Category Archives: Holy Spirit

Jesus is Sovereign over Disease and Death

Healed woman

Healing a woman and raising a girl; Mark 5:21-43

“And Jesus having crossed again by boat to the other side, a large crowd collected on Him. And He was near the sea. And, behold, one of the synagogue rulers came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet. And he begged Him greatly, saying, My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come, lay Your hands on her, so that she may be healed, and she shall live. And Jesus went with him. And many people followed Him and thronged Him. And a certain woman who had had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and had not been bettered any, but rather came to worse, having heard about Jesus, she came in the press behind and touched His garment. For she said, If I may but touch only His clothes, I will be cured. And instantly the fountain of her blood dried up. And she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And knowing instantly within Himself that power had gone out of Him, Jesus turned Himself around in the press and said, Who touched My clothes? And His disciples said to Him, You see the crowd pressing on You, and do You say, Who touched Me? And He looked around to see her who had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had been done in her, came and fell down before Him and told Him all the truth. And He said to her, Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be whole from your plague. While He still spoke, they came from the synagogue ruler’s house, saying, Your daughter is dead; why do you still trouble the Teacher? But hearing the word spoken, Jesus said to the synagogue ruler, Do not be afraid, only believe. And He allowed no one to follow Him, except Peter and James and John, the brother of James. And He came to the synagogue ruler’s and saw a tumult, and weeping and much wailing. And going in He said to them, Why do you make a tumult and weep? The girl is not dead, but sleeps. And they laughed at Him. But when He had put them all out, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those with Him, and went in where the child was lying. And He took the child’s hand and said to her, Talitha koumi; (which interpreted is, Little girl, I say to you, Arise!) And instantly the little girl arose and walked (for she was twelve years old ). And they were astonished with a great astonishment. And He strictly warned them that no one should know this. And He said to give her something to eat.” (Mar 5:21-43)

 

Jesus is sovereign over nature, the physical realm and demons, the spiritual realm. He was not surprised by the storm or in finding a demonized man. Jesus is not taken by surprise, He is completely man and completely God, and, though laying aside the prerogatives of deity (i.e., supernatural powers), He is filled with the Holy Spirit of God and He hears and obeys what the Father is doing. Through the Holy Spirit He has all power. Those indwelled by the Spirit, as He is, have access to the power of God as they obey the Father as He does.

Jesus is greeted by a great multitude. Though He has an opportunity to minister to a large group, he does not ignore the request of an individual. Don’t be afraid to leave the needs of the crowd to help an individual. If need drives your ministry, you will burn out.

This is an important person, the synagogue ruler. Perhaps he was the ruler of the synagogue where Jesus cast out a demon and healed a man with a withered hand. I doubt that he believed Jesus to be the Messiah. I suspect that he had seen Him heal and hoped that Jesus would heal his daughter. He wanted Jesus to hurry, but there is a delay. Jairus is probably frustrated at the delay. This shows us that Jesus did not neglect the outcast to curry favor with the powerful.

The woman with the flow of blood for 12 years has been abused by doctors and cut off from fellowship in the community. She is poor and unimportant. She was continually unclean according to Lev. 15:25-31. She could not go to the temple to worship. She could not touch anyone, or they would be unclean for the remainder of that day. If she sat in a chair, it was unclean. She was cut off from fellowship.

It leads us to wonder why these laws were imposed. Perhaps it is because the Jews refused His offer of Grace at Sinai and wanted religion, so he gave them a religion with laws that would illustrate their inability to achieve acceptance by their own power. The law is a teacher to drive us to Christ as it shows us our imperfection.

Leviticus gave God’s people the rules for worship illustrating  God’s holiness and perfection and that there is only one path to God.  Jesus claims that He is the way, the truth and the life; none come to God except through Him.

The woman sneaks up behind Jesus and touches His garment and is immediately healed. Jesus knew it. Was He surprised? He asks who touched Him. Did he know? Why did He ask? Did He know the name of the Gadarene man and his demons? Jesus asks us questions because He wants us to seek answers. He uses all events as a teaching opportunity. He is the great teacher. What did He want to teach the woman, the crowd and his disciples? He knew that this woman would touch Him and He wanted to have a conversation with her. We don’t know what was said, but from what the gospels tell us about Jesus and salvation we could make a good guess.

She told Him the whole truth. The scriptures are inspired, every word. Had she not told the whole truth before and what happened to inspire her to confession? I think she came to believe in Him after witnessing His mercy. This woman is often pointed to as a great example of faith. She had faith in a common superstition that power resided in the garment of a holy man.  Like the disciples at this point in His ministry, she probably had little or no understanding of who He was and what He would do.  Can you imagine the fear of being found out when you just defiled a holy man? This explains her fear when she is discovered.  Is Jesus defiled by her touch? Jesus touches a leper and he is cleansed. He imparts cleanliness and life when He touches us or we touch Him. Nothing can make Him unclean. Jesus is not defiled by sinful man. Does God not allow sin in His presence? Jesus has overcome sin and the law of ordinances that are against us.

Jesus tells her, “your faith has made you well (sotso = whole)”. She was not healed because she believed in a superstition. Was it the garment that healed her? She was healed because of who He is. Some use this scripture to teach that we simply must believe in order to be healed. I reject that. There are examples in the gospels of people having no faith and being healed. It’s not what we believe, our faith or what we confess that forces God to act. It is His mercy and compassion that moves Him to heal. It is his nature to heal.

Does God want us to have faith in Him? Does He honor faith in Him? Absolutely, yes. We must have faith in Him in order to be saved. But, our faith is not sovereign. He is. She was healed while her faith was still in immature, hoping in a superstition.

Jesus tells her to go in peace. Peace comes from trusting in Him. A messenger comes and informs the synagogue ruler that he is too late. Did Jesus know that the girl would die? He tells the ruler, “Don’t be afraid; only believe.” What is the man to believe? How strong was his faith at this point? Trust in the person and character of God delivers us from fear. Jairus believed, but his daughter was dead. We must trust Him and His timing. The delay brings greater glory to God. His delay sometimes leads to a greater demonstration of His power. Never give up on God. Death is not final and it is no barrier to Him

Why were only the three permitted to follow? Some teach that we must not allow unbelief to be present in order for God to act. This is not true. It probably had more to do with respecting the family’s privacy in their moment of grief. Jesus wanted witnesses to recall the gospel but not a crowd of gawkers. These were His best friends whom he knew He could trust. He never drew attention to His miracles. In fact, He usually discouraged recipients of His grace from reporting them. He does not seek to manipulate people into faith by displays of power. He refused that evil temptation in the desert.

She was really dead, just like Lazarus was dead. He says the same thing about dead believers in 1 Corinthians 15, because their physical death is not permanent. The servants were wailing. Their tradition blinded them to God’s mercy and power. He makes a point of telling us that the girl was twelve. She had been alive as long as the woman had been ill. What’s the point? Is it to give the numerologists something to speculate about? Possibly, to illustrate that the two incidents are related and that there is a harmony. There is one consistent message: Both accounts teach the importance of trusting in the person and character of Christ.

Victory over disease and death is not about what we believe, but about who He is. The power of the great physician and the hope that He inspires stands in sharp contrast to the limited abilities of this world’s doctors. We see an insider and an outsider compared and contrasted. There is a public miracle and a private miracle. It does not matter what your social status is. In all cases, Jesus is your only hope. The power is in the person of Christ, not in a fabric or formula.

A famous TV evangelist says, “The word of faith is all you need….” This is not true. The living word, not your words is what is needed

 

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost

The experiential reality of being in Christ and therfore in the Spirit is both a present experience and a finished reality, not just a legal position. In one sense, I am always walking in the Spirit because I am in Him and He is in me, so whatever I do, I am in the Spirit, but in another sense, I do not always do what the Spirit is doing or would have me do (This sounds like Ro 7:21-24?). That requires a choice to obey. That does not negate salvation by grace, for it is God that supplies the grace the faith and the power to obey (definition: the power of God unto salvation).

 

Different theologies will cause us to have different understandings of such biblical terms as being filled with the Spirit and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The term is not actually found in scripture. But it is prophesied in John 1:33 & Acts 1:5. The first supposed occurrence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is recorded in Acts 2 referencing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost where the disciples spoke in known foreign languages which they probably were not fluent in or taught. Pentecostals and Charismatics see this as the initial experience of the believer where the Holy Spirit empowers them with the supernatural charismatic gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Understand that the Greek “charis” means grace. So these gifts are an expression of the grace or power of God and their purpose is for the edification of the body. This empowering is frequently confused with the initial indwelling or receiving of the Holy Spirit. Here is where we encounter confusion as a result of different understandings of terminology.

There are three common interpretations of the baptism of the Holy Spirit:

  1. Cessationist: Same as the baptism into Christ when the believer is born again. It’s not for today. The charismatic gifts ceased after the close of the canon and Apostolic age.
  2. Pentecostal: recurrence of the Pentecost experience where speaking in tongues is always the evidence
  3. Charismatic: initial empowerment by the Holy Spirit in the outpouring of any of the charismatic gifts.

Let’s examine each one. Cessationism is the belief that the supernatural charismatic gifts are no longer active today and that these gifts were only meant for a specific time when the church and the New Testament canon was being established. This belief is based upon a dispensational theology that considers the Apostolic age to be a separate dispensation of God’s grace. They believe that with the complete written revelation of scripture, the charismatic gifts are no longer necessary and relevant. Therefore, there is only one spiritual (as opposed to water) baptism where the new believer is placed into Christ’s body. Their scriptural basis for this is in 1Cor 13:8-10 which says that prophecies will pass away and tongues will cease when the perfect comes. They conclude that the “perfect” is the canon of scripture.

There are several problems with this interpretation. First, in context almost all Greek scholars will say that the “perfect” is referring to Christ, especially since Paul goes on to speak of seeing “face to face” in v. 12, thus implying personal relationship. Secondly, if the charisma were only temporary and would pass away when the writer passed on, why spend three chapters teaching on the proper use of the gifts. That idea denies the timelessness and value of scripture. Finally, this understanding denies relevant experience. Those who teach this say that documented history of the gifts being exercised throughout the church age are simply examples of people who were deceived. While I would not deny that there are many instances of false manifestations, to lump all of them into that category is to deny the power and sovereignty of God. I have seen documented miracles. These manifestations are occurring with people who have faith in the Christ of the bible and are seeking Him. It is to say that God is powerless to prevent His elect from being deceived. So, as with the case of the dead man walking, who is unwilling to examine his theology.

In defense of cessationists, scripture teaches that there is a baptism into the body of Christ that all born again beleievers experience at the moment of conversion. 1 Cor 12:13, Gal. 3:27, Eph 1:13. So, all believers receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. For us charismatics or pentecostals to ask “have you received the Holy Spirit?” is confusing. To imply that some believers don’t have the Holy Spirit or are somehow an inferior class of Christians is not only incorrect but hurtful.

Let’s take a closer look at the scriptures to see if there are different baptisms. In the ones I just read, who is doing the baptism and what are we baptized into? According to 1 Cor 12:13, the Holy Spirit is placing us into Christ’s body and we receive the Holy Spirit as a deposit. Can you get more of the Holy Spirit as a person? Is He divisible? Does he come in big and little pieces? No! Now, I’m not saying that you can’t receive more grace from Him. Now look at John 1:33. “And I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water, that One said to me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon Him, He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33)Who is doing the baptism and what are we baptized into? Christ is immersing us with the Holy Spirit. That’s different isn’t it? It also speaks of an observable physical manifestation – fire. At Pentecost tongues of fire were seen. John was referring to the Pentecost experience. This might better be described as an upon experience as opposed to an in experience. See Acts 8:16: “For as yet He had not fallen on any of them, they were baptized only in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  We can imply that this upon experience is accompanied by a supernatural or charismatic manifestation, whereas the initial baptism and infilling of the Holy Spirit may not always be so. Even though Acts 2 says they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the term “filled” as used in Acts doesn’t usually mean filled in the same sense as indwelling, but more literally “looked or acted like” in the same sense that a misbehaved child would be called full of the devil. The disciples had previously received the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit prior to Christ’s ascension as recorded in John 20:22. Did the Holy Spirit leave them before Pentecost? In fact, there are a number of occasions recorded in Acts where the Apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit. Are we to suppose that the Holy Spirit had leaked out? But if it really means that the subjects appeared like the Holy Spirit, then that implies that they were doing something noticeable that would normally only be equated with the supernatural, thus they were exercising the charismatic gifts. If we consider this to be more of an empowering or upon experience, then it can be understood as an experience of receiving extra grace beyond the communion of the indwelling Holy Spirit. In fact, Watcman Nee in his great little book, The Release of the Spirit describes this empowering not as an empowering from the external Spirit but as a process of yielding to the inner working of the Spirit which then manifests outwardly. So then we can view this baptism of the Holy Spirit not as a single second work of grace but as continuing repeated empowerings as the Spirit leads when He determines. This is the traditional charismatic viewpoint and aligns itself with the understanding that the charisma, with the exception of devotional tongues, are not really residential gifts, but situational gifts.

I do not hold to the Pentecostal position that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is always confirmed by gift of tongues. There are examples of Christians in Acts who are filled with the Spirit without any mention of tongues. Specifically, Paul in Acts 9 has a vision of Ananias coming to him, which would be a revelatory gift, or word of knowledge, prior to ever speaking in tongues. And Paul claims in 1 Cor 12 that not all speak in tongues but may prophesy or exercise another charismatic gift. We have seen from experience that some Christians have moved powerfully in other gifts having never spoken in tongues. We cannot deny that these gifts are supernatural empowerments so it would be wrong to contend that they had not received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. And yet I have spoken with many such believers that were taught that they had not received the Holy Spirit. This is wrong and damaging teaching.

 

Wise Counsel

Finding God’s will through counsel and revelation.

We can know God’s will. We can “hear” His voice with spiritual ears.
God often speaks through other believers. God speaks through supernatural revelation or prophecy as 1Cor 12 says. Prophecy is not just telling the future. It is communicating God’s heart on a specific matter. The purpose of prophecy (all gifts) is encouragement and edification of the believer. What we consider revelation today should never violate the written word of God. 1Corinthians 13 says that we only hear in part, so we must be careful to check any revelation by the Word of God. God’s will can be proved. “And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Ro. 12:2

Why should we seek or listen to counsel? Because individually we only hear in part. No one has a monopoly on wisdom or hearing from God. The Bible says that there is wisdom in multitude of counsel. (Prov. 11:14) I believe that this is referring to a cooperative decision where the Lord speaks in times of corporate prayer.

One must be humble in order to receive counsel. The world may view a need for advice as a sign of weakness, but we should not be insecure or defensive. Advice from a friend is precious. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.” Prov. 25:11-12

Who should we allow to speak into our hearts and lives? Should we let just anybody? It is important that we block words that can be bad advice, mislead or injure us. But, we also must be careful not to reject words just because they are hard or difficult to accept. Words from God may be sharp as a sword, discerning thoughts and intents of the heart.

We must have faith to hear God’s counsel through others. A friend earns the privilege to give intimate counsel. The one we should listen to is a covenant friend, one in relationship; one we trust; one with proven wisdom and Godly character. We must judge prophets first by their character rather than charisma.

How is Godly counsel delivered? It is given in a Godly manner and in God’s time. We should prayerfully consider counsel before giving it. It should be offered in humility, realizing that we could be wrong. We should understand the person’s situation before giving advice; don’t be like Job’s friends. Some people need compassion more than advice.

Consider a case of prophetic guidance and free will shown in the Bible in Acts 21:10-14. Agabus was a true prophet. He had a message from God for Paul and then he offered counsel as a solution to that word. The Word of the Lord ends with the prediction that Paul would be placed into bondage. There is no mention that the Holy Spirit prompted the advice. The anointed word was that he would encounter difficulty. The carnal word was “don’t go”. Notice that Agabus and the others didn’t force their will upon Paul. Here we see a case of counsel as to direction not a rebuke for sin. This is not a question of doctrine, or where there is clear guidance in the written word of God. This pertained to what some call the permissive will of God. Paul would not be violating some moral code by disobeying the advice not to go to Jerusalem.

The prophetic word was a confirmation of what Paul had heard earlier from the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:22-24). Later on, he had another word directly from Jesus that confirmed his decision to go to Jerusalem (Acts 23:11). Paul’s friends heard from God about what would happen, but they missed God’s will for Paul. Prophetic guidance must be balanced against freedom to hear and decide individually. We should guide people with spiritual principles and allow them to make their own decisions.

The Greatest Threat

It’s not North Korean or Iranian nukes. It’s not Islamic terrorism or Central American gangs. It’s not having your job shipped overseas. It’s not Obamacare or losing your health insurance. It isn’t Donald Trump. It is the judgment of God on our nation.

You rarely hear about it on the “news”, but occasionally you might catch a nature show talking about Yellowstone or the San Andreas Fault in California. Yellowstone is a giant active volcano crater. The last eruption was the largest cataclysmic event in North America. You might be familiar with the red clay soil that paints a wide swath from Wyoming all the way to Texas and the Gulf coast. It came from Yellowstone and is discernible in satellite images. And scientists warn that it could blow at any moment, just like the San Andreas Fault. A magnitude 9.0 quake on that fault would kill millions in a matter of hours. If Yellowstone erupted in a similar way that it last did, Denver would be covered in ash in a matter of hours. There is no possible way that the population could escape in time. The same fate would fall upon Omaha, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Dallas in a few days. Bozeman and Casper would be obliterated almost instantly. This volcano dwarfs Mt. St. Helens. It would make a nuclear bomb look like a fire cracker in comparison.

I think the wrath of God is sometimes like a volcano. It may take many years because God is patient and forbearing with our sins. But, He is a God of justice and He has judged nations before. His judgment, when it comes, is swift and sure. Are we deserving of His judgment? Of course we are. And it might come at any moment. We are guilty, as a nation, of murdering more than 30 million innocent children. Our people, including our elected leaders and judges, even Christians have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of those defending the defenseless. Their blood cries out for justice. And infanticide isn’t our only sin. Pornography, fornication, adultery, prostitution and murder are rampant. 2 Timothy chapter 3 perfectly describes where we are as a nation, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” (2Ti 3:2-4) Our nation has exalted perversion. We could be judged at any moment.

Perhaps, what stays God’s wrath is that there are worshipping Christians in our land. Our churches are everywhere and they are full. It’s perplexing that there are so many Christians in our land and yet evil is pervasive. Has the salt lost its savor? Are our churches filled with phonies or are we blind? Great revivals are always characterized by social change for the better and an increased commitment to godly obedience by the populace. But we don’t see that in America today. For all of our evangelizing and conversions, we see no change in the culture. The culture continues to descend into the sewer. The church, Christians, need to change what they are doing, because what they are doing now isn’t working.

In contrast, the Great Reformation of the 18thcentury that birthed this nation was marked by widespread repentance among the people. It was sparked by a sermon delivered by Jonathan Edwards entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards called people to repentance. He identified sin for what it is, an affront to a holy God. He described sinners as hanging by a spider’s thread over the fiery pit of hell. The hearers shrieked out in fear. I doubt that such preaching would elicit a similar response today. People today would mock those repentant sinners as superstitious. We don’t fear God anymore. We‘re too sophisticated. It’s rare in American churches to hear about sin, judgment and hell today. The message that people have offended God and must repent has been replaced with “Jesus loves you.” Of course He does! That is why He went to the cross. But, that does not negate the need for people to understand their sinfulness. It is conviction of sin that leads people to receive the grace of God and repent.

John chapter 21 is an account of Jesus meeting His disciples by the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. Peter and the other disciples had decided to go fishing, which was his original profession. They fished all night and caught nothing. In the morning, Jesus appears on the shore and exhorts them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they do, they haul in a load of fish that they can barely handle and they recognize that it is Jesus on the shore. One explanation of the meaning of this is that Jesus, when He had first called them, told them that they would now be fishers of men. They had abandoned the calling of God and gone back to their old life and it was fruitless. We must heed God’s calling.

I think this passage has another message for us today. We are trying to be fishers of men and we are not catching very much. Jesus is saying, “Put your nets on the other side. Change what you are doing. Do it my way. Hear my voice.” We must be guided by the voice of the Holy Spirit if we expect to be fruitful.

As I was studying the scriptures on this subject I was reminded of the parable of the sower. Jesus talked about how the seed that fell on stony ground blew away and bore no fruit. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me that America has been paved over. Our soil is concrete! He said we need a jackhammer to break it up! There must be preaching about sin and hell and soon coming judgment.

I sought the scriptures for Jesus’ evangelistic approach. There are numerous examples in the gospels of Jesus doing power evangelism. People listen when someone gets healed or raised from the dead. Most of us don’t believe we can do that, but Jesus said that we could do greater things. He said that He only did what the Father was doing. You see, Colossians tells us that Jesus laid aside the prerogatives of deity and humbled Himself as a man. He only did miracles by obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit within Him that told Him what the Father was doing. We have that same Holy Spirit in us. He speaks, we must listen.

I also found an account of Jesus’ evangelism that did not involve miracles. It is told beginning in Mark 1:14 thru 1:17. Read the red, the words of Jesus. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” Now as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” (Mar 1:14-17) There it is. Let’s break it down and put it in modern vernacular:

  1. Time’s up!
  2. The good news that God is in control, He is here and He rules.
  3. Stop what you are doing (sinning).
  4. Believe the good news of what God has done to forgive you and re-establish His rule here and now on earth
  5. Follow Jesus. He will tell what you should do. He will do great things through you.

Do it in this order, don’t use old English or Christianese:

Time is up! The hearer must understand that it is urgent. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus didn’t say, “Think about it and we’ll talk tomorrow.” You can fall into judgment at any moment. Yellowstone is ready to blow. Your heart could stop this instant. You might get hit by a car. Remind them of that horror movie where people can’t escape death when their number is up. Moderns relate to movies.

God is in control, not Trump, not Putin, not ISIS, not the banks, not your boss. He is working all things together to put everything under Jesus’ dominion. (Eph 1:9)

Stop sinning. Tell them, “You are going the wrong way!” Just as in Trains, Planes and Automobiles, “don’t mock because there are two semis headed right for you.” The hearer must be told that their sin will soon lead to tragedy.  We must call sin for what it is. We must preach sin and hell. Stop soft pedaling with your neighbor. If he blows you off, shake the dust off your feet.

Tell them the good news that Jesus paid the price for their sin and they need not suffer judgment. Not only that, but Jesus is going to restore Eden, there will be peace on earth when He sits on His earthly throne.

Tell them that they must listen to Jesus and do what He tells them to do. He wants them to have a part in building His new Kingdom.

The Four Faces of God

Discovering Biblical Personhood

I recently attended a men’s breakfast at our church where we heard an excellent lecture from Dr. Robert Lewis on “The Four Faces of Manhood”. Dr Lewis describes the four faces of biblical manhood as follows: King, Warrior, Lover and Friend. He plots these on a graph as follows:

King

Lover —————–  Friend

Warrior

 

God has intended for the King to lead, for the friend to be faithful, for the warrior to be a protector and for the lover to love sacrificially as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). He then describes how God’s design for man can be perverted by “ugly caricatures”. The King becomes a cruel tyrant or a weak abdicator. The friend becomes a loner or a user of others. The warrior becomes a destroyer or a wimp and the lover becomes critical or cold.

It seemed to me that an unbalanced man would tend to lean in a circular direction and that the ugly caricatures would follow in a predictable pattern so that a tyrant king would be a using friend, a destroying warrior and a critical lover. On the other hand, if the unbalanced man leaned in the other direction he would be a weak abdicator, cold lover, a wimpy warrior and a loner rather than friend.

As I contemplated this, I was reminded of some scriptures about “four faces”. The first was in Ezekiel chapter 1 where Ezekiel has a vision of God’s throne and he describes four creatures (some call seraph) that stand guard around God’s throne:

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1:10 NKJV

The Apostle John had a similar vision described in Revelation chapter 4:

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4:6-7 NKJV

It is interesting that the two visions vary slightly, but to my mind it only lends credibility to the authenticity as the scriptures are inspired by God and penned by men with different perspectives. One can only imagine how frightening such a vision might be and how each might have a different memory of it, just as two people observing a horrible accident might have different accounts. If John had meant to copy Ezekiel he would have done it word for word, but he didn’t. But the two accounts are so similar as to confirm that they were seeing the same throne room.

We must understand that all creation is intended to glorify God as originally created. The creatures guarding God’s throne can be considered to display the character and nature of God just as mankind is made in the image of God. So, what do these creatures tell us about God and how does that apply to mankind?

I believe that the seraph show us that God relates to us as a man and a friend. God came to earth in the form of the man Jesus who referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.” God relates to us as King over all creation as the lion rules over all other creatures. Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and revelation assures that He will reign over all creation forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). An ox or a calf is a sacrificial animal. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). An eagle is the swiftest of hunters and warriors. In the Psalms God describes Himself as an eagle protecting His flock.  He shelters us beneath His wings (Psalm 17:8).

So the new chart is this:

King/Lion

Lover/Ox —————– Friend/Man

Warrior/Eagle

As I have repeatedly read these scriptures in Ezekiel and Revelation I have wondered at their meaning and significance. I believe through this study that the Lord has granted me a measure of revelation. The four fold nature of God is even displayed in the different gospel accounts. Matthew depicts Christ as King beginning with His royal lineage (Mt. 2:2). Mark, written from Peter’s memories (Mark was Peter’s scribe), describes Jesus as a friend and a brother (Mark 3:35). No one was closer to Jesus than Peter. Mark reveals Jesus as a man (Mark 9:12).

Luke, written from Paul’s memories (Luke was discipled by Paul), displays Jesus as the warrior, the defender of the faith and the faithful. We see in the gospel of Luke the accounts of Jesus’ battles with the religious leaders and Pharisees (those accounts don’t name Paul, but I believe that he was among those who followed Jesus constantly seeking to trip him up; Luke 6:7). It is interesting that Jesus chose Paul, a fanatical defender of Judaism, to be the primary evangelist and his Acts and his letters portray how he battled like an eagle to defend the gospel.

John, the mystic, the romantic, depicts Christ as a sacrificial lover. He tells us that God so loved the world that He gave and describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. John records Jesus saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Joh 13:34-35)

These scriptures revealing God’s nature and our response pertain to all mankind, including women. They show us what biblical personhood is. Women are created to reflect God’s image as well. Women are called to lead, love, protect and befriend all be it in a unique way.

As I looked further into Ezekiel’s vision I discovered that it reveals not only the nature of God, but it speaks about how we must walk with God. The vision shows us how not to become unbalanced, fall into sin and display a false, ugly caricature. I noticed that the creatures walked in the Spirit, that is they followed the Holy Spirit. They didn’t become unbalanced and turn to the left or right.

And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. Ezekiel 1:12 NKJV

The vision goes on to tell us that a strange object followed each of the creatures.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. Ezekiel 1:15-17 NKJV

The scripture goes on to describe how the wheels are covered with eyes, depicting the all seeing, all knowing nature of God. This strange object, like the Seraphim, does not turn to the left or right, but follows the straight path, the narrow way. It reminded me of a gyroscope. I searched the definition/ function of a gyroscope.

Gyroscope: an apparatus consisting of a rotating wheel so mounted that its axis can turn freely in certain or all directions, and capable of maintaining the same absolute direction in space in spite of movements of the mountings and surrounding parts: used to maintain equilibrium, determine direction, etc.

Gyroscopes are used in aircraft instrumentation to show relative position to the earth. They help the pilot to know where straight and level is. A gyroscope has two perpendicular axes. One is perpendicular to the earth and the other is parallel. The axes of a gyroscope make a cross.

Our church has recently been studying the book of Romans. Last week I heard a message from chapter 7 by pastor Keith Knight. Chapter 7 is about struggling with sin. The conclusion is that there is deliverance from sin through Jesus Christ. At the climax of the message Keith turned to a cross on the stage and told us that when the struggle is there, he turns to the cross and reminds himself what Jesus did there to save us from sin. That is the key! That is what will keep us on the straight and narrow road.

I know that this vision is meant to show us that God has provided us with a holy gyroscope to help us follow Him. If we focus on what happened on the cross we will keep our spiritual bearings and not wander off to the left or right displaying an ugly image.

It’s interesting that such a mysterious vision should boil down to such a simple truth that is spelled out in the New Testament: that the way to overcome is to walk in the Spirit and keep your focus on Christ’s finished work on the cross. That is exactly how God revealed Himself in the old covenant. Jesus spoke in parables because He searches for seekers who will find revelation in ALL of scripture.

 

 

 

 

 

Give Generously

“if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously….”(Romans 12:8)

Generosity plays an important part in bringing glory to God. When describing the generosity of the Macedonian churches, Paul said, “They gave beyond their ability…. entirely on their own.” Our motivation for giving should always be out of a pure heart of love for the recipient and a desire for God to receive the glory, never for us to receive recognition. Jesus condemned hypocrites for giving to be noticed. Paul promised the Corinthians that their generosity would result in praise and thanksgiving to God.  Many would assert that the church cannot be faulted for not giving and it is true that Christians do give generously. This is a great testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; however, we are often guilty of failing to exercise good stewardship in our giving. I am specifically referring here to giving offerings and not to tithes.

We need to be discerning about the ministries that we give to. One of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit is discernment of spirits. This gift is not some natural or humanly developed gift or intuition. The gift of discernment involves a revelation from God of the motivating spirit associated with a person or behavior; whether it is holy or evil, demonic or divine, worldly, carnal or Christ-like. We should not be swayed by mass marketing appeals and impassioned sales pitches. We should be led by the Spirit of God in our giving. We in the western church especially need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to insure that our gifts really do benefit those who are needy.

The church needs to be the instrument of true charity to a needy world. There is a burgeoning movement in the church promoting “social justice.”  Unfortunately, many proponents of this movement are masquerading compassion to hide a socialist re-distribution agenda. To these leftists, charity must be dispensed by a behemoth government because they believe that people must be compelled to give through taxation. This is not a biblical approach to charity. Jesus never said, “give to Caesar in order to care for the poor.” No, He commands us to give directly to the poor. True compassion can only be dispensed by free people who give willingly. Each one, as he purposes in his heart, let him give; not of grief, or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Co 9:7)

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Prophesy in the Church Age

In 1 Corinthians 14:1 we are exhorted, “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophesy.” It is interesting that of all the gifts, this one is the least understood, accepted and practiced in the church today. Many Christians are bound by a cessationist view of certain spiritual gifts, including prophesy. This is a stronghold of demonic thinking in the church. This is exactly the type of stronghold that Paul is referring to when he talks about strongholds in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. He defines these strongholds as arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God.Those that teach that tongues and prophesy ceased at the end of the Apostolic age, based upon an erroneous interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8, are still “seeing through a glass darkly.” If the “perfect” has already come in the form of scripture, then what have we to look forward to? The purpose of 1Corintians chapters 12-14 is to provide divine guidance for the use of spiritual gifts in the church. One of the tests of divine inspiration is that the instruction is timeless. If the gifts were to cease in less than a century after Paul’s death, then why would the church bishops accept his writings as scripture hundreds of years after the Apostolic age ended?

What we need is relationship with the One who created us in His image. This relationship must include His manifest presence, which is more than words on a page. Books have been written to argue whether or not tongues and prophesy have ceased, so I won’t write another one. Suffice it to say that the world needs a prophetic witness to find God today.

The prophetic gift is probably one of the least understood of all the gifts. John Wimber taught that the gift of prophesy is available to all believers and is an anointing for the situation distinct from the office of prophet.  In the church today, one does not have to be a prophet to exercise the gift of prophesy and exercising the gift does not make one a prophet. Wayne Grudem, in his book The Gift of Prophesy In The New Testament And Today, gives as an example the prophetic ministry of Agabus to Paul in Acts, where his prophetic pronouncement was incorrect in a number of details and in his counsel of application. He refers to Agabus’ prophetic pronouncement in Acts 21:10-11, that the Jews would deliver Paul into the hands of the Gentiles. We see from Acts 2 1:27-35 that the details of his prediction were inaccurate. Grudem points out that by Old Testament standards, Agabus would have been condemned as a false prophet. Yet, Agabus is clearly recognized in more than one scripture reference as a prophet. Many, who believe in this gift, understand and practice it in an Old Testament fashion. The gift of prophesy in the New Testament has a distinct practice and function. Grudem points out that the Old Testament prophets who wrote scripture spoke the very words of God, as did the New Testament Apostles. He claims that New Testament prophesy has a different function and standard of practice. He teaches that in the church age, exercising of the gift of prophesy was never intended to be held up to a standard of infallibility.

Holding New Testament prophesy to a standard of inerrancy has resulted in much prophesy being judged as false and consequently discouraging the exercise of the gift. Because of its abuse, improper administration and misapplication, often resulting in serious damage, church leaders have squelched the practice of prophesy. Here again, this demonstrates a lack of faith in God manifested by a need to control His church.

Some, especially cessationists, have reinterpreted the gift of prophesy to mean only the speaking forth of God’s word in the form of canonized scripture. This wouldn’t seem like much of a spiritual gift, since anyone who is able to read could exercise it. On the contrary, the gift of prophesy involves telling forth God’s heart, His intentions and desires, etc., in the form of the “rhema” or living, active word of God appropriate for the time, person and place. In 1 Corinthians 14:25 Paul refers to an unbeliever coming under conviction when the secrets of his heart have been laid bare by a prophetic word. John Wimber explained the evangelistic exercise of this gift in his book Power Evangelism. He tells the story of receiving a revelation, in the form of what appeared like a tattoo on the forehead of a man he encountered on an airplane. God revealed to him that the man was involved in the sin of adultery. God used this revelation about a stranger to convict the man and John led him to Christ.

John Wesley wrote in his Journal: “Wed., Aug. 15, 1750- By reflecting on an odd book which I had read in this journey, The General Delusion of Christians with Regard to Prophecy , I was fully convinced of what I had once suspected: … That the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so withdrawn, was not only that faith and holiness were well-nigh lost, but that dry formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture.”

When Christians begin hearing God, receiving revelation and responding obediently to the Holy Spirit, we will arouse the world’s attention. Then, when we preach the gospel it will be with great power and credibility.

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The Transformation of the Mind

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.“ (Romans 12:2) Until recently, Christianity has been primarily a western world religion. Unfortunately, the world-view of the western world has been influenced predominantly by the scientific rationalism of the Greco-Roman and the European Enlightenment culture. This world-view de-emphasizes or completely denies the existence of the spiritual realm. In contrast, the world-view of first century Hebrews who wrote the scriptures was distinctly eastern, with an accompanying belief in the spiritual realm. The eastern mindset of early Jews and Christians did not require a scientific explanation for everything. Even though the Bible and Christian theology teach about angels, demons, spirits, miracles and a devil, most western Christians live as though they do not believe in such things.

But, this scripture teaches us that our ability to discern or know God’s will is related to the transformation of our mind. If we had a change in our world-view that allowed for spiritual phenomenon, including such things as supernatural empowerment as discussed in 1 Corinthians 12, we might be better able to determine God’s will. Without knowing God’s will how can we be obedient to Him? If we are not obedient to Him how can we fulfill the mission He has given us? Jesus claimed that He only did what the Father told Him to do.The success of His earthly ministry is attributable to His being in union with the Father and only doing what the Father was doing.

Once Christians begin to have the faith to believe in the spiritual realm and the supernatural, and we are in union with God, our witness will be accompanied by great power and our ministry will bear much fruit. Then unbelievers will turn to Christ in droves, because they will see that God is in our midst. Paul said that the Jews seek a sign.  That is a supernatural manifestation, and the Greek (ie. Westerner) seeks wisdom.This is in recognition of the divergent world- views. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.(1Corintians 2:4) Have you ever tried to convince a person that didn’t believe in God that God exists by rational explanation? When we transform our minds, begin to believe in the supernatural, cease conforming to the scientific rationalism of the world, begin discerning what God is doing and start being obedient to Him, many will be saved.

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Surviving the Passion

Christ's PassionTruly, truly, I say to you, He who believes on Me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater works than these he shall do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12)

I remember walking out of the theatre after seeing “The Passion of the Christ” and hearing one man say, “No man could survive that.” My thought was, “Was he saying, as many believe, that it didn’t happen?” Or did he mean that Jesus was not a man and that He survived by His supernatural power? The answers to those questions have important implications for all of us.
Surviving

To the first point, the idea that Christ’s passion did not happen contradicts the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts and classical Christian orthodoxy as revealed in the scriptures. It did happen. The veracity of the gospels has never been successfully challenged. In accord with standard literary tests of historical accuracy for ancient documents, the gospels are unparalleled both in terms of the volume of manuscript evidence and the proximity in time of the manuscripts to the actual events. Christ’s crucifixion is also verified by a number of extra biblical contemporary historians, most notably Josephus. Additionally, we must consider the cost paid by the gospel writers as evidence of the reliability of their work. Would all of them suffer torture and martyrdom for a lie, when all that they had to do was recant? Not a single one changed their account. We should reject the notion that Christ’s scourging and crucifixion did not happen. The scourging is recorded in Mt. 27:26-30. It was a fulfillment of what was prophesied and recorded by Isaiah in chapter 53 of the Old Testament book of Isaiah, written almost 700 years before Christ.

To believe that Jesus endured the cross simply because He is God is to believe a half truth. We must not forget that Jesus came as God in the flesh. Christian orthodoxy teaches that Jesus endured the limitations of a man. He was and is completely God and completely man. The Genesis prophecy of His birth was that Christ would be of the “seed of the woman.”(Gen. 3:15) John’s testimony was that Jesus is the “Word made flesh.”(John. 1:14) (Note that the original text is “the Word” not “a word” from the Greek “Logos”, meaning universal or unifying principle, being a reference to deity.) Jesus claimed that He only accomplished His miracles by the power of His Father, that is, not by His own power. (John 5:19) He referred to Himself as the Son of Man to emphasize his humanity. The book of Hebrews reminds us that He was “tempted as we are.” (He. 4:15)

We need to understand, theologically speaking, that in order to satisfying the sacrificial requirements of the second Adam (He. 2:14-18), Christ had to come as a man and lay aside the privileges of deity, as explained in Philippians 2:6-8: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” His humbling was illustrated in washing His disciple’s feet at the last supper. In forfeiting the privileges of deity, He refused temptations to use supernatural power for His own selfish needs. He rejected Satan’s invitation to use supernatural power to legitimize His identity. He rejected the mocker’s plea to remove Himself from the cross.

Jesus had no sin nature to battle with. But His ability to survive the passion as a man is attributed to the indwelling Spirit of God. Thus, the second option is really a half truth. He did overcome by supernatural power, but not His own. What is important to us is that Jesus promised that same supernatural power to those who would believe in Him. By cleansing the filthy temple of our mortal bodies by His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus made a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God. Other men did survive similar torture. History is full of miraculous accounts of Christian martyrs.  Jesus told His disciples they would drink of His cup of suffering.  (Mt. 20:23) All were martyred but one. Paul survived being stoned and had been given up for dead.  (Acts 14:19)

The Bible references the empowering, indwelling Holy Spirit as Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) Jesus promised His followers that, “you will do greater things.” (John. 14:12) Jesus did many miraculous things and he promised that we would do greater things! Those great things can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible promises that we can “do all things through Christ.” (Phil 4:13) That requires surrender to God’s will and death to self interest. Jesus said, “Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:3)

Kiss feet

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