Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I spoke with a young person recently who was, as it were, spiritually starstruck. He had been in contact with someone who knew and often fellowshipped with several famous contemporary Christian communicators, and who obviously dropped the names on a regular basis. You could see the wonder in the young believers's eyes as he spoke of the matter, and he clearly expected me to bask with him in the shared glory.

I couldn't do so, although I well understand the temptation. We are living in days when names and human personages are marketed in Christendom no less than in the world. This is a far cry from the days of the New Testament when the apostles, rather than attaining to fame and honor, became "the offscouring of all things," that is, they became dirt to be rubbed off (I Corinthians 4:13). It is also a far cry from our eternal future when the sole heavenly passion of our purified hearts will be to honor the name and person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who alone suffered and died for our sins.

Certainly it is acceptable to appreciate those who bless us with the Word of God. It is not acceptable, however, to forget that the teacher or preacher who helps us is just as much in need for continual grace and mercy as we are. More vividly, we must never directly or tacitly glorify anyone whose sins made necessary the tortured forsakenness and death of the Lord Jesus on the cross. The authentic communicator will speak, write, and act in a manner that ensures we do not do so, and will seek to hide his own name and person in order to exalt his Lord. He will hope to be forgotten, as was the dew that brought God's manna to the children of Israel (Exodus 16:14). He will often look at his hands, and see no nailprints on them. He will constantly affirm within his own heart and mind that any good thing that comes from him is not of him. He will recognize the inherent danger in affirmation and acclamation, and view both in the awareness that grave temptation often accompanies them. Most of all, he will aggressively seek ways and words to ensure that he does not become a source of idolatry to unsuspecting saints who forget that the lust of their flesh is always seeking to worship any and everything other than the living God.

In every human field and endeavor, communicators are believed to have ascended to a plane of knowledge and being that separates them from the masses. While the former may be true in some cases, the latter is not, particularly in spiritual terms. "In Him, we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). We do well to remember this, and also to pray for those who teach and preach the Word of God. In times such as these, they will need continual reminders that the light which shines through them is not of them. They will require much remembrance that their sins led to the horror, agony, forsakenness, and death of Calvary. And we will need to remember this also.

"And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man."
(Acts 10:23-26)

Monday, September 28, 2009


What we do matters. Why we do what we do matters more.

"But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7).

"The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Apparently godly acts and behaviors are not necessarily authentic acts and behaviors of godliness. While it it is true that "ye shall know them by their fruits," it is also true that our capacity to evaluate the quality of produce is far from perfect (Matthew 7:16). There may well be a worm in the shiniest apple, and the seemingly righteous actions of ourselves or others may one day be revealed as having come forth from motivations other than those wrought in our redeemed spirits by the Holy Spirit. Again, our "What?," or that of others, may seem genuine. But our "Why?" may be faulty.

"Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults" (Psalm 19:12).

There are few Biblical truths that more reveal our complete dependence on our Lord. We cannot understand our errors, that is, we cannot look into our own hearts, or the hearts of others. Thus, we cannot by ourselves know why we do that which we do. We require the penetrating gaze of the One whose eyes are "as a flame of fire," and unto whom "all things are naked and opened" (Psalm 19:12; Hebrews 4:13). We must approach our Heavenly Father often for His searching and cleansing of thoughts and intents, and the purification of our motives. He alone can accomplish the task, because He alone can perfectly see the "errors" and "secret faults" that compromise our relationship with Him and others.

While challenging, this truth is also greatly liberating. We trust the Lord to do His searching work, and we leave the matter with Him rather than attempting to see that which we cannot see. We have a role, of course, and the Holy Spirit will lead us to His Word and to fellowship with likehearted believers as we seek to walk with the Lord Jesus in purity of heart and motive. However, we do not exercise the excessive introspection that is paralyzing to authentic godliness, and devastating to our experience of the peace and joy of Christ. We rather "examine yourselves" from the same basis whereby all things are fulfilled in our lives (II Corinthians 13:5). We trust and submit ourselves to God, rest in His faithfulness, and then actively respond to His illumination and moving within our hearts and minds by the enabling He provides.

"Why?" Only God can reveal the answer. And only God can ensure the proper answer. We do well to approach Him often with request for the searching of our thoughts and intents, as David so perfectly and beautifully asked in as he acknowledged our Lord's gaze upon the heart...

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting: (Psalm 139:23-24)

Friday, September 25, 2009

"With All His Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength"

"Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:5).

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment" (Mark 12:30).

The "first commandment" to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is not repeated in the New Testament epistles, and after the cross, the resurrection, and the giving of the indwelling Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

The reason for this is that after this saving grace of the Lord Jesus became available to human hearts, we are now to love the Lord our God with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength.

"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given unto us" (Romans 5:5).

"I live, yet not I, but Christ. And the life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

"By the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10).

The human faculties of our heart, soul, mind and strength are still engaged, of course, and even more so because they are energized by the "exceeding, abundantly above" power of the risen Lord Jesus (Ephesians 3:20). Thereby we love God in a manner not possible before the gift of the permanently indwelling Holy Spirit was given to all who believe in the Savior. We love God as enabled by God, but nevertheless in a manner that returns to Him hued and fragranced by our individual person and personalities, as uniquely designed by Him.

There is no greater joy than to love our Heavenly Father through the dynamic presence of the Spirit of His Son, "sent forth... into your hearts" (Galatians 4:6). We were made and redeemed for this, and eternity will involve the continual knowing and receiving of the love of God, and the continual returning of it to Him by the Holy Spirit's joyfully leading and enabling. Wonderfully, it is the answer to a prayer, the sublime request of the Lord Jesus in His high priestly prayer of John 17, uttered just before the cross that made the answer possible...

"Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have declared unto them Thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:24-26)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Roil and Boil"

The rich man can live as a pauper if he does not avail himself to his wealth. In similar and far more tragic manner, the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ can fail to experience "the unsearchable riches of Christ" if he does not access them by faith and submission to the glory of God.

"I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers, hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints; that the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus: (Philemon 1:4-6).

The Christian life does not involve, as it were, the making of bricks without straw. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3). There is an infinite supply of grace for godliness dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit, and if our cups do not consciously run over with assurance, peace, joy, abundance of life, and the awareness of God's love for us, it can only be because we have been tempted to forget or ignore "every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."

Our spiritual enemies are well aware of our privilege and responsibility to avail ourselves to the abundance of Christ. They set out from the moment of our new birth to hinder our understanding and confidence in the "exceeding great and precious promises" made to us by the God who "cannot lie" (II Peter 1:4; Titus 1:2). They point to our fickle emotional sensibilities, past failures, present sense of weakness, and thoughts in us contrary to the will of God as the evidence of spiritual poverty rather than wealth. Our fleshly humanity inherited from Adam is prone to believe such deception, and if we acquiesce, the grievous tragedy of an inconsistent and relatively joyless Christian life will ensue.

Too much was given for such a terrible thing to happen in you, or in me. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (II Corinthians 8:9). Personally, I think that the proper sensibility in this matter for believers is one of fiery and righteous indignation. Somebody is seeking to grieve the heart of God, and rob your life and mine of the abundance purchased for us by the inestimable cost of the Lord Jesus being tortured to death, and forsaken by God and man on the cross of Calvary. We must not allow such a perversion to happen! It does not have to happen, and in fact, if it does, we will one day weep tears more bitter than any we have ever known because we did not avail ourselves to the grace purchased for us by the blood, agony, sorrow, loneliness, darkness and death known by our Savior on the cross.

Our spiritual enemies do not fight fairly, nor do they rest in seeking to hinder our experience of the abundance of life that presently and forevermore teems in our redeemed spirits. May the thought make our spiritual blood roil and boil, and then lead us to "fight the good fight of faith," the good fight fought from the blessed reality that the Lord Jesus is "the heir of all things," and we are "joint-heirs" with Him (Hebrews 1:2; Romans 8:17). The battle is on. Let us smell the smoke of the battlefield on which we engage defeated foes. And then let us go forth to raise the shield of faith, wield "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God," and see our Lord reveal from skirmish to skirmish the great truth that no one has ever trusted in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and been disappointed for doing so. And no one ever will.

"For by Thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: He is a buckler to all them that trust in him. For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God? God is my strength and power: and He maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet: and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms."
(II Samuel 22:30-35)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Valiantly, For Our People"

As we grow older and mature spiritually, our temptations to fear often directly involve not ourselves, but rather loved ones and others for whom we have responsibility.

"And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, Master, carest Thou not that we perish? And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" (Mark 4:35-40).

Having affirmed a successful journey - "Let us pass over to the other side" - the Lord Jesus Christ slept through a raging storm on a sea known for raging storms. Fearful disciples had to awaken Him, and after rebuking the storm, he rebuked His disciples for having "no faith." The Lord Jesus did not succumb to the temptation presented by His disciple's jeopardy and fear to Himself become frantic. He rather led from confidence in His Father's perfect wisdom and care, and in the knowledge that He would have done His followers no favors by joining them in being afraid.

This story offers one of the greatest lessons on leadership we can ever consider. A fearless Christ first showed by His sleeping example that all was well. He then dealt with the storm according to the means at hand - the power of God - not because it actually threatened jeopardy, but rather to still His disciples' troubled hearts. Then He used the episode to teach a lesson, and challenge the disciples to actually believe that which they professed to believe, or more literally, to trust the One whom they believed.

The Word of God unequivocally declares that we shall "pass over to the other side." "He that hath begun a good work in you shall perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). We may get wet and windblown during the journey, and storms can be decidedly unpleasant. But we shall pass over to the other side. As those with spiritual responsibility for loved ones, fellow believers and ministries, we must so strengthen our hearts in the Lord and His truth that we lead, as did our Lord, from rest, peace and assurance. Indeed, if we attempt to lead from fear, we will inevitably lead to fear. "Be of good courage, and let us behave ourselves valiantly for our people" (I Chronicles 19:13).

Let us look to our Captain, the Captain of our salvation. He has already lived a lifetime facing and overcoming far more challenge than will ever confront us. And how He overcame, even to the degree that his spiritual enemies bear upon their heads the imprint of nail-scarred Feet suffered when He trounced them upon His exit from death and the grave (Colossians 2:15). Their tempests may still blow, of course, and God sometimes allows us and our loved ones to feel harsh winds and great waves formed by our enemies. However, no devilish or earthly storm can touch us apart from our Heavenly Father's allowance. Experienced believers know that the great truth of the tempest is David's declaration: "Fire and hail, snow and vapor, stormy wind fulfilling His Word" (Psalm 148:8). We are fortified and strengthened by such remembrance, and emboldened to lead more confidently from the faith of knowing that we shall pass over to the other side. We shall, regardless of the winds and waves which may crash upon our ship. The Lord's tomb remains empty, His heavenly throne remains occupied, and the truth resounds forevermore throughout Heaven and earth that Jesus Christ is Lord. No storm can ever change this reality, and as we lead from rest and peace, we shall lead our beloved to rest and peace regardless of how tossed their ship may be.

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
(John 16:33)

"And Abiathar showed David that Saul had slain the LORD's priests. And David said unto Abiathar, I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father's house. Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life seeketh thy life: but with me thou shalt be in safeguard."
(I Samuel 22:21-23)

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Great and Powerful... Quiet and Hidden"

The power provided to the born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ that "worketh in us" is "exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).

Our apprehension and availing ourselves to such enabling, however, is often very nominal. One reason for this is that God often does His greatest and most powerful work in the quietest and most hidden ways. For example, He raised the Lord Jesus from the dead completely apart from human witnesses. There was a complete lack of ostentation in perhaps the greatest feat of Divine strength ever performed. This is an important truth, because the same power that raised the Savior from the dead is now resident within us (Ephesians 1:18-20). We should expect, therefore, that our experience of the risen power of Christ will often be accomplished in the quiet and hidden way of the resurrection. Failure to anticipate this will lead to failure to consistently see and experience the power thereof.

"He could not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief" (Matthew 13:58).

"Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). The Bible is given to reveal to us the willingness and ability of our Heavenly Father to act on our behalf for the glory of His Son, our best interests, and the best interests of those with whom we live our lives. It sharpens our spiritual senses, as it were, encouraging us to believe that God is present both with and within us, and that He is dynamically present. "I will dwell in them, and walk in them" (II Corinthians 6:16). Understanding the nature of His doings in our lives will go far in leading us to the expectation of faith whereby we do not miss "the mighty acts of the Lord" (Psalm 106:2). In our present existence, they are most often accomplished quietly, and in a manner that may often be known only to us. This is a blessed personalizing of His presence in our hearts, and staying close to the Scriptures will keep our eyes open and ready to see His hand in our lives.

"I... cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power" (Ephesians 1:15-19).

Friday, September 18, 2009

"Front Row Seat"

I've met some stinkers in my day, people who possessed genuinely bad attitudes, and the corresponding fruits that confirmed my impressions. I've also read about and heard about Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and a host of other genuinely evil characters of history. And in the Bible, I've read about Cain, Pharaoh, Jezebel, Omri, and many others who disrespected and disregarded both God and man.

However, I have lived with myself. I am therefore far more acquainted with my own sins and failures than with those of any other person. I know the unworthy attitudes I have too often embraced. I know the self-serving, self-promoting, self-protecting, and self-affirming words I have spoken. I know the pains I have inflicted upon others. I know the things I have done that were unworthy of my confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I know the countless things I haven't done, the sins of omission that are just as egregious as the sins of commission. I have lived with me, and if I am thinking clearly, the sins of no one else can rightly begin to approach the fact and culpability of my own.

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (I Timothy 1:15).

Our spiritual enemies will always tempt us to look outward and away from ourselves when the subject of sin is considered. The Holy Spirit, however, will always lead us to the same conclusion reached by the Apostle Paul. "I am chief" he wrote by the inspiration of the Spirit, and every believer who genuinely responds to his Lord's emphasis will echo the Apostle. If there is anyone else whom we consider to have sinned and failed more than we ourselves have, whether in history or in the arena of our own existence, we are ignoring a reality that should perhaps be more obvious than any other.

I have had a front row seat for the sins of Glen Davis. For all others, I have sat many rows back. Such truth makes me far more aware of my need for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and far more likely to avail myself to it. This is as it should be, and I can personally attest that if God could forgive and receive someone such as myself, then there must be hope for all. There is, from the guttermost to the uttermost, and I can therefore go forth with a message of the truest and most sublime hope. Yes, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I know this, because I am chiefest among them.

Sometimes believers discuss the possibility that we may be surprised by people we see in Heaven. Last moment conversions, or our imperfect knowledge of the hearts of others might delight us with the unexpected presence of many redeemed by the grace of the Lord Jesus. However, while I strongly believe in the clear Biblical teaching of a present assurance of salvation in Christ, I think the truth of the matter is that if there is any surprise in that coming day about who actually treads the streets of gold, it will be that we ourselves walk thereupon. "Oh wow! Amazing! Praise the Lord, He really did save a wretch like me!" I am chief. No one else can occupy that place in my heart and mind because, again, I have witnessed the sins of no one else from that front row seat.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
(Psalm 139:23-24)

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Ministering Spirits... Ministering Saints"

The most direct definition or explanation in Scripture concerning angels is found in the first chapter of Hebrews.

"To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on My right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Hebrews 1:113-14).

The word "ministering" in this passage is translated from the Greek root, "leitourgeo," and means to serve, or to perform a service. Leitourgeo is used in only two other passages in the New Testament, both referring not to angels, but to believing humans.

"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13:2).

"For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things" (Acts 15:26-27).

In essence, angels are servants of servants. The fulfill a role of great humility in God's eternal economy (although they are at times very forceful in the exercising of their ministering role). They are not to be exalted or overly emphasized, therefore, as the writer of Hebrews so plainly reveals. A Biblical understanding of their existence and function leads to much appreciation for these servants of both God and ourselves, but in relative terms, angels are clearly meant to be behind the scenes players in the fulfillment of our Heavenly Father's eternal purpose in Christ.

As are we. Perhaps the greatest lesson to us concerning angels is the quiet, in the shadows way in which they serve. I love the passage in Isaiah 6, wherein the seraphim above the throne of God are said to cover their faces with 2 of their wings (Isaiah 6:2). There may be numerous reasons for this, but one is surely to direct attention away from themselves, and unto the face of the God they love and revere. Our own person should be hidden in such manner, to the degree that the Lord's trusting saints are not to even let their left hand know the good works of their right (Matthew 6:3). Tragically, we live in a generation in which prominence, fame, and accompanying power and wealth are considered acceptable throughout a Christendom that seems to forget that our Lord Himself lived 90% of His life in complete obscurity (while the other 10% was lived publicly in a manner that always deflected attention to the glory of His Father - John 14:10).

Angels are servants of servants. So are we. "By love, serve one another" (Galatians 5:13). May the quiet and always unseen service provided to us by our fellow citizens of "the whole family of Heaven and earth" be an example, encouragement, and challenge to us as we cover our faces in order to shine all attention on the face of God.

"Not unto us, o Lord, not unto us! But unto Thy name give glory for Thy mercy and Thy truth's sake!"
(Psalm 115:1)

Friday, September 11, 2009

"As He Walked"

"Are ye not carnal, and walk as men" (I Corinthians 3:3).
The Apostle Paul provides the most pointed definition of carnality (or fleshliness) in Scripture in his rhetorical question to the Corinthians.

To "walk as men," that is, to live as if we are merely human beings, is the primary meaning of carnality in born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are human, of course, but we are humans inhabited by the Spirit of the living God. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16). The remembrance and affirmation of such truth changes everything in our experience of life, and in our practical living out of the wonder that that we are inseparably united to the Lord Jesus.

Take, for example, the common experience of being tired, but nevertheless having responsibilities that must be fulfilled. If our focus is merely on our humanity, we may grudgingly and joylessly attend to our responsibilities. We may do them, but half-heartedly or poorly. Or we may just simply not do them at all. Whichever of these carnal responses is the case, none of them fulfill the way in which believers are meant to live our lives. "Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord" (Colossians 3:23).

If, however, we remember and affirm the reality of our Christ-inhabited being, a new possibility presents itself. We don't deny our human tiredness, but we do determine to avail ourselves to the ever-present power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. His strength is "made perfect in weakness," and we find ourselves enabled to fulfill our tasks in ways clearly beyond human ability (II Corinthians 12:9). Perhaps most importantly, our attitude changes from one of self-pity, despondency, and grudging weariness to one of great inner rejoicing. Yes, we "walk as men," but as men inhabited by same power that raised the Lord Jesus not simply from tiredness, but from death. "Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers... that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 1:15-16; 18-19).

The Christian life unites the Divine and the human in a wonderful and mysterious relationship that engages the faculties of both parties in the fulfillment of God's will. He determines to be life and power of all godliness, and we commit ourselves to the active faith and submission whereby the Spirit of Christ lives in us, and we live by Him. We walk as human, but as humans inhabited by the Creator of the universe, and the resurrector of His Son from the dead. This is the gift of grace in the Lord Jesus no less than the forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life. We are not alone, we will never be alone, and there is in the center of our being a source of life and power that is infinitely greater than any challenge we will ever face. Thereby we walk not as men, but we "walk even as He walked" (I John 2:6).
"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us."
(Ephesians 3:20)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Every Thought Captive"

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

Born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are responsible for wielding the "mighty through God" weapons whereby we put to death imaginations and thoughts that conflict with the knowledge of God.

There are few greater challenges, especially in a world that has so many ways to present to us fleshly ideas and images. Often we are not even aware that attacks upon our minds are taking place, and if we are not cognizant of the internal battle in which we are engaged, many skirmishes will be lost without our ever knowing they took place. More importantly, there are long term consequences within us when we fail to engage.

To illustrate, many mornings I drive through a school district in which there are excellent sidewalks. Many of the students walking to school, however, seem to not realize the purpose for the sidewalks. Instead, they walk in the middle of the street, and drivers are required to slow down and sometimes even swerve to avoid hitting the children.

Frankly, I do not understand the lack of judgment shown by the students, and I often feel very irritated and think some very unfriendly thoughts about the students and the parents who reared them. It is a very dangerous situation, of course, and I am perfectly justified in being concerned. However, as a believer, are unfriendly thoughts warranted? Certainly the answer is no. And just as certainly, I am faced with the responsibility of bringing them captive to the obedience of Christ. Notions of resentment toward people exercising bad judgment are poisonous ideas and imaginations in our minds, and if I allow them to remain, will lead to internal consequences far more serious than having to slow down or swerve to avoid hitting a child. The joy and peace of Christ will not be experienced within me to the abundant degree He desires, and I will therefore honor Him to a lesser degree. Without overlooking the fact of the students' error, I must therefore determine to replace bitter thoughts with the "thoughts of peace" that God thinks toward me despite my countless times of bad judgment (Jeremiah 29:11). This will likely lead to prayer for the students and their families, and who can say what God may in their lives do as carnal thought patterns are taken captive, and then replaced with Biblical and godly intercessions?

The Christian life is not for the lazy, especially in the internal sense of heart and mind. Opportunities abound for the wielding of our spiritual weapons, and life becomes an adventure of both great blessing and great challenge as "the obedience of Christ" becomes the master to whom we submit our ideas and imaginations. May our Lord root out thought patterns deeply entrenched in us because we failed to take captive notions that distracted us from the Word of God. And may He remind us continually the ultimate consequence of who and what rules our minds...

"As he thinkest in his heart, so is he."
(Proverbs 23:7)

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee."
(Isaiah 26:3)

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
(Philippians 4:8)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"This Breath... and the Last"

"He giveth to all life and breath" (Acts 17:25).

"Thou takest away his breath. They die and return to the dust" (Psalm 104:29).

Breathing is the most elemental function of our physical existence, involving the interrelationship of our bodies and the environment in which they exist.

The Apostle Paul and the Psalmist unite to reveal that both the granting and taking away of our breath reveal our Creator's direct involved in every moment of our earthly lives. We breathe. The oxygen we inhale is God's gift to us, enabling everything we do. We cease breathing. Our passing from the earth is God's gift to us, delivering us from a world that "lieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).

We can say it and recite it from Scripture in so many ways. But few considerations more pointedly address the minute and universal involvement of the God who loves us to the extent that He is the great fact, truth, and reality of every moment. This is true for the most godly believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and for the most godless pagan who rejects the Savior. "In Him we live and move and have our being" declared Paul to the unbelieving Athenians (Acts 17:28). The Christian, of course, is rightly related to God through Christ, and has access to the benefit of our all-involved Heavenly Father. The unbeliever is "alienated from the life of God," but benefits nevertheless in that "life and breath and all things" are the gifts of his Creator (Acts 17:25;Ephesians 4:18). We are as fish that swim in the ocean that is God, living and moving and having our being in Him. The very breath we are presently breathing proclaims the truth, and our last earthly gasp will also reveal the direct involvement of the One who so loves us.

A fallen world distracts and deceives in so many ways. We must therefore remember and reaffirm often the great fact, the great truth, the great reality. "He giveth to all life and breath and all things." The Apostle closes our consideration with a pointed declaration of the Essence of this and of every moment...

"For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."
(Romans 14:6-7)

"For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."
(Romans 11:36)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


(Thanks to Bill D. for help on this one)

"O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?" (Galatians 3:1).

The Galatians believers were being tempted by false teachers to add legalistic practice and ritual to their experience of grace and truth in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul references this in terms of "bewitching," that is, of a malevolent attack by spiritual influences.

We may not consider legalism in such terms because the concept implies very earthly realities. Legalism, by definition, is an attempt to create or further spiritual experience by our own human efforts, as opposed to the working of the Holy Spirit within us. "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:2-3). Paul reveals such a notion to be devilish deception, and thus calls us to view the matter in far more serious terms than we may sometimes consider.

A good friend often says that there are two ditches on the side of the path of righteousness. One is the ditch of licentiousness, or the frivolous disregard for the godliness of faith and obedience to which we are called. The other is the legalism that seeks to add flesh-originated works to our walk with God. Both ditches are to be avoided, and the Bible never qualitatively declares one to be worse than the other. However, legalism bears a particular danger because of its subtle implication that we are actually doing good things in the particular works and rituals we are adding to God's grace and truth in Christ. We are far more likely to know that something is amiss when we fall into licentiousness, while legalism tempts us to believe that we are actually progressing down the path of righteousness.

Again, legalism not merely a human or earthly misunderstanding, but a devilish attempt to deceive us. The ultimate fruits of legalism are frustration, condemnation, arrogance and harshness toward others, a distorted view of God, and often a resignation to a status-quo Christian experience that is far from the life of transcendent godliness to which we are called. Who but Satan and his minions could be behind such a spiritual tragedy and disaster? We do well, therefore, to pray much and expose ourselves much to the light of God's Word in order to avoid the deluded attempt to make perfect by the flesh that which can only be begun and continued by the Holy Spirit. Many works will result when we walk in God's grace and truth, but they will be the fruits of our Lord working in us "both to will and to do of His good pleasure" rather than unbiblical practices and rituals that deceive us, and ultimately damage authentic godliness in us (Philippians 2:13).

"Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
(Ephesians 6:11-12)

Monday, September 7, 2009

"Search Me"

From Adam and Eve onward, focusing our attention on our own need, and accepting personal responsibility for our own failures, are two of the great challenges in our lives.

"And the man said, The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat... The woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat" (Genesis 3:12-13).

Endemic in all of Adam and Eve's offspring is the notion that our own sins are not as great or consequential as those of others. We may know in principle that this is not true, but in practice the temptation is great to live with a critical eye toward others that we do not direct toward ourselves. Flesh protects itself always, and we must put to death its deadly propensity to focus on the wrongs of others that so hinders our own need for God's searching, reproof, and correction.

Our flesh is also prone to blame our own sins and failures on others, especially in a generation that has redefined sin in terms that have little or nothing to do with Biblical revelation. Certainly other people do have influence on us, and can be a factor in the temptations we face. At the end of the day, however, our failures are our failures. For born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, God and His grace are always available to us for the overcoming of sin, and the greatest influence in our lives from conception has been the fact of His presence and dynamic working to reveal His glory in us. Therefore, if the failings of others have been more of an influence than His working to redeem us, the fault is with us and not with them.

I will be a witness to the sins of others as I live my earthly lifetime, and some of those sins will be consequential in my experience. I may even be called at times to humbly and forthrightly confront those who commit them (Galatians 6:1). I will not, however, be allowed by God to change the focus from my own need for change to the needs of others. "Search me and know my heart" must always be my primary prayer (Psalm 139:23). I will also be called by our Lord to take full responsibility for my sins regardless of whether others have been a source of temptation. God will deal with them as He sees fit (Matthew 18:7). I must be sure to deal with me. The blood of the Lord Jesus provides forgiveness and cleansing for confessed sin, not excuses, regardless of our wayward generation's deceptive philosophy (I John 1:9). Great peace awaits us as we walk in the light of the Bible's teaching of personal responsibility, and may we respond to the Holy Spirit's continual moving within us to focus on our own need for grace and mercy, and our own culpability if we sin.

"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions:
and my sin is ever before me."
(Psalm 51:1-3)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children" (Ephesians 5:1).

Our understanding of God's perception of us is vital in motivating genuine faithfulness to Him. We are to follow Him "as dear children," that is, we are to know God as a father who cherishes us and counts us as precious to Himself.

Many believers do not live their Christian lives in this blessed atmosphere of grace and truth. Too many sins and failures have consigned them to the notion that God is so displeased that there is little reason to expect His loving favor. Sin is unquestionably a serious matter in the believer's life, and being "dear children" does not preclude our Lord's displeasure with carnal words, attitudes, and actions. Nor does it mean that He will not chasten us if necessary (Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 12:6). However, in the most elemental sense of our person and being, God's favor is eternally upon us as a free gift of grace (Ephesians 4:24). We are "accepted in the Beloved," our Father is "for us," and we are spiritually enrobed in the very righteousness of Christ Himself (Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:31; I Corinthians 1:30).

Growing awareness of such Biblical assurance begets growing desire in the believer to respond in heartfelt devotion, and tangible faith and obedience. Love begets love (I John 4:19). Our Father has no interest in a mere grudging obedience resulting from a heart devoted to duty and discipline, as opposed to a consecration born in our hearts by the Holy Spirit's illumination of God's own heart toward us (Deuteronomy 28:47). We will be dutiful and disciplined as we walk with our Lord, of course, but such qualities will be known as the fruit of the Spirit rather than perceived as the means by which we walk with God. "The fruit of the Spirit is... temperance (self control - Galatians 5:23). He is in the process of redeeming the entirety of our being, with the heart always as His primary focus and scene of grace (I Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 4:23). Thus, our growing awareness of His heart toward us is a powerfully effectual perception that changes us into God's own image (II Corinthians 3:18).

How "dear" are we? Eternity will not be long enough to exhaust the answer to this question. The brightest light of our belovedness, however, shines forth from the darkness of Calvary. We are loved to the degree that our Heavenly Father sent His beloved Son to suffering forsakenness and death on a cross of horror in order to save us. Words don't adequately convey the reality, but they do change us as we ponder them more and more. May such pondering fill our hearts, and may our following become increasingly faithful as we more and more understand our place in God's heart as dear children.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
(Ephesians 2:4-7)