The Talents Revisited: Part 4

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” (:21).

God has provided for us His Spirit as a trust to be expended into our lives in ways that bring Him increase. The Spirit increases faith in us so we can please God in all things. He increases in us the fruit of character that rebirths the image of God in us. How else does this treasure of God produce increase to us that we can hand over to our returning Master-Christ?

Produce 3 – “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and
in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you” (2 Peter 1:2-11).

Look at these “qualities” that are ours and are expected to increase in us in the power of the Spirit. How do these “qualities” differ from and work with the fruit we bear to increase?

The thing I note here is fruit’s character is internal and personal to each individual member of Christ. It is what makes us who we are. These qualities are the equipping of God for us, enabling us to take the fruit we bear and use it as we give into the lives of others in ways that effect His Kingdom purpose in the earth.

These qualities equip us to know how to put the fruit to use in our dealings with others and in our external practice of our internal character. I have a Bible study on this passage that is in depth, but here let us take a brief look, breaking down what Peter is telling us in this passage.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” Grace and peace is multiplied to those who know Him in truth, granting to us by His grace this divine power found in His Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit is granted to us for the purpose of teaching us to know Him in all His fullness in greater depth of understanding, and to impart in us His character that makes us more and more like Him, from one degree of His glory to ever increasing glory.

“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” It is increasing faith granted by His Spirit that equips us to recognize His promises and have hope in them. As His promises are fulfilled in us in the taking on of His divine nature, we escape corruption and are empowered to walk out His nature in the earth, unhindered by its lusts. But this does not happen as if by magic.

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence…”  We are called to apply diligence to faith that supplies moral excellence. There is a gifting in our faith, yes; but the gift is dependent on our choice to believe. Remember, the Master gives to each according to his ability. As I am able to believe and practicing diligence in that ability, God supplies faith to help my belief, and that faith works to equip my moral excellence. This is important, so I say again, as I choose to believe God, He pours forth a measure of faith to help my belief. As I see faith fulfilled it becomes easier to choose to believe, and God increases the measure of faith to me, producing in me moral excellence.

“…and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”

Do you see the progression?  Choosing to believe what God says and act on it, the Spirit empowers me through faith to succeed in ways that bring moral excellence. As my moral excellence grows, so does my ability to know God and to understand His ways. That knowledge increases my self-control to persevere in godly character that reaches out to others in brotherly kindness that expresses God’s love to them.

Godly character produced in us in the power of the Spirit is the goal and we noted in our first session of this study that righteousness is the cornerstone of godly-character. Righteousness is this ability to know God and His ways, accept within self the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit that make us Christlike, then allow that Spirit to empower us to express that fruit in external ways that make for moral excellence. The righteous are the only ones who have access to the heavenly kingdom, and as we saw in a previous study on experiencing heaven on earth, righteousness is one of those things we will walk in now. But there is more about this moral excellence that reveals righteousness.

As I read the rest of Matthew 25, when the King of kings calls for the sheep to be separated from the goats, what are the sheep called? “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’” (verses 37-40).

It is dangerous when we fail to practice diligence in expressing godly character, giving self to attributes like fear, anger, bitterness, or any other thing that will hinder God’s work in us, destroying the increase of the Spirit. Someone who never has any increase needs to ask if they have truly received God’s gift of grace that imparts His Spirit to us.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. …’” (verse 34). Those of us who have increase, but also have areas of struggle where we fall short in our diligence to take every opportunity to minister to Jesus through our ministry to one another need to realize that with failure to take every opportunity we step out from under and miss His blessing. The blessing of God comes to our obedience, granting to us many crowns with which to honor our King when we are presented to Him in eternity.

“…For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you”

Thus God equips us to be His hand reaching out to others. But not only to reach out to one another. Note that in the fulfillment of seeing this produce in our lives, we take the first steps into His Kingdom. The internal produce of God pouring out equips us to begin experiencing Kingdom living even while in this life.

That leads us to our final point, produce 4. See you tomorrow.

The Talents Revisited: Part 3

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” (:21).

Thus far we have covered the fact that God gives us His Spirit when we receive His gift found in the sacrifice of Jesus; and we are called to let His Spirit increase in us. Yesterday we saw that God gives to us through His Spirit a measure of faith and expects it to grow like a mustard seed, producing a Kingdom harvest in the earth. Faith is vital to spiritual success in every area and endeavor of life, and we are told in Hebrews that without faith it is impossible to please Him (11:6).

Thus God makes provision for our success by leaving to our charge His Spirit of provision, equipping us in faith that pleases Him as we cooperate with the work of the Spirit in us. As we surrender ourselves to walk in the power of the Spirit through this faith, certain things will be harvested in our lives. Today we will cover the second produce in life as we continue our trek through to discover the ever growing work of God’s Spirit in us:

Produce 2 – “THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Scripture calls these character traits of God that are birthed in our lives “the fruit of the Spirit.” Note first that “fruit” is singular. The Spirit bears only one kind of fruit in our lives and that fruit pours forth all the flavors that make up the image of God. The fruit born is the rebirth of God’s image that was placed in mankind when creation took place.

As I look at each of these, I see heart issues that define those who possess them. These attributes produced within the child born of God through Christ is the restoration of the image of God in all His fullness so that we may BE like Him. Everyone who calls upon His name in Christ must possess this fruit and it must increase in them, making their very nature back into the godly character God intended for His image bearers.

Each of these characteristics listed here and others listed in passages like Colossians 3:12-17 express the many flavors found in the one fruit; again, that fruit being the very nature and character of God rebirthed in the heart of His created beings. Let’s take a minute to look more closely at some of these attributes that should be birthed out of the life of a true believer:

Love – the love spoken of here is the Agape love that defines God. God is love, and we are to be love as He is love. The scripture that keeps coming to my mind as I think about this attribute being our character is Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Abhor the evil and cling to the good, along with the thoughts interjected in the remainder of this chapter, is not a separate thought, but instead it describes how this love works. Let me give you an example from my life right now.

I have a family member in-law who we have loved and cared for as our own for nine years. We love him and have looked up to him as a man of God. Then we learned that in the time with us he committed sin that Jesus said is worthy of a forced swim in concrete boots. Now I hate the sin he did, the harm to those he hurt that was caused by his sin, and the break in family ties that is the result and consequence of his actions, but I still love him. Even as I write this, thinking of him, a love sores in me for him, grieved though it is by the sin he committed.

As I read the remainder of Romans 12, I see that my fruit of love will hate the evil done, while still having love and gratitude for any good in him. We have good memories with him and I know he seeks after God, though he fell in this area. As I look back on some things, I know he was grieved over his fall as I realize, “That is why he seemed grieved in that conversation.”

Because of love for God and all concerned, including him, I can choose to withhold my own revenge against him, letting God use the government of human law in dealing with him; letting God be the avenger. Because of love being in me by the power of God, when he writes me or calls, I can take a deep breath to overcome the grief and hurt, and yes, anger over his sin against another beloved, and practice loves grace in dealing with him; thus I see in the remainder of Romans 12, not disjointed thoughts for right conduct, but a picture of love in action.

Each attribute listed in our focal scripture revealing the produce of the Spirit in us can be further defined for us in Scripture, just as this walk of love is given greater defining character by this passage in Romans and others, like 1 Corinthians 13.

Joy is ours despite life’s difficulty because it is based in our relationship with our God (Nehemiah 8:10). Peace comes to us even in times like my family is in now because it is God’s gift to us in Christ in the power of the Spirit to experience peace beyond comprehension (John 14:27). Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control: all attributes that are common to man, but that are increased in us to work in our lives and situations with power beyond our normal ability as we tap into the Spirit, letting Him flow through us to effect the world around us.

Thus we see how this Spirit we are charged to be filled with and return to God with increase—for He is jealous for more and more of His Spirit in us—works to make us who we are in Christ (James 4:5). But there is more. See you tomorrow for produce 3.

Darlene Davis © 6/24/11

 

 

The Talents Revisited: Part 2

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master….’” And likewise did the slave with two talents (:19-23).

Yesterday we were informed in the beginning of Jesus’ account of this well-known parable that each was given that which they received “according to their ability.” What “ability” might this be for us, as we consider our character, empowered and equipped by God’s Spirit as our “talent,” charged to our responsibility of care?

I would suggest our ability is determined by our understanding—our comprehension—that brings us to belief. According to our ability to believe, we are given charge.

When I heard of the promise found in Jesus at the age of 10, I had childlike faith to believe in the degree of my ability to comprehend. As I grew in my ability to understand this awesome gift of Jesus, my grasp on the importance of this gift and the responsibility that comes with it grew stronger. With growing ability to believe, I began to use the “talent” God charged to my responsibility, expending it in ways that brought increase, making me ready for the returning Christ.

How do I know this increase in my life to be true? By the produce seen that points to our success as servants given charge of the wealth of our Master. What is it that is produced in me and in you who hold in trust the resource of our God? This week we will look at four ways our expenditure of God’s resource will produce a harvest worthy of His trust, beginning with:

Produce 1 – “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).

When we believe God about any facet of His work or desire to work in us, He grants to us a measure of faith to help us succeed. Faith, along with the Kingdom of God, is two things that Jesus described as being like a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6; Mark 4:30-31). The significance of the use of this analogy is seen in the words of Christ describing the mustard seed in Mark 4:31-32:

It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.”

The Spirit sows within us this seed of faith, which begins to grow in measure with our ability to believe. As we expend faith through belief, it grows stronger and bigger, producing a harvest of faith-actions. Each experience of faith fulfilled increases our ability to believe, and thus, our measure of faith. But there is an arch enemy of faith we must be alert to. What is it?  I believe we see that enemy of faith in the account of the third servant of our parable.

“And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours’” (:24-25).

Because of fear, this one the Master later calls worthless and lazy hides the “talent” of His master in the ground where dead things belong. He never does anything with or for it that would cause growth and a harvest. Any growth that might come to one dictated more by fear than faith is then smothered out by the weeds of life.

One cannot walk forward to productive living while being dictated by fear and faith at the same time. Either fear will win, bringing stagnation in growth, or faith will win. And faith must win for increase to come that makes us good stewards of God’s supply. Faith empowered by the Spirit must prevail.

Consider then the truth that God gives supply to us for the purpose of producing a harvest. He expects increase. That being true, did this worthless slave return to his Master all that was His?

Over and over in Scripture we see the provision of God in the power of the Spirit that is given to those who profess to believe. It is expected that our understanding of these truths will cause a work that will grow the provision of Spirit into a harvest, one beyond our natural ability, thus glorifying God and increasing His Kingdom. When we fail to show this increase, we rob God of the full return.

Now, with faith in place and growing, let us continue to the next aspect of the Spirit’s produce. See you tomorrow.

 

Darlene Davis © 6/24/11

The Talents Revisited: Part 1

Read Matthew 25:14-30

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money” (:14-18).

Who is the master Jesus is alluding to in this passage? I believe that He is talking about Himself. Knowing that He was about to leave us for a time, He is letting us know that He is leaving, but also that He will return one day. While He is away, He is leaving us with something valuable, and we are responsible to increase it so we return greater value to Him when the account is due. The question then becomes, “What is this valuable commodity?”

This passage is often used to speak on our responsibility to be accountable to God for the use of our possessions and finances, and that is a good application. But let’s look at it from a heavenly standpoint? What is the currency of heaven?

It is not gold. God uses gold in the place of asphalt and bricking materials. It is not jewels. They too are imbedded into walls for decoration and possibly even bricking. (Revelation 21)

What is the currency of Heaven? Could it be character?

In passages that give us a glimpse into the heavenly streets we are told that we will not use money to purchase our need. It tells us that what we need to obtain entry to the Kingdom and anything of Heaven’s supply is righteousness. It is the righteous who are allowed to walk the streets, eat of the fruit of the tree of life, and drink the cool water from the spring of Living Waters. Righteousness is the cornerstone of godly character.

With this thought, the question becomes, “How did Jesus leave us with this currency and how do we bring increase to it?” May I suggest the “talent” the Lord left us to increase in our lives and in the earth is the produce of the Spirit of God.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. …If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you” (John 14:1-18) .

Jesus promises to give us His Spirit, and Ephesians 5:18 makes it clear that we are responsible then to be filled with the Spirit. How do we increase the amount of filling we have of this Spirit of God? By the expenditure of the power that Spirit supplies for godly character and righteousness. How do we spend that power? Through allowing the Spirit to do His work and have His will in and through our lives. So what does that look like so we may know we are succeeding in being good stewards of this provision of God? And what does it mean when it says that He gave talents to them “according to their ability”? Hum? See you tomorrow. 🙂

Bride Awaiting

Read Matthew 25:1-13

“…The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’…” (Matthew 25:8-9).

Have you ever tried to minister to someone who is constantly struggling in their faith; constantly battling anger, resentment, fear, or a sundry of other fruits of doubt, disbelief and failure to trust God to be God? It is difficult, isn’t it?

As I read this passage, thought of several situations cross my mind, particularly those like one friend of the past. When she moved to our area, she seemed strong in faith, loved to sing for God’s glory and did so professionally; she enjoyed encouraging the faith of others. This woman was injured some time before moving to our area, being thrown from a horse and suffering a head injury that nearly killed her. As a result of her injury, she suffered from a seizure disorder that required medication to keep it under control. She so longed to be fully healed and never to have to take those meds again, but God continued to hold back that healing.

Instead of being grateful for the meds that brought a functional healing to her, as time went by, this friend gave way to anger and bitterness toward God for not moving in the way she thought He should. Many of us tried to encourage her faith to trust God’s way, but one by one, each fell away from close relationship with her, feeling themselves drained by her bitter lashings. That friend finally found herself in a mental institute, where, as far as is known, she remains today.

What was the problem that led to her demise? I believe this passage in Matthew 25 reveals some truths that show how any one of us can fall away from God, lose close relationships, and end in bitter straights.

First, like the foolish brides in our passage, my friend had many friends, and she leaned heavily on them, calling on them for her encouragement, looking to them to fill her cup with oil. What is this oil? Well, it could be related to many things in life, but as I read our focal passage I see the oil of God’s Spirit flowing too and through us to others. It is good to encourage one another. Scripture even teaches us that we all have a load we must bear personally, but there are times when the load becomes a burden and we need help with it (Galatians 6:1-5).

There is nothing wrong with sharing encouragement with one another, but each has a responsibility before God to seek Him first and get our Oil of encouragement and enlightenment from Him. When we constantly look to others for our source of strength, we put them in the place of God, and He will not allow that to succeed. Plus in constantly relying on others around us, we empty them of their supply while seldom or never flowing anything back their way. Even though they may try, I don’t know about you, but it is hard for me to receive words of encouragement from a person who seems never to practice the “beliefs” they speak. So God causes such a person’s friends to realize that they are sapping their supply and putting them in danger of running short of what they need for ministry opportunities He has for them. Thus He leads them to fall away from the relationship so that struggling person has to run to God or sink in the mire of doubt and disbelief.

Second, I see in this Matthew passage that, yes, we each have a responsibility before God to be sure we go to the right source for our provision of Oil, and we also each have a God given right to recognize when that supply will be misused and wasted, leaving us in need. Note that the Master did not condemn the virgins for failure to share when they realized it would cause them to fall short of being themselves ready for the Bridegroom. He condemned those who failed to seek His supply for themselves so as to be ready when He arrived, saying, “I never knew you”. Why did He never know them? They did not give themselves fully to a growing, vital relationship with Him.

Here is the question: Which am “I”? Am I one who is always looking to others for that push to do what is right and have faith? Am I one who is constantly drained and sapped of strength because I do not know how and when to say “No”? Or am I one who seeks the Lord first for my supply—which He sometimes sends my way through others who have wisdom to discern how and where to use their supply?

God desires that we know Him personally, being supplied the Oil of the Spirit by Him through that relationship. He will let no other have His rightful place in our lives; He will remove them if they try or if we rob Him of His place in our lives by seeking them first. But as we seek Him for ourselves, He is faithful to give us all we need, pouring His light through us, producing fruit in our lives, creating for Himself a bride made ready as she awaits the Bridegroom.

 

Walking the Street of Gold on Earth

“I did not see a sanctuary in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Revelation 21:22-24, HCSB).

As we saw a mission team off from church a couple of weeks ago, my pastor read most of Revelation 21 from his Holman Christian Standard version of scripture and the above passage within that reading caught my attention. Numerous articles ago God led me to write about how He is “The Secret Place” in which we can find refuge from the fearsome things of this life. As we draw near to Him, trusting Him to be our sanctuary and our protection, we find in Him the secret place, the sanctuary that gives us rest from the difficulties this life holds. And as we learn to live in that place of sanctuary, we can walk without ungodly fear in this life.

As my pastor read the above, I realized that this passage in Revelation combined with the Psalm 91:1-2, AMP, passage gives us a picture, telling us
that when we learn to dwell in The Secret Place of God, we experience the Sanctuary of heaven on earth. That excited me, as there are numerous such passages that tell us how to experience heaven on earth: a spiritual practice that keeps us living in that place even now, that place where we will dwell for all eternity. Thus we have this first point on learning to dwell in The Secret Place of God’s Presence, where we are safe in the Sanctuary of the Heavenly Kingdom, protected from fear. So what are the other passages that came to mind with this revelation?

“The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

This passage tells us that we experience God’s kingdom on earth as we walk in righteousness. Righteousness begins as a heart issue, for from the heart flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). Paul taught that he could eat food sacrificed to idols because he knows there is only one true God and he eats with gratitude to that One God for the food received as from Him; but he chose to not eat it for the sake of those who did not understand this truth (1 Corinthians 8).

Over and over in Scripture God reveals through His inspired word that it is the circumcision of the fleshly wisdom of our heart that leads to true righteousness. For the Christian, we understand that this circumcision of heart comes through recognizing the sacrifice of Christ as needful for salvation and by following His example which reveals to us the true righteousness of God. James tells us that this righteous wisdom is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:13-18). When we learn to walk in righteousness on earth, we experience what we will find on the golden street of the New Jerusalem where no unrighteousness is allowed entrance (Revelation 21:27).

Note that peace comes to us as we practice this righteous wisdom. Learning to walk in peace as promised to us by Christ in John 14:27, we experience the peace of the eternal kingdom. What does that promise say?

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Jesus brings to us a peace that comes from knowing the righteous fruit He bears into our lives, equipping us to know the peace that comes from God to those who practice His righteousness. There is no need of fear when our fear is only in God, the righteous fear that leads to choosing His right and good over that of the wisdom of the flesh, the world, and demons.

With His peace, we also find our Joy in the Lord, as in the power of His spirit we walk in righteousness to find His peace. This joy in the Lord, Nehemiah tells us, provides for us the strength we need to persevere (8:10). Therefore righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit of God bring a slice of the heavenly to our daily lives. Through this practice in the earth, we bring the glory of God found within that life into the eternal kingdom. It is worthy of noting that in the Psalm 91:1-2 passage provided for you below, that dwelling in God, in His presence—His sanctuary, requires this practice of righteousness, peace and joy if we are to succeed at remaining in His sanctuary. These practices are required for us to dwell in Him. But there is more we can learn about Kingdom living.

“For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus—the leaning of your ENTIRE HUMAN PERSONALITY on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness—and of the love which you have and show for all the saints—God’s consecrated ones, because of the hope of experiencing what is laid up, reserved and waiting for you in heaven.” (Colossians 1:4-5a, AB)

Note this Amplified version passage tells us of some things we do “because of the hope of experiencing what is laid up, reserved and waiting for us in heaven.” We experience it while on earth, with the promise and knowledge that these things we experience in part here will be our existence in heaven. What are these things?

First is the fact that by faith, when we lean our entire human personality entirely on Christ with absolute trust and confidence that by His power and wisdom and goodness, we can be all God desires and designed in us, we know in part our heavenly existence. Can you fathom that? To live with peace that as we trust God’s lead and provision through Christ for our very personality, we can rest ourselves in Him. No more struggling with dislike of self or with insecurity as we trust God through Christ’s provision to make us all He desires we be, even in the personality we exhibit. Without this work of God in our personality, we will not have what is needed to lean that personality fully on Him in faith. It is a necessary work of faith to equip us with personality that honors and trusts in God fully. When we struggle to be who we are with faith in God, we fail because we do not trust Him to work through our personality in the power of the Spirit.

Next we see that we experience heaven as we practice God’s kind of agape love toward others; and by trusting that, as Christian brothers and sisters, God gives those around us His agape love toward us. A walk of faith, trusting God’s love for us, entrusting our very personalities to Him, and loving and being loved in God’s way opens the gates of heaven to our today experience. What joy, to realize a piece of heaven on earth as we practice these things for life more abundant and full. It brings new meaning as we look at Psalm 91:1-2 in the Amplified:

“HE WHO dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!”

As we learn to practice His Secret Place, Sanctuary living day by day, we become stable and fixed in our personality, faith, love, righteousness, peace and joy, walking on streets of gold in hearts of purity toward God and each other.

 

 

 

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 4

“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matthew 13:18-23).

Many years ago, after the death of his mother, my husband’s grief came out in ways that made marriage difficult at best. In fact, if it was not for God, I wonder if we would have made it through those days. What happened to change my Sweetie in that time? Not much really, his change came after the fact; but as I sought God for strength to persevere, a lot happened to change me.

The first thing God did was grab my attention through Isaiah 43:25. Here is where God taught me the truths shared with you in my Ponderings posted in April, titled “Forgiving God’s Way: Parts 1 & specifically 2” (found under archives in April 2011). Learning that forgiving every perceived insult “for my own sake” would deliver me from anger and bitterness, and leaving my husband to God for Him to deal with would free me to love him unconditionally and incorruptibly made all the difference in my ability to bear the fruit of perseverance and forbearance while God returned my husband to me.

Another thing God led me to in that season was 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. Every time something was done to bring hurt and heartache, God would lead me in several different versions to look at that passage and find the attribute of love that was needed to be practiced in that situation. As I did so, I learned love and grew stronger in bearing that fruit out in my life.

Another passage that spoke clearly to me was Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” As I read that verse one day, God spoke to my heart to find something good in my husband each day and to dwell on that. As I obeyed that instruction, my attitude toward him changed, and that change came out to him through improved words and deeds toward him.

Early in my practice of dwelling on the better things, God inspired me to purchase a two-year pocket calendar. He instructed me that for one year I was to write down something good about my husband that I saw in each day. Thus I did at the end of every day. I asked, “So why a two-year one? Why not just one year?” To which I heard in my Spirit, “You will see.”

So I purchased that two year—plus a few months—calendar and began my project just before thanksgiving. Everyday I would think of something I noticed in that day. Some days were easy. Others, not so. Some days all I could think of was something like, “I love the color of his brown eyes.” At the end of one year, as I read through that calendar, I was amazed to find that not one day was exactly like another. I had 365 reasons listed that I found good about my man. But the greatest thing I found is that my attitude toward him was 180 degrees different, my love for him stronger than ever, and I learned true grace toward others that sets them free to be and me free to rest in being my best with them.

Then God told my heart, “Now, I want you to wrap it and give it to Johnny for Christmas.” I did so, little knowing what God had up His proverbial sleeve. My sweetheart carried that calendar in his lunch box for five years, and has it put up in safekeeping still today. During those years of carrying it, he read it often, and he took it to heart. The good things I saw in him, he wanted to do even better at, so God used that calendar to inspire good in my husband that is still producing its crop today.

Scripture working to direct our lives and bearing its fruit within is only one side of the coin. On the flip side, I once went through a season of receiving great words of truth, instruction for living, and encouragement for the practice of faith, but God was not having me write about it, I felt longing to speak it. I longed to share the things God was giving me, knowing that as they benefited me, they could help others as well. Called of God to go on mission to Ukraine, as I was packing, the Spirit nudged me to grab my notes on those lessons. When on mission like the ones I go on, it is sometimes difficult to get a good quiet time in, so I thought God was sending those for me to use for meditation while there.

In these trips, we go to work with churches of the area. The Project leader came to me and said, “Darlene, we are short people. Do you mind going to a church by yourself?” Now I told God I trusted Him to put me where He needed me and make me able, and God reminded me of that as I opened my mouth in response. “Sure.” The church I was posted to was in a small town outside of the main area being worked and the church had hoped for a preacher. They got me.

That first Sunday morning service, the pastors all formed a circle as we prepared and began to talk seriously with my interpreter. Directly she asked me, “Darlene, can you preach.” Good little Baptist woman that I am, I said, “If you mean, can I share an encouraging word from scripture, yes” (My pentecostal friends giggle at that). I shared those words of encouragement through nine sessions that week, two Sunday mornings and every night between; and God had me ready with outlines drawn up. That church did not bring into the services large numbers of those who did not know Christ. They kept the services for the people of the church and were hungry for words of encouragement. God used His word to bear fruit of encouragement in the lives of the church there.

During each day throughout my time there they took me to many who did not know Christ, where I shared with individuals and groups in their homes. Fifty-seven people turned their lives over to Christ that trip through another teaching God gave me for use in sharing the cross of Christ with them.

Am I sharing all this to brag on me? No. But all of this testimonial word gives a clear picture of all the ways God’s word bears fruit: in us personally as we walk out His instruction with faith to believe, in other Christians as we share His word as encouragement, and in those who need deliverance  as we share the message of Christ.

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Only as we study God’s word with open heart to receive it, understand it, believe it, trust it, live it—in good times and in bad, can we see it bear fruit into and through our lives. And when we do so faithfully, we can know beyond doubt that it will produce a harvest of true and eternal treasure in this life and the next. So go forth and prosper, my friend. I am praying for your understanding to grow strong in the Lord.

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 3

 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. …”(Read Matthew 13:18-23 and Exodus 3).

Take a look at this picture, because I believe this shows what happens when we let the worries of the world and deceitfulness of wealth or sin into our lives.

Do you see the conversation of God with Moses here? What about conversations you have with God—or self as if to God (Luke 18:9-14 – note who the Pharisee is said to be praying to)?

Note the large, flattened stone under all the boulders of doubt and fear. I may have it so covered up that you can’t see it, but pressure with heat on a stone, the wear and tear of good soil being washed away, makes for these large, flat boulders that absolutely cover the good soil of the earth—or the heart, hindering the good seed from reaching the soil where it can sprout forth to grow. This is what we do to ourselves when we choose fear over faith, doubt over believing God; when we look to self without considering who our God is and the might He has within Himself to work His will in our lives.

Note the little eyes, peering out from its hiding place. This was me for two years as Complicated Grief Disorder took hold, capturing my focus in all the deceptive thoughts, attitudes, and disbelief that took hold on me. Is it you? Is this the picture of your life, or of portions of your life?

Also take note in our focal verse that this person is able to hear the promise and instruction of the Lord. They know it is from God. They know Him, His power. They are His chosen instrument. But their focus, like Moses, is on their own ability without consideration of God’s equipping. Their fear and anxiety see the limited power of the forces in life and they pull away in fear without considering with belief the almighty and unlimited power available through the God above all. Thus, because of failure to focus with faith on God and His promises to those who believe, bedrocks of doubt form becoming obstacles that hinder God’s good seed from taking root: producing nothing.

For years now God has given me focal verses to meditate upon for long periods of time, sometimes for years, meditating upon them at least weekly until I fully comprehend and receive the truths there as my own bedrock of belief. One such scripture I am focused on this year, being reminded of it often, bears testimony of Abraham as spoken of him by Paul in Romans 4:19-22:

“Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.”

Note that Abraham recognized his andSarah’s own weaknesses and the seeming impossibility of it all. But what did he set his heart to believe? The promise of God, who is fully able to accomplish in us all He proclaims. He believed God would be God in his life.

The difference between thoughts of concern that lead to bedrocks of doubt and that of recognizing what is while waiting with hope for what is to come is the focus of our belief. Where do we rest our faith? Are we like the Pharisee who looks to self so much so that his prayers are seen by God as being self-focused, never touching the heart of God? Whether through self-righteousness or self-preoccupation, this is a danger we must realize. Or are we like Abraham and the Tax Collector, realizing our own limits and flaws, but knowing that with God, nothing shall be impossible?

And what about fear: where should fear be? What was it that saved Joseph, and even Jesus from the deceitfulness of sins lure? When tempted by Potipher’s wife, what fear saved Joseph? “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

And Jesus’ temptation? “Then the devil took (Jesus) into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, “HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU”; and “ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.”’ Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST”’” (Matthew 4:5-7).

Do we fear God enough to trust Him? I don’t know about you, but I would rather believe for a miracle from my Miracle Making God of all power and live with hope, believing, producing the fruit of faith, than spend one more wasted day in the grip of ungodly fear, worry and deception.

“NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses]. …And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6, AB and NASB).

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 2

“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. …” (ReadMatthew 13:18-23, and chapter 21).

“Hosanna!” the people cried out in Matthew 21. “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”

The people believed that Jesus was there to save them. But, as we know, when Jesus was led to the cross instead to the throne, the people quickly fell away. Why? What happened to their faith?

“Expectation” happened to their faith. They had their understanding of what Messiah would do—He would come in to save the people as many before had done, gathering the force of God’s chosen nation to lead them to break the yoke of those who had authority over them. But it did not happen the way they thought it would–not yet anyway, so their faith, hindered by the hard, rocky, under-soil of expectation, died in the heat or reality.

Is Jesus the Messiah Israel watches for? I believe so. But before coming to fulfill the promise to Israel of deliverance that will set Him on a throne, He first provided a saving grace, a final sacrifice for sin that reaches not only those of Israel who will receive and believe it, but out to an entire world. One day the Messiah we both await will arrive in the body of this resurrected Man-God, Jesus, riding on a white horse, all the forces of heaven at His beck and call, to defeat not only the oppressive force of this life, but the eternal enemy of God that powers that oppression. Then He will take His throne in the earth, just as it is in heaven now, and we will be one together in Christ forever.

Meantime, the little faith we have forms a top soil in which hope from the seed of promise sprouts, but is often hindered from taking full root and producing good fruit by the error of expectation unfulfilled in the way we anticipate.

Jesus, in Matthew 21:43, told the Pharisees of their day – and ours: Pharisee representing a spirit of hypocrisy in our day, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” That’s us, folks, the one who has faith in our day that He is who He says He is, and though we do not see it yet, we know the promise of eternity is coming to fruition in due season and in God’s way—not mans. Thus through faith we allow that hope to work in our lives in ways that produce a crop that honors God, making His Promise known to all who see.

Earlier in this same chapter of scripture Jesus cursed a fig tree for failing to produce fruit, proclaiming that it would never do so again. Then He explained to the disciples questioning the act that failure to produce fruit is a sign of lack of faith to believe.

Faith is the producer of good soil in the heart of man. The greater our faith to believe God and trust His way of doing over our desire and expectation, the deeper the soil of our heart will be; ready to receive the seed of His word and produce a crop of good fruit into the earth.

What is this fruit of the Kingdom?

We see numerous passages that give us instruction for recognizing the fruit God is looking for in us. Galatians 5 tells us of the fruit that God’s Spirit produces in us. Add Colossians 3 to that for still more personal fruit that will be found in the life of a believer with soil deep enough to sustain the seed. Personal growth in our ability to love as God loves, know the internal peace that overshadows the sorrow of life, be faithful, and the state of humility that equips us to draw nearer to God in our personal knowledge of Him are just a few of the flavors found in the fruit born out of the life of one who believes by faith.

Paul, talking to the people in Romans, 14, encouraging them to take care to accept people in the faith they have and not judge those of little faith harshly says something in verse 17 that gives us a picture of the fruit of the Kingdom in which we are to major. “…the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

The faith we are to have in God should produce in the individual the building of their character that increases His image in them and that reveals to all the depth of faith they hold. These spoken of in this second point made by Jesus in this Parable of the Sower have a little faith, enough to believe until things do not go as they hoped, then they fall away out of discouragement, never growing deeper in faith to trust God and His way, nor producing any significant fruit.

Jesus, in John 12:24, says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” If we are to have deep faith, we must let our expectations of the way we think things ought to be die under the sword of faith to believe that God holds the better plan in His hand; and He will do things in the way that will produce in and through us the greater fruit.

God has many times spoken promise to my heart in specific situations, many of which I have seen come to pass to the glory of His name; but seldom in the way I expected. Trusting and seeing the proof of it fulfilled has deepened my soil of faith, equipping me to believe the seeming impossible with greater patience and perseverance. One such time was through a very real dream that grabbed me and stayed with me. Going through a divorce, one babe on my hip, the other in the oven, crying out to God in fear as I fell fitfully into a restful sleep, I dreamed of a God-given husband who loved me and my children. One year after marrying the man I have been with for almost 36 years now, that dream was suddenly a moment in time as I watched it come to pass, like a memory relived.

I will put my long story up here one day, telling my dream come true, but suffice to say, God keeps His good word to us. There are other clear words of promise God has given that I still wait to see, but He keeps reminding me of His promise, and experience of His move in other areas brings faith to believe as I wait for these promises to be seen. Meanwhile faith digs deep roots of hope in me.

So go forth, dear friend, with faith and hope to believe in and trust God, even when it is unpopular and others think you foolish to do so. The thing about the fig tree is that it was not the season for figs. To expect fruit was seen by the disciples as impossible and unreasonable. Jesus wants us to know that God can do the impossible, even when it seems unreasonable, in ways we cannot even imagine. But we must choose to trust His promises for He requires our faith.

“For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment” (Luke1:37, AMP).

Hear Then the Parable of the Sower – Part 1

“He said to them, Therefore every teacher and interpreter of the Sacred Writings who has been instructed about and trained for the kingdom of heaven and has become a disciple is like a householder who brings forth out of his storehouse treasure that is new and [treasure that is] old [the fresh as well as the familiar]” (Matthew 13:52, AB).

Read Matthew 13:18-23

The passage we will cover this week is familiar to us, that precious parable of the sower, explained and made clear by Jesus. I love the word of God. It is vital to our ability to know Him, and I believe the study of God’s word for oneself is vital.

To fail to study God’s word for self is like God having a wife that never talks to Him herself or makes time for Him; nor does she respect Him enough to listen and take heed to His words. She is always too busy, talks to Him through others, never taking time to grow the relationship.

Always gaining our understanding of God’s word from others is like being on the outside of the house, looking in. We cannot develop the depth of relationship God desires when we do not approach Him in ways that allow Him to make Himself known to us. And I can tell you from experience, there is nothing more exciting than to hear from God, receiving understanding of Him and His ways for oneself. Even truths we have heard over and over through others takes on new meaning when received for ourselves from personal time with Him. But what is needed for one to begin on this path of personal relationship with God, knowing the power of the Teacher Spirit?

“Hear then the parable of the sower. …”

There are several parables where Jesus teaches us about God’s word, calling it seed that is sown into our lives. This parable in 13:18-23 instructs us on several things that are necessary for us to receive and bear the fruit of that seed.

 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. …”

The first point  Jesus  makes in His training of what is needful for us to bear the fruit of the seed of God’s word is “understanding.” When we hear God’s word without understanding it, the enemy of God will snatch it from us, hindering our ability to consider what we heard and receive understanding. So here is what I have learned through the years about how to grow in understanding.

One: Jesus teaches that those who are His will hear and know His voice, and that He has given them His Spirit who will teach them (John 10:1-5, 11-16 and 14:26). The first thing necessary to understanding is believing God and taking Him at this word of promise. I pray constantly to know and trust God’s voice and to recognize the stranger so as to not be led astray by becoming so familiar with a voice not of God that I am deceived. I pray to have a teachable spirit that is alert to the Spirit of God and open to the truths He leads me to. Then I choose to trust God.

Are there ever times when I miss the mark? Sure. We are human and can be deceived, but more often than not, I hear truly, and when I don’t, God is quick to correct me; He does not leave us as orphans, but instructs us as children. So choose to believe that God will make His voice clear and will increase the work of the Teacher-Spirit in you, and press forward to read His word with faith.

Two: God instructs us to meditate upon His word for a reason, so when a passage jumps out to me as being important, I stop and seek the Lord for understanding. It does not matter how many chapters and books I read a day if I never comprehend and receive instruction.

Sometimes I read numerous chapters before something speaks to me personally. sometimes I get through only a few verses before the Spirit draws my attention to His instruction. Sometimes He will speak clearly to my heart of understanding without research. Sometimes I am called to reference the passage and look at related scriptures that bring understanding. And sometimes I have to get out a dictionary to define a word or a commentary to instruct my heart. But always God will lead me to understand not only His truths, but how they apply to my current life situations.

Three: With or without full understanding, when a passage stands out as important for me to consider, God will often inspire me to put it on paper where I can carry it with me. I pull it out often throughout the day, putting it to memory, meditating on it, continuing to seek understanding. It is awesome to see how God uses that word and brings me to greater depth of the knowledge of Him through His teaching and instructing me. Our relationship is more real and personal because of His training me in how to understand His word for myself.

Does that mean I never receive instruction from others who have an understanding? Of course not. But I find that often what happens is God instructs me, then confirms and broadens that understanding by way of the teaching of His Spirit through others.

The first point is that the Father sows the seed of the word to us, and we must deliberately do the things that make that word productive. To be fertile soil for God’s Word of truth we must first choose to trust His word of promise: believe that He can and will speak to “me” personally because He desire a relationship with “me” that is vital and growing; and know that His Spirit is with “me” to help me understand if I will only listen with faith to hear. Then we must realize that when He speaks to us, it is vital that we stop to seek understanding, for without understanding, the word will be snatched from us, prevented by God’s enemy from forming any good root into our lives, and thus from bearing any good fruit that would work God’s purpose for having given it to us.

An example comes to mind that, though this is already longer than intended, I feel led to share for greater emphasis of the need to understand.

When I was a child, my younger sister and I went to a church picnic at the park with my aunt. As we ran off to play, my aunt hollered to get my attention. Turning with “what?” intending to listen, she hollered back her instruction. I did not understand a word she said–park noise, road noise and wind hindering, and instead of getting closer to her to hear her words with understanding, in childish exuberance I yelled “OK” as if I heard. Grabbing the hand of my sister we were off and running.

Where did we go first? In this park was a huge slide, some 20 feet tall. We ran headlong to that slide. Long story short, without boring you with the details and blaming someone else with my ignorance, I watched from the top of that slide as my little sis fell over the side, landing face first on a large stone below. Now my sister lived, thank God; only having a slight concussion, she was sent home on bed rest. Only then, after the harm was done, did I hear with understanding as my aunt yelled, “I told you to stay off that slide!”

When we fail to stop and listen to God’s Spirit instructing us until we have understanding, we risk running headlong into trouble. But when we deliberate practice “stop, look, and listen” until we have understanding, we grow strong in our relationship with Him and learn to abide there.

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).

Walking in the Wind

“Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’  When they got into the boat, the wind stopped” (Matthew14:28-32, NASB).

People who have read my materials long know that I have struggled the past two or three years with almost agoraphobic social anxiety because of Complicated Grief Disorder (CGD – a type of PTSD) brought on by some things going on in life right now. It makes doing things I normally love doing very difficult if it requires me to get out of the house and move among others. There have been times when I have lost the battle: fully dressing for an occasion, grabbing my purse only to find myself unable to put my foot out the door. Since God revealed the problem with which I struggle, I am slowly doing what is needful to heal; which is to deny the fear and press forward in faith to do the things I fear. Every victory makes the next occasion easier to face, though there are times of regress, like today.

Often times a call will come to “go and do” that I know is God’s will for me. He speaks to my heart that I need to be there to participate with family and friends or fellow believers. Looking with faith to Jesus in the instant of that call, I commit myself to the task. That faith to trust in God who calls us is the first move toward stepping out of the proverbial boat that often depicts a false sense of security.

Often I take that step with joy, believing; but quickly the enemy of my soul, desiring that I sink in the mire, points to the wind. Doubt enters about my own safety in the place where God has called me, forming worries over “what ifs” into a resistance against my faith, and waves of worry and fretting begin to overtake me. Because of the messed up brain chemistry brought on by CGD, my own body’s false wisdom, the messed up chemistry that brings unreasonable “fright or flight” into play, works against me with that wind, making the battle of faith over fear fierce.

This passage reminds me this morning that when such happens, it is vital that I keep my heart turned toward God, knowing that I am safest in the midst of His will. To walk out of His will into disobedience is when I am in the truest of dangers. When with Him and trusting Him to get me to the boat of His leading, I walk safely forward as I deny fear’s assault.

Note that both boats are in the water, storm tossed; but in the presence of God’s will, empowered for obedience, protection comes; and when finally in that place of obedience, the winds die. While on the water, heading toward obedience, focus on Jesus keeps me in peace with Him despite the storm tossed seas that threaten me. Finally reaching the boat, the destination of God’s desire for me, the waves stop as I busy myself about the business of service in that place, whether that service is some work I committed to, or just that of being God’s light to encourage family and friend. And every time I succeed at finding that place of peace besideJ esus and walk in it, the experience rewrites the brains proper chemical response, bringing healing from CGD. (Just as an FYI here, every time we choose fear over faith, the body’s chemistry that puts us in “fright or flight” overtakes us and we help to write within our brains a stronger lean toward social anxiety, fear, paranoia, OCD, CGD, PTSD and many other such things.)

God never takes us to a place without a purpose, so as long as I am mindful that I am there as His instrument to love and encourage others, I do alright. But if I allow my mind’s tempest to get hold, making me a wall-flower in that place; I find myself clinging to the side of the boat, just outside of God’s will and robbed of His protective cover and power to overcome and perform.

As I read this passage in Matthew and am impressed with these thoughts, I do so while under attack by fear’s worries right now as I think of going to a baby shower I know I am to attend. This timely passage reminds me that I can keep my eyes on Jesus, knowing that God has a purpose for me in that place, and all will be well. As I do so, peace enters in with God’s grace that is power to overcome and to perform flowing to me. I am feeling better now about going and will persevere by the grace God supplies. As I do so, I pray to remember this lesson with every opportunity to step out of my personal place of false security. And I pray for those reading, for whom God had me post this pondering, that you too will be empowered by faith in God to walk free of debilitating fear.

Here am I, O God. Your servant is listening.

Grace Defined Series: 1-5

Feel free to pass this post on to loved ones who will be encouraged by these defining characteristics and work of God’s grace.

#1 Unmerited Favor – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/gracedefined-1-unmerited-favor/

#2 Spiritual Blessing – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/gracedifined2-spiritual-blessing/

#3 Power to Overcome – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/grace-defined-3-power-to-overcome/

#4 Power to Perform – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/grace-defined-4-power-to-perform/

#5 annonym: The Idol Lie – https://darlenesponderings.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/grace-defined-5-an-annonym-the-idol-lie/

 

Grace Defined #5 – an annonym: The Idol Lie

“LABORING TOGETHER [as God’s fellow workers] with Him then, we beg of you not to receive the grace of God in vain [that merciful kindness by which God exerts His holy influence on souls and turns them to Christ, keeping and strengthening them—do not receive it to no purpose]” (2 Corinthians 6:1).

I have a very dear friend that I love greatly, who, in a season of trouble, was going through a very difficult time of life. I wanted so to be there for her and walk with her to its conclusion, but she turned to fleshly things and began running in ways contrary to God’s ways. Sitting with her, trying to encourage her to trust the Lord and stay close to His ways, she quickly informed me, “God understands that I am but flesh, and He will forgive me.” Is that truth? Yes. But is it truly applied? No.

My friend continued on her path, and God instructed my heart, “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). I was not allowed to walk with her in her season of trouble as she walked quickly into the consequences of her sin.

This morning, as I visited with the Lord, He led me to see that the philosophy spoken of by my friend is a lie about grace. That lie is used of Satan to set up a type of God’s grace as a false idol in the lives of those who would be God’s people, and it works to defeat them because they do not fully know, understand and acknowledge the truth of who God is in all His fullness when they practice that idolic grace. In leading me to understand this truth, God took me to some Old Testament passages.

“Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the LORD speaks, ‘Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand’” (Isaiah 1:2-3).

So what is it that we must know and understand if we are to avoid falling to this idol lie?

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-26).

Four things we must know about God in order for Him to protect us from falling to this idol lie about His grace:

FIRST, God is LORD. If we truly know His grace, we must not only call Him LORD, but walk in ways that reveal His Lordship in our lives. That walk in His Lordship comes day by day, in good times and in bad. The practice of that Lordship is what brings us into the obedience of Christ, who says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NASB). What does it mean to take up ones cross?

I have many times heard people say of some illness, “It is my cross to bear,” but is that what Christ is speaking of here? No. That may be their thorn in the flesh, but it is not a cross. When I hear of bearing a cross and think of choosing to pick it up, I think of the example of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, when, facing His own cross, Jesus cries out, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42, NASB).

Our pastor pointed out the other day that this cup Christ speaks of is not that of taking up the cross. The cup was bearing the sin that would bring separation from the Father. Jesus never once in His life of ministry had to face anything without God’s presence. He knew that taking up the cup meant separation from the Father in the moment of His bearing our sin. For us, to take up our cross, we must lay down the cup that separates us from God.

In every situation where we are caused to cry out, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done,” as we press forward in obedience to His will and way, we lay down the cup of separation to take up our cross and follow Christ in His example of obedience to God. Thus, through obedience to God’s will in every circumstance, we successfully remember His Lordship so as to walk in His grace, trusting His power to perform the requirements of the path God sets before us.

SECOND, God practices lovingkindness toward us: God is love and He always acts toward us out of that love, giving grace as unmerited favor and spiritual blessing in His lovingkindness toward us. That is the part of His grace that covers us through Christ-crucified, bringing us into salvation. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB).

But the truth of that Ephesians passage continues on in verse 10 to say, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

God expects that His work of grace in us will bring us to be the living image of God revealed to us through Christ’s earthly ministry. When we receive His gift of grace through Christ with thought that we can go on our merry way and do what we want without fear of eternities death, we walk quickly out from under that cover of His lovingkindness in Christ to this idolic grace that deceives us. In so doing, we commit the sin Paul speaks of in 1 Timothy 3:1-8:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, HOLDING TO A FORM OF GODLINESS, ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE DENIED ITS POWER; avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

True knowledge of God’s grace brings with it the power to overcome evil and perform the good works of God. When we deny that power, we believe a lie about grace and set it up as an idol we bow to as if we have no call or responsibility to live righteously in the earth. When we walk away from God in this way, we quickly find the next characteristic of God for ourselves, for love always does what is best for the one loved, in order to bring them to good and glory. But some choose to learn the hard way the next truth about God’s character.

THIRD, God is just and He delves out justice to those who sin against Him.

Now that sounds horrible, and it is for the one who is not truly in Christ, for they are doomed to an eternity without God. When I see people walking in this false-belief my friend has about God’s grace, I have to wonder if they truly know His salvation, for scripture teaches that the tree is known by the fruit it bears, whether good or evil (Matthew 7:15-23).

For those who are truly in Christ, yes, we have a tendency to fall to the flesh from time to time, but sin is not a habit we willing run toward. What does scripture say to assure our hearts of God’s grace to work in our lives when we as His true children do sin?

“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:7-11).

This brings us to our FOURTH truth about God: God is righteous. For those who are true sons, understanding the power of grace as well as its favor, He disciplines us as sons in order to develop His righteousness and holiness in us. What is “discipline”?

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul, teaching Timothy about God’s way of training His children says the following, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (vs. 12-17).

Thus, the true child of God is trained by God through the teaching of His word that they may know truth, through reproof that points out sin’s stain, through correction of wrong doing and believing, and through training in righteousness, thus equipping the true child for good works.

 Jeremiah 9 ends with the following:

“‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I will punish all who are circumcised and yet uncircumcised…for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised of heart.’”

God works in us as sons to circumcise our hearts, removing from us the flesh-man and making us new creations in Christ, image bearers who are wholehearted toward God. As He removes the flesh from our hearts, He establishes us to be Spirit led, seeking Him first in all things, trusting His power to work in us the glory of God’s grace, sufficient for every need even in difficult times. That work of His Spirit changes us from glory to glory, making us to be more like Him day by day, perfecting us until the day of Christ’s return. For those who truly know and surrender to God, they do not deliberately and rebelliously walk away from God and test Him by taking advantage of His grace in ungodly dissipation. Instead, we long for Him, to be clothed in His righteousness, thus we are quick to repent and remain in fellowship with Him in Christ.

Am I better than my friend who fell to sins grip? No. Scripture warns, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).

It is dangerous to think too highly of self, for “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” as the old testament King James passage says (Proverbs 16:18). But what does God’s word promise in the 13th verse of 1 Corinthians 10?

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

What is the way of escape? Grace in all its power! We can trust God to empower us to walk in the victory of His grace: unmerited favor and spiritual blessing with power to both overcome evil and perform what is good.

Is my friend beyond help? How about your loved ones who walk in this falsehood? No. Grace can minister healing to her still, and when grace moves in to do so, I am here. “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2 Corinthians 2:6-7, NASB).

God would not let me walk with her into destruction, but He has me ready, willing and able to walk with her as His hand of grace and love brings healing from sin. Before I can, there must be proof of sincere repentance and understanding of these truths of grace, otherwise the crushing pain of watching helplessly as she falls again will be the experience, for those who set grace up as an idol constantly fall away to follow the flesh of their heart.

“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (1 Peter 3:14-18, NASB).

Grace Defined #4: Power to Perform

“According to the grace of God (the special endowment for my task) bestowed on me, like a skillful architect and master builder I laid [the] foundation, and now another [man] is building upon it. But let each [man] be careful how he builds upon it” (1 Corinthians 3:10, AB).

According to grace, we do our work in Christ. Did you see the definition? Here the grace revealed in this passage is “power to perform” our tasks in life and in our God-given work.

I am often struck by a passage speaking of Christ that says, “and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing” (Luke 5:17, NASB). Since noticing that portion of scripture, I pray to work in God’s “power to perform.” Now I see more clearly that His power for the task is a work of His grace toward us and it is awesome to behold.

Last segment we learned that God’s grace is not only unmerited favor and spiritual blessing, but it is power to overcome the things of life that hinder our growth in redeveloping and walking out of the image of Christ, and now we see that His grace empowers us to do all that He calls us to, all that is needful for us to do in this life.

Whatever task is required of us in our God given rolls for life here, whether it be the daily tasks and duties of our offices and stations in life, doing our work as unto the Lord, or whether it be tasks found in special called ministry opportunities, God is committed to pour forth through His grace all that is needed to empower and equip one fully surrendered to and trusting in Him for the task of His calling. Oh, if Moses had understood that from the beginning, what a difference it would have brought him when his call to service came. Exodus 3 would have been a totally different testimonial chapter, don’t you think.

And what about you and me? What difference does this truth mean for us today? For me it is a new assertion from the Father, saying to me, as He said to Paul:

“But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

There is no weakness we have in our flesh that can hold back one rested in and empowered by this grace of God’s supply. When we fail to remember this, putting our eyes on our weaknesses as Moses did in Exodus 3, we too insult the living, all powerful and trustworthy God who calls us. When God calls, “I can’t” does not belong in the vocabulary of one truly rested in His grace, trusting in Him.

So what will you do with this grace, now that you are aware of its power?

“And now [brethren], I commit you to God [I deposit you in His charge, entrusting you to His protection and care]. And I commend you to the Word of His grace [to the commands and counsels and promises of His unmerited favor]. It is able to build you up and to give you [your rightful] inheritance among all God’s set-apart ones (those consecrated, purified, and transformed of soul)” (Acts 20:32).

(PS: God added one more session to our study of grace. I am excited to share this and am heading now to write it out. See you back here tomorrow, by the grace of God’s power to perform.)