is the “play book” which helps believers live in alignment with God’s will and in right relationship with one another.

Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit believers relate God’s truth to present situations—guiding them in actions they are to take.   Although the Spirit may use any number of avenues to help believers sense His direction, He ultimately guides us to decisions that are in harmony with what God purposes for us (Jer. 10:23).

Living in 21st century, postmodern America, it is critical that we have access to good counsel.  We need counsel that is sure and dependable; trustworthy and timeless.  We need counsel to help us live out of the heart God created for us.  We need the whole counsel of God.

We will continue next week with this series, “The Whole Counsel of God.”