Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Becoming a Christian Warrior


Applying the Power of the Cross to Everyday Life: Crucifying the Flesh

This could be the most important article about how to wage the Christian war that you will ever read. A bold statement, yes, but please read on!

There is going to be a lot of material to cover here, and some build up to the main points is necessary, so please stay with it, your concentrated reading will pay off. Basically, what we are going to describe is how Satan shoots an arrow of offense, deception, perversion, or whatever, using the agency of another person, etc., and how and why God allows this. We are going to explore how God allows Satan to attack us, enflaming our flesh or by using the world, and how we can “die” to these attacks.

These arrows can only hurt us on the surface, not in our inner, spiritual man. This is actually for our good, because it allows an opportunity to crucify the flesh, and to have the life of God in its place. Haven’t you always wondered what people meant by, “take it to the Cross”, and “ crucify the flesh” and especially what it means and what it takes to be Christlike? Now you will be able to see one way of how this is accomplished by God, amen.

Grace and peace from God and the Lord Jesus Christ: these words are written for us by both Paul and Peter, and by countless others down through the history of the Christian movement. These were and are more than words of encouragement. The people who penned these words had gone through tremendous trials and had received grace and peace and now they were spreading it. How are we going to be able to do the same?

We must understand that while grace is free but it doesn’t always work on “automatic”, it is grace accessed by faith (Romans 5:2 / Ephesians 2:8-10): that is how we apply grace, by our faith. There is more than saving grace; there is standing and sanctifying grace, etc. We need grace for this life, not just grace to get us to the next one.

Peace isn’t the lack of conflict it is in the face of conflict. Jesus left us His peace but it is applied when we are ready to yield to Him in the face of conflict, and not stand up for our rights.

Grace and peace are what we are supposed to be spreading; it is what God has endowed us with an unlimited supply but by our unbelief and our grumbling we limit God’s unlimited power in our life (Psalm 78:41).

Paul is an agent of grace and peace, working for the agency of God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father is the Chairman of the Board, Christ is the President, and the Holy Spirit is the Chief Operating Officer. Have you ever seen the business card of someone who just got out of college or is just starting a career, and they haven’t worked their way into management yet? On it you will see the title, it is “account executive”, in other words, sales, but the salesman are the ones who drive the company and the ones who get paid according to their production.

We are the same in God’s kingdom. All we have to do as “account executives” for Christ is to spread His unlimited grace and peace around, especially to the other saints. When we do that we will “get paid” by receiving more grace and peace ourselves, more that we can spread out, and on and on. Grace and peace, more and more of it, are what we need, and we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-10). If we are faithful in what seems to be a little thing God will be honored and promote us (Luke 16:10-12).

You can spread grace and peace around because it doesn’t depend on you and your supply, but on God’s. Philippians 1:19 – the bad will turn for your good in the sense that you will be stronger by feeling more power from God; power to overcome negative things said about you or done to you. Like Paul here in this passage, he is in prison and people are doing wrong things to him. There are situations that look bad and then a bad thing happens to seemingly make it worse, but God is mocking the devil by this thing. He is making it better and turning things to your good (Romans 8:28) because God acts more powerfully on your behalf because you need more of Him, amen! This is why we can rejoice in trials (James 1:2). That is, if you recognize instead of retaliate.

A lot of people already know some of these things in principle; however, insight without understanding is dangerous. As believers in Jesus, we all have a new spiritual insight into things. But, the question is, do we correctly understand what we see? Insight is all around us. We see what God tells us in the scriptures about how the devil, our flesh, and the world work to bring us down. We see that God intends to bring us up, out of those circumstances. We see that He intends to bring us through trials for His glory, not to simply let us avoid any semblance of suffering.

We may understand this in theory, but we fail to recognize it in practice. What we don’t recognize is how it is all orchestrated, we may see it but we don’t realize it, we don’t understand how it all plays out. What we need is insight with understanding. You see, in Jesus, insight is immediate and free. On the other hand, insight with understanding takes time and has cost. It's not something we can snap our fingers and have. The bible says with all your wisdom get understanding (Proverbs 4:5).

You have to understand how God works, and how He uses the world the flesh and the devil to conform you to Christ-likeness. We must understand how the wiles of the devil are used.

God allows the negatives to come in so as to give you an opportunity to destroy the flesh, and to see His power manifested for you to stand firm in the battles of life.

Ephesians 6:10-11

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

The word for wiles or schemes in the Greek is methodeia, or the methods of the devil, which are used by God so that we may stand in the power of His might. By having to deal with what makes you upset you have to let go of you, and have to get more of God to get you through.

The key is to recognize before you respond, you see the attack for what it is, a God ordained opportunity for growth in grace. You are being trained to be a proven warrior for Christ. That person is not the enemy, but a victim of the enemy and yet is still a tool, of God. You can turn the devil’s goal of attack around, not only for yourself but also for the other person.

Imagine the power of this: what may seem to be an obstacle and a problem and an offense and nothing but a negative can actually be the way to your victory over the flesh and promotion in the ranks of the godly. Of course you can react by the flesh and you are worse off and the other person is no better. That is what we too often see, all hurt and no help, because we didn’t recognize the possibilities for the power of God.

You see it is easy to spread grace and peace around when no one is offending you or whatever. But it is also easier to spread a false grace and peace done out of your flesh done with no real love toward others only nice feelings and warm fuzzies. But if we have to suffer an arrow then the grace and peace have to come from our spirits by the power of God and what people get is real, tested and proven, and instructive to those who receive it.

Well, when we receive grace and peace from the Lord, it is like a “booster shot”, but we will get tested for effectiveness right away, and we don’t get it without the experience of crucifying the flesh. The problem is we feel like what we need is a “power boost shot”, and then we can walk around and say, “do what you will, it doesn’t matter”. We think we can get the feeling and then we can start dealing. It doesn’t usually work that way. The normal way is that we start dealing and then we get the feeling. God gets the glory and you get the grace.

You have to learn how to use the shield of faith. It isn’t some mantra you repeat in the morning or before you enter a tough situation and then expect that you are “covered” somehow just because you repeated a few positive affirmations. People think just because God says so that they can just say so, and the devil has to run, but that isn’t the case (Acts 19:13-19). In that passage it wasn’t just that they got the formula wrong by saying, “whom Paul preaches”; it wasn’t the formula that was wrong it was their faith that was wrong.

It’s the same as those who think that just because they repeat some formula about wearing the full armor of God that they are wearing it, not so. We must say so in deed and in truth (1 John 3:13-19); when God allows the devil or lets others be used “against” us, we must show forth in truth that we trust God and are dying to the flesh. The power of God is not a play toy, and isn’t a magic incantation that we can use regardless of our personal state.

The scenario goes like this: first, the devil uses someone or something to shoot an arrow into you (Ephesians 6). Now you, instead of going, woe is me, well you just recognize what God is doing, and you laugh and realize that all the arrow did was hit your flesh. Well good, let it die anyway! Instead of this puny instrument that cannot touch your spirit harming you by you living from and reacting to the flesh, you say, “go ahead, make my day!”

Now you have gotten your booster shot, you have recognized what God was doing through the agency of others. Satan meant it for bad, and the other person may or may not have, but God meant it for both your and their good, you get more grace, renewed strength. The other person sees a true light of Christ in you, and the only thing that gets hurt is your flesh, which you want to die anyway! Then that thing that once could hurt you cannot hurt you any more, and you have experience in wielding the shield of faith. What hurt you before can’t hurt you no more! You grow in the Lord and know how to spread grace and peace, amen!

We are in a battle. If some little imp can get the best of you, if all the enemy has to do is shoot one little arrow, and then you cry and scream, “I’m hit”, and fall down and focus on your wound, then you are out of the battle for the time being. When you eventually get up, the same little arrow is used to knock you down again. This will keep happening until you learn that if you just keep going after getting hit, not focusing on the flesh that is hurting, then what happens is that flesh dies and the life of Christ takes its place!

Most Christians just go around after getting hit with a little toy arrow and moan and complain about how bad life is treating them; if that is all that the devil has to do, you aren’t very mature. What we should want is to get to the place where there could be all kinds of weapons in array against us. It would be like, “come on help me get holy!” That way other people will have to deal with less, and they can even help us out if we need it.

So many think they are in this big battle when all the enemy has to do is take one little arrow of offense and you are down for the count, for weeks or months, or maybe even leave the church or the fellowship of the saints altogether. So often this is what is happening to those who get hurt so easily and then say they don’t have to go to church, they have been stung by a bb. Why in the world do you think you can do real spiritual warfare when the sound of a cap gun knocks you down?

Satan has a limited supply, if all he needs is a toy dart to keep you down, then that is all you will get, but since you aren’t growing and letting these darts kill the flesh, these darts seem like great big attacks because they are multiplied. Satan has limited resources but he is always trying to enlist you to do his will, and in that way he multiplies his arsenal. Are you his agent? The bible describes Jesus as our Advocate (1 John 2:1), and Satan as our Adversary (1 Peter 5:8). What agency are you using most often, the Advocate, or the Adversary?

Now Satan has got other kinds of weapons in his arsenal besides offense, like fear, frustration, discouragement, and others, but grace and peace are your way to begin to win versus these too. Satan’s arrows may be intended by him to harm you, but God intends them to show off your skills as a Christian warrior. He will give you power to overcome if you will let that part of you that can’t overcome, namely your flesh, your “self”, die so that He can take its place.

1 Peter 5:8-10 – the process of suffering and gaining life from death for the Christian Warrior.

8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

You have to suffer the death of the flesh first and then God will strengthen you. The question is, How well are you doing in the fight?

Be prepared to suffer with the death of the flesh. “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2 NKJV).” Crucifixion is a slow, painful death. When we crucify our sinful desires, we will suffer as they die. When the pain of death begins, the joy of the Lord will flood our souls, and it is this joy that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). We should be mentally prepared for the suffering we'll face on the road to freedom. Armed with the mind of Christ, we will have permanent victory!

The Way (to the Cross) the Truth (of the Cross) and the Life (from the Cross)

So many times we have heard to take it to the Cross, that we have to go to the Cross, that the Cross hold power for us in this life, and that we have to crucify the flesh, etc.; but what does that mean, and how is it done? That is what we have been beginning to show you, now look further.

Colossians 2:15 – God mocks the devil again by making a show of the devil openly with our lives, following Jesus to the Cross and becoming Christlike with the death of our flesh that the life we live is by the Son of God (Galatians 2:20 / Philippians 1:21).

If you teach or learn this then it will invite the attack of the enemy, which is what your flesh will speak to you. Your old man doesn’t want to be starved to death; he wants constant attention. Well in a sense the attacks are what we want, cause all it can do is allow us to win even more, the devil cannot touch us where it really hurts, in our spirits, if we are dead to the flesh (Romans 6:6 / Luke 12:4-5 / Colossians 3:3).

Matthew 10:28 – And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

We will be able to suffer the death of the flesh more, God will get more glory, the devil will be mocked, and we will be more Christlike. If the fire gets hotter, so be it, all it does is burn off the dross, and really it isn’t that it is getting any more intense it’s just that we will recognize the battles for what they are and now we will be prepared to win.

John 12:20-28 – a prophetic passage about how we can see Jesus’ power in our lives.

20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

We live this passage out literally and we are literally becoming more Christlike. In other words, the hour has come for you, as a Son of God, a child of God, that the Son of man should be glorified in your life. You must lose your life to find it, not that we have to lose all our possessions, although that is what many see this passage as saying. However, it isn’t the stuff that is bad, material things aren’t bad in themselves. What we must and we will lose is the stuff that is bad inherently, like envy, jealousy, covetousness, greed, pride, etc.

These are what make having those things bad, what spoils us from having them, but if we don’t have the lust for those things then those things won’t spoil us. Then it will be okay to have them because they won’t cause us to sin and so it is more likely that God will allow us to have them. However, since we don’t have that other stuff like pride that sometimes makes us want certain stuff, than it won’t matter if we get the stuff or not anyway. It also won’t matter if some have the stuff and we don’t have it, we won’t care, and the other who has also lost the lust for the things won’t mind sharing.

We serve Christ and His cause by following Him, and so we need to realize where He was going, which was the Cross, which means we must also go to the Cross. Through that sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) God honors us. It is a troubling thing to our soul to realize what is going to happen because our flesh will not like it one bit, but it is for this that the sons of God are manifested that the name of God might be glorified once again. We can set our eyes on the joy set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus knew it was going to hurt and we are to humble ourselves and arm ourselves with the like mind (1 Peter 4:1 / Philippians 2:5-15).

There it is: we get hit, but instead of looking at what it has done to “our life”, we move on to the Cross, it hurts, our flesh is troubled, but we keep on going and the flesh eventually dies, and the resurrection life of Jesus takes its place. We are becoming Christian warriors; the shield of faith has quenched the arrows of the devil. We are learning to use the weapons of our warfare, and we are moving ahead in the battle, not lying there wounded on the field, no glory being given to God. We are more than conquerors, our lives mock the devil instead of us spewing out threats to him, and God is glorified in His saints. Hallelujah!

Now Satan has other arrows in his quiver, not just offense. There is, of course, deception, and perversion. Perversion is when an otherwise good thing is used in a bad way. Everyone seems to be looking for something to grab on to, and that thing can become sin. We are holding on to what God has given us instead of holding on to God Himself. Many times this is when we have gotten hold of a truth of God, and we think it a thing to be grasped like a tool, but instead of us using it, it uses us, a perversion. For example with the teaching we just went over, this could be perverted by thinking everything is just a dart, and by this we never listen to anybody at all. Nothing “gets through” to us, and we think we are wearing the breastplate of righteousness when what we are really doing is just being a victim of a hard heart.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hands On Ministry

One of the important and neglected elemental doctrines is the laying on of hands. It is seen as a mere formality or an afterthought to most evangelicals these days. What a shame; indeed, it should be a central part of the life of a believer. The laying on of hands is for various purposes but more than one can occur at the same time (for example in Numbers 27:15-23, Joshua received a commission before all the people and an impartation of authority). So you will definitely see overlap in the Scriptures and in personal experience, but sometimes it is for one, i.e. you are being confirmed but not sent. Lay hands suddenly on no man (1 Timothy 5:22) refers primarily to ordination. Hands should be laid upon those persons "in whom is the Spirit", those truly called for the purpose who have shown themselves of good report. Acts 14:21-23 – saving souls, strengthening saints, and sending servants. Seeing 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 in the light of 1 Corinthians 6:17 will help build an understanding of why this doctrine is so important.

C – H – R – I – S – T – six basic functions of the laying on of hands

(Acknowledging your calling – such as ordination: into the body as a local member – hands are laid on new members to confirm them as approved: or for a particular mission /ministry)

Numbers 8:10-11 – the Levites consecrated – liken this to a new church plant, the start of a new ministry, or to a ceremony where multiple people are being set apart for service.

Numbers 27:15-23 – Joshua follows Moses (Deuteronomy 34:9) – if God has called you and His authority figures on earth have confirmed you, this should keep you encouraged in tough times.

Mark 3:13-15 (ordained) / Luke 6:12-19 – not stated directly, however, the context of Mark 3 and Luke 6 show that Jesus had prayed all night and probably fasted, prefiguring Acts 13 and the sending of Saul (Paul) and Barnabas. Most likely He laid hands on the twelve of His disciples that were named apostles, and when He began to heal the multitude they all wanted to touch Him as they saw what power this had. Luke 10:1 – The seventy were sent out and it can be reasonably assumed that Jesus laid hands on them as well, as Christ often used physicality in His ministry.

Acts 6:5-6 – the confirmation (their qualifications for ministry were already known – vs.3, 5), consecration (vs.6), and commission (where God place you He graces you – Stephen Acts 6:8, 10, 15, Acts 7:1-60 / Philip Acts 8:5-13, 26-40) of the first deacons.

(Anointing with oil usually occasioned with the laying on of hands, point of contact such as the handkerchiefs delivered from Paul, deliverance included as well)

Many instances: 1 Kings 17:21-23 / 2 Kings 4:34-35 / Matthew 8:2-4, 14-15 / Matthew 9:18, 25 / Matthew 20:34 / Mark 1:41 / Mark 6:5, 13 / Mark 7:32-35 / Mark 8:22-25 / Mark 16:18 / Luke 4:40-41 / Luke 7:14-15 / Luke 13:11-13 / Luke 22:50-51 / Acts 9:10-12, 17 / Acts 19:11 / Acts 20:10 / Acts 28:8 / James 5:14-15

(This is personal prophecy, revelation of calling, ministry gifts, confirmation of God’s will, etc.)

Genesis 48:9-14, 17-19 – personal prophecy / blessing

Acts 13:2-4, 14:4 – Paul and Barnabas were already considered prophets, and they were revealed to be apostles and then sent. In that sense, you may find yourself functioning in one capacity or another until a designated time when the Holy Spirit decides it is time both to reveal your calling to you and to release you into that calling. When that moment arrived for Paul it was while he was in Antioch and up until that time he had been functioning as a prophet or a teacher or both. Then the Holy Spirit said, “Separate two from the rest of them.” And what happened then was that hands were laid on them to confirm that they were being separated out from what they used to be, confirm what it was that the Holy Spirit had declared that they were and then they were released to go into the work to which they were called, which was, of course, the work of apostles. This is not a unique experience in the Scriptures with somebody working in a certain capacity and then the time came for the Holy Spirit to establish them in something else.

Acts 16 with 1 Timothy 1:18, 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6, 14 and 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2:6 – Timothy was a disciple who had a good report among the brethren, and Paul was looking for replacements for Barnabas, which was Silas, and John Mark, which would be Timothy. He received a personal prophecy that he was to be called as an apostle, the presbytery laid hands on him, and Paul also laid his hands on Timothy, giving Timothy revelation, confirmation, and spiritual gifts. We see that Timothy was indeed an apostle.

So it is the same picture with Paul as it was with Timothy, that is: they were doing something else, the moment arose when, in the timing of the Lord it was time for them to be confirmed in their calling as apostles. So there was a prophetic utterance in both cases – both in Paul’s case and in Timothy’s case – a prophetic utterance, and it was followed by the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands then was a confirmation of a prophetic utterance by those who already knew what the nature of the work of Paul and Timothy was. So this is an important truth about the laying on of hands: you do not lay hands on someone and, by that, you make them into something. Before hands are laid on someone, first, the nature of the work that they are doing should be apparent; it should be clear. Secondly, those who lay hands on that person should be familiar with the work of that person, and then finally, when hands are laid, it is the declaration by those persons of what they know to be true about the work and the calling of this individual.

2 Kings 13:16-17 – true prophetic ministry

A word about personal prophecy; it should usually be only a confirmation of something the Spirit had already spoken to your heart. Sometimes even true prophets can overstep their understanding and make a paragraph where there was a period. For example, in Acts 21:4 true prophets said by the Spirit, so it was true stuff, that Paul “should not go” to Jerusalem. What is evident is that the prophets heard from God that Paul was to suffer in Jerusalem, but what they didn’t know was that the Spirit had already informed Paul of this (Acts 20:20-24). To Paul this was just a confirmation that although he would indeed suffer, the Lord had ordained that it be and this was a comfort rather than a concern for him. The other prophets took what they had heard from the Spirit and extended it out to application, rather than simply leave it as proclamation; they put their personal feelings for Paul in it. Agabus, a mature prophet (Acts 11:27-28) confirmed the dread that would come to Paul, but did not add his “two cents” of application on. Of course, the crowd further begged Paul not to go (Acts 21:10-12). Paul understood this and answered them in Acts 21:13, saying that he was willing to die for the Lord if need be, and they understood the will of the Lord (vs.14).

(Of spiritual gifts or spiritual authority for leadership)

Numbers 27:15-23 (The word here translated "honour" may correctly be rendered "authority.")

Acts 8:17-21 – money or social status does not earn the power of God.

Acts 9:10-12, 17 – Paul filled with the Spirit; the calling was revealed to Paul (Acts 22:12-16).

Acts 19:6 – as Acts 8 & 9, activating baptism with the Spirit; need to look at previous teaching.

1 Timothy 1:18, 4:14 / 2 Timothy 1:6, 14 – Timothy’s calling, gifting as previously discussed.

(Into service locally and elsewhere: in the church is commissioning, outside, or parachurch ministry, is sending: missionaries that come in to our body should go out with our blessing)

Luke 10:1 – see previous discussion.

Acts 13:2-4 – releasing someone into their calling.

Acts 6:5-6 – local ministry that can take place outside of the four walls of the church building.

Acts 20:17-38 – when someone leaves the church to go to another place of ministry.

(Of agreement or as a blessing, symbolic regarding agreement)

Matthew 18:19 – as touching any thing, it is symbolic of agreement (1 Corinthians 1:10). Prayer for needs definitely justifies the laying on of hands. This is also to restore an erring brother (Galatians 6:1: the Matthew 18 context of church discipline fits, also Genesis 33:4 / 45:14-15).

Genesis 48:9-14, 17-19 / Matthew 19:13-15 / Mark 10:13-16 – dedication ceremonies of children, not baptism, using Numbers 6:22-27 as a blessing, prophetic utterance can be included if done in the Spirit, caution not to let just “anyone” do this, only those proven over time.

Acts 20:17-38 – when anyone is leaving the church in good standing hands should be laid on them to send them out in love.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©