Saturday, September 17, 2005

Soul Control

In Ephesians 3, Paul prays that believers, not unbelievers, would receive something more from God, power from the Holy Spirit for this life. He wanted people to go from a saving knowledge of Christ onward to a sanctifying work, one where Jesus ruled their everyday lives, where they could have joy and be obedient despite circumstances. He was praying that through God's power they could attain soul control.

Ephesians 3:16-21 - That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 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, 21 Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Let's take a closer look here.

3:16 – strengthened (Greek is kratos – dominion or ruling power)

With might (dunamis – inherent power – in this case, moral power)

By his Spirit (the Holy Spirit)

In the inner (eso – soul, conscience) man

Paul is praying for believers that the Holy Spirit would bestow an inherent moral power to rule over their soulish parts (mind, will, emotions, their conscience)

3:17 – Dwell (two words to convey “live in”, here it’s katoikeo – cat-oy-k-o – to pervade, prompt, and govern, to own the house, to make yourself at home) You can live somewhere but not feel at home, this word means to “have the run of the place”.

Hearts = soul (mind, will, emotions)(kardia – the thoughts or feelings)

Paul is praying that Christ would come to pervade not just their spirits as in the new birth, but that now he would govern and make his home in their souls. And the soul is where the decisions to obey the spirit or the flesh happen. The soul has control; it allows or disallows us to be led by the spirit or the flesh. Christ already dwells in our spirits, and he will not dwell in our flesh (Romans 7:18), but here Paul prays that Christ will come to dwell (more than vacation, but have the run of the place) in our souls by faith.

3:19 – to know (ginosko – to begin to experience)

Passeth knowledge (gnosis – head knowledge, can be had without experiencing it)

Paul is praying that Christians, ones who are already saved, may be given power by the Holy Spirit so that Christ can control their souls, and they can experience the love of Jesus daily. To experience, not just “know” with our minds, to actually be able to “do” it, not just in position, but as a constant condition, to feel the fullness of God, to be able to do what we are supposed to do

3:20 – it may sound to good to be true, but Paul says God can do all this and more

Why don’t we have it? Because we haven’t prayed for it. Don’t we automatically receive this at conversion? If Paul had to pray and was praying for others to have it, then so do we.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Friday, September 16, 2005

Learning to Live Prophetically

Trial, Testing, Truth And Triumph

The reason that Christians can have joy during times of trial, the testing of our faith, persecution, and suffering is because we have exceedingly great and precious promises that make us partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Instead of looking at our problems we are longing for His perspective, and so we learn to live prophetically. When we apply these promises God himself through the power of the Holy Spirit strengthens us to be able to not only endure but to triumph (Galatians 2:20 / 2 Corinthians 2:14 / Colossians 1:27).

Unfortunately, the idea that we as Christians can actually have joy in trials seems preposterous to most in the church today. We claim the Word of God as inerrant and infallible, yet we flinch when we read verses like James 1:2-3. My brethren count it all joy when you fall into diver’s temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

Martin Luther said that if we fight valiantly on the entire battlefield, yet flinch in the one area where Satan is raging against us, then we do not confess Christianity no matter how loudly we profess Christianity. I wonder what he would say to those today whom fold “under the circumstances?”

Of course, no one is exempt from feeling the sting of sorry situations. The truth is that we must grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18), and learn to endure hardships like a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). It can be done, it has been done, and it must be done today in order for our witness to shine in trials and our will to submit to testing.

The Scriptures provide us not only the answers for how we are to cultivate this joy, but they also give us examples from the lives of those pictured in its pages. The imperatives of verses like 1 Peter 4:12-13 has been met with the indicatives, in this particular case verse 14, and so on. We must understand that in order to get God’s best you have to pass God’s test.

Many try and try, but they fail to triumph. The question becomes, how can a Christian have joy during times of trial and testing and when suffering persecution? The reason is we reckon. We reckon, or consider, something to be more valuable than the thing we are going through. We have strength when we realize, or cash in, on the idea that we are going to receive something for our efforts. It is not really about earning, but about learning to live with God during any circumstance. We go from revelation to realization, from seeing it to being it.

David, in the 23rd Psalm, points us to this beautifully. He had been promised the kingdom of Israel, and had gotten it, only to have it wrested away again by his own son Absalom. However, even in the valley he prophetically saw the Lord as his means of sustenance. In spite of his circumstance, David was counting on the promises of God, and his faith foreshadows Peter’s promise to the New Testament Christian that God is not slack concerning His promises (2 Peter 3:9), whether they be the promise of His Second Coming or His coming in our lives to fulfill His Word.

This kind of reckoning is what we need in the church today. When David was in “the valley of the shadow of death”, all he could physically see were the shrubs of sorrow and the sands of suffering. He knew, however, that God was with Him, it was the Great Shepard that helped him to fear no evil. His comfort wasn’t his position or his power it was His presence. He reckoned that although he was seeing bad times that goodness and mercy were right behind, would catch up, and that no matter what, he would dwell in the House of the Lord forever. He had a prophetic, not a pathetic faith that understood the bottom line.

The crisis of circumstance should lead us to the Lord and His great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4). God is in control, and he sets the boundaries of our lives. Sometimes suffering is because of our own sin, but sometimes it is God’s will (1 Peter 4:19). This is part of the deal, as it were (Philippians 1:29). When we are able to live for God in our boundaries, then God will let us see beyond them. This is how we can have joy during times of trial, the testing of our faith, persecution, and suffering: we learn to live prophetically.

In Romans 8:18 Paul reckons that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” He was speaking of our final state, but indeed, we can have some of this glory right here and now. Peter tells us that if we are reproached for the name of Christ the spirit of glory and of God rests on us (1 Peter 4:14). Paul told Timothy that godliness has promise of the life that now is, and of the life to come when talking about persecution (1 Timothy 4:8-10). Consider also Paul’s admonitions about suffering in 2 Corinthians 4:6-18, 11:23-27, and 12:10.

It is all about where you place your worth. The Scriptures are replete with examples who reckoned on the promises of God as more important than what they were currently going through. Abraham was severely tested with Isaac, but he reckoned God could or would bring back his son from death and fulfill His promise (Hebrews 11:17-19).

The Apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name (Acts 5:41). The people they witnessed to rejoiced and the church grew under heavy persecution (Acts 13:48-52). Paul knew by the Holy Ghost and also prophets that he was doomed if he went back to Jerusalem, but he happily went anyway (Acts 20 and 21).

The Apostle Paul’s bottom line mentality (1 Corinthians 15:55-58) mirrors and even eclipses that of Job in the Old Testament (Job 13:15, 19:23-27) in that Paul actually was looking forward to death. He said that to live was Christ and to die was gain. (Philippians 1:21-24). He knew and wrote about the truth that nothing is going to separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

We can use these biblical examples to help us through hard times (Romans 15:4). They prove to us that we can do it too. True Christians are still reckoning on God’s promises today. Joni Eareckson Tada says that no one can enter Christ’s heaven who hasn’t tasted Christ’s suffering. Every true Christian will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), but if we suffer we will also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). Suffering makes us joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), and it allows us to participate in the fellowship of his sufferings, which gives us a taste of the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10).

The bottom line is that Jesus said we are going to go through hard times, and that we are not to fear what man can do, or even what Satan would have them do (Matthew 10:22-28). We need to let others see the power of God living through us (Galatians 2:20). Our fear of God will carry us through. In considering all of this I reckon that by his stripes we are healed, and by our stripes he is revealed. Amen.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

The Soil of Suffering, The Fruit of Forgiveness

If you plant the seeds of sin
Into the soil of suffering
The root of rebellion
Will produce the tree of tyranny
Which bears the fruit of frustration

If you plant the seeds of the Spirit
Into the soil of suffering
The root of righteousness
Will produce the tree of trust
Which bears the fruit of forgiveness

Everyone will suffer through something, and everyone knows this. Sometimes these are small things, sometimes bigger, but the most godly men and women that ever lived are the ones who suffered the most while keeping the faith. Indeed that is the true mark of spiritual maturity; the Job like patience of a saint of God, buried under a mound of malaise, yet trusting in the God of their salvation, and relying on His strength, as they grow even more powerful in the Lord.

How can they do this? The answer is that they do not allow the seeds of sin to be planted into their soil of suffering, that is, they do not let up, and they hold fast and don’t let go when the chips are down.

When trials and tribulations come we are often tempted to seek relief by doing something sinful. For example, when we are feeling pressure at work, and our children are having trouble at school, and our spouse has been seemingly uncaring, the thoughts concerning the old habits of lust toward the opposite sex, or drinking if we used to drink, etc., seem more appealing, like a source of needed release.

This may seem to work for a while, but it will only exacerbate the problem, as we yield ourselves to an ever-deepening commitment to solving our problems this way. We allow the devil place, and he begins to build, and then to fortify a stronghold. It perhaps is a fortress that had once been torn down, only for us to leave an outpost standing whereby we feel justified in taking care of our own situations without God’s help, and outside of his proscribed remedy: trust. This root of rebellion ultimately leads to a self-absorbed tyranny, where we will continue to be in and show frustration.

On the contrary, if we sow to the Spirit, if we hold fast to what God intends to give us in our trial, if we remind ourselves constantly and consistently that God is working in a redemptive fashion to conform us into the image of his son Jesus Christ, we will begin to grow in holiness and power.

And we will suffer all the more. The Apostle Paul, the Apostle John, and the Apostle Peter: these men wielded awesome miracle working power, and yet they suffered greatly. God knows that mortal man cannot handle the power of God without the necessary means to keep him humble before the Lord. Consider Paul, and the thorn in the side, a messenger of Satan. Indeed, God sent Paul a demon to keep him humble!

When we are up against it and don’t give in, the roots of righteousness will spread. We may not see it, but God is using trials to push us further, to grow our faith, to spring forth His mighty tree of trust in the truth, which will show in the peaceable fruit of forgiveness that we live out to others. We will have fulfillment in Him. Amen.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©