Friday, November 9, 2018

BIBLE NUGGETS - A LIVING HOPE

A LIVING HOPE

1 Peter 1:3-5
(3)  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
(4)  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
(5)  who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Begotten us again — of the Spirit by the word (1 Peter 1:23); whereas we were children of wrath naturally, and dead in sins. (Jamieson, Faucett, and Brown)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 
(Ephesians 2:4-6)


Lively — Greek, “living.” It has life in itself, gives life, and looks for life as its object [De Wette]. Living is a favorite expression of Peter (1 Peter 1:23; 1 Peter 2:4, 1 Peter 2:5). He delights in contemplating life overcoming death in the believer. Faith and love follow hope (1 Peter 1:8, 1 Peter 1:21, 1 Peter 1:22). “(Unto) a lively hope” is further explained by “(To) an inheritance incorruptible ... fadeth not away,” and “(unto) salvation ... ready to be revealed in the last time.”...“Unto a hope living (possessing life and vitality) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
J, F, & B

We have a living hope, a living now, now alive, very much alive hope, that won't perish or change until all is fulfilled and we are finally redeemed and with our Savior forever!  This hope never dies because it is all in Christ Who was raised from death, and we are in Him raised from the dead and alive and seated with Him in the Heavenly places, where the powers of darkness cannot ever destroy.  God's power makes it so.  There is no power that can change it or destroy it or snatch us out of His hands!

Psalms 73:25-26
(25)  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
(26)  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

He alone is the power and strength of my salvation. I need not fear the powers on earth, of evil, or the weaknesses and failures in myself. Nothing can overcome Christ and His power of life in me.  Paul and Peter preached the same Gospel (Ephesians 1) contrary to what some believe. 

Our hope is one always living and never dying. It is an ever living confidence in His work and power, in His righteousness, in His grace, in His resurrection, and His life indwelling us that will never leave us or forsake us. May the Lord direct His Word to your hearts and give you confidence and peace today through whatever trials you face in this world, "For, "Yet a little while, and the coming One will come and will not delay" (Hebrews 10:37)


Sunday, August 12, 2018

GOD'S WONDERFUL PURPOSE





 So often I've asked God, "What is Your purpose?"  Especially when we go through trials we wonder what His purpose is.  Our perspective usually will determine how we view "God's purpose" through our trials.  If we are coming from a carnal perspective, we are thinking of how God's going to work our experiences together for our happiness and ease in this life and give us all our dreams eventually and make us successful.  No wonder so many worldly minded believers are disillusioned with Christianity when things begin to fall apart, when trials come, and when hardship seems to take over their lives and they don't find their dreams come true.  Do we really want His purpose, or to convince Him to agree with ours? 

One thing we can be sure - God loves us and He is for us (Romans 8).  And we don't always know or understand the lessons He is teaching us, or how He is developing His own character in us, or how He will bring us through a particular trial.  When we try to determine His purpose for a particular trial, we find we cannot, or if we think we have, we find we were wrong.  Just as a parent disciplines a child and trains that child toward the maturity and character he will need in life, God disciplines us.  That child most likely will not understand until he is much older, why his Father disciplined him, and may even doubt his father's love or intentions.

Many times I find God has chosen a particular discipline for me that He has not chosen for others.  Why is it they are able to go about enjoying certain things in life that I cannot?  Why have I had this particular thing to deal with all my life, yet others never have to?  Yet when I look back I see how God has used it to teach me self-discipline, contentment, trust in Him, reliance on His power, and I see there is a purpose that is beyond just my comfort or happiness. He has done something inside of me that only He could do.  He has produced a character inside me that would not have come if I had always had everything the way I wanted it to be.  He has turned my heart from pleasing myself to wanting to please Him in all.  I've had to look to His Word to find His mind and heart, and I've had to submit myself to His will in the matter and realize I don't belong to me, I belong to Him - bought with His blood.  I've had to replace my delight in some thing to delighting in Him and His will, trusting His love and purpose in all. 

(Romans 5:10)  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

It's His life that now lives in me, saving me from the corruptions of the flesh and of this world. His very life is in me and is continually making known to me His own mind and heart through the obstacles I face here.  I am always tempted to take the way of the flesh rather than the way of the Spirit when my happiness, my comfort, my desires are threatened.  But His life is always at work in me to produce that life in me, conforming me to it, as He is fitting us for Heaven.  He is fitting us for His very own presence, to dwell there with Him forever.  We have already, through faith in Him, been "put into Christ" when we trusted His salvation alone for ourselves.  Now He is working that salvation out day by day in our lives to conform us to the new creation He has made us in Christ. 

Do we ever think our Abba, Who loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to be a sacrifice for us, ever for a moment neglects our highest good?  Do we ever think He has somehow forgotten us now and has left us to somehow figure our way out of the seemingly impossible trial we face?  Do we for a moment think that it is not important to Him?  Do we trust His love no matter what seems to be happening to us? 

I remember at one point in my life, when I came to one of the darkest moments of my life, I felt I was at a sort of cross-road. Will I believe in God or not?  Will I trust His love or not?  Is God good or is He not?  I chose to believe, solely because of what His Word said, that He is God, that He is faithful, that He is good, and no matter what things looked like, I would praise Him through it.  That was a long trial that had years go by before things got better or before I saw God's answers to prayer and fulfillment of promises I felt He had given me.  But I grew more than ever during that time, in my trust in God and in His Word and He often manifested His love and goodness to me though circumstances were very bleak.  I learned more than at any other time in my life that He was faithful and that though I was weaker than ever, He was strong enough to hold onto me when I could not even hold onto Him.  I learned that it was He all along that had always held onto me and kept me, and I learned to rest in His care and in the outcome of all. 

This was not a one time lesson that I learned and then suddenly everything went my way, and now I have this wonderful fulfilled life of all my dreams.  I've had to relearn it or should I say, reapply it again and again in more trials and situations in my life.  In fact I've learned that as long as I'm in this body of flesh in this world I will continually have to apply that faith in new ways, as I walk through this journey facing the world, the flesh, and the devil.  I can never let down my guard, become weary in well doing, or give up and faint.  I've wanted to many times!  I've wanted to say, "Lord haven't I had enough grief?  Enough sorrow?  Enough hardship?  Isn't there ever a time to just enjoy life and be done with the trials?"  It's not that the Lord has not given me so many blessings and enjoyments in life.  In fact, because of the trials and what God has worked in my heart through them, I am able to enjoy those little things in life all the more and give Him glory for them, delighting in Him all the more and the blessings He has given.  Simple pleasures mean more to me now than ever. He has given me much joy and even taught me to rejoice in my trials, not waiting for them to be gone.  He has taught me more about enjoying life than I was able to do before the trials.  In fact sometimes when I see a godly trait in my heart, I am amazed and wonder, "Wow... that is not me... that's You Lord!  How did You do that in my heart?" 

Romans 5:2-5
(2)  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
(3)  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
(4)  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
(5)  and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James 1:2-5
(2)  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
(3)  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
(4)  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(5)  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

It's when we endure the trial walking by faith, simply trusting His hand through it all... those nail scarred hands... that we find it produces endurance, character, hope, steadfastness and even joy in our lives.  All of us have seen undisciplined children who are not at all happy.  They cry and throw tantrums when they don't get their way, and the more they are given in to, the more unhappy they become, and the more tantrums they throw.  Yet a disciplined child has learned to be secure in their parent's love and care and is content.  It is the same with God's children.  Those who accept His discipline and do not throw tantrums, trying to get their own way, but trust His way, even if they don't understand it, find a contentment in life and security in His love and care and even in His discipline. Each time they are tempted to balk under His hand of discipline, they are reminded it is from His love and they must instead exercise faith in Him and walk the path He has chosen for them. 

2 Peter 1:3-4
(3)  His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
(4)  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

It is through trusting His great and precious promises and applying them to our lives, that we escape the corruption that is in the world.  Many Christians do not escape that corruption because they live the Christian life their way instead of God's way.  They make their own decisions based on what they want in life instead of seeking God's will for their lives.  When they mess up their lives and the corruption of the world, they find, has taken over their lives or families, then they cry out to God and wonder why.  He is always teaching us to trust Him and to walk according to His Spirit.  This is His purpose.  He's conforming us to the image of His Son, for His own glory, and our ultimate glorification in Him (Romans 8:28-31).  When we do walk in faith, trusting His promises His divine nature is formed in us more and more.

2 Peter 1:5-8
(5)  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
(6)  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
(7)  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
(8)  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The more we learn to know Him, the more we tend to walk like Him.  He alone knows the path He has chosen for each one of us.  We need to trust Him all along that path, and apply His Word, appropriate by faith His promises for us, and walk in faith, believing He has provided "every spiritual blessing in Heavenly places" for us and "all that we need that pertains to life and godliness."  When we're faced with what feels like the impossible, we can know that if God brought us to it, He also has a plan through it as we trust in Him.  When our hearts sink for fear of what may be coming in an evil world that is more and more hostile toward believers, we can look to Him and know He has already seen what's ahead and is there waiting for us.  He already has made the way for us.  We can only get through it in a way that will bring Him glory and benefit our own lives if we trust Him through it, knowing He does have, indeed, a wonderful purpose.

One thing that has happened in my own life that is only a result of God's discipline, through my trials, is a true love for God's will in my life.  I used to "accept" God's will because I knew in my head it was right and best.  But I didn't "love" God's will.  I've learned now to love His will because I've seen and understood His will is not only best, it is the only will that is good and that is life.  I've learned to delight in His will because I delight in Him - in all He is. I don't always like the pain it brings me through, but I trust and love His will, will get me through the pain, and life will be at the other end.  I don't want God to be anything other than He is.  I don't want to make Him into my image. I don't want to bring Him down to my level or to force Him (as though I could), to bend to my will.  I want to know Him truly, to know His will, to have His will alone be carried out in my life.  I want His purpose to be fulfilled in me.  I'm so thankful for His purposes and that He is faithful each day to all His children, to never give up working out those purposes in our lives.  He is longsuffering, patient, and kind to us.  He is for us, so who in the world can be against us?


Monday, June 25, 2018

PERSUADING OR MANIPULATING OTHERS FOR CHRIST


And since he could not be persuaded, we ceased and said, "Let the will
of the Lord be done"
Acts. 21:14




Acts 18:4  And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

2 Corinthians 5:11  Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.

Galatians 5:8  This persuasion is not from him who calls you.

PERSUA'DE, v.t. [L. persuadeo; per and suadeo, to urge or incite.] (Webster's 1828 dictionary)

1. To influence by argument, advice, intreaty or expostulation; to draw or incline the will to a determination by presenting motives to the mind.
2. To convince by argument, or reasons offered; or to convince by reasons suggested by reflection or deliberation, or by evidence presented in any manner to the mind.

Persuasion is neither good nor bad in itself, except for what a person is using to persuade another and to what they are being persuaded to.  Some use truth or facts well presented to persuade. Christ in many ways, spoke to Israel and to the crowds to persuade them to see the very truth they were told by the prophets of the Old Testament.  He spoke clear truth to persuade them of their own salvation through Him.  Many who preach the Gospel use good teaching methods to teach the truth of the Word to try to clearly make it understood and persuade others to come to that salvation that is by grace alone in Christ alone.  Yet the enemy is hard at work to pervert that same Gospel and persuade others to turn away from it.  He uses manipulation, to twist that truth to persuade against it, or to pervert it somehow so its power is nullified. 

We must be careful when we seek to persuade others of God's truth.  Many well-meaning believers who love God with all their hearts have tried to manipulate, in their flesh, thinking they were doing God's will, and doing it because of their love for God, but misunderstanding His Word, His will, and His purpose. 

Peter is a good example.
Matthew 16:21-23
(21)  From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
(22)  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you."
(23)  But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."

John 18:10-11
(10)  Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.)
(11)  So Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?"

I read several definitions and arguments between the difference of persuasion and manipulation online.  Many said the difference is in the motive.  Persuasion is for the good of the other, but manipulation is for the benefit of oneself.  I don't agree with that completely.  I see many in Christian circles who have a motive of loving God and wanting to defend God's Word, but who can also be manipulative and controlling in the way they do it, thinking truly, like Peter, that they are doing God's will.  At one time I very fervently tried to persuade people that they could lose their salvation, thinking I was defending God's Word of truth.  I loved God and loved His Word and loved the truth.  I was sure I was right because I studied it thoroughly. But I was wrong.  Gradually God showed me through His Word, and deeper understanding of what it means to be "in Christ" and have "eternal" life in Him, that I had been wrong.  Like Peter, I was going against His Word and purpose without realizing it. 

I see manipulation as someone who is either convinced of something themselves or perhaps has selfish motives, and uses whatever tactics he/she can to control others thinking to persuade them, whether good intentions or evil.  Christians operate in their own flesh to try to do the work of the Holy Spirit at times.  They don't stop at a persuasive argument according to Scripture for the truth, but they must manipulate that person emotionally into accepting it.  There are many ways to emotionally or spiritually control others.  There are guilt methods, condemning them if they do not accept your argument, or making them feel like a lesser Christian if they disagree.  There is emotional manipulation in social media... "unfriending" someone who does not go along with your manipulation, and going beyond that, putting them down in the eyes of others, slandering them , telling others if you listen to that person you aren't really walking with the Lord, or you are deceived, or in some way making them feel they just are not very spiritual unless they follow your persuasion. We must be careful in "contending for the faith" and "exposing false teaching" that we are not slandering a person's ministry and turning people away from true Biblical teaching that ministers to others for Christ.  I've seen this happen, unfortunately because of one area of disagreement.  

If we are to persuade others to follow the truth by the Spirit, we must give up our own manipulative tactics and controlling ways to persuade them.  Most controlling people don't even know they are controlling. We must learn what our job is and what the job of the Holy Spirit is.  Our job is to give the Word, in humility and love, realizing we can be wrong too in some area.  Even if we are right, we must trust the Lord to lead us to give His truth in the right spirit, at the right time, and to leave it with Him to persuade the heart and mind as He works in the hearts of others. If we act out of our own fleshly passion instead of being led by the Spirit we turn more people away from the Word, instead of drawing them to it.

I've been under manipulating pastors who use many tactics to control their audience. I've been manipulated spiritually and emotionally.  I've also been under teachers who persuade by opening up God's Word of truth, and by His Spirit, enlighten so that it is plain to see.  Those who have been taught by God, know that it was only the Holy Spirit Who brought the truth to their hearts and opened it up to them to see. If we are not willing to give room for the Holy Spirit to work in hearts as we speak truth to them, but try to manipulate them instead into listening, then we are guilty of acting in our flesh like Peter.  It's bad enough to destroy God's work in the heart of another by our manipulation when we are right, thereby perhaps hardening another's heart against the truth when we seek to persuade them of it, but it's even worse when we are actually wrong in our understanding of God's Word or His will or purpose and then manipulate others into following us. 

I have two things I do now, if I sense I am being manipulated by another.  If I feel I am sure and know I'm right in a particular teaching and have been taught by God, but another is just as sure and trying to manipulate my thinking on it, I take it before God and say, "Lord I believe You taught me this, but if I have more to learn, please show me. If I'm right please confirm Your Word to me, and if not, please open my blinded eyes to see more clearly." Pray it with sincerity. And then go to the Word itself, not just to your own arguments. Look at the Scriptures and arguments of the other in light of God's whole Word.  Many arguments come out of Scripture taken out of context mixed with human reasoning.

If you cannot do that no matter how right or studied you think you are, you are trusting your own flesh.  Sometimes it takes time for growth in a person's life, including your own, before you are even able to accept certain concepts.

Proverbs 3:5-7
(5)  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
(6)  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(7)  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

Pride keeps us from seeing our own blindness.  Pride in our own intellect, or our own understanding of the Word, or in a favorite teacher.  Being part of a group that makes us feel a family or belonging also keeps us blind.  If you are made to feel loved and accepted in a certain group of persuasion or denomination or cult, it's almost impossible to even allow yourself to look at anything differently, as it would possibly mean you being cut off from this family of like-mindedness and the close bonds that are associated with it.  This is how cults keep their members.  The threat of being cut off or disfellowshipped is very strong. 

This can happen on social media as well.  Certain groups of like-mindedness group together, back each other up in their arguments and usually follow a leader. Many times they don't have their own local church to attend, but the Internet becomes a replacement of this.  They really haven't learned "the body" of the Lord. They gang up with each other against others and use emotional attacks rather than sticking with Scriptural discussion. It's an unwritten rule that if you disagree with usually one or two who rule the persuasion in this group, you'll be bashed, and disfellowshipped from being a part of them.  So you just go along with whatever they post without challenging whether or not you see differently in the Word.  This is allowing yourself to be manipulated by flesh, rather than persuaded by the Word.  If you go to the Word and the Lord shows you otherwise, you need to listen to that, not this person, yet not with a haughty spirit but in humility and grace and allow God to work.  We can rise up with our own manipulation in the flesh right back also as we see differently and use attack tactics to try to win the argument.  Sometimes we have to agree to disagree until the Lord brings more light to one or the other, love and bear with one another, pray for one another, and have a humble heart that is teachable, but not manipulatable.  There's a difference.

There's a time to back out of an argument, when it becomes one sided and is no longer a discussion. If the other person is "convinced" and insists you agree, then you have to leave it and pray God will show you and them more clarification.  If you can't do that you aren't relying on the Holy Spirit but your are trying to control.  Manipulation is just having to control by human tactics. 

I'm still learning, but I've gone through a long, long journey with learning to not allow myself to be manipulated and not to manipulate others myself.  I've learned to see the same tactics over and over. It's one of the hardest areas I believe, for especially more mature Christians, and especially if you are passionate about certain teachings.  Because they have walked with the Lord a long time, and learned much and studied much, they feel they have a full grasp on certain subjects, and they are blind to this area of their flesh and become prideful.  Others see it and back away from them and they don't understand why.  They see themselves as contending for the faith and just write those off who won't accept it as not seeing or accepting truth.  But they don't see that others feel the manipulation and feel the flesh at work and are unable to receive anything from them. 

I believe in our day especially, it is more and more important to learn the schemes of the enemy, the manipulation tactics in the world, and in the church, in the news, and in social media.  The Bible tells us to be "sober-minded" and "watchful."  We are to be alert to the tactics of the enemy.  Yes, alert to the tactics of manipulation he even uses in us.  Nobody loved his Lord more than Peter, yet satan tried to work through Peter against His Lord.  If we're not careful he can do the same with any of us.

(1 Peter 5:5)  Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

(1 Peter 5:8)  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

(2 Corinthians 2:11)  so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Satan is master of manipulation. He knows very well our weaknesses and our fleshly flaws and strongholds.  He uses them.  This is why we are to never give the enemy a foothold.  Our own flesh, unsubmitted to the Lord, is the enemy's foothold.

Grant us true humility and grace and most of all, reliance truly on Your Spirit, dear Lord.  May we grow in this grace more and more for Your glory, in Jesus name.



Saturday, May 26, 2018

THE CLOTHING THAT GOD ALONE PROVIDES






To be clothed is to be covered with something, or to be empowered or endowed with something. The Hebrew word is "labash."
"A very important figurative use of labash is found in Judges 6:34, where the stative form of the verb may be translated, 'The spirit of the Lord clothed itself [was clothed] with Gideon.'  The idea seems to be that the Spirit of the Lord incarnated Himself in Gideon and thus empowered him from within. The English versions render it variously: 'came upon' (KJV, NASB, JB); 'took possession of' (NEB, RSV); 'took control (TEV); wrapped round' (Knox)." - Vine's OT

How remarkable to think God clothes Himself with us when we become His children!  We know in His Word, in many places, how God clothes the sinner.  Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden.  Right away they saw that they were not clothed. They were naked. But God made skins out of the sacrifice of an innocent animal and clothed them Himself. When we see our own sin in God's light, we also see how naked we are before Him, as our guilt is completely exposed.

God clothes us with His righteousness - "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." (Isaiah 61:10)

Yet, the Bible also tells us that Christ is "in us" - being clothed with us as His dwelling place.  "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own." (1 Corinthians 6:19)

"To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)

God has empowered us in every way for His perfect salvation.  He becomes our clothing and we become His temple, where He permanently indwells us (John 14:16) and Who will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). If we don't have the right clothing, we cannot be welcomed into His presence. It is only the clothing He provides that will be suitable. His presence could only indwell what is righteously clothed before Him, according to His standards alone.  Since it is His perfect clothing supplied, not our own works, He is able to always indwell us. 

"But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 22:11-13)

The only way to have the right clothing is to acknowledge our nakedness and then to simply ask Him, believing in His provision. But when we think to trust in our own, no matter how glamorous or rich it may look to us, we will not be properly clothed.  "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see." (Revelation 3:17-18)

Many places in Scripture tell us to "put on" Christ, or to "put on" certain actions or attitudes, that are those of the Spirit Who indwells us.  We cannot put them on unless they have been given to us. They are given to us by the blood of Christ and we are empowered to "put them on" in the indwelling Spirit.  It is not self-effort but walking in faith that "puts on" the clothing already given to us. We have been given a new position that places us "in Christ" when we are born again and an imputed righteousness that is His righteousness alone.  We've been given the clothes to wear. Yet it is still our responsibility to "put them on" outwardly in our actions and attitudes as we walk by faith in that which has been given to us. We also have the Holy Spirit indwelling us as the empowerment to clothe ourselves. It is not our flesh trying to copy the "clothing" of righteousness that only Christ can give.  He alone IS our righteousness, and we are to clothe ourselves outwardly with the inward clothing provided as He lives in and through us. 

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life 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)

What a marvelous salvation we have! All the clothing we need to live godly in this world and to prepare us for the eternal inheritance we have in Christ, has been provided.  We can never produce it ourselves.  We can never imitate the right clothing in our flesh by our striving. We can never change our own clothes, but when we turn to Christ in faith and believe Him for His salvation by grace alone through faith alone, we are clothed by Christ Himself for the perfect salvation He has made for us. We have had our filthy rags removed, and have been clothed with the perfect clothing He provides.  We now yield to Him by faith and daily "put on" Christ as He abides in us. As we live in this world, the world can only recognize to Whom we belong if we are outwardly clothed in the King's apparel, as we live daily by putting on what He has provided.



Thursday, May 10, 2018

THE FLESH VS. THE SPIRIT




It's an ongoing battle for the believer - the flesh vs. the Spirit.  In fact it is a sure sign that you are in fact born of the Spirit that you have this battle going on.  Anyone who denies that it is there is simply lying to themselves.  There is a new nature in the believer that pulls us toward God's will, works in us the mind and heart of God, convicts us when we go against that, works in our hearts to "will and to do of His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)   An unbeliever does not have that.  The believer has a sense of fellowship with God when he is abiding in Him, and a sense of loss and separation from God when he is walking in the flesh.

Galatians 5:16-17
(16)  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
(17)  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

Romans 7:15-17
(15)  For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
(16)  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.
(17)  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

1 John 1:8
(8)  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Note that John included himself in this statement - "if we say WE have no sin." Sin refers to the sin nature… the principal of sin that still abides in us as new creations in Christ.  So we are to recognize this sin nature as well as learn to see it as God sees it, and agree with Him, taking His side against it.  We are to walk "in the Spirit" or as abiding in, trusting in, filled with, and controlled by the Spirit.  It is only in doing this that the desires of the flesh are not gratified.  We can never, even for a moment, please God in our flesh, being controlled by and motivated by and relying on our flesh, or human nature.  In order, then to grow in our walk with Him, we must learn to recognize the tactics of, not only the devil, but our own flesh.  It is a process of sanctification or growth, and it is not automatic in a believer's life. And we don't automatically possess this ability no matter how close to God we are. 

Hebrews 5:13-14

(13)  for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
(14)  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.


We must learn that our flesh is our own worst enemy.  As long as we hold onto it, in any way, we fall under its deception and we cannot please God.

Some of the influences of our flesh are very subtle and we are blind to them.  If we are not asking God to reveal our flesh to us, we are unable to "put it off," and "put on Christ."  This is why a believer who is not spending time in the presence of God, in the Word, letting his flesh be exposed openly there, and receiving His fresh manna day by day, is never able to grow in Him or please Him, regardless of what "Christian service" he seeks to do. 

Romans 8:5-8
(5)  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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
(6)  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
(7)  For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.
(8)  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

If we would please God we must learn to recognize the flesh in ourselves and subdue it, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes when we have been Christians for a long time, we develop a "religious flesh" that we think to be God's direction in our lives. It's hard to see it, unless God reveals it. It comes through God's training and chastising as we learn to apply His Word to our walk.

Some of the most subtle flesh I have seen in myself and others is trust in one's intellect, or their own understanding, even their own thinking on things because they "studied."  I've had many times in my past in my walk that I "studied" very diligently, God's Word, and thought I knew and I very zealously defended what I thought was a particular teaching there.  I trusted in my studying, my conclusions, and how I saw it.  I was sure I was right. But because I was not yet at a place of spiritual maturity in the working of God's Spirit in my heart in certain areas, I was unable to see more clearly the truths I was overlooking or misunderstanding. Sometimes it is only through that growth process that we are able to understand certain concepts in God's Word, and we need to allow room for the Holy Spirit also to work in others' lives to bring them to that place, rather than argue "Biblical facts" with them when they can't see them. Some things are not learned intellectually, but only through God's working them into our hearts.  We may think we understand the "letter" but have no experience with the truth behind it.

Proverbs 3:5-7
(5)  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
(6)  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(7)  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

I silenced in argument all who came against what I saw at one time. I was out to straighten everyone out and correct them.  But God humbled me in such a way that I had to bring my own understanding before Him (thought I did that, but yet I was wrong), and  He showed me.  God has ways of showing us when are heart finally gives up its own defenses and purely wants God Himself to reveal light to the heart and mind.  I thought I was seeking His truth.  Of course I was, and wanted to defend truth, but yet I was wrong.  If we fail to see that no matter how learned and studied we are that we can be wrong that we can study wrong, that we are depending on our own reasoning because of preconceived ideas, or that we have been more heavily influenced by a theology or teaching or study method so that we are more relying on that than on the Lord, we can't get out of the way of thinking our flesh or another's intellect has led us to.  It is only God Who reveals light. Our intellect can never do that. Our reasoning can never bring us to God's conclusions. We can even come to a place where we only trust our own reasoning and disregard sound Bible teachers and become a church unto ourselves, withdrawing from the church.

I've learned also, that the flesh is easily manipulated by others.  I've learned not to let others manipulate me regarding what to think, to believe, to act on, or not to let them control who I associate with, who I listen to, who I respond or don't respond to.  Well meaning people who have a controlling personality, though thinking they are doing the Lord's service, can control and manipulate you so that you seek to please them instead of God Himself.  You almost come to the point where they take over the place of the Word itself and the Holy Spirit in your life.  You don't dare disagree with them because you won't hear the end of it if you do, so you go along with, cater to, agree with, and abide by their unspoken "rules" of "fellowship" in the relationship.  You don't act without asking yourself how they will respond or think of you.  You are unable to trust yourself to seek God yourself for His approval or asking yourself what pleases God, instead you are concerned with whether or not you are following along with this persons approval. You are unable to trust God to lead you in discernment but you have to go along with whatever their "discernment" is.

In such cases, by God's Spirit, you have to come away from that relationship and dependency on it and let God renew your mind and heart in His Word and stand against this manipulation, even if this person has led you into some great truths in the Word.  It is the power of the flesh on both sides - the manipulator and the manipulated. If you are in the place of the manipulator, you need to see what you are doing is your flesh, and that you are not trusting God to work in others' lives, but you are trying to be in the place of the Holy Spirit and controlling them.  If you are the manipulated, you have to see what is happening and turn away from it.

The flesh is more subtle than any other enemy we have.  Satan is certainly subtle and knows how to trap us in his snares.  Yet what does he use to trap us?  He uses our own flesh.  He uses our own desires of the flesh and temptations, our pride and our religious flesh.  He knows our weaknesses and what we have not gotten control of through the Holy Spirit in our lives.  If you are an intellectual person, he uses that, and the pride and dependence on that intellect.  He uses your religious flesh of thinking you are more mature in the faith than you truly are, to convince you of what a great Christian you are and leads you into self-righteousness.  He even uses a false humility, which is the flip side of pride to make you think you are a very humble Christian.  How can we ever escape the pitfalls??  How can we possibly discern our own hearts? We can't. Only by abiding in Christ daily, putting no confidence at all in our flesh, being on our guard and asking God to reveal our flesh to us, can we be enabled to see, and walk in His light.  When He does we are to confess (agree with God), taking His side against it, acknowledging it, not thinking that the flesh will ever improve, but instead putting our confidence in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and relying on the Holy Spirit to work in us to conform us to that righteousness outwardly, yielding to His working by faith day by day.  There is no short cut in our Christian maturity. We will make mistakes.  We must acknowledge that.  We will deceive ourselves or be deceived by others. We must acknowledge that.  We must trust in God alone to keep us, to teach us, to train us and to correct us.  We must not let our flesh or the flesh of other people take the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives. 

I Peter 5:5b… "Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for  'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" We're all learning. If we come to the place where we are unteachable and think we can't learn yet from another, we're not in a safe place to be. We're under the influence of the flesh.

May the Lord grant us that grace of true humility before Him, and love and grace toward others as well, as we are all being conformed to the image of Christ.  May we "bear with one another" in love as Christ bears with us, in longsuffering patience and kindness. Until that day when we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is, may our hearts be always trusting in Him.