Saturday, December 28, 2013

Grace: Reigning as Kings 2

"Grace to you and shalom [peace] from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua [Jesus] the Messiah.  Praised be ADONAI [God], Father of our Lord Yeshua [Jesus] the Messiah, who in the Messiah has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven. [4] In the Messiah he chose us in love before the creation of the universe to be holy and without defect in his presence. He determined in advance that through Yeshua [Jesus] the Messiah we would be his sons—in keeping with his pleasure and purpose - so that we would bring him praise commensurate with the glory of the grace he gave us through the Beloved One." - Ephesians 1:2-6 (Complete Jewish Bible)
Every spiritual blessing is ours, He has held nothing back. He is the good Father who knows how to give good gifts to His children. These promises are so amazing, it's hard to comprehend them.  In His good pleasure and purpose He called us to be sons and the purpose of sonship is to bring Him praise in equal measure of the glory of the grace He has given us through Jesus Christ.  In Part 1 we looked at John 1 where the glory of God was manifest in Christ by grace and truth. This same glory is ours by the same grace and truth.

These spiritual blessings will also manifest as material blessings, but the material blessings are not what we are after. When we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness all the material blessings will be added, but it is only the unbelievers who pursue material blessings.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?"  - Romans 8:28-32 (NKJV)
Paul adds to the picture of the grace-filled man in Romans 8 where he says that all things work together for our good. Nothing can happen to us unless the Father allows it and even then it's purpose is for our good.  It can be difficult to see the full outworking of these promises, but if we look at Jesus' life, nothing happened to Him that wasn't what He intended (and His intentions are one with the Father) which is why He made sure to tell us that He willingly laid down His life.  It was His choice.  Pontius Pilate thought Jesus' life was in his hands, but Jesus told him that he would have no power if it wasn't given to him from above.  Jesus could have called a legion of angels to deliver Him. Before His time had come He just slipped through the crowds that wanted to stone Him.  No one could force a situation upon Him that wasn't of God.

Jesus being the firstborn of all of us set the example for the grace-filled man. Nothing can happen to us that is outside of God's will.  All that we desire will be accomplished in accordance of the promise of singleness of heart and action which is by grace for the humble.

This is not to say that there won't be hardships, but I am of the opinion that most hardships are the result of our own pride in that we seldom submit to God.  He in His mercy allows circumstance to bring us closer to Him so that we can receive His grace and avoid most of the hardships. There are hardships and trials that must come even if we are covered with His grace, but they will scarcely be perceived as such. John and Peter left their first beating rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer for His name. There is also a suffering for His name that He allows which is for our own heavenly glory.

"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)  How could we not reign as kings when the Father of the King of kings has promised to freely give us all things.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Submit to God and watch His grace surpass all that you can dream or imagine. Through the grace He gives, give Him praise.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Grace: Reigning as Kings

In The Grace-Filled Man we covered singleness of heart and action, how whatever the grace-filled man or woman sets in his heart to do, he will accomplish because he submits his life to God. When the grace-filled man draws near to God he finds God drawing near to him. When the grace-filled man resists the devil, he finds the devil fleeing from him in seven directions. The grace-filled man acknowledges God in all his ways and God directs his paths (Proverbs 3:6).

Paul writes concerning the grace-filled man:
"For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Well then, as one man’s trespass [one man’s false step and falling away led] to condemnation for all men, so one Man’s act of righteousness [leads] to acquittal and right standing with God and life for all men. For just as by one man’s disobedience (failing to hear, heedlessness, and carelessness) the many were constituted sinners, so by one Man’s obedience the many will be constituted righteous (made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him)." - Romans 5:17-19 (AMP)
For those who receive the free gift of righteousness and an abundance of grace will reign as kings in this life even more certainly than death reigned through Adam's offense. Selah. It is impossible for those who have singleness of heart and action, God's favor, God's grace to not accomplish all that they desire, indeed God will give them the desires of their hearts, how could they not reign as kings in this life?

A king gives commands to fulfill the desires of his heart and accomplishes all he sets out to do. It is easy for the king because he utters the words and others fulfill it. In the same way, God's gift of grace grants us the desires of our hearts (but not for the purposes of fulfilling our lusts).
"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." - John 10:10 (NKJV)

The Greatest Example of Grace

Jesus was the perfect image of grace and truth, the perfect example of the grace-filled man. The prophet Zechariah prophesied of Him:
‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’” - Zechariah 4:7 (NKJV)
Jesus ministry even from early childhood was marked by grace. Everything He did was saturated and overflowing with the grace of God, just as was prophesied.
"And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." - Luke 2:40 (NKJV)
"So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph's son?" - Luke 4:22 (NKJV)
John the Apostle wrote these profound words describing Jesus:
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. [15] John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” [16] And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. [17] For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. [18] No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." - John 1:14 (NKJV)
The glory which could only originate from the Father was described as being full of grace and truth. Jesus is the perfect and complete manifestation of the Father's glory which is full of grace and truth. "And of His fullness we have all received." This grace and truth that is of the Father, the fullness of Christ is for us.

We were predestined for good works which the Father planned before the foundation of the world.  We cannot accomplish His plans without grace, we will continue to be frustrated.  God only gives His grace to the humble, but the prideful He opposes and much of what they do fails or at best must be accomplished by shear will and brute force. James' advice is to submit ourselves to God.  For the gracious man, Jesus commands are not burdensome and when he resists the devil, the devil flees, and when he draws near to God, he finds God drawing near to him.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Grace-filled Man

I will give them singleness of heart and singleness of purpose, so that they will fear me forever—this will be for their own good and for the good of their children after them. - Jeremiah 32:39 (CJB)

One of the many glorious promises we have in Christ is that He will give us singleness of heart and action, whatever we have in our hearts, that we will accomplish. The ultimate frustration is to desire to accomplish something and not being able to do it.  Now this word is true in many ways, for we know that the Law was powerless against sinful flesh in that it could not make us obey.  The apostle Paul wrote that while under the law the good he wanted to do he could not and the evil he did not want to do he found himself doing that was until He found Christ.  The promise enables us to obey which is why Jesus could say, "those who love Me obey My commands and My commands are not burdensome to him."
 
Singleness of heart and action not only gives us the power to obey, but also provides the ability to execute our God-given desires. This promise is a defining characteristic of the grace-filled man and woman.

The Prideful Man

The prideful man is the very antithesis of the grace-filled man. The scriptures attribute many qualities to the prideful man, but there are some key qualities which we will explore.
Indeed, because he transgresses by wine, He is a proud man, And he does not stay at home. Because he enlarges his desire as hell, and he is like death, and cannot be satisfied, He gathers to himself all nations and heaps up for himself all peoples. Will not all these take up a proverb against him, and a taunting riddle against him, and say, ‘Woe to him who increases What is not his—how long? And to him who loads himself with many pledges’? - Habakkuk 2:5 (NKJV)
The prideful man is never satisfied, he always wants more, his desires are ever expanding and is evidences by his disregard for others by accumulating what isn't his and over-extending himself with loans so that he can acquire more and more.
Hear and give ear: Do not be proud, For the LORD has spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God Before He causes darkness, And before your feet stumble On the dark mountains, And while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death and makes it dense darkness. - Jeremiah 13:15 (NKJV)
The prideful believer does not give glory to the Lord His God and is often confused and bewildered about the circumstances in which he finds himself.  Life appears to be difficult for him, because he keeps tripping over things which the wise and discerning can easily see. The prideful believer at least has this going for him that God disciplines those he loves and all the trouble he finds himself in eventually takes him to the point where he humbles himself and cries out to God to rescue him, and God who is gracious and merciful delivers him from all his troubles.

The prideful unbeliever has a different fate, he may actually appear successful because God has reserved judgment until the end of the age when He comes with His angels to harvest the tares and burn the wheat. Paul describes the life of the prideful unbeliever as:
[18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, [19] because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. [20] For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, [21] because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22] Professing to be wise, they became fools, [23] and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. [24] Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, [25] who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." - Romans 1:18-25 (NKJV)
The prideful unbeliever suppresses the truth because he prefers darkness rather than light, He doesn't glorify God and his thinking becomes futile.  He worships mankind rather than the creator and God hands him over to the lusts of his heart exposing him for who he is.

The Grace-filled Man

There is much to be said about the life of the grace-filled man and woman, but I want to focus on the promise of singleness of heart and action.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? [2] You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. [3] You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. [4] Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. [5] Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? [6] But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” [7] Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. [8] Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." - James 4:1-8
The most frightening piece of this passage is that a believer can find himself being opposed by God.  The very promise of singleness of heart and action is withheld and the believer finds himself frustrated, desiring things he cannot have which lead to fights and even wars. The believer put on pride, expanded his desires, cast aside complacency and found himself an enemy of a jealous God, a consuming fire.  God resists the proud.

God gives grace to the humble.  By submitting ourselves to God, seeking to know and obey His will, we find an abundance of grace and the promise of singleness of heart and action being made manifest.

James 4:7-8 provides the best picture of the grace-filled man.  When the grace-filled man resists the devil, he finds the devil fleeing from him.  When the grace-filled man starts to draw near to God he finds that God is drawing near to him.  Whatever he puts in his heart to do, God aides him with His abounding grace. The grace-filled man is always satisfied, seldom struggles with evil and finds it quite easy to draw near to God.

Continued in Part 2: Reigning as Kings

Monday, August 19, 2013

Perspectives Part I: Defeating the Defeatist

I think that we sometimes believe that God has left us on earth and that we need to muster all our strength together just to survive.  Since He doesn't give us anything we cannot handle, we're pushed to the very limits of what we can handle. We think that it's hard to be victorious, but because Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness we know He understands when we struggle through life's obstacles. This defeatist thinking is what keeps us in this place, unable to escape, unable to experience victory. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick" according to Proverbs 13:12.

This is not to say that it's not tough on earth, Jesus said, "If they persecuted Me, they will also, persecute you," (John 15:20) and Paul said the only reason He stayed on earth was to help save those who were on it. Paul described our stay on earth in this way, "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; [9] persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— [10] always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:8) Through all of this, the life of Jesus is manifested in our mortal bodies. When the Peter and John received their first whipping from the Pharisees they we're filled with joy because they we're worthy of suffering for Christ. If they who suffered so much could rejoice and overcome, we should have no excuse.

"for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom 14:17) God's kingdom is one of joy and His kingdom is within us.

Our Provider

I am of the opinion that one of the biggest surprises we will have when we sit down face-to-face with Jesus just how much he cared and was involved in the intricate details of our daily lives. He cares so much for us that He designed for us not to be worried about food, drink, clothing or any of our essentials.

Meditate on these words from Jesus and think about His heart for you:
"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? [26] “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? [27] “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? [28] “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; [29] “and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [30] “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? [31] “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ [32] “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. [33] “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (Mat 6:25-33) The only people on earth who need to worry about these details are the unbelievers and those of little faith.

The Father has deployed us here on earth for His good purpose and He has made provisions so that we are equipped for every good work, He has removed the obstacles so that we can focus on our eternal purpose.  I lead a small team of software developers and one of my primary objectives is to remove the impediments. I want to get rid of the little details that slow them down, eliminate the random day-to-day interruptions so that they can accomplish the purpose for which they were hired. God has done all this and more. He doesn't want us to focus on the distractions of this materialistic world, but on our mission. For this reason He says, "seek first them kingdom of God and His righteousness." God will bless us materialistically, but that's not our focus.

It is finished

Many years ago we experienced a major move of God in our church, which gave me a glimpse of what church should be like. Unity of the brethren, brotherly love, faith, righteousness, peace and joy seemed to overflow naturally. Things which are today a challenge were accomplished with no effort at all, in fact, it would have been more difficult to not have faith or brotherly love. Years after the revival had waned I found myself longing for another move of God, but to the extent that I had been deceived into thinking that without revival these truths and gifts would not be made manifest amongst us. While I still long for a revival because of how quickly and easily God's kingdom is established, I realize that I was 'stuck waiting'. Not having revival became for me an excuse for not seeing God's kingdom come. In this way I took some of what was my responsibility and shifted it to Him.  Truly, we need God to move, it is only through Him that His kingdom can come, but we have a responsibility. He has equipped us for every good work and we need to invest the resources He has given us rather than wait passively for God to move.

While I found myself 'stuck waiting,' the Holy Spirit whispered, "what more could Jesus have done?" I was dumbstruck. Here I was waiting for Jesus to do something so that I would bear fruit, when He has already done it all. In Jesus final moments on the cross, He declared, "it is finished," because it was. He had accomplished everything He was sent forth to do, everything so that we can be a holy nation and a royal priesthood, a people after God's own heart being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

"His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, [4] by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:3-4)
  • Everything you need for this life is provided.
  • Everything you need to be godly has been provided.
  • Everything you need to be like Him has been provided.
  • Everything you need to escape the sins and corruption of the world has been provided.

A Glimpse of His Heart

How does Jesus really feel about you personally?  It's easy to lose perspective when we're in the midst of our day-to-day activity and when we're focused on God's correction and how we so often fall short, we don't often take the time to see things from His perspective.  Reading through the Israelites forty year journey in the wilderness one can't help but wonder if they'll ever learn. It seems to be one rebuke after another. Yet, when the Holy Spirit came upon Balaam from across the Jordan river, he spoke these words:
“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor,
The utterance of the man whose eyes are opened,
[4] The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
[5] “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob!
Your dwellings, O Israel!
[6] Like valleys that stretch out,
Like gardens by the riverside,
Like aloes planted by the LORD,
Like cedars beside the waters."
-
Numbers 24:2
It was because of God's love that He disciplined them and it's because of His love that He disciplines us.  We need to take the time to see ourselves through His eyes, not in a prideful way, but in a way that brings Him praise and glory for the work He is doing through us individually and corporately.

Jesus said of His disciples, “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled." (John 17:12) He took the utmost of care to ensure none of the disciples were lost and in the same way, He takes the utmost of care to ensure we are not lost.

Just before Jesus was crucified He said,  “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31)  Jesus warned Peter of what was probably his greatest trial and Jesus himself prayed for Peter that his faith should not fail.  How would our perspective change if we knew that Jesus himself was praying for us?  Jesus is praying for us, He is making intercession for us, He is praying that our faith should not fail and when we overcome, not if, but when we overcome we have increased our faith and are able to strengthen others and perhaps even keep them from the same trials.  Jesus is always redeeming and each and every trial even those that are the result of our own sins can be redeemed so that those scars become our glorified even as Jesus' scars became glorified.

Notice that Jesus warned Peter before it happened.  Jesus often told the disciples what was about to happen so that they would not stumble, "These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble." (John 16:1)

Jesus wants us to know the events of the future to the extent that we can bear them because these will help us not to stumble. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit who would tell us things to come.  "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come." (John 16:13)

I know no better way to end this article other than with the words of Paul:
"that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, [17] that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— [19] to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19)

All scriptures are from the New King James bible.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Perspectives: Treacherous bow

Hosea 7:11 (NKJV)
Ephraim also is like a silly dove, without sense—
They call to Egypt,
They go to Assyria.

[12] Wherever they go, I will spread My net on them;
I will bring them down like birds of the air;
I will chastise them

According to what their congregation has heard.
[13] “Woe to them, for they have fled from Me!
Destruction to them,
Because they have transgressed against Me!
Though I redeemed them,
Yet they have spoken lies against Me.
[14] They did not cry out to Me with their heart
When they wailed upon their beds.

“They assemble together for grain and new wine,
They rebel against Me;
[15] Though I disciplined and strengthened their arms,
Yet they devise evil against Me;
[16] They return, but not to the Most High;
They are like a treacherous bow.

Their princes shall fall by the sword
For the cursings of their tongue.
This shall be their derision in the land of Egypt."

I think sometimes we just don't take the time to reflect on the depth and seriousness of what He has called us to.  We know that apart from Jesus, the vine we can do nothing and that performing miracles may still make us workers of lawlessness unless we as Jesus only do what we see the Father doing. When we do accomplish great things, our response should be that we are humble servants doing what our Master asked. Granted, He does want us to be friends so that we actually know what He is doing, but we can do His will without knowing what He's doing.

What God is doing is not just limited to us, God's plan is to fill the whole earth with His glory, that all the nations will be Jesus' inheritance. It's a grand plan of which we are part of.

When we go down to Egypt for supplies instead of coming to Him, when we have a plan B for our needs, we're the silly dove. The things that are going wrong in our life may not be Satan's assault, they may just be God's jealous love casting a net and bringing us down to return to Him. God disciplines those He loves, therefore repent from your sin so that He won't have to discipline you (Rev 3:19). We must come to a place where He is the only answer. God specifically told the Israelites that they would never return to Egypt where Egypt is symbolic of the world, it's governments, provisions and strength. When we were saved, we were told never to return to Egypt, never to depend on the world, never to rely on government, no we  lift up our eyes to the hills, but our help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121).

We must also consider that when we fail to do this we don't just affect ourselves and our own faith, but others and their faith and we become a treacherous bow in God's hand. When God picks us up to accomplish a great work that will bring Him glory, His bow fails Him just as He needed it the most.

I think part of the reason we fail Him is because we don't learn to distinguish the word of the Lord. We must become His sheep that know His voice. It's hard to risk everything when we're not sure if it was Him who spoke to us.  The ancients would make sure it was God who spoke to them like Gideon when he laid out the fleece. When they knew it was God they put everything they had into His word.

Note: I am writing this, not as one who has arrived at these things, but as one whom the Lord is rebuking and encouraging, and I pray that through His word to me you also may be encouraged to love and good works.